Why did you choose to attend OCAD U?
I have always had an interest in visual design. When I landed in Canada, I had no idea which design school to apply for. I searched online for best design schools in Canada. The iconic architecture of OCAD’s Sharp Centre for Design got my attention right away. I knew that OCAD was the university I would like to attend.
Please briefly describe your current job / practice.
I'm the manager of product design at Pivotal Labs. Pivotal Labs is an agile software consultancy that designs and builds web and mobile apps across different platforms. At Pivotal Labs, I work closely with startups, enterprise clients, development, and product teams to research, ideate, prototype, test, and designs apps. I also help in improving design process and practice, growing the multidisciplinary design team.
How did you get started in your career?
My career began with clicking the ‘Apply” button online for a mobile UI designer job. It was a time that product designers (UI/UX) barely existed. I didn’t know much about mobile app design, but I had all the fundamental design skills they required. So I applied and then I got the job. After 2 years of learning and practicing at work, I became a product designer.
Most of the time, you don’t get a dream job right away. You might not even know what your dream job could be. But when things happened for you, you need to be ready to seize the opportunity presented.
Did you volunteer or work in your field while you were a student?
I was eager to gain real working experience when I was in school, so volunteer I did. I believed that real job experience is the key to employment after school. I found a 3-month summer internship at a fashion magazine company in my third year. A benefit of which, I realized that I actually didn’t enjoy working as a magazine designer after working there myself.
What were your policies regarding internships, volunteering, and paid work?
I recall in my 3rd year semester there was a program offering class credits for doing internship at assigned design companies and studios. Because I was timid at that time and thought I wasn’t good enough to compete for the limited internship spots, I did not apply for the program. Thinking back now, I should have most definitely applied regardless of whether I thought I would get in.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy the most is, with technology and design, I’m building applications that will be used by thousands or even millions of people that will make their everyday lives easier and happier.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
To be honest, I think the most challenging aspect is the people. You need to empathize with your users. Have empathy with how they feel and think and why they behave in certain ways. You need to understand your clients - understand their needs and goals and how to best communicate with them. You need to know your team - know how to efficiently and effectively work with cross functional groups of people.
What skills or relationships developed at OCAD U helped you participate in your field?
I learned a lot in my 4th year while working on my thesis project. Closely working with my professor helped me a great deal in developing my problem-solving skills.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I was so introverted when I was in OCAD. I didn’t enjoy talking to new people and engaging in any social activities while in school. If I could have done anything differently, I would definitely have taken all the opportunities that OCAD had to offer, like design competitions and volunteer jobs.
What are the key responsibilities you maintain for your practice? Are there any specific tools or ideas you need to know about?
As a product designer, my responsibilities are not only designing intuitive, aesthetic UI and understanding their interactions with the user but also comprehending product roadmaps, technical feasibility/limitations and, most importantly, determining what is the right problem to solve for your user and how to solve that problem. You need to know how to do user research, synthesize findings and use real data feedback to inform your design decisions.
Any other activities (e.g. networking events, a side job…etc) that you need to sustain your practice?
I think continuous learning is a must. Networking events, conferences, design blogs online classes... These are the resources you need to take advantage of for your continued learning. That’s how you improve and stay ahead the curve. Another aspect of my practie is speaking at conferences and organizing Meetup event. By doing so, I sharpened my knowledge in design and stay engaged with the industry and community.
What are your personal and professional goals for the coming years?
For my personal goals, I want to try as many new things as possible. Things that I was afraid of or I have never done before being chief among them. Last year I joined a surf camp spontaneously, and now I love surfing so much! That just goes to show you how great the unexpected opportunities in life can be.
Professional goal-wise, I want to broaden my knowledge across many different fields. In addition to my expertise in interaction design and UX research, I want to start learning more about psychology, business strategy and front-end development.