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Exploring product design w/ Rebecca Liu

Design is one of the most popular majors in the world. Yet it is estimated that only 20 to 25% of the graduates ever make their way into the industry. It’s a competitive field with many competitors around.
Rebecca Liu

Product Designer

Today, we’re talking about product design though, and it’s really the other way around. It’s a very multidisciplinary design field that also connects with research and, and business opportunities. It’s very much in demand and a high paying position as well.

We’re talking with Rebecca Liu, a product designer at Shopify about this topic. She herself has switched her career from social media management into product design.


Dom: Hey folks. And welcome back to the MentorCruise podcast. Today. I want to talk about product design. Design itself is one of the most popular majors in the world. In university.

Yet it is estimated that only 20 to 25% of the graduates ever make their way into the industry. It’s a competitive field with many competitors around and comparably, not many well paid positions.

Today, we’re talking about product design though, and it’s really the other way around. It’s a very multidisciplinary design field that also connects with research and, and business opportunities.

That’s why it’s very much in demand and a high paying position as well.

We’re talking with Rebecca Liu, a product designer at Shopify about this topic. She herself has switched her career from social media management into product design.

Hey, Rebecca, thank you so much for joining me.

Rebecca: Hi. thank you for having.

Dom: Before we jump into it, can you give us a little bit of a history?

Rebecca: Sure. So I, my career really started when I got a job, a part-time job at a bank as a teller. I think my background is a little bit unconventional.

Before I graduated, I got a part-time job. I also did some social media managing. Something. That was very interesting as well.

Even though I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I was very grateful that they were, they were willing to give me a shot.

Dom: And it was also looking up, you had a psych degree, right? Like it’s nothing with with design.

Rebecca: Yeah. So when I did my psychology degree, I didn’t have the plan to do a UX UI design. Sometimes when you’re at a point in your career, you’re thinking that what’s next. Right? So at the time I was a financial advisor

I was wondering whether I should go into a managerial role or should I be a financial planner, but I realized that, you know, since I was small, I was loved design.

I always loved arts. Maybe it’s time for me to. Do something different. So I had a lot of conversation with my friends, even my siblings. That’s how I found out about product design.

Dom: I feel like it’s super difficult to do a, you know, vertical career jump. How did you start with that?

Rebecca: I have to say it’s not easy, especially you were already working full time. So what I did was I remember I took a course at a local college. Those are continuous education.

Just to make sure that product is, that is something that I want. And from there I realized that, Hey, I can really see myself doing this as a career. So I then took a. But was it easy? It was very difficult actually. So I was working full time during the day and I was taking the course and study at night and on the weekends.

Dom: I can’t imagine how stressful and how much work it must be to, to hold a full-time position and then pursue this new career off of UX and UI design, did you have any struggles, obviously beyond just having a lot of work and, and time constraints as you were embarking on this new journey?

Rebecca: I think the most difficult thing at the time was to balance and to balance all my priorities. So of course I, when I have my full-time job, I still want to do it well. And when I’m working and when I’m, when I’m studying and going to classes, I want to be able to focus. So I think you need to be aware of all your, or your time commitments, if you’re able to that you kind of need to prioritize that what you what’s the most important to you and Yeah, At the time was, you know, career and study and all the other things I just put in a second.

Dom: It’s all about prioritization. That’s a great piece of advice. Was it up to your expectations as you were actually starting to learn more about UX and UI design? Was it w were there any surprises that you didn’t expect about the space ?

Rebecca: Being a financial advisor a lot of time, you are, it’s almost like a sales position. Right. Cause you’re selling banking products of course are offering advice, but at the same time, there’s a sales target.

And when I transitioned into design, I thought that, you know, my sales career is done, but to be honest, and now we are selling our ideas. So there’s a lot of transferable skills that you can bring from other industry.

Dom: In terms of the whole boot camp experience. What was your view on it as you were going through this whole experience, that it was something that prepared you well for also the chap job search and everything after or were there other things that you had to do?

Rebecca: My decision to go to a bootcamp was because I wanted, I wanted to start the career fast and I want to be able to have a structure education. That this might not work for everyone. And honestly like attending a bootcamp is a huge financial commitment as well. So that’s another piece that people need to consider.

Also, depending on how self-motivated you are. So if you’re a, some, if you’re a self-starters you have a lot of, you know, people in already in your network then maybe like nowadays there’s a lot of YouTube channels or mentor resources.

Dom: Bootcamps are brilliant to get kind of that, you know, university and all the college feeling back where you have a structure and you have certain deliverables, which it’s not always easy when you do it all by yourself and kind of, without that outside accountability,

Obviously then in the next step very quickly you score it a position at Shopify, which is a very in demand, very uprising company. How did that whole process build itself?

Rebecca: I started my my job search before I finished my bootcamp, because I know that I really want to be a product designer and I was ready to make the transition. So. Applied to a few internship. And Shopify was one of it that was willing to take people who are not in a post-secondary education.

I did a four month internship. And luckily I was able to get a full-time afterwards. So when you are doing your internship, I think one thing is very important is to let your team and your manager know that your, your interest in growing with a company and try your best to go above and beyond and to show your impact.

Dom: I think that path from internship to full-time position, it’s one that gets your foot in the door. Also very quickly, which is sometimes more difficult if it just have like walls there and try to get a full-time position at the company directly.

Was there something that you can pinpoint in your internship and in your experience that got you to score this full-time position

Rebecca: I would say probably constant communication with your manager and try your best to ask for opportunity.

