Luis Ouriach — Design Advocate at Figma

Luis Ouriach — Design Advocate at Figma

Can you introduce yourself?

  • I’m Luis – a half British, half Moroccan twin with a Spanish name; don’t ask why. I’ve got a passion for cooking, writing, flying (I actually enjoy airplane food), and robust discussions. 
  • I’ve worked as a creative across practically every industry from e-commerce to charity, to news publishing and startups over the past decade or so and now find myself advocating for great design practices at Figma. What this means practically is that I sit at the centre of a Venn diagram that includes marketing, community, sales, product, and design. I act as a face of Figma within the community and spend a significant amount of my time talking with users across the EMEA region to understand their workflows and processes, which I then advise best practices on. It allows me to dig very deep on design systems, components, libraries, and team structures. 
  • My creative inspiration comes from myriad sources, whether it’s the scores of newsletters I receive every day(something around 40 I think), reading fiction, cooking in the kitchen, or walking for hours around new cities.

How did you start working remotely and why?

  • I started my job at Figma fully remote from day one. In fact. the interview process was remote too, and my interviewers were based across the world – The US, Canada, France, the UK – which meant that I was being warmed to the idea of remote work before I had even started through common issues like timezone scheduling.
  • Honestly, I’ve never seen myself as someone who would have sought or enjoyed remote work, but not I’m a big advocate. I’m a big voice in an office, always darting around and asking questions or organising workshops and events with the team, which meant that working solo at home was something that would’ve previously scared me.

What is your typical day like?

  • I usually set my alarm for around 7.10 am, and I wake up to BBC Radio 6 at a volume that’s almost so quiet you can’t hear it. Waking up with an alarm that assaults you makes my skin crawl. If it’s winter, I’ll probably lay in bed and listen to the music for 10 or 15 minutes if my schedule allows – a lack of sunlight in the morning really saps me. In the summer, and with more sunlight, I’ll probably be up a bit earlier and also out of bed quicker.
  • I’ll then try to have a quick shower, then whilst I make my breakfast do some light stretches. I’ll also switch BBC News on at this point, but keep the volume low enough so it’s not dominating the room. I typically have a homemade porridge or muesli mix. After breakfast, I’ll fill my coffee machine up with enough water to make about a pint of the stuff. I have it black and usually pour it into one of my Figma flasks so I can sit at my desk with a giant cup of it and not have to move.
  • Whilst I do my stretches I’ll clear out my notifications on my phone in one hand, and eat my cereal in the other. It’s a balance, but those extra 10 minutes lying in bed need to be saved somewhere. I won’t open anything from work here unless it’s urgent, I’ll just skim the notification and swipe it away for later.
  • After I’ve eaten and stretched, I’ll turn on my Kindle Fire. It’s one of the cheap 7-inch ones, but I like it. I read my personal emails on there as it’s free from distraction and the larger screen is easier on the eyes. I subscribe to so many newsletters it’s alarming, but I like to have a wide range of news and opinion sources.
  • It’s probably nearly 9 am by this point, so I’ll switch off the Kindle and move back to my bedroom where my desk is and plonk my phone in its holder and my coffee on the coaster.
  • I have 9-9.30am blocked every single day for “comms catch up”. With most of Figma being US-based, our Slack channel takes ages to catch up on every day, and I’m receiving a lot more emails these days so need to clear those too. I can hear you saying, “why are you reading everything in Slack?”, so let me explain. Because I sit across the community, marketing, sales, product, and design, I feel it’s really important to keep abreast of company-wide discussion, just in case something comes up on a sales call about a particular feature and I’ll have the context.
  • Depending on the time of the quarter my days vary from back to back sales calls/product demonstrations, to available time to work on community resources, blog posts, or answering messages in the various design communities I’m a part of.
  • I also block out 12.30-2 pm for lunch on my calendar. It’s so important for me to have dedicated time to lunch and make that explicit. Most days I’ll cook myself something, or will heat up leftovers from the night before. I’ll catch up on personal messages here and probably watch some football highlights or something. I try to get in at least a 30-minute walk every day over lunch too, and I’ll listen to a podcast during this time. Even if it’s just going to the grocery store, I need to get outside and away from the laptop; remote work can be more intense because of the lack of water cooler distractions, so your eyes can really pay.
  • As for productivity, I make use of Google Calendar a lot to block time when I’m working on creative projects. But as you can imagine, whilst being someone who can be “booked” for product demonstrations, I usually have my calendar dictated by the sales team.
  • We’re trying to make Asana our go-to tool this year for project planning and management, but I’m finding it quite difficult to manage without being around a shared desk with the team and having project management a central conversation all day at work.
  • I sit in the Community team at Figma, with everyone else being based either in the US or Canada, which means team meeting is always late for me. I’ll finish around 7 pm probably 3 days a week, and when that happens I’m ready to collapse on the sofa.
  • Having sat down all day though, I cook dinner every night almost as a ritual. Firstly because I love cooking, but also to force myself to stand for an extended period of time and prevent my legs from feeling like those of a geriatric.

