Spotify’s Reema Bhagat on music, product design, and the key to a happy career

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Meet Reema Bhagat, Product Designer at Spotify! We chat with Reema about the commonalities between music and design, the most important list you’ll ever write in your life, and favorite playlists for blasting through creative work.

Hi, I’m Reema. I’m a Product Designer who’s passionate about democratized technology and creating experiences that everyone can use. I grew up in India and the US, and I’m in Europe now—where I’m hoping to see as many places as I can, and eat my way through new cities.

Outside of design, I love reading, hand lettering, and learning new things. I’m currently trying to learn more about wine and figure out how to french braid my own hair, which remains a big mystery.

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How did you land your job at Spotify?

Spotify met all the criteria of what I wanted in a design role, but especially my top ones: it’s consumer-facing, there’s a collaborative environment but autonomy is highly valued, and it has a variety of design projects—and therefore many opportunities for impact.

I went through the classic design interview at Spotify
, where you have a few phone calls, followed by an onsite interview with a design exercise. The day was a blur, but I really liked the team, and wanted the role more than ever after meeting everyone in person. Getting on my last follow up call with recruiting was really nerve-wracking, but it all thankfully worked out!

What’s the problem your design team is working on solving?

My team at Spotify takes care of the desktop and web player experiences. We’re always working to keep the experience easy to use, while bringing new features that add value to the product.

We aim to highlight platform strengths, such as flexible inputs (mouse and keyboards) on generally larger screens, to deliver moments of customization and deeper curation. The desktop app was the original Spotify product, and it’s really interesting to see how far it’s come, and exciting to be a part of the team that’s designing where it will go.

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Reema’s Workspace

Music and design: What do they have in common?

I love this question! I think there are several similarities between the two. Since they are both creative, everyone can have a different process and their own preferences around how to create a finished product.

You don’t necessarily need professional training or specific education to make it in either industry.

Another is that you don’t necessarily need professional training or specific education to make it in either industry, and many successful designers and musicians are largely self-taught. There’s also a lot of subjectivity in both fields, and while there are some generally accepted standards of what’s “good”, both music and design can be highly polarizing.

On a more personal note, I rarely feel like my designs are perfect or 100% done, and I imagine this must be the case for musicians as well—a feeling that it can always be improved and the desire to keep tweaking.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

A couple of years back, I attended a Q&A with Microsoft’s CFO, Amy Hood, and she explained her process to never feel like you’re compromising.

It’s pretty straightforward: you list out everything you want, then rank that list, and make all your decisions based on it. Once you know what you want, big career and life decisions are much easier to make—and you won’t feel like you’re compromising since you can make active choices based on your values and goals.

Even when circumstances are out of your control, you can choose how to react based on what you want or value.

I really like this framework, because it can be easy to fall into the mindset that things are happening to you, rather than you making active decisions. Even when circumstances are out of your control, you can choose how to react based on what you want or value.

Top 3 Spotify playlists to help you blast through work?

  • Chilled Classical: When I need to focus, I can’t listen to music with lyrics. This playlist is ideal for when I need to think through a problem.
  • Women of Hip Hop: If I’m powering through pure production work, lyrics don’t distract me, and this playlist is perfect for when I’m in the zone and cranking out work.
  • Your Top Songs 2019: When I can’t decide what to listen to, this is an easy go-to, since I know I love all the songs in it.

As a designer, what’s the biggest thing you personally want to improve on?

I’d like to improve my soft skills in leadership and influence. Being able to inspire, motivate, and coach others is something I see as essential for my growth and development as a designer.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really strong design leaders (whether or not they’re a manager), and think they can make all the difference in a team’s happiness and effectiveness.

I’m really passionate about team health/culture, and think that developing my leadership skills would not only help me grow, but would help me be a better teammate and advocate for my design peers.

Speed Round!

  • Favorite design tool: I’m currently using Figma, which I really like—especially the simple prototyping features.
  • Favorite musical artist: I’m a big Pusha T and Frank Ocean fan, and really like classical music, but picking favorites is always so hard for me!
  • Hidden talent: I don’t know if I’m particularly talented at it, but I really enjoy crafting and card-making.
  • What you’d be doing if you weren’t a designer: I want to say stand-up comedian—but knowing how difficult it is, I’m not sure if I’m cut out for it!
  • What keeps you up at night: Mostly my weird dreams! I have murder-y (or murder adjacent) nightmares often; it feels like a Stephen King novel in my brain.

Want to keep up with Reema? Find her on Instagram and at reemabhagat.com.


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