In the first of our series of interviews with leaders, we spoke to Paul McAleer, content strategy director at Bounteous, about the path to leadership, and the super-powers that helped along the way

Paul McAleer
Paul McAleer

Over the next few months we’ll be hearing from Tempo’s amazing members — they’ll share their highs and lows of leadership, their tips and resources, and much, much more. Who better to kick us off than Paul — an accomplished content and design leader from Denver, Colorado…

Hi Paul, firstly, can you tell me a bit about your path to leadership?

It was, as you might expect, a bit uneven. My very first leadership role was a decade ago when I was on a user interface team — suddenly I was responsible for 6 people, their careers, and their work…

When you want to get your product teams thinking more about content, or need to foster good relationships and collaboration, a workshop can be super-helpful.

Energise and align teams with workshops

Here are a few workshops I think every content designer needs to have up their sleeve:

1 The pre-mortem

I give full credit to Peter Winchester for introducing me to this one a few years back. It’s a great way to kick-off a project and find out what team members are worried about. But more than that, it’s a great way to pre-empt and mitigate disaster and I’ve used it several times since to great effect.

Why’s it so good for content designers?

This workshop is the perfect way to raise concerns about not being involved at the right times, and highlight the things that could hamper your work, such…

Meet Tempo — an initiative created just for content design leaders

Pink background with helping content design leaders learn grown and thrive written in blue
Pink background with helping content design leaders learn grown and thrive written in blue

The content design community is growing quickly, and like us, you’ve probably noticed that many content designers are now moving into leadership and management positions. While this change is great, it means content designers are increasingly responsible for hiring, people management, capability-building, operations, and fostering a content design culture within their organisation. Without the right support, these challenges can be a lot to take on.

As they grow their teams, content leaders often don’t know if they’re scaling effectively and efficiently. They have access to design leadership events and…

I asked the lovely Amy Hupe, Content by Design speaker, about the current challenges and opportunities facing content creators.

Change the world with words — give voices to the people who need them
Change the world with words — give voices to the people who need them

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing those in content disciplines right now?

The current political, social and environmental backdrop — and specifically the pace at which we’re experiencing change — means there’s a demand for rapid creation of new content.

Whether it’s changes to policy or legal documents, reports on environmental crises, or campaigns for change, content is going to sit at the heart of what’s coming, one way or the other.

The challenge for those in content disciplines is to deliver quickly without compromising on standards for content clarity and quality —…

Most companies can write well some of the time, but practically none write well all the time
Most companies can write well some of the time, but practically none write well all the time

I interviewed Content by Design speaker Harry Ashbridge, Head of Writing and Customer Experience at Monzo about writing, tech, and what he’d tell his younger self.

How did you get into digital content?

Might be controversial but I don’t think of myself as being in digital content! I’m a writer, and I think the fundamentals of good writing apply everywhere. Just happens to be that at the moment most writing exists digitally.

I ended up writing for a living in a roundabout way: I got a masters in history and thought the world was my oyster. Turns out no-one cares if you have a masters in history…

Some tips to get overcome barriers and get things back on track

Broken Lego character
Broken Lego character
Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

Sometimes at work, the same issues can crop up so many times we start to think that things will never change, which makes us tired and resentful. Getting to that point is dangerous — we become negative about our work, or even demotivated. This can affect the quality of our work, and more importantly, our mental health.

I’ve spoken to many product team members over the years who come up against daily challenges. They’re tired. And they often struggle to change culture or behaviour, because that’s not an…

Rachel McConnell

If content strategy is the engine, then ops is the oil — making sure all the strategic elements work effectively and efficiently and can scale. But when processes and working methods are already well established, how do you approach ops?

I joined BT in the Spring, and it’s fair to say the content team of 66 was fairly well scaled up! The content lead Rebecca had done a wonderful job of growing a team quickly and making sure the ratio between content designers and product designers was almost equal! But though a team of that size sounds wonderful, it does…

Two people with a laptop
Two people with a laptop
Career discussions don’t have to be fruitless (Images by Elina on Blush)

Whether you identify as a content designer, strategist or UX writer, it’s likely you’ve thought about where you go from here.

You can think about career progression in many ways, but how you progress within your current role, and where do you want to go next, are often the key considerations. Sure, some people have a fully fleshed-out 5-year plan, but many of us struggle to think past the next few months to a year (sometimes it’s even hard to think beyond the next meeting to be honest).

Digital design roles weren’t on the career option list when I was…

Process flow
Process flow

I’m often asked how and when content designers should be involved in the product design process and my answer is always the same — at every stage. Without context and discovery work, content can’t be created effectively, and without measurement and testing, we can’t know if we’ve achieved success.

I also often asked what the content design process looks like. In all honesty it’s not much different from the design process, we just might focus more on the content than the visuals. But the two have to work hand in hand, and that’s why co-design is so important.

In visualising…

Phoebe from friends screaming ‘Stop the Madness’
Phoebe from friends screaming ‘Stop the Madness’
Phoebe knows

I’ve been meaning to get around to this post for a long time but cookie pop-ups kept getting in my way. They get in the way of everything, those pesky little blighters.

When the EU changed its GDPR rules back in 2016, I was working in a content team who had to scramble to come up with simple and non-intrusive ways to make sure customers knew they could be tracked through the site as soon as they arrived. They could either accept by continuing onto the site, or read more detail about how their information might be used. It was…

Rachel McConnell

Content Ops at BT. Previously Clearleft and Deliveroo. Author of Why you need a content team

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store