…something I do every time and it improves my geography skills, because I never learned geography at school. Awesome, let's see. Nigeria, Nigeria, India. Okay wait, so Nigeria; I know that's 5 pm West African Time. Atlanta, Georgia… I don't even know where that is because I'm Canadian, so I'm gonna guess East Coast.
Wait, Damola, do you know?
Um… no, not very certain…
Yeah, I don’t know anything…
But it's probably like 2 hours behind New York or… I think so, I’m not very sure.
Atalanta is is Eastern time. It's the same time as New York.
Same time as New York!
Yeah, it’s on the East Coast.
Awesome. Thanks for confirming. and then there's somebody also, I saw from… okay, Louisiana. I also don't know where that is, but I do know Nova Scotia that's four hours ahead of me, so I think that's like 12 pm. Someone said from Earth -1. [laughs] That's so funny. From India, 9:30; thanks for tuning in so late. South Africa, I think is also West Af… no!
Oh my gosh, I need to do some research after this. Okay, we have someone from Ohio. Oh my God, I don't know where that is either. I… I need to look at a map after this event. We have people from Singapore… Budapest? Oh I think this is the first time we've had someone from there. That's awesome. Thanks for being here. Lithuana… oh, that's awesome.
Okay I think we're gonna get started now. So, I'm gonna share my screen and do a little presentation; like an intro, and then we can go ahead with the event.
Okay, give me a thumbs up if you can see my screen. Okay, thanks.
So, EntryLevel is hosting this event and we basically… hopefully, you know who we are, but we help you learn and get experience so that you can get hired. Here are a few of our programs; they're only six weeks and completely beginner-friendly. I want to know your level of tech experience before we start, just so we can tailor the questions I ask to your unique experience. So, please let me know if you are a complete beginner to tech, if you took a few courses, if you got an internship in tech before, or if you currently work in tech right now. You can just put it in the chat.
Okay, looks like a lot of people are complete beginners. Some people have taken some courses—hopefully an EntryLevel course—I don't know… okay, so some people have gotten internships, but it looks like most people are like, more beginner-level.
Awesome, so this is how the event is gonna go; we're gonna introduce our wonderful panelist, Damola and do a Q & A. So, I have some questions prepared because everybody sent them in beforehand, and then you can ask your questions in the chat, so if you have questions, you can put them in the chat anytime and I'm going to be saving them and asking them at the end. Or, if you can, like, raise your hand on Zoom… hopefully, you know where the raised hand function is; it's like… there's three dots under “more’” and I think you can raise him somewhere there. So, you can raise hand at the end and ask you a question with your camera on.
Wait, can everyone just keep their mics muted, please? Thanks. Awesome.
Okay, so let's take it away… Oh, I forgot I had the slide. So before we start, please be respectful, keep mics and cameras off if you don't want to be recorded; that's if you're in the zoom room and not watching the YouTube live stream, I mean. And then, yeah just use the chat to ask questions, okay? So Damola, do you want to introduce yourself here?
Yes. Hello everybody, very excited to be talking to everybody today. I tend to speak a little bit faster than regular, so if I’m speaking very fast, like, just let Jennifer know and she'll tell me to slow down a little bit. I'll try my best to pace myself as much as possible.
So, my name is Damola Adegoke—well, Damola for everybody—and I'm a product designer, I currently work at Spotify, but over because of my career I've worked for quite a number of companies—typically startups—building product from zero to one. My background is in Computer Science; so, I studied computer science in the University. I went from studying Ccomputer Science to doing some software engineering, and then, through my like, exploration of software engineering—because I was doing mobile app development at that time—I went from exploring that to figuring out how to make mine absolute beautiful; which is like, maybe like the funniest way to get into product design, which is like… typically, it's not all about aesthetics, but that was how I got into design, so like, I wanted to make things look fine and I started learning design.
From learning design, I found that I liked design for specific reasons. Practically, like as a software engineer, I was just doing stuff right, so do this and then I did it, but I went to a point from just doing stuff to understand why I was doing it, right? And it was… if you wanted to execute a project, you needed to understand why you needed to execute the project, all the stakeholders, talk to people… I think the was the most interesting part was the part where you had to talk to people, and that's why I started doing design; because I probably liked that part and the fact that some of the work that you do tends to affect quite a number of lives and affects people in some way… and you try your best to make sure that your effects are in a positive way as opposed to a negative light.
But that's why I sort of jumped into design and I started from just learning for the sake of it into, like, just jumping into the career directly, and we're here currently doing design and doing amazing stuff.
Wow, that's awesome. When you said you had like a degree in… was it software engineer… like, coding stuff, like…
Yeah, I had…
…yeah, I had… I have a degree in Computer Science and that sort of like, led me from a part of Computer Science to like, definitely, more often than not, you move from like, Computer Science to doing some software engineering.
Okay, okay… I know a lot of people ask this question, but do you need to know like, computing, like how to code, to become a designer?
No, not at all. Not at all, I think I think some of the best designers I’ve met are people that have like, a fresh perspective; like, zero technical skills. You're able to think like… there is some level of joy or refreshingness that comes from naivety, right? Like, just not knowing anything; just come in with all your ideas and all those like, your glorious ideas. It makes things easier for you. It might make it difficult for you, but it helps you, like, bring in fresh ideas into the market or fresh ideas generally, because when… with my sort of software engineering skills or background, initially, I used to think of things from an implementation standpoint, right? Like, how is it easy to implement? Is it possible?
But I had to unlearn that practice, like, you need to really like push the edges of things whether it's implementable or not, you… let's get down, and we'll figure it out, right?
So, yeah. Anybody can learn design, you… pretty much anybody can design. You just have to, like, pay attention to the details and figure stuff out as you go. Yeah.
That is such an interesting take because most people I say, they… most people I ask, they say, “Oh, you need to know a little bit, just to like understand when your developers are lying to you,” but I think having fresh set of eyes is also a really good answer. That brings me to like; how did you discover a design, like, what made you choose that over coding?
