No one is born as a product designer. I tried out quite a few other things before I landed in this dream job of mine! I finished my A Levels (equivalent to Class 12) from Singapore and pursued Industrial & Systems Engineering from the National University of Singapore. Right from my university days, I got involved in the local start-up ecosystem in Singapore, and I developed contacts there.
After trying my hands at Venture Capital (companies which invest in startups), I realised I wanted to be part of such startups myself, and I joined the Product Management team of a company in Silicon Valley that develops social music-making and collaboration apps. When I refer to the “Product”, what I mean is the App itself. And Product Management refers to the host of activities which help with building, developing, managing, testing and reviewing the App.
Eventually, I got into Product Design, which is a subset of Product Management. As a product designer, I am a part of the team which decides the exact way that the App appears on the screen. We get to determine the way in which the buttons appear, the various menus on the App, the graphics, the way the two versions of the App look on iOS and Android; and so on.
In technical terms, this is called UI UX (UI, which stands for User Interface Design and UX, which stands for User Experience Design). As a part of this process, the first step would be to define the problem, followed by a roadmap exercise of the way to solve the problem, followed by the actual implementation of the design/change. Another integral part of the process is User Research. Talking to users of the product, either one time or loyal users goes a long way in helping me understand their opinions on the product, their dislikes and what could be done better.
While you may think that creativity is an important skill to become a Product Designer, I would say that empathy for the user is the most needed trait of the hour. It is of utmost importance to be sensitive to users' emotional changes and have the ability to recognise even the slightest bit of the user's displeasure, which could be in the form of a twitch of a muscle or a scowl. You also need to have the ability to wade through the tons of already existing product designs in the internet space and determine the best one for your organisation. Also, needless to say, one needs to invest quality time and efforts to put to use his/her skills.
If you feel like you may have these qualities, I would recommend SkillShare - to get a feel of what UI/UX entails. So, if designing and creating has always been something you have been interested in, Product Design may be a great career to put your skills to use!Based on conversation in April 2019