Chino Wong, Medium’s VP of Design: Elevating design leadership with data and discipline

Membership

Innovation in web technology moves at light speed. While creativity may be an essential skill for design leaders, aligning with business objectives, customer data and go-to-market strategies can significantly elevate their impact in this fast-paced environment.

With a celebrated career that spans more than 20 years in web technology, Chino Wong has adopted a holistic data and revenue-driven approach to develop exceptional teams and products for global advertising agencies and technology companies.

Chino’s (design) leadership philosophy

As a leader, Chino believes that leadership should involve a certain level of responsibility and ownership - regardless of the leader’s function. As VP of Design for Medium, Chino tackles challenges head-on and enlists and leads his team in developing appropriate solutions.

Chino’s experience has shown him that design leadership, in particular, is heavily influenced by organizational challenges. Although this often involves skills and experiences unique to the practice of design, he’s found it surprising how often skills and experiences completely separate from design impact an organization and its goals.

Inspirational leaders

Reflecting his belief that contrasting skills make for strong leadership, Chino is inspired by leaders in professional sports, technology and politics: Theo Epstein, Brian Chesky and Barack Obama.

Although he’s a New York Yankees fan, Chino “begrudgingly respects” Theo Epstein for his leadership as General Manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and later as President of the Chicago Cubs. Epstein found great success in turning around two “curses” that spanned the better part of a century and gained some fans along the way.

“While it’s easy to write off a single occurrence as a fluke, it’s another to see how intentionally he approached the transformation of those two ball clubs, relying on data and discipline,” he said.

Chino sees Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s impact on corporate leadership through his unapologetic wielding of design conventions, practices and thinking as well as Chesky’s identity as a classically-trained designer leading a Fortune 500 company.

Within the political realm, Chino sees Barack Obama as representing calm, rational leadership; he’s a leader who balances care for individuals with a practical understanding of the systems that dictate an idea’s success or failure. He admires Obama’s love of words, his ability to craft narratives that move and inspire multitudes, and his deliberate refusal to demonize his opponents and the humility he brought to serving as President of the United States.

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Bringing these traits into - and advancing - design leadership

When building digital products, generally, there is a fundamental difference in the processes, the language utilized and in the contributing roles. This disconnect demands a more efficient approach. Chino has seen design leaders avoid learning about these differences to their own detriment, regardless of their company’s line of business.

As a dedicated leader who oversees UX research, product design, product management and brand design at Medium, Chino understands firsthand that research is another critical component to advancing design leadership. While some consider UX research a separate discipline than design, the two inform each other significantly. Smaller, cross-disciplinary teams can contribute diverse insights and should be regular participants in the research process.

Further, there is often a disconnect between product development and go-to-market operations like customer support and success, sales and marketing. In order to have the greatest impact on for-profit organizations, design leaders need to get as close to buying decisions and customer experiences as possible. Integrating and taking behavioral economics, customer support, sales and marketing out of their silos will undoubtedly help.

Finally, for the profession of design leadership to advance, Chino says that design leaders must be adept at analyzing and adjusting the financial health of their respective organizations. The challenge, however, is that hundreds of designers and researchers have lost their jobs, and businesses are lacking this critical component.

“We need to ensure that leaders equip individuals in design functions to be universally acknowledged as indispensable to their respective organizations,” Chino says.

How DXC can help

Chino’s vision for DXC involves a distinguished peer group that enhances research and perspectives on the inherent value of proficient design leadership to help grow the profession.

“I look forward to helping to establish DXC as the primary source for public discussions around design leadership; and to providing members with inspiration and support to take part in those discussions,” he said.

About

Chino Wong

Chino Wong is VP of Design at Medium. He's based in New York City.