There are things that will never change, and one of these is how proud we are of our team. This is the main reason why we want to share with you the story behind each team member. Valentin started his career at Making Sense 3 years ago, but his passion for design began when he was 15 years old. Now he is UX Designer for Mobile Applications in one of our biggest projects, VAS. Here’s your chance to learn more about him and his beginnings!
When did your career start?
I remember that my first steps into design were when I was 15 and at 17 I got my first job. It was a position as an Interface Designer. In my opinion, this is one of the most fascinating areas of UX. But after this experience, I swung my career in another direction: Publicity. I spent two years studying publicity at the University until I found out that it wasn’t for me — I felt more comfortable designing.
Before becoming part of the VAS team, I had the chance to work in one of the Making Sense’s products, but I declined the job offer, because I was looking to work in new projects where I could face the challenge since day 1 (Products are generally more mature when you come to work on them). Looking back, it was a good decision and a year later I was already working here.
Your beginnings were as a designer, but when did you start seeing yourself as a UX Designer?
Probably when I realized that an experience browsing a Web Site or using a Digital Product could be a good or bad experience. The way that you chose to shape products can improve an experience.
Maybe that was what motivated me to immerse myself into the UX field, pulling me into this amazing discipline.
So, you left your Degree in Publicity and started a Degree in Design?
No, I’ve always been self-taught. I think the key is a balance between what you can take from books and what you apply. This combination formed me as a UX Designer. In my opinion, you can spend your whole life reading books, attending classes and listening to speakers, but if you don’t go out and apply what you have learned, there’s a chance that you miss the opportunity of being a great professional. To get a deeper understanding of UX you must find a way to achieve a balance between theory and practice.
What does UX mean to you?
UX is each contact and every perception that a user has while interacting with a product or service. As designers, we can shape and manipulate these experiences. But too many people don’t know that a good experience is more than a great design. I always try to show to those I work with, that UX is the person behind the telephone in the customer support team, UX is on packagings, on your website, as well.
If you ask me for the perfect example of a great UX, I’ll definitely choose Apple. At Apple, UX is a philosophy and a way to do things, not just a department or a designer fighting to show their opinion.
So, what does UX mean? UX is empathizing with users, thinking about their needs… “walk in the other person’s shoes”.
And what do you do to “walk in the other person’s shoes”?
There are many techniques and tools, like Design Thinking or Empathy Maps, but the most important thing is to try to be as objective as you can. Put aside your biases. You must stop being yourself for a moment and get immersed in the other person’s mind.
That way, you’re able to find out what the user needs and as a consequence, design smart and helpful solutions. Solutions that users will use. It’s useless to make beautiful things if you’re not being smart about what your users actually need.
Often, the main challenge that UXers face is not understanding user’s needs. We shouldn’t forget the stakeholders. Many times Design is the easiest part of a UXer’s job, and the hard part is knowing how to negotiate with the stakeholders or product owners and how to persuade them based on UX findings. Not all the stakeholders are persuaded with qualitative findings but with quantitative research. A UXer has to understand what stakeholders need for their business and align that with users needs as well could be tricky, that’s why sometimes I feel that’s the hardest part of our job and having some negotiation skills is a must.
Therefore I recommend to each UX Designer that you read more about philosophy, psychology, and negotiation. This knowledge will provide you the tools you’ll need to defend your idea or your design’s approach.
Becoming a UX Professional is a big challenge! So, how do you define professional success?
In my opinion, I’d feel successful if I leave an indelible mark, either by discovering a new technique, create a new tool or by creating something that will improve people’s lives. For example. I would like to write a book and help others by teaching them about UX and showing how to become a UX professional.
Tell me about the VAS’ Project. Is it the biggest project you have worked on?
Definitely yes, and I’m lucky to be in the project area that I enjoy the most. I love to design for mobile products because you face daily challenges that make it so interesting. I always say that designing for Web solutions is like building a big house but Mobile Design is like building a little midtown apartment with the same amenities.
But that’s only a part of it. We are continuously setting goals, we strive to do the right things to improve our users’ lives, building smart solutions to enable them to do their work as fast as they can with as few errors as possible.
And to achieve that, the whole team should be aligned with the UX goals, because UX is not only the concern of the UX Department. The person who is coding the back-end has to do their job with the user in mind, too. Have a user who is knowledgeable in UX as well. Many in the UX field forget that.
Here at Making Sense, all of us do their job with the user and business in mind and this is one of the reasons why I feel proud to be a part of this team.
I think that the UXer must be a kind of leader, raising awareness about the importance of UX in other team members. Changing the color of a button won’t make as build a better experience, and we are responsible for transmitting this message. Everyone who’s part of the project must know that UX is not just about design, that it’s much more than that.
You’re a leader when you guide the team in such way that it’s not painful for any member yet they accomplish goals in a healthy context of work.
Is all about User’s Needs?
Not all. Figuring out a balance between user needs and business needs is the key. We must always try to find a way to support business strategy with UX. We have to add value to our users, with the main goal of improving business outcomes.
During user research, we can unearth a lot of ideas but we have to choose those that are a sweet spot between business and user needs.
“Figuring out a balance between user needs and business needs is the key.”
Do you have any advice for those who are starting a career?
Of course! Be curious, challenge yourself by doing different things every day, read about management, leadership, philosophy, psychology, etc. Meet with others in the UX field, do your best, do your job and get out of the comfort zone as soon as possible.
To close, do you have a phrase or motto that you always carry with you?
I have many, but If I had to choose one it would be: “First facts, then words”.
We hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did. If you want to know more about Valentin, feel free to connect with him on social media:) Linkedin and Twitter.