Okay, I think with the initial introduction I did, there's a minute bit that I missed out which was; when I was in uni, I had like a couple months of break where I then had like a family member… or like, my parents sort of like, led me to a friend of the family that was doing graphics design then, and I went to work with said person and I was doing graphic design for the person. I wasn't doing graphic design quite frankly but the work that we do was like graphic design plus print, so it was print work and graphic design. So, it was like a print stuff; I was lifting paper, taking it to the printer shop because they didn't have like a printed machine or a printing press, so he would do the designs, I would take… we'll sort of take the designs like in a Photoshop file on the flash drive, they can see the printing shop and press—I think it was called impression then—impress it on like this metal slabs or metal sheets and then you take it to the actual business shop where they when they would then do like the color extraction because you could have it like RGB or was it CMYK? Then you have the CMYK and then they cut it and you take it to the shop where it's printed, and then the color is applied and printed on paper, and then you put it so they take it back to the store and then they'll do… they'll do all the binding, you basically have to move down like four different places to do it. But that was when I sort of had an understanding of design. That was the business side of it.
And then, I went back to Uni, I was… I thought I was going to continue doing it, but I did not continue because, like, school took over all of my time and I think there is—I'm originally from like, from Nigeria—so there is this sort of… it's called I.T./SIWES where you spend six months or like your second… of your fourth year in any school… um, any company, and I spent those six months doing sort of, fixing computers for the company I was working at. But in the back end, I was learning design whenever they were like no computers to fixed. I was like, learning the tools for Product Design as opposed to Graphics Design. And that's… everything sort of connected together and made sense at the end of the day. So, it was more like something I'd learned like four years prior that eventually helped me down the line. So, it was a weird one. Oh, yeah.
Oh wow, that's quite a journey, thank you for sharing. Do you think that helped you land the job at Spotify?
Yeah, I… the way I look at things, like everything that you're doing, like, sort of adopting somewhere or the other. So, building on this thing that I've learned in the past, building on my software engineering skill sort of helped me in landing, like, my first set of jobs. The job of Spotify was pure curiosity, I think some level of strategic positioning—because I had always known that I wanted to work for a big tech company for the longest time, so I started my career and I sort of worked for some companies in the past and then as I progressed and got better, I was more intentional about the kind of things I was working on, and I would say like my two previous companies before Spotify, I was very lucky to work at a company that was very, very design-driven. So, it was like a strategic position in some level of intentionality and then luck met me in some beautiful way, and because the company was very intentional about design, I was able to do work and my work was able to really shine for me, and I did work I was very very proud of and that was… that made it possible for me to, like, have the confidence to apply to Spotify and go through the design; like the interview process, and… yeah, go through the interview process and eventually land the job.
But, at the end of the day, it's like every single thing that you do in life sort of adds up in some ways. Like, if you get the opportunity to learn something otherwise it's not negative or it's not impacting you neg… there's no net negative effect to it, also like, take the chance and learn it, and eventually everything adds up in some way and it sort of clicks in your subconscious. And when you eventually need that skill or some form of some element from that skill, everything works eventually.
That's an interesting insight, but I… I think I need to ask some other questions before diving deeper into your journey, because we're getting ahead into like job search and a lot of people here are beginners. So, my first question is like, how do you even—before starting the job search—how do you even know if you should go into product design?
That’s interesting. Okay, so I would draw a bit of like, a parallel of like, some scenarios. So, I've had a couple of people; friends, my brother currently does tech but he works as a backend engineer. I have friends that moved from some other industry—I have a friend that moved from architecture into product design—and what I always tell people is that if you want to; if you know that you want to be in a particular industry, if you're not specific of what you want to do within the industry, try to explore as many as like 3, 4 things within the industry, right?
So I told my… I would typically tell people, “Who are you as a person?” If I know you… I've seen people that I know are will probably make good product managers if they learn like the product side of things because they make really really solid decision in life and they're like, “Oh, I want to learn how to code.” I'm like, you know what, let's talk and let's have a conversation.” These are the traits I've noticed in you as a human being, right? And if you take these traits, it will translate better into this kind of skill set, right? So, instead of taking your energy and learning something that will take—even though eventually you get good at it—it will take a lot of effort to get good at, why not take… channel that said energy into something that sort of takes advantage of some of the innate skills that you have already, and you would level up in it faster, right?
So, what I would typical tell people is, if you have innate skills fine. If you do not, explore as broadly as possible. Take a couple of weeks or months and try always just dabble into them a little bit. From dabbling, you begin to find the things that you have affinity for and the things that you like doing and when you eventually find out what you like doing, stick to it, right? And similar for product design also; if you feel like, “I want to be in this, like, product side of things or design side of things,” dabble into every single aspect of design and find what you have affinity for or dabble into every single aspect of tech if tech… if you can. Read on it, find the things that interest you and focus on those things that interest you.
That's super cool. I think, so basically to recap what you said, you said, “you should explore and dabble a little bit and find what you like doing, what… what your strengths are and then stick to it after.” But I think it's also important to note you don't always have to be sticking to the same job because, I think, you yourself… you changed from like graphic print design to UX design, right?
Yes. So you don't always have to like stick to the same job, so if you know that, “okay, this is really what I want to do,” then go for it and learn it, find the right people talk to, find the right resources to learn said thing. Figure out how you learn. If you're a visual learner—if you like, like watching videos—go that route. If you like reading, go down that route. If you listen to podcasts and, like, you just like… or you like talking to people one-on-one, reach other people. Have like, mentorship sessions with them and be very open, like, “this is where I am in my journey, this is what I want to learn, this is why I want to learn it, and this is how I feel like you can help me with getting where I want to get to,” right? And that way, you're doing it right and then you would begin to like make some level of progress.
You don't always, like, have to do things based on the inner traits that you have; particularly when you want to be like really expand yourself. But because I'm doing design and I happen to like, be a very very numbers-every person, so me learning design took like a lot of stretching myself. So, if that is what you want to do, stretch yourself by any means and like, just explore.
