Reema Bhagat, Senior Product Designer
Today's headliner is Reema Bhagat, Senior Product Designer for the Cross-Platform Experiences team in Stockholm. Put on your headphones, hit play, and read along!
Questions & Answers
Why are you a designer?
For me, design is an ideal balance between being creative, but also highly structured and process-oriented. It has elements from many different industries, which keeps me engaged, and it's an evolving field that pushes me out of my comfort zone.
I'm passionate about design because it lets you create new experiences, but more importantly, improve upon existing ones—you never have to accept things the way they are. Design and activism also have a unique intersection that I'm interested in. Since design is all about storytelling, anything from creating political posters, to working with nonprofits, or working on internal projects you feel passionate about (diversity, pride, accessibility, etc.) can be a way to impact the activism space.
Describe your job at Spotify without using the words "design" or "designer."
At Spotify, I build-upon and help drive the future of the Desktop app and Web Player experiences. On a higher level though, I work to make Spotify easy for all people to use. To me, this is the most meaningful part of my job—being able to simplify complexity and "just make it work". If people feel in-control and confident, I feel satisfied with my work, whether it's a big vision piece or I'm drilling into a settings page.
Show us a picture of your desk, and explain why it looks how it does.
Water bottle: I'm constantly trying to drink more water, but I'm pretty bad at remembering to take this around with me during the day. "Drink more water" is always on my list of failed New Year's resolutions.
Henri: My beloved desk plant that I probably don't water enough — or I'm over-watering it, TBD.
Book stack: Some of my favorites from design school, which are also the foundation of the Jurassic Park scene on the top.
Sriracha mug: I love hot sauce, so my cousin got this for me as a gift a while back (update: he isn't 100% sure it was him, so I have no idea where this came from).
Fancy mouse: My team made fun of this mouse for being so intense, until they tried it. We all have the same one now :)
Tell us about a time you beat an intimidating design challenge.
One of my biggest design challenges was at my last job, where about ten teams—across several organizations in the company—worked to unify and improve their search experiences. This was a massive undertaking that challenged me in many ways. Each team had different priorities, timelines, and levels of investment in the project, so coordination within the group was a constant hurdle. As the project progressed, however, I learned to accept (and even embrace) the ambiguity and to celebrate the little wins. We couldn't change everything, but were able to make smaller, incremental improvements, and that would still be a win for people using the products. I still try to carry this mentality into every project I work on at Spotify, since they can take unexpected turns. Repurposing ambiguity as fuel to try other ideas or consider new opportunities, while celebrating small victories along the way.
Name three non-designers you feel inspired by when designing.
Her legendary Emmys speech, where she said "the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity," still gives me chills. As a designer, it's a great reminder that it's our responsibility to build inclusive products that everyone has the opportunity to use — regardless of ability or tech literacy.
I'm probably cheating by including him on this list, but I'm inspired by his ability to continue to push boundaries while being able to stay relevant for decades. It's inspiring to see someone continue to love what they do for such an extended period of time. He also doesn't seem to take himself too seriously, which makes him really likable.
His creative storytelling during his Netflix stand-up special is incredibly inspirational. Being able to share an idea or experience, captivate an audience, and maintain authenticity throughout the narrative is such a great trifecta.
Any final shout-outs or things you'd like to share?
Big shout out to my family and partner for always supporting my goals—and encouraging me to pursue crazy dreams, like moving across the world to work at Spotify.
Some of my favorite books I've read this year: Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates, and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. All three have made me reframe my thinking in different ways, and I definitely recommend them to others.
Also, for those who might not know about Timothy Goodman, check out his Instagram and Twitter. He's a badass creative, but also an avid mental health advocate and incredible ally to women and people of color. I would've put him in the section above, but I'd already cheated once :)
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