There are some skills that I wanted to grow into and I was asking for projects that can help me. So just by being proactive I think that’s one of the most important things that you need to show as you know, people who are coming to the career.

Dom: It falls into the topic of mentorship as well. Right? Your, your mentor and mentor crews, you’re very highly rated, highly successful. When did that thing become, become relevant?

Rebecca: I kind of want to pass on the torch, you know, like I, during my career, I receive a lot of help from. You know, when I was at bootcamp, the TA’s that teachers later on, even today, like you’re learning, they’re never solved.

So, because. I receive a lot of help and I kind of want to also help people and know how hard it is to do a career transition. So that’s why you know, I want to offer that help to people who are in the same boat as me.

Dom: That’s beautiful. there are these terms which are UI design, UX, design, and product design. Can you give us a little bit of an overview of over each of these, these job titles? Are they kind of the same or are there differences between all of them?

Rebecca: Product designers will you take care of end to end experience offer products? And nowadays that usually the product that we’re referring to our digital products, so like websites and apps so product designer’s job is to design or improve the expanse. While balancing the business goal, the project goals or the user goals and UX UI design they come together to form product design.

So UX is more of the research and synthesizing, identifying the problems while UI is more of the visual.

Dom: I think there’s also more than people expect. There’s a research and a, and a kind of business aspect to UX design and, and also product design.

Rebecca: Usually we start with a research and that would be more on the beginning of the process. And later on, the deliverable would be the visual design.

the wireframe.

Dom: I read this stat that people that study just generally designed. In the job world today to have a very hard time scoring a role, especially people that go into, you know, branding, graphic, design, visual design, these kind of things. But I think in comparison, product design and UX design is very much high in demand.

Rebecca: I would say so I think the job prospect is really great because there’s always a lot of companies, especially now, like, you know, post COVID. Many companies are open to remote only positions. So I feel like the opportunities are endless. So if people are looking for a job right now, I think this is a great time.

Dom: One more thing that it’s also competitive right now. Right?

Rebecca: It would be competitive, but again, they are also a lot of openings, so it just needs to find the best fit for you and the company I’m finding that this candidates right

Dom: If I’m looking right now into changing from whatever career I’m in it to product design, what are ways for me to prepare for the change? do you recommend the boot camp path for a lot of other people, or maybe I should go back to university, maybe that are all the courses and resources out there.

Do you have any other ideas of paths I could take to make this change?

Rebecca: I think it would really go back to how. How fast you want the change?

that happened, whether you are a self-starter or not, or whether you have the financial means to do it. So, but in general though, like nowadays. So just because there’s just so many resources online, so a good combination would be, you know, you do some online courses and you also have mentored to guide you.

I think this, if I were to start my career again, then I think this is a path that I w I would take it just back then. I didn’t, I didn’t know about mental cruise and not have a lot of mentors disposal. That’s why I went for the bootcamp.

Dom: Our like credentials and certificates, not a big topic into space or is it still that’s, that’s kind of built into?

Rebecca: Great question. So a lot of people ask, I do I need to have a formal education? Do I need a degree? No, you don’t. So for design of especially life for product design, I think the most important thing is the case. Your portfolio, like the case study was in your portfolio. So if you have a good portfolio, if you are able to.

Showcase your skills, then that’s it.

Dom: What goes into a good portfolio for you? Maybe also you debt that may be, you will now see some of them applying to you.

Rebecca: Work section that has a case studies. That’s the most important thing that allows to contact contact me. But I think the, what makes a good case study is the storytelling aspects, right? Like if you’re able to, everyone likes a good story and if good story and make people care.

So being able to really articulate what problem you’re trying to solve and what, why the problem you’re solving is worth solving. So that makes really great cases.

Dom: What can I do to get those case studies and get those portfolio items?

Rebecca: You can do some freelance work for your clients, or if you are able to find clients, if not, then you can have some self-initiated projects.

Dom: We had an episode I think it was actually the first or the second episode, which we were talking about that in engineering, at least you need to brush up on very theoretical knowledge.

After you’re actually hired, you might not actually need any more. Is there an equivalent to that in product design or is it really about those skills that you’ll actually need in your career?

Rebecca: That’s a great question. I would say. And challenges might be the most similar to the coding challenges. So during the whiteboard challenge, It’s always helpful. Cause you, you don’t have all the time that you need. So, and so it’s always good to be prepared and just to have a structure in my, in that sense, that something that you could prepare for, of course you don’t know what kind of question that you’re going to get.

So prepare a structure.

Dom: It seems like a great career choice because you get all the, all the flexibility from tech while also being able to preserve that, that more creative freedom that may be a coder or a project manager doesn’t have.

Rebecca: I would say so. I love my job. I love my career. You know, I always say that will make him this transition. I, I would say I made the right choice.

Dom: Nice. That’s brilliant to hear. And I think a lot of other people they’re gonna maybe feel inspired by your, by your knowledge and, and by this whole space of product design as well. So if I want to learn more both about you and about product design where can I go?

Rebecca: Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. You know, I, Rebecca you and I also have like Instagram UX stuff, Rebecca, but online resources that you can also go on mentor crews, you know, chat with other mentors. And there’s just a lot of resources online, right? Like YouTube There are a lot of great channels.

Dom: Amazing. Then I want to just thank you so much for joining me today and taking the time to talk to me about product design and to the whole space.

Rebecca: Thank you for having.

Dom: Your information and your profiles are of course going to be in the description of.

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