Okay that's really interesting. I want to hear about your, like, how you learn. But before we dive into that, just to help people decide if design is for them, can you describe your day-to-day work and what they can expect if they were to become a product designer?
Yeah. Yes, I think my day-to-day work is… my day-to-day is very direct. I wake up in the morning get on my laptop and figure stuff out. I'm just joking.
So typically, it's… work life depends on like whatever it is I'm working on at that point in time, right? And more often than not, projects are in phases, right? Actually, for my current company, we have projects as they've moved between phases, right? We have like the initialization process phase where we're just trying to figure out what we actually want to do. Then, the next phase is like, we know what you want to do now, let's think of how we're going to solve the problem, right? Like, let's… let's see all the variables around it. So, depending on where we are in the phase, my day can be very very different. There are times that you don't open figma at all or any design tool at all and you're like, just on calls sometimes or you're having workshops and like, just talking to people, so I won't say every day is the same but like, different days have different… so, different days can be very different depending on where I am in like the project cycle. But typically, you're talking to stakeholders, talking to people you're collaborating with; more often than not, designers, product managers, and engineers, and sometimes you're talking to like some director of product or design which typically doesn't, like, do core craft work, but they have so much experience that they have like enough overview on what is going on with your business, so they have like really, really solid business insights. And from talking to them, you're maybe talking to a UX researcher, or in some cases, carrying out UX research yourself or doing some usability tests and we do like, the interesting work which is like being in Figma, which is like, the work I enjoy doing. And different people have like different parts of things that they enjoy doing, but yeah, that's what my day-to-day technically looks like.
Wow, that's amazing. So, it sounds like it's not just full-on designing on Figma; you have a lot of other stuff to do as well, because…
Yeah. It’s lots of other stuff.
We want to ask about that stuff, yeah. Because it's so much more than just design skills, I was wondering like, what traits would you need to know whether product design is for you?
Great. Okay, I would say if you want to know whether product design is for you, you probably want to talk to a lot of people—you like talking as much as possible—and then you're a very very curious person, particularly when you start to learn it. You would get into rapid tolls of like just pure curiosity and clicking one link that has a million links, and you click that link, and then you go really really like deep into a rabbit hole. You need to be very very curious, you need to care about, like, people generally, because at the end of the day, your work is sort of, merging the people side of things with like the user side of things, with like a business side of things at the end of the day.
But it's very easy to over-index towards the business side of things; like, just listen to what, like, your leads are telling you, like what business is telling you, but if you care about the way your user—like, your users, generally—you would be able to, like, advocate for them because like your work is merging those two things and finding like a sweet spot between both of them. But at the end of the day, you spend a lot of time advocating for your users. This is why we don't want to go this direction and because users will have problem with doing this, this, and this. So, those excuses, you have to have like, attention to detail or immense curiosity. To an extent, you want to be able to, like, want to talk to people—as many people as possible—and you have to like… be very, I guess, user-oriented or basic advocating for users in some way.
That's awesome. I think another point to make other than like, liking to talk to people, being curious, like hearing about people, I think like, you don't need to necessarily be an extrovert because having one-on-one conversations is great too. Like, are you yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
I'm an introvert; I spend a huge chunk of my of my week at home. I probably go out once a week—this is not for everybody, that is what I do because I just like get off. I think, because it's winter now, it's very very cold, so I don't like going out in the cold. But yeah, it's one-on-one conversa… you don't have to like, talk to a million people at once but, you must be comfortable… like you have to be comfortable talking to one-on-one persons. So, like Jennifer in the call; have a conversation with her and ask the kind of questions you want to ask and give the kind of points you want to… make the kind of points you want to make also. I think those are the things are like, really, really key.
Awesome. And I think if you are interested in Psychology in general, this might also be a career for you.
Because, I have a degree in Psychology and we learn statistics and like, we user research stuff; that was very helpful.
Yeah, like if you're currently studying psychology, jump into design, jump into user research; you would absolutely enjoy yourself, I feel.
Yeah, awesome. Oh, but I don't think it's that difficult to change into design from another… in career or like another degree as well. So, that brings me to my next question. Like, how would you transition to design from a completely unrelated field?
Okay. Oh, look at it like this; the barrier of entry for design is like… compared to every other tech skill, is actually very low, and that is a very good thing. The point where it begins to become very difficult is when you get to, like, that mid-level point, right? And it begins to, like, be a little bit tricky. It's… I want to say it as simple as like opening a tool, but in reality, it’s not as simple as that. But you really kind of start by just opening the tool, and then as you open the tool, you begin to progress and figure it out, right?
To write code, it's… I think the barrier actually for writing code is a lot more than the barrier of entry for designing or for doing, like UX design, or your UI/UX design. If you want to transition from a different field, it's… just certain peculiarities, right? It's… are you working in a tech company that… but you're currently doing something different, right? Say, for example, you're currently working in both roles within the tech company and you want to, sort of, transition into design, I would say you can do it systematically, right? What you want to do is talk to… sometimes, you maybe want to like, talk to the designers and start a great friendship with them and sort of, start volunteering for certain things, right? So you don't feel like, “Oh I want to design directly, but it's like, when you’re having user interviews, I would like to be there.” And you're in there, just get getting some level of familiarity with them, and as time goes on, you begin to be like, that person that they’re calling to like, “Oh, we have this extra thing,” and they’ve seen like you're able to… they’re able to take a chance on you are like, “Oh, we have this extra change I want to do but we have we don't have enough hands for it, would you like to jump into it?” And then, you are in there.
If you're not in a tech company or you're not in a company that does design, it can be a lot more tricky or a lot trickier, but what you can do is, you want to make connections outside of work or outside, like, your current field. What I used initially was Twitter, but you can use Twitter, you can use LinkedIn—reach out to people that are currently doing this thing and talk to them, begin to learn, and when you begin to learn and people see like, your learning progress, these people are probably eventually going to be willing to vouch for you or, like, talk for you in the right position, in the right rooms. But the peculiarities are what makes it very very distinct.
