My name is Lyla, and I’ve been unemployed for three months. “How Fun” they say, “So much freedom” they say, “Not really” I say. I spend my days routine-less, scrolling up and down LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor. Waiting for a new job post to pop up hoping that it’ll say ’ “1–2 years of experience” required, which then I still only have a 1% chance that someone will even glance over my portfolio.
When one day Glen sends me an email from SentinelOne that he is interested in my work and wants to set up a zoom call. I jumped up and down with excitement! SentinelOne? Me?
Of course Glen is a busy guy, only later did I find out that he reviewed over 500 portfolios; which should’ve made me feel like mine stuck out, right? I had time to prepare, so for a week I waited for the interview, I prepared by reading over the job description, reviewing the company page, presenting my portfolio out loud. The interview was scheduled to only be 30 minutes so I just had to have the perfect pitch to make me sound like the perfect candidate. I felt prepared.
Then, the day comes. I make my partner and our dog leave the apartment, so I can have quiet and no risk of any form of distractions. I made sure my laptop was fully charged and restarted so I have no risk of any computer issues and I make sure I have a full glass of water incase I get choked up during my pitch. I am sitting at my desk wearing a nice button down blouse and I even put on some make up that I haven’t worn in who knows how long. Then Glen joins, at exactly 7:30 PM as I booked, his only available time. And he takes over.
He joins with full confidence, energy, and A LOT of charisma. While I sit on the other side of the screen, shy intimidated and extremely sensitive. This isn’t just a product designer, he is much more than that. He started our interview by saying “It would generally take me 6 months to get to know you, but right now I only have 15 minutes so can I ask you a few questions?” in my head I’m thinking, why only 15? what are the other 15 minutes for? and when can I just say my pitch?
And then he asks me, “Should UX/UI designers add their hobbies to their About section in their portfolio?”
What about my entire pitch? He doesn’t even know who I am? How I became a UX/UI designer? What about MY hobbies? What about my experiences? My skills? My 9 month UX Academy course? Is this a trick question? I felt confused and unprepared.
He said he has 15 minutes to get to know me and that’s what he wants to know? If the About section of a portfolio should include hobbies?
When life gives you lemons, you have to make lemonade? Right?
So I went with it, I said it depends on the “user” or in this case the hiring manager viewing your portfolio. And he looked at me and said “good, keep going” so I then said it depends if the “user” is interested in your hobbies. And he said “do you want someone to hire you that doesn’t care about your hobbies?” if so, they probably didn’t even open up your About page.
And all I thought to myself was “you didn’t ask me about my hobbies”
And then we started a discussion. Does the clean style look more professional? Does too much noise look tacky? Do your hobbies affect your design skills? If one person has a similar hobby as you, does that help? What’s right and what’s wrong?
Then Glen said, “Lyla, I’ve viewed over 500 portfolios and they all say Hi, I’m (name goes here) a UX/UI designer blah blah blah, but Lyla I already know their name from their application. They are all the same, so I am looking for something to WOW me. A cool hobbie, a unique hover affect, a cool photo, something that is just different. I don’t have the time to go through their case studies, and I could care less. At SentinelOne we have our own design flow and the candidate that I hire will need to learn our design flow, not their own and not what they‘ve studied.”
Then Glen opened up a google document with a list of over 500 applicants. Organized in rows and columns with the applicants name, resume, portfolio, application form, cover letter, etc. And at the bottom of each column their was a score for each applicant based on a few factors. He showed me that he declined over 485 applicants, I wasn’t sure if he was even allowed to be showing me this. Did he show this to all candidates who were interviewed? So I did feel a bit unique that he was showing me his selection method and also that my portfolio had a high enough score to receive a zoom call. Something I had stuck out to him, I “passed” his test although I’m still unsure how to this day.
I asked but all he said was, “you received above a 7 so you passed”
He started showing me some of the portfolios that WOWed him, the candidates that had high scores. Some had unique affects and some had unique images but not once did he go into any projects to see their design flow or case study. Then, he started to tell me that my portfolio lacked that. Mine was written well but it was boring and basic just like all other portfolios, that mine was overall a bad portfolio.
He said, “Lyla you just need to get them to say yes to the zoom call”
But he did say yes to a zoom call with me. I’m confused.
As I said, I’m sensitive. I wasn’t sure where this interview was going and to this day I still am not 100% sure. I felt upset, discouraged, that everything I learned and everything my mentors have told me was a lie. How was my portfolio approved by my mentors? It’s so boring, and it’s so basic. Why would anyone pick me?
Nearly 45 minutes have gone by, and we’re just discussing all the bad portfolio’s Glen has seen (mine being one of them) and Glen says “as a designer, we don’t have much control over any of our projects. The client, user, or customer always defines our end goal. But your portfolio is the one thing you have full control over, you can do whatever you want with it, it’s yours. So why follow the basic templates that everyone uses? You’re a designer, show us who you are through your creativity.
So, what have I done since then?
Redesigned my portfolio. And added my hobbies. :)
Thank you Glen Lipka.