Hagit Kaufman of Wix.com on leadership, fast-changing tech and achieving the perfect work/life balance

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How do you lead an international team of over 120 great designers, aim to tackle gender inequality in the tech industry and raise three children while achieving a perfect work/life balance? Hagit Kaufman might just have the answer.

As the VP of Brand and Design at Wix.com, a leading website building platform based in Israel, she is the authority on all things design and the mastermind behind the company's branding itself. Working alongside her team, she's in charge of creating Wix’s web design, user experience and eye-catching promotional-related content.

Interestingly, her backstory is quite untraditional as she came into tech by chance. We spoke to Hagit about this and much more.

So, tell us, how did you get to where you are now?

I joined Wix by accident – the best accident I’ve ever made. A few friends asked me to help with their startup, and it evolved into an exhilarating ride into technology and design. The Internet is a challenging and exciting environment, I love the pace and creative challenges that come with the rapidly growing brand and product. I’m privileged to be able to provide people, businesses, and brands all over the world, with the ability to create their best online presence.

Wix has done a lot of growing up in recent years. How would you place Wix as a brand today?

We’ve enjoyed tremendous growth over the past 11 years while remaining true to our mission: to enable anyone to build an online presence quickly and easily.

The next step for us was to introduce sophisticated features for experienced designers and developers; like designer-oriented templates, as well as the option to design from scratch with Wix Code, that allows users to build more complex web apps, change site behaviours and create richer domains.

With over 130 million users, what are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Our biggest challenge is to maintain a high level of product development for our users while staying true to our goals and being at the forefront of technology. It’s the same case with our brand – stay familiar and easy while moving forward and leading with our design.

You look after a lot of designers – how do you manage such a large team?

It wasn't always such a large team – we grew together. The design team has over 120 people, working in seven different aspects of design. One of the secrets of leading such a large creative group is to find each designer’s strength and to provide the right environment for them to shine.

Over two-thirds are women on your team – was that a deliberate move?

No. Obviously, as a woman, I spend a lot of time thinking about it, but at the end of the day we hire the best of the best, and it just so happens that a large percentage of them who come to us are women.

Looking at the gender pay gap in the overall workplace, what do you think can be done to address it?

At Wix, we believe and work extremely hard to pay employees according to their skills, not their gender. It’s about moving away from this gender narrative and addressing the skills of each individual. That being said, people should inform themselves about pay in their sectors and for people within their experience. With this information, you can have a more open conversation with your manager.

How do you think your background helps you today in your role?

I came to tech by chance and didn’t have the traditional skills that usually come with this type of position. However, this was actually a benefit as I was forced to come up with creative and non-traditional solutions to common design problems, which is something I firmly believe improves our communities. When people from different backgrounds come together, you get a diverse team that comes up with amazingly creative ideas.

What web design trends do you see emerging in the next year or so?

One of the most important trends in recent years is the advance in motion design and 3D software. The fact that designers can easily acquire skills in software like Cinema 4D is changing the game.

Major improvements in new tools and the ability to render engine quality is making it easier to see your design evolve in real time. This improves the learning curve and results in richer design, original textures and more interesting movement of objects.

There’s sometimes a backlash in the creative community against products like Wix – that it steps on web designers’ toes. What would you say to that?

It's quite the opposite of stepping on their toes. If anything, it provides designers with a better footing to express their creative freedom online. For people trying to build their own websites, we developed Wix ADI – Artificial Design Intelligence, an AI solution for website design and creation.

For more customisation, we have our editor that offers designers greater product capabilities and features such as unlimited fonts, high definition video, and retina ready quality to bring their creativity to life.

With Wix Code, users will save about 50 per cent of the time when compared to what it would typically take to build on other platforms. It is amazing when you can create client apps in days instead of weeks. For designers who are not coders, they can now embrace code functionality and extend sites for clients in no time.

What have you been most proud of since being at Wix?

Seeing the beautiful websites created with our tools and design elements. Also, hearing the stories behind each website or business fills me with pride – I have more than 120 million reasons to be proud.

Can you share a particular story of someone you've helped?’

Of course! I’m proud of all of our users and their fantastic sites but one person that really inspires me is SarahGeorge Durham. A single mother of five from Atlanta, Georgia, SarahGeorge would not let anything come between giving herself and her kids the life she wanted for them. So she used Wix to build her own empire: a design business where she creates websites for others. As she describes it, she designed her own life path and is a really inspirational person. She’s also a Wix Ambassador, and I am so proud to see what she and so many other users are doing with our platform.

You recently introduced Playground – tell us more

When we were thinking about how to approach other designers, we wanted to convey to them the opportunities we have created for them with Wix. Wix is extremely flexible and offers all kinds of designers the tools they need to take creative leaps. The Playground is a call to action, it dares designers to have fun and create something stunning.

The Playground is also a showcase for some of the design partnerships featuring Carissa Potter and Debbie Millman. We want Wix to be a catalyst for creative talents and welcoming for designers looking to build on our platform.

Is there anything that’s currently bugging you?

Bugging me, no. Challenges? Always. We are constantly working on our product and brand development, finding the right solutions and approach for every new business out there.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

My secret hobby is baking. I can’t get enough of it, especially decorating birthday cakes!

What wisdom can you share with Creative Boomers on becoming a success?

The key to becoming successful is a combination of talent and hard work. Focus on your strengths and continue to build upon them. Even when it gets difficult, and you may feel as if you’ve tapped out, continue to push forward, and never give up. Set yourself up for success by breaking out your goals, and going one at a time. That way when you accomplish one, you can set a new one.

What’s next?

We will continue to push the boundaries with our product and design, and most importantly, will continue to have fun while we’re at it.

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