I will talk about like, a… experience I had with a particular friend that sort of transitioned from from a different field into a tech fields—not that not directly design. What the president did was, saved a… saved quite a lot of money. I was learning, so I spend time after work learning… spent a lot of work learning, and when the person felt like, “okay I have these skill sets to take that leap”—because it's a leap of faith, it would most likely work but you have to like do the work or learn learn it, and then take the leap of faith—and like, the person had saved up a lot of money—or not a lot of money, but enough money to last them for about three to six months without pay—and took that leap and was like, you know what? I will go all in on this and bet on myself and transition into it.
And it worked. By the end of the day, it's just like betting on yourself and taking that leap of faith.
I think a lot of what you said resonated with me and like, work at EntryLevel because I have a colleague who is a Data Analyst, but she was interested in design, so she… because it's a weird startup—it's like 14 people—she just said, hey I want to try this. And then, since there's no design team, there's no mentors, it was a little bit harder, but she took online courses, like… and she loves the UX Design course, and we just went from there. So now, she has a lot of cool experiences that she can talk about.
Awesome. Can we get a little bit more specifics about, like, design resources; how to learn… so if you can share, like, if you had to start from scratch as a complete beginner, like, what's the first thing you would do and like, what are the steps you would take?
Okay, so when I was learning, I was… I learned a lot in isolation; which was good for me. worked for me, but if I had to learn again, I would get a couple of people that are learning the same thing I learned. Gives a level of interest and gives like, their drive. More often than not… obviously, sometimes you want to work with people or you want to learn with people, and then, their drive sort of like distracts you, but what I would say is that learn as a group if you can—if that is that the kind of person you are. If you're not that kind of person, go ahead and like, take it in and learn it. But personally, if I could redo it and redo my learning process, I would reach out to people that have been doing this thing. Like, people out of like, immense experience in the industry and actually talk to them. It took me a while for me to like, start talking to people outside of my work; took a while, and I feel like my progress would have been a lot faster I've done that.
The other thing is also, like, how do you particularly learn, right? So, for things that are very new to you, you want to learn yourself. Like, you want to lean on some level of familiarity, so particularly, when you're moving into like a new industry… if you're moving to a new industry that is very, very unfamiliar territory, but what you want to do is find familiar things, right? And the familiar things will typically mean the way that you learn. Certain people learn with… by reading books, certain people learn by like talking to people? The people that would sit down with you, talk to you, and they will grab every single piece of knowledge that you put out. If you're that kind of person, find people that have this knowledge, talk to them. If you can't find those people, typically those kind of knowledge is always pass down through podcasts, right? Or through like, conference videos. So, watch those kind of things. If you're a, “I want to sit down and like, watch a video and see how's that they do it, and I'll pause the video and do that same thing and pause the video and do that same thing, and pause the video and that same thing,” go that route and that will be fantastic, right?
If you're a books person and you like reading books, by any means, read the book. But the idea is that when you're moving into unfamiliar territory, try as much to find some level of familiarity and lean on that familiarity. And it sort of helps you in such a way that you're not getting… you don't get lost. You might get lost, but you won't get lost too often and you always have something to lean on at the end of the day.
Interesting. It kind of sounds like you've been saying you need to learn what works best for you, because the most important thing is like, consistency and dedication to keep learning rather than like, “where's the best place to start?” So, I think, kind of what you're saying is, just like start with what works for you.
Yes, the… I would say it's not about how much you learn, it’s about how frequently you learn, right? You don't learn all… everything in one day, right? But if you wake up and you… and you, like, learn something new today, learn something new, tomorrow and learn something new next tomorrow, the more you learn, just like, the knowledge compounds, right? As opposed to, “I want to finish this course in one day.” Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't work, but more often than not, it does not work.
So, I would say consistency is like… consistency is better than speed, right? Like, just constantly doing something better than just running through it in one day. So, try it and just find some level of consistency to it, and it works that way. If you… if we're talking about specifics of, like, the kind of the specific resources that you could learn from, I have… like, they were like, this cool guy that sort of gathered really really good resources. It's very, very broad but I… on design generally—not just product design, design generally—I could look for it and like, send it through later; I can't find it right now. The score was pretty well, but I could look for it, find it later. And the reason why I recommend it is that I'd actually accepted a couple of people, I think, from two years ago and they have like, full-time design jobs now, so it works. But no matter how many courses you are sent, or no matter how many books you have to read, if you don't find consistency to be a little bit difficult, to like, find consistency and yeah, if you feel like sometimes you need to take a break, take a break, come back, take a break, come back, take a break, come back. Eventually, you find consistency but also have it at the back of your mind that, “Just keep grinding.” It works… it definitely does work.
Interesting. So yeah, I'm feeling like consistency is a key theme here, and when you said doing one course in one day, I felt so guilty because I wanted to just learn so fast and then, like, so I can progress faster. But sometimes, it's not like that. Like, that doesn't always work. So yeah, feel free to email over some resources. I have a lot of design-related resources as well and I'm going to leave them in EntryLevel website in the show notes. I'm gonna email the recording alongside all these resources to all of you, so don't worry if you miss anything.
Okay, so next question; so, let's move more into the job-related stuff. I was wondering; do you have any tips for what projects you should be taking on as you learn just so you have a good portfolio?
Yes, I'll talk about when, like, you're still very, very new and when you're like a year… a year and a half into it. So, what… you're still very new, you want to… you want to sharpen your UX skills and your UI skills, right? A way to sharpen your UI skills is to do direct copying, like, take a screenshot of WhatsApp, reduce the opacity, and copy it word-for-word, design-for-design, space-for-space, icon-for-icon; like really, really copy it.
