UX Designer Thought 001 — Malin Sofrone

UX Designer Thought is an interview series of user experience designers in Europe to share their experiences in the industry. There are 10 questions in five parts concerning their career journey; namely Background, UX Design Process, Feeling, Inspiration and Future. We collect questions from the audience and select one for our guests to answer. Our guest will also suggest a topic for the next guest to share.

This is our first episode of UX Designer Thought.

Today’s guest is Malin Sofrone, a product designer @contentful, Berlin.

Let’s start, shall we?

Background

Past

How did you get into UX?

I started with graphic design, graduated in industrial design engineering, then moved on to web design. When I tried to explain people how decisions were made and why the menu and logo should be put here; I started to read about Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen. And I found that they called it usability! This is how I start UX.

Berlin

Why do you choose Berlin for your UX career?

I first came to Berlin in 2012, working on infographics in a small startup. I wanted to move out from Romania and find a company focused on design and have the ability to experiment with projects.

A lot of people would go to South Germany with more companies and money, but I like the young people and startups here. Instead of sitting at home, I go out and meet great people to exchange ideas and talk about new tools!

Mauer Park, Berlin (Photo credit: sfreimark)

UX Design Process

Work

What is your typical day at work and your main duties?

There is no typical day in a start-up, everything changes fast.

Lets say in the morning, I talk with colleagues, do stand up, exchange what we worked on yesterday, define next step for today, break down specific things to see if it they are manageable.

I spend more time to define the problem if it is not clear.

If the problem is defined, I do wireframes with developers and get feedback from them, followed by mock ups, testing with customers and evaluation.

Team work

How do you collaborate with developers, other designers and project managers?

I was in a UX team of 1 for a year and a half. I worked on usability and tested it by myself. When the work became more complex, involving products on iPad, web and e-commerce, I start to have one more UX colleague to work with.

It gave me breathing time in the team. I can spend more time to think instead of just rushing to do this and that. When my colleague challenges me, we exchange opinions and result in fruitful and constructive solutions. And we do parallel design too. We take turns to design in screen sharing, so we understand each others design flow and give instant feedback.


Feeling

Happiness

What is it about UX that makes you really happy?

When you realize how much time you save and how the work becomes easier for users, it gives me great satisfaction. It is like you solve a puzzle and it is fun! Then you move on and welcome the next challenge.

Bitterness

What is the most interesting project you have worked on and the unexpected benefits from it?

UX is challenging in general. Software building is tough because you have no answer and it could be never existed before. This is also the way UX brings me satisfaction as if finishing a challenging marathon.

Another challenge is getting everyone’s consensus. When I start a discussion, I always do not have the answer, but I have the tools to facilitate the process. Sometimes the one who wins in the logical argument is the one who explains better, even though the solution might not be right. Or it could be a CEO button “I want this!”. It makes sense sometimes because the CEO balances business and technical sides.


Inspiration

Habits

Are there any habits that help you do your job more efficiently?

Books helps a lot. I like Design Sprint because it is quick, logical and coherent.

And Hackathons too. Building a product in 24 hours requires you to define a solution, divide work and go to different stages very fast. You learn to focus and do not care about other things. I have been to 5–6 Hackathons. I learnt every time. For example, one time I worked separately from developers and our directions were not aligned after half day work. I learnt to define the problem more precisely next time. Otherwise, it is like you jump in the water without knowing how to swim. I also learn so much interaction design ideas from developers, because they know the platform and system very well. But I would not do Hackathon every week, you feel a little bit drunk the day after.

UX Hackathon Berlin (Photo credit: Betahaus)

Hobby

How do you find inspiration?

Going to nature, have your mind disconnected from daily thoughts.
Watch other people work and video.
Read books from other areas like architecture and car manufacturing.


Future

Plan

What is your next plan? Are you currently working on any projects?

I have a side project to work on now. It is a small application about startups in Berlin. I like side projects because you can face problems you do not have in your work, see things from different perspectives and learn from failure that does not harm.

Dream

What are your dream things to achieve in UX?

I want to learn a little more business and go towards service design for now. In long term, I want to bring UX into social entrepreneur.


Audience Q&A

How do UX designers in Berlin exchange knowledge?

I would say Meetup is a very good channel because you meet people from companies in different sizes and different cultures. I recommend you not only go to UX ones, but also other disciplines like fronted development and strategy to open up your mind and learn from others.

Compared to Meetup events in Romania, Meetups in Berlin are the best way to know other people and exchange knowledge.

Go to UX Meetup! If one does not exist, you have to build it, that’s your next project!
UX Book Club Berlin (Photo credit: UX Book Club Berlin)

Thought pass along

What question would you like to ask our next guest?

How do you get everyone on board in a discussion? Please share any tips and tools.

That’s the end of our interview. Thank you very much for Malin for sharing his experience!


Watch us

Would you like to see how the interview was made? Check out our Youtube channel.

Thank you very much for reading.

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