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Designed to Lead

With a strong sense of self and an unapologetic nature, Hagit Kaufman, Wix’s VP of Design and Brand, paves her way ahead

Illustration: Maya Ish Shalom

Scheduling an interview with someone as busy as Hagit Kaufman is not an easy task. As Wix’s VP of Design and Brand, Kaufman leads a team of over 300 designers, employed in 13 different teams, spanning from product design, marketing, and templates, to print and motion design. This ought to position her as one of the most influential women in design and tech - but she would hate that title. She is just herself: married, parent to four children, an ambitious and talented manager - who happens to be a woman.

She runs the studio and its designers with the same attitude, building an environment where it is talent - not gender - that matters. And she raises her daughters the same way - encouraging them to follow their dreams with no limitations in mind.


Hagit’s gender-free perspective couldn’t be more aligned with the official theme for this year’s International Women’s Day - Break The Bias. Touching on topics of intersectional biases and breaking discrimination, her approach and support of a gender-equal world might be the embodiment of a discrimination-free future, where individuals are respected and celebrated for their skills, talent,


and qualifications - not because of their gender.


Equipped with inspiring confidence and a strong belief in what she brings to the table, Hagit talks about leadership, design, career paths, and the ever-changing landscape of the digital industry - including the one she oversees at Wix.


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What’s your approach to International Women’s Day? Does it make you feel proud as a woman in a position of power?

I struggle with International Women’s Day because women’s talents and accomplishments should be celeb


rated all year. Personally, I never paid much attention to being a woman. And in a way, that served me well - my accomplishments and achievements were made possible precisely because of that. I worked hard and was good at what I do, and that’s how I became successful - not because of, or despite the fact I am a woman. When I see this focus on female empowerment and framing these days, I fear that women are forced to recognize that ceiling, and making them aware of it can counter the desired effect - discouraging them from taking on challenges and making them think through this specific limiting lens. I’m really looking forward to a time when we no longer need this day.



Where does that innate self-confidence come from? I guess I hold this inner resilience that proved very useful in many paths in my life. I was always like that - a confident kid who became a confident adult.

It’s definitely not something that was predominantly there in the way I was brought up. I grew up in quite a normative household in that sense, but the fact is that, yes, something in my life helped me develop this resilience. I just go after what I want, without stopping to think if I’m a woman or not.


Is there a difference between female leadership and male leadership?

Yes, but in the same way, I feel there’s a difference between young leadership and more experienced one, or the way a developer manages a team or a designer does. It’s because there’s an inherent difference between humans and so many variables to this thing called leadership.


How about you? What’s your strongest asset as a female leader?

I know what my strong assets are. As a manager, I'm very attentive to my employees, and very in tune with what they feel, want, and need. But I can’t say that I attribute it specifically to me being a woman.



Did your approach to managing a team change after you became a mother? Absolutely. My first child arrived at the height of my career, just as the company and the studio were growing exponentially. It created a huge dissonance within me: work was where I felt meaningful, productive, and appreciated, and having a new baby meant I was neglecting that side of myself. That was very hard, to say the least. 14 weeks after my daughter was born, I was back at the office, ready to get back to my old self, only to discover I needed to reinvent that self. I’m very privileged to have had help, and as soon as I created this support system, I discovered the joys of motherhood, while also developing time-management skills I never knew I had. When you’re a new parent, every minute is accounted for, and it made me appreciate and see myself in a new light. This is exactly how I see new parents now. I understand what they’re going through and what they need, and I know that what I get in return is tenfold.

Did you always want to be a manager?

I didn’t know it until I became one, which happened quite organically. Once I started managing a small team in Wix, it was very obvious that this is what I was meant to do; that this is what I’m good at - seeing the big picture, developing the right visual direction, and managing people and situations. As I progressed and the company grew, it became even clearer that this is my passion, and that it’s important for me to lead and be an integral part of the company’s management.