The reason why I always say this is that there’s this philosophy or… you need to know the rules first before you can break it, right? Design does not necessarily have rules or guidelines; it doesn't have rules particularly, but does have some level of some guidelines— some laws in UX, right, that you need to… that you don't need to follow it, but when you're just learning, you want to follow them, and when you get really good, you can break them, right?
I think of it as… I think of it like similar to, like, a business person that's doesn't want to pay as much tax as every other person pays tax, right? It's like, first, you have to understand the way finance works, and then, when you understand the way finance works, you're gonna tweak the laws; like, sort of like, tweak these things in such a way that you understand the laws already and then you make it work in your favor. And that's how, like, design is. So, when you want to learn UI, particularly like the UI side of things, you want to do a lot of, like, copy and pasting. Like, this is what they did; I replicated it. And you try to replicate it to the T; try to find the font that they used, try to find the the line height that they use, the color. Figma makes it very… like if you use Figma, Adobe XD, Sketch or like whichever design tool, it makes it easy for you like just like grab the colors by using like your your Color Picker tool, right? Pick those things out. If you don't know the fonts that they use, you can go to their website and there are tools you can use to find the fonts. I try to, like, download a trial version of the fonts and as… the more you do these things, the better you get at the UI side of things and those things begin to connect, and eventually, you understand why this person is leaving a pixel space or 16-pixel space here or why some of these things are clustered together while some other things are apart, right? You understand that because of the level of similarity between these things, that's why they have some level of proximity to each other and because they do similar things about, they are close to each other because this is related to this, that's why it's aligned on the same line, but it takes practice and some level of understanding these rules before you can… before you can then make those connections and break those rules. So, I would say; try to copy as much as possible initially, and then, as time goes on you'll get really confident and you can like, mess things around and it just still makes sense.
For somebody that has been… if you're like a year and a half or two years into it, I would assume that you've had like a job for a year or two, what you want to do is to optimize for either the current role that you are in or the next role that you're going to, right? What you want to do, in optimizing for the role you are in, you want to be moving to a company that is very product-and-designed focused, more often than not, product-and-design driven. If you want to do, like, design-driven, that is, almost every decision that is made is coming from a design standpoint, right? If you can't find that company, you want to find if that company has at least one person that has a certain degree of seniority, and the reason is that, that person becomes your voice within the company, right? So, in times when you're trying to push for something—because you have some level of experience, you know some things when you're trying to push for a particular decision—if everybody's pushing back, you know that this person… you can talk to the person, this person make your points and make sense, so that person would fight for you in some way—not like, physically fighting, no, but like actually like advocate for you and advocate for your work at that point in time. In terms of like the kind of projects to take on, I would say you want to projects that optimize your long-term goals. My goal while I was a year… like six months into into the craft was that I wanted to work at a particular company—I wanted to work at Apple. I'm not quite at Apple yet, but I absolutely love where I'm working right now. My goal was, I wanted to work at Apple and I saw; these are designers that worked at Apple; typically, they have like, a lot of experience. Typically, they have gone through these things and they have these skill sets. I want to optimize for products that elevates those skill sets.
Apple is very research-heavy, and they’re very, very good UI-wise and interactions-wise, right? So, you want to focus, like, if that is what you want to do, you want to focus on projects that elevate your interaction game or interact… your skill. If you want to work at a company like Google, Google typically… or you want to do something related to Google down the line, you want to work… you want to do, sort of, work on projects that have that line of machine learning in some way, right? So, the idea is, figure out where you want to be five years down the line and begin to optimize the projects based off of that. But when you're very early on, it's difficult for you to really, like, pick and choose the projects you work on. So, in that case, sometimes you just have to, like, do what you have to do. But when you get two years… like a year and a half… after two years into it, where you can begin to make certain decisions, you want to optimize for like your end goal at the end of the day.
Well, I feel like my takeaway from all of that—which is basically, “think about your long-term goals and then like, reverse-engineer it, and then like, copy apps as much as you can to practice your UI skills, use the same colors fonts, etc.—I think my main takeaway was the importance of other people. Even when you're learning alone, you just want to see like; these are the people I want to be in five years, and then, reverse-engineer; like, look at their resumes, all their experiences on LinkedIn and see what they did and try to copy that, and talk to mentors as well. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, I agree with it. Like, obviously we try to say, “don't copy people,” but like, it's difficult not to, right? You don't… you don't have to, like, benchmark your success to another person, but you can benchmark your progress on like, your goals. Like, this is where this person is at; I want to be there. And if you can talk to the person, like, if the person is open to talking to, then, talk to said person, if the person will can. If the person can't, talk to the next best person; if that next person can't, talk to the next best person. Eventually, you find somebody that is like, a couple levels ahead of you, and the person will be able to direct you properly.
And if, you know, if you're that kind of person that doesn't… that don't want to talk to anybody, mirror like, their career trajectory. Look at the companies they work at… they worked at like their first year, second year, third year, fourth year, fifth year, sixth year, and sort of, try to mirror their career trajectory. But the interesting part is that very early on, it's difficult to say; “this is where I want to work on,” and I would work there. Sometimes, that is the case, but more often than not, that is not the case, right? So, very early on, it was like; take what you get, but be very very intentional about the kind of things that you take so that you're not taking something that sort of takes you back. As long as the thing gives you some level of progress, take it, and then when you get to a point where you can make your decisions by yourself, like,” this is what I want to do, and if it's not this, I'm not doing it,” then you start making those kind of decisions.
Okay I think every single event I do, I always mention, like, “shoot your shot”. Talk to these people. Sometimes you feel like, “Oh, they're so professional,” like, “there's no way they’ll respond,” but they will. So, just leave a LinkedIn connection note and just go for it, and if they say no, like, you can just move on to the next person.
Move on. Exactly.
Yeah, awesome. So, we actually have a question from our audience; this is more like a question I should have asked at first, but what is the difference between a UX designer versus a Product Designer.
