Reflecting on My First Few Months of Being a Full-Time Product Designer

Zainab Delawala
5 min readJan 26, 2022

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Last year something changed. Well yes, the whole world changed. But something fundamental changed for me personally as well. I was developing software all this while, but I was also looking out for interesting career change options. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do until I started understanding the impact product design can create.

After a point, I decided this is what I wanted to get into. How exactly that happened and why is a story for another time, but for now, I’d like to reflect upon my first 6–7 months of working as a full-time product designer at Clear.

While I write this article as an exercise of documentation for myself, I do hope it gives an insight or two to designers who are looking to start out. I am far from being an expert, I am still learning and unlearning. And this is an attempt to share my learnings.

#1. You may not know everything, every time.

This is something I realized after I started working full time and with multiple stakeholders — designers, product managers, engineers, marketers, etc. There will be situations where we might not know what the correct approach would be. Sometimes solutions may not come to us organically. Sometimes what may have worked for other products and companies may not necessarily work for us.

The key is to not get stuck and instead try out different options. Push the changes if required. Making a decision and learning about it via data is better than delaying a decision.

#2. Different design tasks may require different design processes

The kind of design tasks a designer may work on while working at a company may vary a lot based on the scale of a project and the amount of time and effort required. Some tasks may require a month while some may need to be done in a day. Some may require multiple designers while some may be solo tasks. Based on these factors, the process that we adopt while designing may also change. For instance, some tasks may be very research-oriented while some may require a lot of visual exploration.

I have come to the realization that there is no perfect or standard design process. The best design process is the one that’s adaptable.

#3. Understanding other people’s jobs

Understanding how non-designers (product managers, engineers, etc) work and the things they have to do as part of their job, may give us an insight into their roles and may even enhance our general knowledge. But what it most importantly does is make us slightly more empathetic people. It makes us realize how every part of the engine is helping in making the vehicle run smoothly.

And this realization goes a long way in subduing frustrations and discouragements in times of stringent deadlines especially. :)

#4. Constraints are a constant

Oftentimes, especially when you haven’t yet worked in teams, it may seem like design is something that can be done in a silo. But well, not really. There may be various constraints that designers may have to work with. These constraints may come from different stakeholders, teams, systems, or even processes. For instance, the engineering team not being able to implement the micro-interactions you designed because of a bandwidth crunch. Or not being able to take a very well-informed decision because you don’t have enough data yet.

One might feel like working without constraints would be very liberating. But I feel like working without constraints would mean working in monotonous circumstances. And monotony, after a point, could get boring.

5. Getting involved as early as possible

Getting involved early on in the process of problem definition (for example, the PRD creation stage) of your task has multiple advantages. It helps to understand the context from a holistic point of view. It enables us to look at a problem not just from a design or user perspective but also from a product and business perspective. It gives an opportunity to express our views right at the beginning as well as understand where the other stakeholders are coming from.

This reduces a lot of back and forth you might have to do as a designer with multiple stakeholders. You are also now in a position to understand constraints and inputs from everyone better.

6. Iterations can bring out the best in you

This has probably been said a gazillion times before. But only when one actually experiences it is when they realize the magic it does. I’ll be honest, there are times when deadlines are stringent or there are some other constraints and you might not be able to iterate as much as you’d want. But at other times, it's worth doing.

Self-doubt is something that most designers have to deal with at some point. Seeing where you started, at iteration 1, and where you’ve reached after iterating brings in a lot of confidence. It also shows progress which is a great catalyst for momentum.

Parting words…

I was very unsure if I should publish this article. I generally have a few drafts in my folder which never get published. Sometimes I feel like these are obvious things that don’t need to be said again. But what is also true is that what may seem obvious to us may be new to someone else. Also, as it’s correctly said, “Everything has already been said. But not everyone was listening. Hence it needs to be said again.”

And so I leave it at that and hope whoever reads this has something to take back. Or simply enjoys reading it. It’s about sharing experiences after all.

If you liked this article, do drop some claps! Long press for 50 claps :)

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Zainab Delawala

Product Designer | Previously a software developer | Loves food, cinema, fashion and communication