How do you stay efficient and engaged while working remotely? 

  • This is the most productive I’ve felt in my entire career. no question. I get distracted so easily – more on this below – so having that space to focus is really great. I often find myself sitting in silence for hours without realising it. When in an office, I’d either be the first person up to the communal speaker to choose some tunes or have my headphones in all day listening to something. That switch has been massive for me.
  • I stay engaged mostly because I love what the company does. It sounds simple, but unfortunately, most people really don’t enjoy where they work or don’t believe in the product. I’m really fortunate to actually be a user of the tool I work for and on.
  • Our sales team also have some quite aggressive targets to meet, which means that I’m on hand to make this happen. If the sales team are happy, I’m happy and vice versa. We work as a great unit to push the business forward.

What are the tools and workflow that you’re using to get things done? 

  • My tools are pretty limited:
  • Google Calendar
  • Asana (this is very early days)
  • OnceHub. This is the tool that the sales team can book my time with
  • Figma, of course
  • Zoom, my new best friend
  • Slack
  • Twitter, for engaging with the community

How do you stay in touch with your team? 

  • Lots of meetings, mostly. This is matched with a healthy addiction to Slack. Figma’s Slack engagement is higher than any company I’ve worked at, which suits me down to the ground because I’m the type of colleague to gif you every 30 minutes.
  • I sit in with Community team, sales, and Designer Advocate team meetings every week, and then an EMEA leadership team meeting as well. 
  • It’s a lot, but we really try to keep people connected. One great aspect of our weekly Community meetings is that we share stories and photographs from our weekends – highly recommended.

What do you enjoy most about working remotely?

  • With my nature, I find it very difficult to focus for extended periods of time in an office environment. I’ll bounce around through lots of different projects; product managers hate how full my Kanban boards are.
  • This is probably why I’ve suited and enjoyed my remote work environment so much – the lack of distractions. I can happily sit for hours at end now and accomplish something, that’s if I don’t check Slack or Twitter every 2 minutes though!

What is your office/workspace look like?

  • MacBook Pro 16 inch (work laptop, I don’t own a personal machine)
  • Blue Yeti microphone
  • Moko phone stand
  • K&F Concept LED Ring Light with Phone Holder
  • Bose QC35 headphones
  • Bose Quietcomfort earbuds
  • iPhone 11
  • Magic Mouse 2
  • Fellowes wrist support mouse mat
  • IKEA VITTSJÖ Laptop table

What are the challenges of being a remote worker?

  • It’s probably not a surprise, but switching off from work is nearly impossible. There’s always just one more message you can reply to or one more notification you can open.
  • With a US team that comes into full swing as I’m supposed to be watching TV shows and relaxing, there’s a yearning for the cultural sided of work to be maintained, so I’ll often pop into Slack on my phone throughout the evening just to see if there’s a conversation I can jump in on. It’s tough for your colleagues to get to know you if all they see of you is 12-hour old messages or a few minutes a week on a call.
  • I mentioned this earlier as a highlight, but it’s also a challenge. Being able to focus for hours on end without distraction can be dangerous. Having distractions in the office – even just saying hello to someone at their desk – can introduce an important barrier between you and your monitor.

How do you combat feelings of loneliness, isolation and burnout?

  • It is tough, particularly at the moment, to not feel distant and isolated. Luckily – or not, depending on your disposition – I’m joining calls to do demonstrations practically every day, so get to chat with my colleagues and also designers across Europe. The conversation is of course centred around Figma, but it’s nice to see faces and hear people over the call regardless.
  • Burnout is a big one, and I’ve felt it sneaking into my life. My calendar blocks help here, particularly the lunch one. Given I work later a few days a week, I’ll make sure to maximise that time away from working and take a proper break. We were lucky in 2020 to have Figma extend a day off every month to “recharge”. These were great for having an extra forced break away from the screen.

What is special about the place where you live?

I live in West London, and a short walk away from the Thames river. It’s my favourite part of London, and I’ll never get bored of walking or cycling by the water. I can easily carve out a 1.5 hour walk with some podcasts to get some fresh air and switch off from tech.

Besides work, how do you like to spend your time?

  • Cooking is probably number one. I used to experiment a lot more, but I still love pulling dishes together. I don’t like to follow recipes, as I have watched enough cookery shows to know how things fit together, like pieces in a puzzle.
  • Other than that, I have music playing every waking minute that I’m not at work. I think my Spotify 2020 review said I had listened to 40k minutes of music, which was wild.
  • I also have a bookshelf that is getting bigger, so try to fit in 20 minutes of reading before bed every night. I’ve made it a goal in 2021 to read two books simultaneously, a designery/business type one, and a fiction one. The former during the day, and the latter just before bed.

Do you have any recommendations for those who want to work remotely too? 

  • It probably won’t be for everyone. It really suits those that prefer to be isolated, which bizarrely I’m not, but it works.
  • I also have a hunch that remote work is only really an option for those that are established in their careers. I struggle to see how someone can be properly onboarded and trained as a junior at a company where they don’t have the in-person time with their boss or coach. Happy to be proved wrong here!

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