There is not much of a difference but I would say like, the difference between the UX and a Product Designer is that as the UX designer, more often than not, you are focused on like the UX craft; like, just designing User Interfaces and doing more so like the UX work, doing User Research—In some cases, depending on how your company is structured. As a product designer, what you're doing is; you're doing UX, and then you're doing like, some business side of things. You're not essentially like doing Finance or making money for the company, but you're making… you're making your decisions based off of some business goal, right? So, you have to find user goal and find a business goal and, like, find a sweet spot between both of that; and that is what product design is.
Product Design is UX design plus understanding business goals and being able to find, like a sweet spot in both of them.
Interesting, because that kind of sounds like a Product Manager. So, how do you pick between like Product Designer versus Product Manager?
As a product manager, like, your work is way beyond the business side of things that you do as a pro as a… like, it's way beyond the business side of things; you're thinking product strategy, you're thinking feature feasibility, you're thinking, “how do we interact?” Like, you're thinking stakeholder management. As a product designer, you might do some level of stakeholder management, but not like the level of product manager, but the idea is like, you always like, keep your eyes on your business goals at the end of the day and then understand like the UX side of things and find that point between that.
I don't know if I answer that question very well but please let me know.
What about prioritization? Like, as a designer, do you also need to do feature prioritization or is that more of a product manager thing?
I think, depending on the scale of company that you work at. So previously, I worked at like zero to one companies; which is like startups, and in those cases, sometimes, you do prioritization. But you… the way I did it was—I did it like in my head—it's like, “this is what the ideal flow would look like.” So, you have like a now-next-later… like, standpoint of things, right? “This is what—if everything works out—this is what I want it to be,” like, “this is ideally what I want it to be.” Based off of the number of Engineers we have—we have just going to engineer—if we… if we get to this point, it should take us seven months, but we need to push something out in a month, so this is what is realistic between one month, and if it works, this is what we can improve… this is how we can improve it, right?
So, I like to take like a now-next-later kind of approach, right? Like, this is what we can do right now, this is what we can do next, and then if everything works out, this is where we will be ideally.
Okay, interesting. Thank you for sharing everything. I think I have a clearer idea of like which skills or like what you like to do versus the role now. So UX designer is more like, you know, some research, more hands-on design work. Product designer is more like a little bit more on the business side; you make your decisions based on a business goal, but like, you're still a designer, you know; you're not a full product manager which talks about… talks to stakeholders, product strategies, stuff like that. So…
You're still… I think, when you get to a certain level of seniority as a as a product designer, you sort of, have a very very good diverse set of skills right where, like, your UX game is really really high, like, your craft is very very good, and then, you can stand in for your Product Manager in calls—not every single time; you can make every decision—but you can stand in for your product manager in a call and really really hold your own. That's like, how your progress is like, when you get to, like, some level of seniority.
Would you say a product designer is like a product manager that specializes in design?
[Laughs] I wouldn't say that. I would try my best not to say that at all. But, I think as a product designer, you want to have a good enough understanding of a lot of things. You don't have to, like, be doing them. Like, you don’t have to be practicing them, but you want to have a good-enough understanding of a lot of things.
So, it sounds kind of like, “learning a lot is better because you want to try and learn something new every day even if it's completely unrelated to design?”
Yeah. A point to make is that because most of the things that you design is interfacing with some… sometimes, it depends on, like, where you work at, what kind of products you're working on, sometimes… I'll give an example, right? So, Spotify does music and for you to get access to music, you need to either get a license or have some level of agreement with with record labels or distribution companies, depending on the kind of agreements that they have, right? So, when you're making certain decisions, you want to make decisions based off of like, some of these licenses, right? And more often than not, you want to, like, talk to the people that get the licenses; the lawyers, right? Because if… no matter how well-organized you design is and how beautiful your flow is, and how good everything is, if it doesn't align with your licenses that the company currently has or currently can feasibly get, it won’t work. You have to go back and redraw it, right?
So, that is why you want to like, be able to touch as many things as possible without, like, diving too deep into it. But you want to have a good idea of what is feasible and what is… what's peculiar to your business as much as possible.
Okay, sounds like it really depends on like where you want to work, where you get a job at, things like that. And that kind of brings me to my next question which is like, all about the job search.
So, do you have any recommendations or advice about how someone can land their first product design job?
First product design job… right now, it's trickier than it was the last when I landed my first job, but I would say, landing your first product design job right now, yeah? Planning your first product design job right now would involve learning your skills, elevate your… even if you are not very very good UX-wise, let people be able to see nice-looking stuff, right? Elevate your UI skills as much as possible. UX is it's not the most difficult thing to learn, but you… it's easier to learn it on the job than it is to learn out of the job. UI is very… is easier to learn out of the… like, it's easier to learn out of the up the job than UX is, right?
When you're doing UX, you want to talk to actual users, you want to, like, do some, like, usability tests. Like, you really want to stretch things out. When you're doing UI work, you can learn it out of the job, right? And if you can do that, try to elevate your UI skill as much as possible. That way, even though we always say, “don't do pretty work,” like, “oh, it shouldn't be pretty,” like, you want it to be pretty so that it catches attention. Because in the… in like, a sea of 100, 200 people that applied to a job, more often than not, the nicest things would attract people, right? And you want to stand out in that way.
The other bits would be; when you're applying to jobs, do not be shy, particularly when you're starting out, like, do not be scared, do not be shy; reach out to as many people as you possibly can. I'm not the most reaching-out kind of person, but I'm beginning to learn it because, like, if you want to… if you want something, you have to go for it. If you can't go for what you want, then you have to be very very good so that what you want comes to you. Right.
So I'd say, reach out to people, like, reach out to recruiters. If you see a recruiter applied… like, send out a job application, whether it's a junior or mid-level role or maybe, internship role, apply to the job. Reach out to them and be like, “I applied to this job, this is why I think you should… this is why I know you should hire me,” right? “Like, this is what I bring to the table. This is where I was six months ago, this is where I am now.” And there are a lot of companies that hire for potential, right? If you can show that in six months, you have moved from point A to point C, the company is like, “Okay, if we invest resources in this person, in one year, this person will probably be in point J. Let's do it now, let's take the risk,” right? The key is like, bet one yourself—that sounds very very aspiration… that sounds very inspirational—but like, better yourself, show growth; if you can, like, try your best to show as much good as possible. So, show that “Six months ago, I had no idea about product design. After six months, this is what I've been able to do. These are like the kind of mock projects I've been able to work on.” And people… more often than not, people like, take take a chance on you.
