Amazing Together
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Amazing Together

🍨 The Inside Scoop — David Khoo 🇸🇬

Get to know your mentors: David Khoo

Welcome to ADPList’s mentor interview series 🎉

My hope is that these interviews will serve as a useful resource for mentees who are looking and getting to know their mentors on our platform 💬

The amazing design mentor: David Khoo

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  • Current favorite artist: Mateus Asato
  • Currently binge-watching: Naruto (Rewatch)
  • Current favorite movie(s): Soul (Disney-Pixar)

👋 Hi David, can you share a little bit about yourself?

When David had the opportunity to work in Russia

I’m David, professionally a Principal UX Consultant at Foolproof, I help to lead the studio, oversee the quality of work, triage the types of work that’s coming in and help practitioners to grow.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

My expertise is rooted in design research and strategy. As I’ve had a small stint in management consultancy in my younger years, it lends itself quite well to design research and strategy. From there, it’s really about working with many other designers to try to come up with creative solutions to problems.

2. Tell me something that would never come up in conversation.

In the past, I sang a bit and played guitar every month with a church band. Nowadays, I don’t really have a lot of time to join. So even all these guitars that you see, I don’t really get to play them. They are more like showpieces.

3. What was the pandemic hobby that you picked up?

Actually, it is Netflix because I just wanted to find some kind of entertainment.

I’m guilty of a little binge-watching — It’s so easy to have two to four hours gone on a weekend. Netflix takes up so much time.

4. How to work at home with kids?

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

My kids are very young. They’re five and two years old. Sometimes when I’m in meetings, they’ll come up, and they’ll want to be on the camera, but they are pretty well-behaved, so they don’t do that too often.

5. What kind of impact are you making in the world using your design skills?

I get to work on very future-facing types of work. For example, what is the future of education? What is the future of a certain product in x years time? I help teams to understand how people behave, how to chart futures appropriately towards an ideal direction. The thing about the work is that they tend to have scale. So you could be talking like a whole nation or a really sizable portion. That’s why I think we are cautious with the work we do because they could literally impact a lot of people.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

For example, one project that I had a chance to help in my past was to explore the future of buying a home. It was deeply meaningful as housing is such a big thing for Singaporeans (can’t share more beyond that). So those are the types of work that I’ve been very privileged to be part of before and have helped people somehow.

6. What kind of mentorship do you wish to provide and why?

It’s a very difficult question. Because I think the type of mentorship that I like to talk to people about actually relates to a lot about life. Because if you think about user experience, it actually can be applied to everything. It can be applied to how you design your life, how you take care of your relationships, and how you engage and learn with others. So usually, it is far more significant than the user experience we limit today. It’s usually beyond the digital screen, It’s way bigger than that.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

So, I’ll give you an example when we talk about portfolio reviews; you actually need to understand people, what the person on the other side who is interviewing you is looking out for, what his day is like, and how he reads things.

On the other hand, people also want to know more about you as a person, not a process bot.

A lot of times, I guess, in the portfolio, I cannot see you as a person, I can only see the work you’ve done. Usually, I’ll talk a lot about it with my mentees here. Why do you want to join a company or even UX in the first place? And talk about their passions.

Many people have problems putting examples in their portfolios because they’re new, but how about applying it to your life? Where have you applied UX? Can you do a project out of that?

7. Tell me about a time when you didn’t know if you would make it and how you overcame it.

It was when I first started in this industry. Because when I started 10 years ago, there were only five companies in Singapore maybe, that actually did proper Human-Centered Design or UX or design thinking. It was very, very small. And then, I struggled because I liked what I did. But nobody else knew what this thing was. I didn’t know how to explain what I did to others. And then my parents said “Hey, can you get a real job? Because I studied Electrical Engineering in the university, and they thought I had better options”

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

I didn’t have anything related to design when I first started. So, it wasn’t easy. There weren’t many people to really learn from. I just had to find people that were working in the same space. A lot of things I was learning pretty much on the fly and tried on my own.

I did a number of free online courses, and I still read a lot of books. So you can see my library here. There’s still a pile of books to read. So, I learned a lot from the job.

I tried many different methods. I read books, and I try. I read, and I try again, and I read, and I try again.

Also, I got to talk to people, but there weren’t many people to talk to in the first place. So a lot of it was really trial by failure. You really don’t know how many times I did not succeed in something. But then it’s really about knowing that

“Okay, there is no one to guide me. I have to make this work on my own, and then there you go.”

8. What are the three most common questions you get as a mentor, and how do you usually answer them?

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

1. Why am I not getting the job? — What I usually do is that I will take them through the portfolio using the ‘think aloud’ method and what is that I am seeing. So, that they can actually understand from an employer’s perspective.

2. I’m really Junior. I don’t have enough case studies. What can I do? — I usually ask, what’s the role that you’re applying for? The same role title often has different emphasis on certain requirements in different companies, and this also changes by the industry type and the speed at which innovation happens.

Number two, if you really need to demonstrate your skills, how you can create more case studies to help you boost up your portfolio, and this can be like self-initiated projects or pro bono projects that you can take in the meantime get yourself there.

3. How do you grow in the UX industry? — What I tell them is yes, you will learn from your job. You can go and learn at boot camps, but then the application of the knowledge will be very different each time because the context shifts. How you apply the knowledge is going to be very different each time. So part of the thing is that you will have to learn a lot from reading. How others have done it, and then you will have to try to see if it works for you.

Like read and try read and try again, until you have to see what works.

Because the reality is that when you are in the job, you don’t have a lot of money to spend on research or design. So, a lot of things in a textbook sounds really good. But only if you have like 1 million dollars to spend.

So, you have to think how to make things work within constraints. You could be reading a case study, but then you’ll need to think how you could do it 10x cheaper or faster as a first step.

9. If there is one thing you could tell every single mentee you meet, what would that one piece of advice be?

I think a lot of people are figuring out things. For example, you are a newbie, and then you see this person. Wow, this guy knows everything. But the fact of the matter is that many people actually don’t really know what they’re doing at that moment in time.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

A lot of people are trying to figure things out along the way most of the time. So don’t feel like you have to know everything.

I think this is also a growing industry, to be honest. No one has all the answers. It’s a good thing. Because that means you are still part of the early wave.

That means you get to learn about things along the way, but you don’t have to know everything now.

You’ll just need to be comfortable with ambiguity and be open to new things.

Learn how to transition into UX and do your design skills with David —

Ratta and David during the interview

🤙 Feel free to book a call with David on ADPList: Link Here

Thanks for reading this article! Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Be sure to follow us on ADPList, to get the latest news from us.

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Ratta Kidakarn

Ratta Kidakarn

I’m Ratta, an Experience Designer, Consultant @ThoughtWorks I aspiring UXers get mentors from all around the world by being an Ambassador of the ADPList.😀