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Lilibeth Bustos Linares about Collaboration in Product Teams

Lilibeth Bustos Linares about Collaboration in Product Teams
Daria Krasovskaya
•  08.08.2023
"Transparency is a critical element in fostering effective collaboration. When everyone shares the same goal and understands the business objectives, valuable information can freely flow across teams." - Lilibeth

Meet Lilibeth Bustos Linares – the new guest of our Women in UX series!😍

Lili is an esteemed Lead Product Designer and Illustrator from Bogotá, Colombia, now adding her flair to the bustling streets of NYC. With a robust background in communications, journalism, and visual design, she constantly sheds a unique light on her work.

Serving as the linchpin at Nuvocargo, she refines the shipment process between the USA and Mexico. Lilibeth also invests her expertise back into the design community as a UX-UI instructor at Memorisely and mentoring via Adplist.

She recently embraced a leadership role at Latinas in Tech NYC, underlining her passion for inclusivity in tech. And as the visionary CEO of SoulDoodles, Lilibeth champions the unity and progression art can inspire in a community.

Dive into her inspiring journey with us in this interview and discover:

🤝 Lili’s thoughts on the importance of effective collaboration 

🔥 Her go-to tips for fostering collaboration in big & small design teams

💻 Advice for developing an impactful design portfolio

🔎 Tools Lili uses to streamline workflow and enhance productivity

🧠 Tips for engaging with stakeholders

Let’s jump right in!

When did you realize you wanted to make such a drastic change in your career and switch from communications and journalism to design? How did you approach this process?

lilibeth bustos linares about collaboration in product teams

When I first moved to the USA as an Au Pair, I had a two-year gap in my career. After completing the program, I switched my visa to become a student so I could continue staying in the country. At that time, I didn’t feel confident enough in my English skills, so I began exploring different opportunities. I came across an organization that offered a Marketing program, but after going through the interview process, I realized it wasn’t the right fit for me.

Throughout my professional journey, I had always been drawn to design. Even during my job in Colombia, I hired a design agency to help us with website and social media content, and their work inspired me.

Due to financial constraints, I couldn’t afford traditional education, but I managed to secure a fellowship at another organization where I got the chance to learn the basics of graphic design and the Adobe Creative Cloud tools through a two-week intensive program.

Although I had some prior exposure to these tools during my journalism studies, I discovered a particular interest in website building and even dabbled in basic coding. I created a page about sustainable fashion, a passion I developed while living in Colombia. Motivated by this newfound direction, I took a leap of faith and applied to visual design programs in San Francisco. I used my credit cards to pay for my education and eventually enrolled in the visual design program at the General Assembly.

Within a month after I finished my visual design program, I put together my portfolio and I secured a job as a Digital Designer at an e-commerce company. This experience was incredibly valuable as it allowed me to take the lead in redesigning their website. Eager to further my skills, I joined the UX program at Berkeley Extension, where I graduated ahead of schedule by attending classes on weekends. I’m immensely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had on this journey and how it has shaped my career as a lead product designer.

Can you tell us a bit more about your current role? What are the main things you’re working on daily?

As a Lead Product Designer at Nuvocargo, a freight forwarding startup, my day-to-day job involves building digital products to streamline our internal processes and enhance our clients’ experience. It’s fascinating to see how the logistics industry, especially in Latin America, still relies on outdated technology. 

My days vary, but they typically involve activities like interviewing users to gather insights, collaborating with my team to define project scope, and, once we align with stakeholders and business requirements, diving into the UX design process and working closely with the development team. 



collaboration in product teams

What are some key principles or strategies you believe are essential for fostering a collaborative and inclusive design culture within organizations?

I believe that fostering a collaborative and inclusive design culture relies on effective communication and building trust.

Communication is essential for aligning team members towards a common goal. It involves active listening, open idea sharing, and constructive feedback.

As designers, we should facilitate this process, especially during retrospectives where the team reflects on their experiences. To make it enjoyable and engaging, using tools like Figjam can be effective. For instance, at Nuvo, I created a retrospective template where everyone from the team has 2 minutes to doodle their feelings at the beginning of the call. This opens up a space for the team to have fun and approach discussions with a fresh perspective.

Building trust is equally important. Trusting team members in their work and valuing their ideas creates an inclusive design culture. Understanding different perspectives and empowering others to contribute their unique talents lead to more innovative and inclusive design solutions.

By prioritizing effective communication and building trust, organizations can cultivate a collaborative and inclusive design culture that encourages idea exchange, promotes diversity, and ultimately results in better outcomes for both the team and the end-users.

In your opinion, what are some of the main benefits of having a collaborative environment in product teams and in work overall?

Having a collaborative environment in product teams and overall work settings brings several significant benefits.

Firstly, collaboration fosters creativity and innovation. When team members from diverse backgrounds come together, each contributing their unique perspectives and expertise, it sparks a rich exchange of ideas. This collaborative process often leads to innovative solutions and fresh approaches that may not have been possible through individual efforts alone.

When team members from diverse backgrounds come together, each contributing their unique perspectives and expertise, it sparks a rich exchange of ideas.

Lilibeth Bustos Linares, Lead Product Designer @ Nuvocargo
Lilibeth Bustos Linares, Lead Product Designer @ Nuvocargo

Secondly, collaboration enhances problem-solving capabilities. By working together, team members can pool their knowledge and skills, leveraging collective intelligence to tackle complex challenges. Collaborative problem-solving allows for a broader range of insights and alternative viewpoints, leading to more robust and effective solutions.

Furthermore, it cultivates a sense of ownership and shared responsibility and I believe this is one of the most important ones. When people in your team feel that their contributions are valued and their voices are heard, they become more invested in the outcomes. This shared ownership fosters a strong team spirit and motivates team members to work towards common goals, ultimately driving higher productivity and performance.