If you have friends or acquaintances that maybe is… just as random ideas that they want to try out or test out, and if they reach out to you or reach out to them, and be like, “Um… Jennifer, I would like… like, I see that you're trying to do this thing or trying to like, work on this project, do you have a designer? No? Let me design it for you.” It probably won't be the best, best design in this world, but it's something and it's something that you have done, something that you have put a lot of work and art into, right? Do that also.
The early stage is just a lot of… it's a lot of leveraging on your curiosity and your ability to just be shameless. Be very shameless; go for what you want and just… just try it. Yeah.
I felt like I went to a Ted Talk. Thank you so much.
My main takeaway was like, you need to show that you've grown and learned a lot and a way you can do that is, learn consistently; every day. And then, number two; Be Shameless and like, just don't be humble and brag. So, I love the energy there.
I think we have time for one more question, and that, I'm going to ask because I've been answering a few questions in the chat but if you guys have more questions, you can always email us or like, just message us on social media. But I think my last question is going to be like, if you had one piece of advice for all the attendees listening right now, what would it be; to get started in the UX design or Product Design?
Hmm. This is… this is a tricky one; so, I have to, like, just say one thing. This is tricky.
If I had one piece of advice, I would say—I think I've said it over and over and over again—it's like, just bet on yourself. I think I said it like a million times; bet on yourself. If you want to do something, go all in on it. Don't… it's easy to say from where I am right now, because I had like, grown a little bit, but I would say what has helped me is like, just go all in on whatever it is that you commit to… even when situations are not ideal, just try your very very best to make it ideal. Like, go all in on it, try it out, see what comes out of it, right? And if the situation doesn't work out, you will learn something from it. Like, there's no way you're going into a situation without learning something; you either learn what to do or what not to do, but always pick something to learn. What to do or what not to do; either way, you're learning something, right? So that's down the line, it begins to be, “Oh, I learned this good thing from this person but I learned this bad thing from this person. And now, I'm in this situation. I would not do what this person did, but I'll do more what this person did or what this company did or what… yeah, or what I did within this project,” right? It's like, bet on yourself and then… then, just keep learning in every situation that you are in. Learn what to do, learn what not to do, just keep learning.
I love that. What about, like, any advice for people starting their job search? Like, any tips for them?
Okay, if you're starting your job search, typically, you need three, four things—three to four things—you need a portfolio, you need a CV/resume, you need a cover letter, and if you use LinkedIn, you need to like update your LinkedIn profile.
I would say what I… what I do, or what I did was; I updated my LinkedIn as much as possible, I started out my portfolio—don't wait for a grand way to do your portfolio. If anybody knows Notion, my portfolio is still on notion. I got my job through a Notion portfolio; it wasn't on any website, yes. Right. I got my job through the Notion portfolio, right? So, that’s what I always say; like, just do it. Like, just just start it out. For like two years, I was trying to like, put my work, my portfolio on the website and make it fancy, and I wasn't making any progress, and I just decided to put it on Notion and I was like, “When I put it on Notion, I have the content here. Eventually, I would then move it to a grand website. But while I moved to a grand website, let me see whether this content works,” and I started applying to jobs.
I was getting a lot of rejections, but I was optimizing it, right? But we'll go back; I digress a little bit. We’ll go back.
It's like; you need those three things or four things—your CV, your cover letter, your portfolio, and your LinkedIn profile. Update your LinkedIn profile as much as possible. For your portfolio, just do it. Put something there; apply to jobs, optimize it, like, tweak it. Look at people that have done their portfolios in the past. If you are still early stage... if you have somebody that is working at Facebook or some grand company, look at the portfolio; like, their case study from like, yeah and very very early stage. See the kind of projects that they did then or all the structured their portfolio. More often than not, portfolio is about storytelling; how do you flow from this process to the next process? It's like swimming in a river. Anybody that I've mentored in the last three months; I've said this to you, okay? So it’s like swimming in a river; it needs to flow. This is what I did, this is the next thing I did, this is how what I'm doing next sort of tied to the previous thing I did and just, let the river flow, right? And it's very, very beautiful that way.
For your cover letter, the strategy I use is that I have a generic cover letter where I absolutely brag about myself and my work, and then, for where I send to every company or companies that I'm very, very, very interested in I have a section above that where I find a connection between myself and the company, right? Where I'm like, my name is… Hello, my name is Damola, or… let's assume I'm applying to… let’s assume I’m applying to Spotify, right? I would say, “Hello, music has been very important to my life, blah blah blah…” Find like, a true story to myself and say; the reason why I want to work on Spotify is because music has been important to my life and the music is the core tenet of Spotify, and as such, I want to be able to define what music is for the next person. That will always be at the top for me. At the bottom, I'm constantly bragging about every single thing I've done in my life; like, brag about it. Put your numbers there; which metrics did you improve, what did you do well. While in your early stage, you probably haven't improved any metric and that's fine. Talk about your learning experience; When did you start learning? How have you learned? Who have you impacted in the world with the little work that you've done? What have you been able to learn? Why do you love design? Like, sell yourself, but at the first paragraph, you want to find a connection between you and the company as fast as possible. Do that and people will read deeper. If you're just doing… jump into, “I want a job at this company, blah blah blah,” nobody's going to like, really, really dive into because everybody is saying that same to him, right?
