Designing a Space of Boldness and Belonging in Tech

Federico Francioni on reclaiming the word ‘designer.’

Sweet Spot

“Can I have a slice of belonging?”

There isn’t a simple way to ask this. But Federico Francioni seeks to make others feel like they belong in the everyday actions he takes. He makes sure not to be too concerned over the aesthetics and functionality of his job at Facebook because feeling valued for who you are and what you do is the top priority. Whether it’s co-workers or product-users, work or leisure, Francioni believes “the ultimate goal is belonging,” as it’s “the sweet spot between diversity, inclusion and equity.”

As a principal people experience designer for Facebook, Francioni’s favorite part of his job is the “positive tension” between individuals. With different mindsets, backgrounds and experiences, he is surrounded by people who intellectually stimulate him.

“You can go and feel free because you belong there, you can challenge everything you can learn,” he said about working at Facebook.

To him, work is his “playground,” where there’s no concern about not sticking the landing on an idea or saying something silly. Within the feeling of belonging, he is empowered to follow his endeavors and embolden others. Francioni, himself, is half-deaf, which is a large reason why he advocates this message so strongly.

“We have the responsibility of including everyone,” Francioni said.

He describes himself as extroverted and positive. With a wide smile and bright eyes, Francioni looks forward to meeting new people, traveling and embracing creativity, especially through his job. While he has previously worked at Microsoft and PwC, in addition to having written several Medium articles about design and co-hosting a podcast, Francioni didn’t attend school with this future in mind. As a telecommunications engineer in college, Francioni had his “professional epiphany” practically by luck.

It started when a few friends had reached out to Francioni about joining their team for an international marketing competition. Even without much of a business and economics background, he accepted the invitation for fun. He admits to wanting to focus on his engineering major, but still felt attracted to the countless opportunities in college. Participating and winning the competition gave him a taste of working outside of his engineering bubble, and ended up redirecting his entire career.

Now as a principal people experience designer, Francioni’s typical days are spent brainstorming with coworkers in meetings and seeking out the latest trends about the future of tech. Before the pandemic, traveling was a constant on his calendar. But now, Francioni has adjusted to a virtual work environment or, “fluid workspace.” To him, a “fluid workspace” challenges the regular nine to five workday and allows Francioni to be more flexible with his hours, taking in other factors of working from home like kids, partners and well-being activities

Whatever he’s working on, Francioni likes to get his hands dirty. Especially with projects. He believes to truly understand how something works, a hands-on approach is the best way to know. His projects usually fall in the intersection of emerging tech, experience design and digital strategy, and he aims to “make things better, stronger [and] faster.”

“You can just go and be brave and be bold,” Francioni said about his job.

From Sparks to Fire

Humble, empathetic, outspoken and passionate. These are qualities that Francioni’s two role models have. Francioni seeks inspiration in these traits and aims to show his own passion in unique ways through his work. Especially in the current tech industry, he knows that there are countless opportunities to show your strengths and creativity.

Being a designer means being a part of a project, creating and crafting the next tool for users. A designer, to Francioni, means being “today’s maker.”

“Today, there are a ton of ways where you can be amazing. So that, to me, means that a designer today is no longer the guy that comes up with the most creative idea,” he said. “It's probably the guy that finds a new way to combine multiple ideas, and make them happen in a way that nobody has seen before.”

Crafting projects as a designer comes with a lot of nuances. While experience design is usually seen as visual and interaction design, Francioni sees it as much bigger than that. Experience design can interact with service and system design, too, and always begs the questions, what is customer experience? What is user experience? What is employee experience? These questions are compared and contrasted to craft the overall experience Francioni serves to create for users. Behind the screens, design includes a lot of research to reach this final goal and involves countless individuals who are reclaiming the word ‘designer’—including Francioni

“You don't need to know how to sketch to be a designer. I don't, I'm terrible. And you don't need to be a master in fine arts. I'm a telecommunication engineer, I think I can call myself a designer,” he said. “That's the way it works today.”

The Recipe

While Francioni looks into the new year, one goal he has in mind is to interact with and give back to the design community. In addition to getting more involved with his podcast, he will be participating in a couple of platforms, like ADP list, to mentor designers.

To the younger generation pursuing design, or even those who have yet to stumble on the field, Francioni wants to highlight the importance of accepting feedback. While being passionate and curious about design is vital to the role, it’s crucial to not get too attached to what you’ve created and to the feedback that you will receive. This is the main ingredient to success, according to Francioni, and will not only help you grow as a designer, but as a person too.

The overall recipe for modern design? Three aspects: business, data and technology. While you don’t have to be an expert in all three areas, you do want to embrace learning about them. Designers need to know about business because it’s how they prove the work they do. Using data allows designers to get quantitative information and be more informed about the projects they’re pursuing. And technology is all about being thorough with what they’re doing to get projects done.

“As a designer, I can do a fantastic project and mockup. But I will take a lot of pride in how these things get created,” he said.

As he expresses his ardor for the new year and future mentorship opportunities, Francioni encourages others to be fearless and find their belonging.

“You are in control of your life, just go and do it.”

You can find out more information about Federico Francioni from his website and LinkedIn.

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