Future Leaders: Xuan Zhang, Product Designer

‘Future Leaders’ is a series of blog posts by the Financial Times in which we interview our team members and ask them how they got into technology, what they are working on and what they want to do in the future. Everyone has a different perspective, story and experience to share. This series will feature colleagues working in our Product & Technology teams. You can also connect with us on Twitter at Life at FT.

Hi Xuan, what is your current role at the FT and what do you spend most of your time doing at work?

My current role is a Product Designer in the Acquisition team. Our team's focus is on acquiring new users. We help users understand FT products better, guide them through FT services and improve their onboarding experience.

My projects span across a few stages of our users’ journey, for example, how users find out FT online, how they explore content on FT.com for the first time and how they consider FT products on our subscription page. Therefore, my missions align more with product-level challenges, for example, “how could we encourage more users to transition from B2C to B2B licenses”, rather than function-level challenges, like “how could this page be designed”.

As a product designer at the FT, I spend most of my time understanding our users’ needs and how our product could support them. This requires me to have a good understanding of users and business, therefore I work closely with cross-functional teams for gathering how users use our product and services, evaluating our product issues and some potential solutions.

I usually start the day by checking my emails and Slack messages with a cup of tea, then I’ll have a daily stand-up at 10 am. During the day, I often chat with my product manager, user researcher, data analyst, or marketing people in order to be sure that we build the right thing for our users. After we’ve gathered relevant user data, mindset and product performance, I’ll arrange some workshops, finish competitor & comparator research, map out user journey, create prototypes, prepare user interview or product test during the week, so my day to day activities are research and design.

How did you get into the Product Design industry?

I was a motion graphics designer when I started my career. I worked on brand design and motion graphics for all kinds of on-air channels, for example, designing and creating some opening videos for tv shows, rebranding the visual identity for a whole channel, or designing an upcoming programmes list on TV. Those projects made me realise that I was more interested in how I could help audiences catch information quickly and engagingly by motion design and content hierarchy design on a screen: therefore I decided to become an interaction designer, which helped me develop my UI design and interaction design skills. However, after I worked on a few different products, I realised my passion was to be a product designer as it focuses more on product-level challenges than some visual or interface design issues, which gave me more sense of achievement personally. It’s why I’m a product designer now.

What is the project you’ve worked on at the FT that you are most proud of?

The current project I’m working on at the moment is the one I’m most proud of. The registration project where helps us understand more about our anonymous users and gives our team a good chance to explore some new strategies for engaging with the users.

Is there anything you do outside of your day-to-day role?

I draw some comic strips for my Instagram and Facebook.

Want to see more of my comic strips? Please search: “happy_cloudcuckoo” on IG and FB

What is your favorite part of working (in your current role or project) at the FT?

My favorite part of working in the design team is that we share our learnings, findings and feedback openly. We have a meeting called PRD Show & Tell for celebrating our work, sharing what we’ve learned and for the team to see if/how insights may be related. A PD Crit meeting is a space for a slightly deeper walkthrough/critique/advice on a topic. Discovery Guild is for all things Discovery-related. These meetings give us a chance to inspire each other at each stage of our product, which has been really helpful.

What do you like to do outside of work?

See all kinds of exhibitions and have dinner with friends.

My friend Miss. Crocodile. She is cute but hungry living in an aquarium.

How do you keep motivated during lockdown?

I enjoy running after work out at night for about an hour since my local gym has been closed. Also, set up the things nicely on my desk, which helps me be in a good mood when I work from home.

I love plants, so I feel great when there are some plants around my desk. I hope you don’t feel I have too many plants. Haha ; )

A mini garden around my desk

What advice would you give to someone trying to pursue a career in Product Design?

To someone who wants to become a product designer, my suggestions would be:

  1. Prepare at least two projects in your portfolio for getting your first job opportunity.
  2. Explain how you evaluate the product problems and your solutions in detail.
  3. Structure your presentation well in your interview.

As a product designer, it is more important to be capable of making product decisions rather than creating a pretty interface, therefore explain well how you make the decision is a big win.

Good luck ; )

Thank you Xuan!

If you’re interested in finding out more about our teams and roles, please visit https://roles.ft.com/




A blog by the Financial Times Product & Technology department.

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