For your… for your resume or for your CV, I would say early on, there’s not a lot that you can put there. But if you have like, volunteer work that you have done, if you have some side projects or random product you did for a friend or that you worked on, put it in there. Talk about it, try to do the extra work of like, doing your UX Reasearch. If you can't do by yourself, find ways to like, stand out from every other person. If you have experience already, or if you're like two years of experience already, what you want to do is, people care about the difference you’re making, right? So, down the line, nobody cares whether you created a user flow or not, because everybody knows that if you have three years of experience, you can do that already. Like, you can create wireframes, you can do that already. What people want to care… what people care about at that point is like, what metrics did you improve? I mean, do you… “I worked on this project and the onboarding process typically took 17 minutes and now, we're able to… we’re able to tie it down to like two minutes.” “Check out took… we had like 50% bounce rate on our checkout, and after working on the projects, we dropped the bounce rate down to like 10%,” right? That is actually work because when you have… the more experience you have, the more people understand that you should know the fundamentals already, right? So, you drew a wireframe? Yes. Everybody that has three years of experience can do that, right? But what differentiates you from the other person, right? So, yeah.
I think the… the things you want to look out for different… like differs for like, the level that you're at. When you're relatively junior, you want to like, just focus on selling yourself and just showing that you can learn, you can absorb knowledge, and you can make some level of impact. When you have progressed a little bit, you want to just show that this is the impact I have made, and if you hire me or take a chance on me, this is impact I can also make within your company. It’s beautiful.
So, it sounds like you really need to show the impact that you've had in previous projects, whether it's through the metrics or like what you helped the business with in your design. Another thing that I noticed was storytelling; that's a key skill that you need as a designer and I think you stood out in your job search by talking about the importance of music in your life, and you said you put it at the top. So, having a unique story and telling that story effectively is something that could help in the job search too.
Awesome. Oh, and another thing that was in the chat was, people were asking when they should know to, like, start applying for jobs and I think you need to start applying before you're ready and like get feedback fast, just so you can improve. Would you agree with that?
Yes, I'll say apply way before you're ready. Reason is that when you are ready, you have enough, sort of, interview and experience or application experience that you can actually just go in there with so much confidence and you'll probably blaze through it, right? So it's fine, like, companies will reject you and that's fine. Waste a little bit of some companies’ time; nobody is hurt, right? It's like, you know fully well that this job, you probably won't get it. Go for it. Still try to apply. The reason is that the more you do certain things, the better you get at it, right? So, if they call you back for an interview, even if you don't know whatever they're saying, I know you can be demoralizing to get a no, but it's fine. You’ll pick a learning from it; it's like, this is what I learned from this interview and when I'm doing my next… like, when I actually want to apply for a job, this is what I need to, like, be saying and this is, like, what these people are typically looking out for and is what I want to index for, and that's fine. So apply way before you think you're ready and learn it.
Wow, that's awesome. I like what you said because when you apply, you can practice your interview job search skills and then get that confidence that you need to really get the job you actually want. So, that's a good insight. Thank you so much.
I think this is a good place to end our call, so I really appreciate your time, Damola. If people want to connect with you, can they connect via like LinkedIn, Twitter?
Yeah, you can send me… like, you can connect me through LinkedIn. I will try my best to like, respond as much as I can. I know quite a number of people like reach out on LinkedIn over like, the last couple of days which have been very, very like, stuffed. But I'll respond to as many people as I can. If I don't respond to you, do not be offended. If you send, I probably would eventually and I'll like, try to get to as many people as possible. Yeah.
Okay. Please leave a LinkedIn connection note; so let's just say, it's from the EntryLevel event. Like maybe, leave a nice compliment because everyone loves compliments. So, I sent the links in the chat. Feel free to message there; you can always search up EntryLevel on social media as well and message there as well.
Awesome. Thank you so much for your time and thanks everyone for being here.
I'll maybe see you at the next…
Make 2023 the year you become a Product (UX) Designer.
Here’s your chance to get a sneak peek into the life of a product designer at one of the world’s most popular companies - Spotify.
You will have the opportunity to ask questions to figure out whether Product Design is the career for you and how to get started.
Adegoke is a Product designer at Spotify, working on the Core Experience team.
Previously, he was an early employee and product designer at EdenLife, where he built and scaled all the core products.
Prior to Spotify, Adegoke built consumer products and worked at companies like Nestcoin, Bitsika, Cadana, and Schoolable (YC W'19).
You can find him on twitter.com/the_speakable, https://www.linkedin.com/in/damola-adegoke/
Note: this event will be recorded and snippets may be posted publicly on our social media. The event recording will be on our website: https://www.entrylevel.net/events
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You'll learn with a cohort of driven peers, and each lesson is unlocked after a set time so you stay accountable and finish the program.
We invited Chido Nmerole, a Nigerian Product and Brand Designer, to share his advice for UX beginners.
If you need more guidance for your UX design learning journey and starting your first portfolio, check out EntryLevel’s UX Design program. It’s completely beginner-friendly and you get a portfolio project at the end.
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Do you need to code to be a designer?
Land job at Spotify
How do I know if product design is for me?
Describe your day-to-day work + design process
What traits will a person have to identify to know that product design is the right way for him/her?
How to transition to Product Design from an unrelated field (like finance, operations, event planning, project management)?
If you had to learn from scratch today, what would you do/how would you start?
Portfolio projects and tips?
Been in a design job:
Importance of other people
What’s the difference between UX vs Product Designer?
Difference between Product Design and Product Management?
How to land first product design job?
Note: we cover usability testing + UX research in our UX course: https://www.entrylevel.net/experiences/ux
After learning, at what stage do we know we are ready to start applying for a job?
1 piece of advice
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Improve your LinkedIn for UX design work
Games to practice your UI design (colours, typography): https://method.ac/
Practice your design skills: https://uxcel.com/
Adegoke is a Product designer at Spotify, working on the Core Experience team.
Previously, he was an early employee and product designer at EdenLife, where he built and scaled all the core products.
Prior to Spotify, Adegoke built consumer products and worked at companies like Nestcoin, Bitsika, Cadana, and Schoolable (YC W'19).