Aastha Gaur has designed solutions for consumer and enterprise products, both at boutique design studios and big corporations. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology and her Master’s in Graphic Design from the California Institute of the Arts. Aastha’s passion is to lead with mindfulness, intuition, creativity, and compassion. She puts that passion into practice as a UX Lead at Google, based in Los Angeles, California.
Name: Aastha Gaur
Title: Senior Manager, UX
Location: Los Angeles
Years in the design industry: 13
Where she gets it done
On her career path, in five words
See problem. Solve problem. Grow.
On clearing her mind
I maintain a Morning Pages practice which helps me clear up my mind for creativity for the rest of the day. The idea is to write down three pages of stream of consciousness on actual paper (put away those laptops!) as soon as you wake up.
It is not supposed to be profound prose or poetry, and many days all I am doing is writing “I don’t know what to write” over and over. Ultimately, I get to the thoughts I want to stop spinning on, and that makes room in my brain for other, more exciting, thoughts.
“You aren’t trying that hard if you’re not failing a lot.”
On the benefits of being a manager
Helping people grow! This is a win-win. When you help someone grow it is good for them, but it is also a way for you to scale your influence. Like my manager, Paolo Malabuyo, likes to say, “Management is one way two plus two can equal five.”
What does your organization “strategy” look like?
It’s a beautiful mess. I maintain a very simple bullet journal—not at all like what one might see on Pinterest. I take notes all day and at the end of the day transcribe action items into ToDoist.
I also use multiple inboxes in Gmail with folders for “Follow up,” “Read through,” and “Waiting.” I know it’s a common belief that your email inbox shouldn’t be used as a to-do list, but a lot of my tasks are email-based, so it works for me.
On bouncing back from failure
Fail often so you build the “bouncing back” muscle. You aren’t trying that hard if you’re not failing a lot.
Fail small since you need to start somewhere. For example, what is a question to which you know the answer is a guaranteed no?
Ask that question anyway.
What she wishes someone would ask her about already
What do UXers get wrong when they are trying to get a seat at the table?
What she wishes someone had told her…
- Before starting her first design job. Everyone makes mistakes. I was so terrified of making a mistake when I first started working as a designer. And then I made one and realized the world did not end. I misspelled ‘design’ in a print ad in LA Times. My boss was incredibly kind while I was beating myself up. It taught me to always double-triple check my work.
- Before becoming a manager. People first. Everything rests on how much you care about, and for, the people you’re managing. Care about them as human beings, accommodate everyone as they need, and the rest follows. Product, priorities, your principles, etc. can all wait if they are harming people on your team.
- About becoming a mentor. Go back and forth between coaching and problem-solving. Too often we want to jump in and solve someone’s problems, when often what one needs is not a solution, but just a sounding board so they can get to the solution themselves. That sounding board is what coaching is. You can talk them through a problem so they can realize they have known the solution all along.
- About life. Nobody knows EVERYTHING about what they are doing. Fans of Mad Men might remember the scene after Peggy becomes an executive and is freaking out about not knowing the answer, and Don says to her that living in the “not knowing” IS the job. We might look at people we deem successful and think they have all the answers, but no one has the answers. We are all making it up as we go along, and so will you.
On the noise that helps her work
I don’t listen to music while I work. I like the gentle buzz of our white noise machines at work, plus general workplace people noises.