How to navigate org changes—with Shopify’s Lynsey Thornton

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You’ve been promoted. Now what? According to Lynsey Thornton, Shopify’s VP of UX Core Product, the answer to that question is one of technology’s biggest crises.

In this first episode of the DesignBetter.Co Podcast’s second season, we sat down with Lynsey to discuss everything from building a leadership pipeline to governance of the famed design system Polaris.

Her advice and first-hand experiences also highlight major technology pain points—like implementing customer-centric business models and helping individual contributors successfully transition to leadership.

Key takeaways from the conversation:

  • How she walks her team through FUD (or fear, uncertainty, and doubt)
  • Her biggest piece of advice for other companies looking for org structure inspiration
  • How office spaces across Shopify affect creative processes and the work produced
  • Details about the branding exploration project that led to Polaris, and how the design system is governed today
  • “It’s certainly no accident that design has a place at Shopify.”

Conversation highlights

On what sticks with her most about her time at Shopify so far

One of the keys to being successful and why it’s been such an enjoyable job… really comes down to continual, accelerated learning. I’m constantly thrown into areas I don’t feel I’m particularly competent in.

On servant leadership at Shopify

“Coming in, this was one of the most refreshing things to me. It’s nice to have a leadership and management team that have confidence in their staff. I don’t know that anyone is ever truly ready to step up… but as long as it’s supported change, it’s okay to put people in a new area.”

On how she helps fill the leadership pipeline

Some of these skills are really missing in university… we address this by having in-house learning programs for leadership, but it would be nice if some of that happened at an earlier stage for sure.

Resources we mentioned:

If you like what we’re doing, and want to hear the stories of more great designer leaders, it would help us a lot if you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play and leave us a review.

Thanks for listening!


Eli Woolery, Director of Design Education at InVision
Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he is a lecturer in the Product Design program at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Medium or on Twitter.

Kaysie Garza
Kaysie is a digital copywriter at InVision—devouring books, French fries, and hiking trails when she isn’t working on words.

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