Were there any elements in your management path that didn’t feel as organic or easy; that you had to fight for? Absolutely. When I realized I wanted to be part of the management team. This turned out to be one of the hardest things I had to fight for in my career, it didn’t come easily at all. I had to knock on that door continuously and ask for it over and over again, earning their trust and convincing them I deserve it and am worth it until I finally got that seat at the table. It wasn’t just handed over to me.


Why was it so important to be part of the management team?

I saw that I’m being left out of important conversations about the company and its products and future and that not knowing those things takes away from my ability to be the best manager that I can be. If there is a VP Marketing, VP Product, VP R&D etc. in the management team, there should also be a VP Design. We’re a technology company with a design-first approach.

And you know what? There’s also a lot of ambition and a bit of ego involved too. I grew within Wix right alongside those people, so why wasn’t I there with them? I felt I deserved it.


It’s quite an achievement. Was it part of a big plan? Something you aspired for?

Yes, and no. There were always landmarks, and posts along the way I felt I needed to conquer and accomplish. But they weren’t part of a five-year pl


an or goals I set for myself years ago, they were things I saw and seized along the way. I don’t have a roadmap for my career, but I am very aware of the road and stay attentive to it so that I know what my next step is and where I want to go.

As a manager of over 300 designers, you are in charge of their development and path. How do you make sure you're on the right track? How do you find y


our own focus and meaning in work?

It’s an existential question and I have many soul-searching conversations with myself about it. There's a constant internal dialogue and self-criticism, questioning whether I’m still relevant and good enough for those people. Very long ago I realized most designers in the studio are better designers than I ever was or will be, and that my biggest mission is to let them shine; get the absolute best out of their potential. As for meaning, it’s a daily challenge. It’s not written in a nice organized to-do list. And the meaning changes all the time, in parallel with the way the company changes, and the way the studio evolves.


Let’s talk about design processes in the studio. Are you closely involved in projects? Review sketches and make notes.

Of course, I am, that is the value I bring. My entire position as someone who connects the dots and makes things happen is dependent on me knowing what my designers and teams are doing on a daily basis, what their challenges are, and what their ambitions are. I love seeing what the designers create and will always have an opinion, whether they take it or not!

The way I’m involved differs and depends on the designer and the manager. Some will show me work in progress, and others will ask to send me a finished presentation or just parts of their process. It really depends on the person and I’m very flexible in that sense and don’t mind accommodating the needs and styles of each person.


How do you make sure that designers who aren't interested in managing but still want to develop and build a career within a studio, have a place to grow?

It’s a difficult question and one we struggled with for years, and still don’t have a definite answer to. We try to build a path where strong designers can become senior designers, or get involved in high-impact projects. I think a lot of what makes a designer feel more senior is being part of decision-making projects and meetings. But more than anything, we try to offer an exciting creative path with internal mobility - offering designers the chance to switch their playing field and try on different hats as designers and experiment.

I think in design—and maybe that has to do with the culture and era that we live in which exasbreats it—people find it very hard to stay in the same place for years and years. It’s very tiring, you get fed up.



I guess a lot of young designers find it intimidating, this thought of “Am I just gonna be designing for the rest of my life?”

I honestly think that if you enjoy designing - then that’s what you should do, always. There are so many options to diversify within this profession. If you’re talented, there’s almost no limit to what you can do with your skills.

But if you feel you’re done with designing, then yes - you’ll need to rethink your future and think hard about what you enjoy doing. But again, there are so many doors open to those who have a background in design that benefits them as potential employees. If your organizational skills are great then you can turn to project management, or if you find yourself fascinated by the technical side of things you can learn to code and become a developer with a background in design which is a huge asset. It’s really based on your personality, your very own joy, and what you find interesting.


Speaking of careers and the way they unfold: If you knew fifteen years ago, when you came to Wix, that this is where you’ll be today, what would you say?

I would burst out laughing! None of the things that happened would make sense to me. I mean, four kids! So much of what has happened in the last ten years has nothing to do with the way I was back then, so I just wouldn’t believe any of it.


And what would you say to that young Hagit?

I wouldn’t tell her anything. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprises! I have no regrets or things I wish I had done differently, so I would keep that innocence and let her experience it all over again, with no changes at all.





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