We cover making intentional career shifts and leadership challenges navigating multi-product expansion with Kris Rasmussen, CTO @ Figma. He shares his experience transitioning from contractor work with Figma to a full-time role & the benefits of joining an eng org during its early stages. We also address Figma’s transition from a one-product company to a two-product company, Kris’s process for determining the eng org’s core areas of focus, challenges faced when becoming a multi-product org, frameworks for determining solutions to challenging projects, and lessons learned around releasing products with heavy collaboration.
Kris Rasmussen is the Chief Technology Officer at Figma, where he leads the engineering, security, and data science teams. Prior to joining Figma in 2017, Kris served as engineering lead and a technical advisor at Asana, where he co-authored many aspects of the framework and infrastructure that powers the company's real-time collaborative features. Before Asana, Kris co-founded RivalSoft Inc., a web-based application that gives companies an internal hub for market information and served as Chief Architect at Aptana.
"One of the things that's helped me is just really kind of focusing on the outcome that I'm trying to create and trying to think about the most effective way to do that. All of us want to feel respected. We want to feel valued. We want to feel heard, but at the end of the day, we also want to create something that's greater than ourselves. We want to work on something that kind of outlives us and if you really want to do that, it doesn't really matter whose idea it was or who said what. All that really matters is that you come to the right solution as a group.”
- Kris Rasmussen
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- Kris’s backstory with Figma & transitioning from contractor to CTO (1:02)
- What factors validated Kris’s decision to join Figma full-time (4:50)
- Leveraging the benefits of joining an eng org during its early stages (7:27)
- Figma’s recent milestone shifts & how Kris’s responsibilities changed in response (9:09)
- Transitioning from a one-product company to a two-product company (12:15)
- Kris’s process for identifying the most important problems (13:57)
- Strategies for determining core areas of focus (17:09)
- Knowing when to shift to become multi-product (19:12)
- How processes / org structure shifted in response to Figma’s second product (21:59)
- Defining Figma’s vertical product-related org structures (23:22)
- Challenges faced when getting to the multi-product moment (24:44)
- Frameworks for determining when an idea is validated enough to staff it (29:57)
- Kris’s process for determining a solution to a challenging R&D project (31:52)
- Lessons learned around releasing highly collaborative products (36:06)
- Strategies for letting go of your ego (39:46)
- Rapid fire questions (40:47)
LINKS AND RESOURCES
- On Writing Well - On Writing Well, which grew out of a course that William Zinsser taught at Yale, has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity, and for the warmth of its style. It is a book for anybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does.
This episode wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our incredible production team:
Patrick Gallagher - Producer & Co-Host
Jerry Li - Co-Host
Noah Olberding - Associate Producer, Audio & Video Editor https://www.linkedin.com/in/noah-olberding/
Dan Overheim - Audio Engineer, Dan’s also an avid 3D printer - https://www.bnd3d.com/
Ellie Coggins Angus - Copywriter, Check out her other work at https://elliecoggins.com/about/