Collaboration also promotes learning and professional growth. Through collaboration, team members have the opportunity to learn from each other, share best practices, and acquire new skills. The exchange of knowledge and expertise within a collaborative environment creates a dynamic learning ecosystem, benefiting both individuals and the entire team.

For example, at Nuvocargo I worked closely with PM’s, Business Operations and I have learned how to be more organized when creating a scope and how to think more strategically about my decisions when designing. 

Lastly, collaboration improves communication and fosters healthy working relationships. When team members collaborate, they actively listen, communicate openly, and build trust. This leads to effective and transparent communication channels, reducing misunderstandings, enhancing teamwork, and creating a positive work environment.

Could you tell us about a specific project or experience that stands out in your career, where collaboration played a crucial role in delivering a successful product? What were the key factors that contributed to effective collaboration?

lilibeth bustos linares about collaboration in product teams

I’m currently working on an exciting project at Nuvocargo, and one thing we’ve learned is the importance of understanding each team’s work and anticipating dependencies. We’ve established communication channels to ensure constant updates and alignment on focus areas, avoiding duplication and leveraging existing insights.

Transparency is a critical element in fostering effective collaboration. When everyone shares the same goal and understands the business objectives, valuable information can freely flow across teams.

Lilibeth Bustos Linares, Lead Product Designer @ Nuvocargo
Lilibeth Bustos Linares, Lead Product Designer @ Nuvocargo

Consistently opening communication channels enables us to work efficiently and make well-informed decisions.

We’ve also followed our product development process very closely (which I have the fortune to improve with the design director). This has created a space for teams to document their progress and collaborate effectively.

While each day presents new challenges, we’re driven by a clear goal and feel inspired by the work we’re doing at the moment.

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How do you ensure effective collaboration within your design team at Nuvocargo? Are there any specific processes or strategies you use?

We meet with the design team once a week and dedicate a specific time in the agenda to discuss the projects we’re working on and the solutions we collectively arrive at for each problem we tackle.

Recently, I updated our design critique process and templates, providing designers with a designated space in the product development process to gather and receive feedback from one another. This has allowed us to align our understanding of the UI and analyze the business aspects together.

What are some challenges you have faced in fostering collaboration within design teams, and how did you overcome them?

We noticed that at times, we weren’t aligned on the solutions for certain problems.

Taking the lead, I introduced the practice of incorporating these discussions into our design critiques before proceeding with reviews.

At Nuvo, our design team is small, which allows for open communication regarding the challenges we face. I am always vocal about my thoughts and concerns, and we have been closely collaborating on implementing a new design system to expedite development for our team.

So my tip there, 

If it doesn’t feel right - say it.

Lilibeth Bustos Linares, Lead Product Designer @ Nuvocargo
Lilibeth Bustos Linares, Lead Product Designer @ Nuvocargo

Are there any specific collaboration tools you rely on to streamline workflows and enhance productivity?

Tools such as Slack, Notion, and Figjam have been incredibly useful for our seamless workflow, especially in a remote work environment.

These tools have provided us with a platform for collaboration, communication, and documentation, which are crucial for maintaining team productivity. Recently, I realized that it’s not just about the tool itself, but rather understanding the specific needs of each team and leveraging the tool accordingly to maximize its benefits.

As a mentor and teacher in the design community, how do you encourage and cultivate collaboration among aspiring designers? 

I frequently observe my students facing challenges when collaborating with their team members during their case studies.

The difficulty arises from the initial struggle of defining roles, working methods, individual motivations, and understanding their feelings about the process.

To address this, I consistently emphasize the importance of open communication and gaining a comprehensive understanding of each team member’s perspective. These skills are essential when working cross-functionally in any company.

As a person who often engages with stakeholders, what are some tips you can give for collaborating and communicating with them to ensure their needs and goals are incorporated into the final product? Have you ever had trouble with persuading stakeholders about the value of UX?

When working with stakeholders, it is crucial to understand their perspective and the underlying reasoning behind their arguments. In many cases, their input is valuable, while at other times, it may stem from a misunderstanding of our approach.

To address this, we have found it helpful to involve stakeholders from the outset by sharing our designs and incorporating them in interviews. By fostering a strong relationship and building trust, we enhance collaboration and ensure better outcomes for all parties involved.

As a teacher, could you share some of your go-to tips for developing an impactful design portfolio that will be attractive to potential employers?

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Showcase your personality by sharing your background and passions, as well as what you enjoy doing outside of work.
  2. Highlight at least two case studies that you feel proud of and confident in the outcomes. Include key learnings from each project and outline the next steps taken.
  3. Incorporate recommendations from your past managers to provide evidence of your skills and abilities.
  4. Showcase any side hustles or additional projects you have worked on to demonstrate your diverse skill set and dedication.
  5. Ensure that all links provided in your portfolio or resume are working properly.
  6. Keep your presentation simple and concise, focusing on the most important details and accomplishments.

Women in UX

lilibeth bustos linares about collaboration in product teams

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the UX/tech industry?

As a Latina in the tech industry, one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a woman in UX/tech is the opportunity to inspire teams, particularly other women, and create products that have a meaningful impact on people’s lives.

What is your message to other people in the UX industry?

Stay curious and work smart, not hard. Embrace the power of technology to forge meaningful connections and engage with people genuinely, valuing them for who they are rather than what they can offer you.

Continuously strive to expand your knowledge and skills, keeping up with the latest trends in AI, spatial design, accessibility, and emotional intelligence. Remember to prioritize yourself, as a job does not define your worth or identity.

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