Working at a fast-paced, high growth startup

Overview is a productivity platform for asynchronous teams to collaborate in documents, with competitive features such as version control and document management. I worked full-time for Almanac as a growth marketing manager and product designer. As one of only 12 employees at a seed-stage startup, I had to pick up new skills, take ownership over major projects, and fully understand the company’s business strategy.

Project details

Time: Jun - Nov 2020
Tools: Figma, Airtable, Interseller, Zapier, SQL
Team: Worked closely with head of product, head of growth, a growth manager, and a product designer.

My contributions

1. Sourcing 30 UX experts to Almanac's open source platform
2. Conducting 12 usability tests to inform product strategy
3. Designing prototypes for edge cases and new features
4. Fostering business growth

Sourcing 30 UX experts to Almanac's open source platform

When Almanac was building the Almanac Core, an open-source library of docs and templates, I focused on growing the Design & Research sector. I reached out to UX content creators on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Medium, and  30 of them agreed to publish content to the online resource.

Tools and related skills: Google (searching keywords for UX content), social media channels (cold outreach), Airtable (tracking leads)
Like many, I cut my bangs during the pandemic.

Conducting 12 usability tests to inform product strategy

As soon as our product team had built an MVP (minimum viable product), we created a waitlist and started to talk to potential users. I conducted 12 usability tests with early adopters, such as startup founders and university professors, to provide learnings for future product iterations. When further customer discovery was needed, I also researched user pain points through discussion forums on Quora, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Tools and related skills: Zoom (product demos, user interviews)

Designing prototypes for edge cases and new features

As more users discovered our product, there was a growing need to design for edge cases and unique scenarios. I worked closely with another designer to design login states, empty states, and permission states. I also explored a new chat feature that Almanac could introduce to users further down the product line.

Tools and related skills: Figma (user personas, customer journey mapping, prototyping)

User personas: Gaining insights from research

Based on the user research I conducted, I outlined four user personas. To avoid demographic bias, I constructed minimalist personas that would highlight the most relevant aspects of these different types of users.

Customer journey map: Understanding our target user at each stage

While all four personas are important customers to consider, I focused on startup founders because those were the target users of our main marketing campaign, called “Startup in a box”. They were also the users we interviewed most and understood best. I constructed a customer journey map to outline the flow of each user as they get acquainted with the product.

Prototyping: Considering edge cases and new features along the customer journey

Following Almanac’s design system, I made prototypes for login states, empty states, a chat feature, and permission states. I wanted to make the product feel fast, light, and powerful.

Prototype 1: Login States

I redesigned Almanac’s login and signup pages, simplifying the layout and refining the copy. I made sure to address side scenarios, such as if a user forgets their password.

Prototype 2: Empty States

Empty states are crucial to a user’s onboarding experience, yet these states can be easily neglected by a busy design team. I designed empty states for the “teams” and “projects” features to teach users how to interact with the product when no docs are yet created.

Prototype 3: Chat Feature

While I was pondering the “engagement” phase of the customer journey, it occurred to me that team members may desire to communicate with each other via chat. Most teams are content with Slack, email, and other platforms, but doc-heavy teams may seek ways to communicate entirely within Almanac. I integrated a chat feature into Almanac’s doc editor, and I also prototyped what direct messages would look like on our platform.

Prototype 4: Permission States

As teams work on docs, they will share with each other, cross functional teams, and external partners. Not all of these users will be familiar with Almanac, and they will also have varying levels of permission to documents. I designed permission states to make sure that unique users would not get lost in our product.

When a user is signed in but does not have permission to a doc:

When a user is not signed in, but has commenting access via a shared link:

When a user is not signed in, and only has viewing access via a shared link:

All illustrations on this page are modified from Undraw.

Fostering business growth

Even more users signed up to test the beta version of our product, and the whole team was soon calling more users than we could handle. Our team's growth manager and I overhauled our CRM (customer relationship management) database to systematize onboarding for over 5,000 waitlist leads and 200 demos. Furthermore, I learned how to code in SQL and built the growth funnel data analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of our product demos.

Tools and related skills: Airtable (organizing leads), Zapier (automating processes), Interseller (sending email sequences), MODE (data analytics using SQL code)

Last thoughts


  • Almanac has since continued to grow, raising $34M in series A funding led by Tiger Global.
  • My prototypes were presented in our weekly all-hands meeting and incorporated into Almanac’s product. The team has since changed their design system, so the product looks different, but the considerations and functionality were derived from the work I did with Steven.

Next Steps

  • Usability testing
    If I had the chance, I would want to get user feedback about my designs and reiterate based on those learnings.
  • Onboarding tutorial/survey
    I would want to design an onboarding flow that teaches users about the product and also caters the product to the user’s needs. As Almanac scales, one-on-one demos are no longer feasible and users should be able to onboard themselves through a well-designed onboarding flow.


  • Embrace opportunities to learn something new.
    Working at a seed stage startup meant I was always learning new systems, skills, and tools. Sometimes the task at hand seemed daunting (conducting user interviews on my own, for instance), but the results were rewarding as long as I took a deep breath and wasn’t afraid to ask for help. 

  • Design is not just about how the product looks, but how it WORKS.
    Once a product already has a design system with UI elements in place, the designer's job is to figure out the product will flow from one screen to the next. As a designer, I need to make sure I think about every scenario users may find themselves in
  • Excellent design is aware of both customer and business needs.
    Especially at a startup like Almanac, understanding the end user was critical to the company’s survival. If we did not discover customers who needed our product, the firm would cease to exist. On the other hand, design can only thrive in the context of the business –– business development and investor relations are important constraints to acknowledge.

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