Learning Service Design on the Job + Leading a Design Team + Service Design Standards with Tracey Williams — DT101 E47

Tracey Williams, a Service Design Director for Absa Bank in South Africa, discusses learning service design on the job, growing design skills on her team, and building organizational service design standards with Dawan Stanford, your podcast host.

Show Summary

Picture of Tracey Williams

Tracey’s career didn’t begin in design; she started in financial services, and went through a graduate program focused on business targets and goals. She’d always had an interest in problem-solving, and while working at Absa, she got involved in numerous projects that she found new and exciting outside of her specific role. She had studied marketing, and found that much of the old-school marketing thinking aligned with some of the thinking in design spaces.

She submitted an idea to a social entrepreneurship course and was accepted. Tracey then proceeded to learn service design and design thinking as she led her team through development of the idea. Her biggest challenge during the project was using the tools of design, which were still new to her; she had to learn through doing, and through failure and then trying again. She learned that design is about looking at a problem from a different perspective.

Tracey hosted the first Absa Women Forum at the Wentworth Angels headquarters to celebrate the role of single mothers and women.

Listen in to learn:

  • How Tracey developed her design skills
  • What service design skills she has learned on her job
  • Why she was called a design “Padawan”
  • Who Tracey is bringing onto her team for service design
  • How Tracey is developing new designers at Absa
  • What she wishes more people understood about her work
  • How she protects her work from being devoured by the larger system
  • Books Tracey used to learn service design on the job

Our Guest’s Bio

Tracey is a designer with seven years of experience in financial services. She is currently a Service Design Director for the Absa Bank Design Office, where she has played a key role in establishing and demonstrating the value of Service Design. Her teams have worked across different areas of the business and engaged with several stakeholders along the way, including those in Relationship Banking, Business Banking, Card, and most recently, Home Loans.

She enjoys working with cross-functional teams to solve complex, wicked problems with solutions that address both customers’ needs and meet the business objectives. Beyond the delivery of design work, she has a passion for developing young talent and worked with a colleague to start the first design graduate program at the bank focused on transforming and growing its future design leaders.

Show Highlights

[02:33] How Tracey became involved in banking projects early on in her career.
[03:43] Tracey’s experiences in a social entrepreneurship course.
[06:24] Tracey talks about her early challenges in working with service design.
[10:30] Tracey talks about a design graduate program she co-founded with a colleague.
[12:30] Her leadership team’s work to create a skills matrix for designers.
[14:21] How Tracey is developing new designers to fit the strategic objectives of the bank.
[16:20] Her work to create solid service design standards for the bank.
[19:10] What she wishes others understood about service design.
[20:39] The concept of “go slow to go fast” and making sure pacing is comfortable and sustainable.
[23:13] How Tracey is able to prevent her project being devoured by the larger system.
[25:46] The short term and long term views and value of service design.
[30:09] How Tracey is working to better tell service design success stories to other staff at the bank, and also to the bank’s customers.
[32:25] Ways other banks can use service design.
[36:27] Maintaining quality within a larger team and keeping up with service design standards.
[42:29] Books and resources that have helped Tracey during her journey.


Tracey on LinkedIn
Design Thinking 101
Fluid Hive Design Innovation
Absa Bank
SDN Conference 2019
Book Recommendation: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely
Book Recommendation: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
Book Recommendation: Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries
Book Recommendation: Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, by Mark Manson

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