Product UX/development — the beginning
I’m loving the company I joined not long ago as they see me as something more than just an iOS developer. I’m gonna tell you more about that later but first let me tell you how I got here.
My wife went into scrapbooking a few years ago and ever since my house had been full of… well, stuff. Small boxes, large boxes, sheets of coloured or patterned paper, tools of various shapes and sizes. I foolishly suggested once she should stop buying and use what she already had and I had to watch a few tutorials on scrapbooking and tools so she could show me how few tools she had and why we need more. To be fair, she never once suggested I should stop paying for the plethora of tools I’m using for developing apps.
A year ago she decided to try and re-enter the job market after spending 5+ years raising kids. She decided to put aside scrapbooking and started teaching herself web design. She spent a lot of time tackling online tutorials and courses and got pretty good in using the tools of the trade. In all that time though I never saw her read an article or watch a video on web design aside from the homework she was given. She spent most of her free time reading tutorials on scrapbooking or watching how different scrapbookers organised their working areas.
In my job I have to interview developers every once in a while and one of my favourite questions to ask is where do they get their news and inspiration from. In the mobile development space you are expected to follow the evolution of the tools and languages you are using and at know what would be released in the upcoming version of the respective operating system and/or language. And for you to be any good in your area you have to have at least a basic understanding of what the rest of your team actually does. Designers, data analysts, salespeople, your friends in Marketing. People usually love to talk about themselves and they tend to be impressed if you know anything about their craft going into a conversation. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do it (I’m looking at you, Finance), but it’s worth it. And in time it gets better. You get better. I enjoy reading about UX, marketing, business, data science. Happiness is one of my favorite topics and it, believe it or not, can be a huge factor in your company success.
After a few months of observing I asked my wife why wasn’t she trying her luck with scrapbooking. She questioned my interference so I came clean with my observation on her spending all this time passionately reading and watching anything related to scrapbooking and next to no time on topics related to web design.
Believe it or not, this is not a post on whether or not to pivot from scrapbooking to design. Or on my happy marriage. It’s about passion. And advice. And embracing who you are. Or who you wanna be.
A few weeks ago my boss asked me where I wanna be in a few years time. It wasn’t just smalltalk, we had a regular one on one meeting. I had just told him how much I had liked tagging along our sales team meeting a prospective client a few weeks earlier. He said the company would support me following my dreams — no matter whether I choose to grow into a sales guy, a lead developer or a marketing manager. I told him I had to think about it and thanked him for the offer.
I really did have to think about it. It was the first time I had the opportunity to grow into what I love to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love coding. But up until that point it felt like it was an inevitability. Software development was the thing I was best at, and it was paying way better than the other things I was able to do. So it was a no-brainer. Which is good — I didn’t have to choose. And also bad — I didn’t have to choose.
In one of my previous jobs I got the opportunity to lead a team. It wasn’t my idea — my boss at the time suggested it as they needed a lead and his impressions of me were I would fit the position. I accepted, naturally — I love doing new things. It was a safe environment to experiment — I knew all the people there, I was friends with most of them, the team I would have to manage was small and easy to talk to. I enjoyed it, but at times I was feeling a bit lost, wondering whether I am doing a good job (or even anything) — I had to keep on coding while managing people and most of the days I only did coding. I had chats with my boss around my performance and he seemed happy with it but I was still nervous. So I was hesitant to go into management again.
I wasn’t used to spending time deciding things. Most of the decisions in my life I took quite fast. The path was always clear, one of the possible choices was always way better than the others. Not in this case. I could have just said I wanted to be a senior developer and nothing more. I could have said I wanted to start helping the sales team with technical expertise when they go and meet clients. Team lead. Manager of sorts. Who knows.
Then I started thinking about my wife and her hobbies and her pursuit for a job. And it hit me. I should follow my own advice and start looking into what actually excites me. And it was pretty clear — I didn’t have to look far. Besides articles on programming, my reading list and my inbox was full of articles and videos on UX and user happiness. It had been a passion for me for a long time but I’d never thought of pursuing it. Why not? Because I am not a designer. I am terrible at drawing and I don’t understand colour theory. So what, you say. You’re right — so what? I had my answer.
At our next meeting we went through our usual things we discuss — my OKRs, what new features we could implement, what else exciting has happened. Then he asked me whether I wanted to discuss anything else and I said, “Well, yes, actually I do.” I told him briefly about my wife and how I reached the decision and asked his opinion of me going (partly) into Product development. He encouraged me, we discussed some details and he advised me to talk to our CPO on steps to move further. I was pleasantly surprised by the development. In my experience, people sometimes tend to ask your opinion or offer you a choice out of curtesy and then make up excuses or try to persuade you why you shouldn’t do what you tell them you want to do. It wasn’t the case this time. I was hopeful and a bit anxious as every other time I was on the edge of my comfort zone.
The meeting with the company’s chief product officer went very well. I was nervous, of course. But her positivity and support helped me a lot and we had a productive meeting. We figured out next steps, decided we should try to make the whole process as natural as we could. Part of my job would be to work closely with the UX designer which was great — I admired her work and approach.
That leaves me to now. I am excited about all the things coming in the near future. I am very passionate to work at Seenit, a company so positive that when I talk about it people think I am exaggerating. Keep in mind that all the above happened before my 6mo anniversary at the company. It shows how when you find the right fit it just works.