Design Leadership

As the Head of Product Design and Research at Qwil- a series B fintech, I worked with the founders and other department leaders to identify Qwil’s core value proposition and customer segments to deliver a new end-to-end experience.

Qwil was a series B fintech startup in San Francisco. I joined as the design leader along with other leaders in data and analytics, product and risk. I was reporting to the Chief Product Officer.

My Role

Head of Design and Research

Collaborators:  Product Management, Analytics, Finance, Sales


Delivered a strategic research backed customer journey map
Re-designed product and flows

Business Goal

Streamline Qwil’s multiple product offerings, develop long term product strategy with my cross-functional peers and evangelize a design-led culture at an early stage.

Before: Complex task flows, desktop only product
After:  Streamlined product designed mobile first
Customer Segmentation

My first step was to identify the who was using and deriving most value from the Qwil offering. I interviewed founders, department heads and looked at analytics data to determine the current customer segmentation.

Identifying existing customer segments

I further corroborated these findings with the actual asset tape data. My findings converged which allowed me to recommend focussing on the experience of payroll funder type of customer.

Product-Market Fit

I was heavily inspired by the approach used by Superhuman. In a customer survey the support team sent out to all customers, I included the key question - “How disappointed will you be if Qwil goes away tomorrow?”. The rationale behind asking this question is to determine exactly how many customers would feel massive pain if the product stopped working. These would be the customers deriving maximum value from the product and hence showing maximum dependency. In short, these are the customers the product should prioritize at all times until product-market fit is achieved.  Only 12% of Qwil customers responded with “very disappointed” to this question. I used Superhuman’s benchmark of 40% , as the number to achieve on this product-market fit “metric”.

Design Research

Since there was a desire amongst founders to focus on both individual freelancers as well as businesses, I decided to do a user study with new and existing customers to report back on which segment had the greatest pain point which could be more easily addressed by Qwil. I hypothesized that individual freelancer customers should not be the focus for the business because individuals already have “free” ways of receiving their payments. Instead, Qwil needed to find customers that wanted faster and cheaper ways of getting or sending payments than what exists today.

Clustering and synthesizing customer interview data

This exercise would help me work through the customer quotes data into inferences and strategic storytelling. Ultimately it resulted in creating a simple to follow user journey artifact to gain cross-org alignment.

Snapshot of the final research artifact


Having the research findings in front of me helped me to work backwards from the payroll funder customer requirements. I created wireframes and gained alignment with the founders, CPO and head of sales. 

Honing in on payment receiver experience

The new design would be focussed on payroll funders or businesses that have a staff (permanent or part-time) that they pay every month. For the payee or receiver there were two main simplifiers:

Final design document can be downloaded here.


Qwil’s homepage now caters to the core customer segment I discovered with a clear value proposition

Before: Hard to understand value prop.                                                                                                                  After: Clear target customer and value prop.

Reflections: Its all about persistence and curiosity

As designers, it is very easy to get lost into the pixels and sweat the details too early. I learned that my empathy was most required with the founders and the senior staff. It is easy to get distracted by the market, investors, customers and your own original vision. The design leader's job at such an early stage is to persistently dig into details and keep constant communication with the founders. To think of design as a horizontal function and a glue for the entire organization. In order to bring the customer’s voice into the product, the internal voice of the organization needs to be articulated clearly. Then, patiently, through methods and craft of research and design, one can begin to gather facts, propose new possibilities, tell compelling stories and partner with a cross-org team to create real change.