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A career in tech: User Experience Design
Research, recognize and solve specific user needs and challenges, create wireframes and user interfaces that are later on implemented to form the user experience. Does this sound unfamiliar to you? This is everyday for Monika that has chosen a career within tech and UX/UI design. Are you curious to learn more about working within this rapid growing field – get Monika’s story here.
Who are you?
My name is Monika, I’m UX/UI Designer from Warsaw, Poland.
People that know me well say that I’m a person with high expectations towards myself. I’d say that I’m someone that looks for consistent growth in various aspects of my life and understands the importance of constant learning. Although I may seem like a calm, composed person, I am not afraid to make bold decisions. This way, a few years ago I put everything on one card and set up my own business. Lately, I came back from one year around the world backpacking trip. There are many contradictions in me because at the same time, I don’t like taking unnecessary risk.
What’s your educational background?
I was studying urban planning and I have master’s degree in spatial development. Urban planning and UX design only seem to have little in common with each other. But in both cases, we design for people. In case of spatial development, we design cities and public spaces while in case of UX, we design interfaces. Of course, the problems we are trying to solve, requirements and circumstances that we encounter will be different, but in both cases, everything starts with thorough research and follows a certain design process. Both areas require solid knowledge about design foundations as well.
Can you tell about your work?
I work as a Product Designer at Contractbook and I’m responsible for researching, recognizing and solving specific user needs and challenges, creating wireframes and user interfaces that are later on implemented to form the user experience. I’m also responsible for quality assurance and I work closely with developers.
What’s an UX/UI designer?
A UX/UI designer is responsible for identifying and solving user needs and challenges by taking design decisions that improve user satisfaction. The main concern of UX/UI designer is how the product feels and designing the best interface to enhance the user experience.
UX/UI requires a solid understanding of design, psychology and a fair amount of tactical skills.
Other critical competences for this position are: conducting research, concept iteration, prototyping and creating hi-fidelity mock-ups. Strong communication skills and understanding technical limitations are also very important to have.
How did you get to where you are today?
I am a self-taught designer and the whole concept of interactive design was introduced to me seven years ago by my life partner, who was an experienced full-stack developer back then.
Tech industry was something new to me but it was also something that I was always curious about, so I spent a lot of time learning everything on my own and educating myself in the field of UI and UX.
We started our own small agency and I worked mostly on creating websites, mobile apps, branding, and print designs.
How did you get into product design and UI/UX in legal tech?
At some point, I had to choose between doing everything versus focusing on one thing and getting better at it. I chose UI/UX design since it was closer to my interests.
It seemed like the obvious choice because it allowed me to build working products that mattered to people. For me, the design is all about trying to understand human behavior.
When combining this with creativity and working on something meaningful, this seems like the perfect combination. Getting into legal-tech was not intentional at first, but from the very beginning of my career as a designer, I had the pleasure to work with law firms and specialists in legal marketing. Thanks to those previous experiences I’m familiar with the requirements and specifics of the legal-tech industry.
How did you get into startup life?
I started to share my work on Dribbble and I was contributing to the design community and this helped me to get some recognition.
I got noticed by several startups and started working as a full-time remote designer a year after I started my own agency.
Both me and my partner realized that we can learn and create more value when we’re working as a part of bigger teams. In September 2017, I joined Contractbook, an awesome startup that allows you to sign, send and manage your contracts digitally and it is so far, the best fit for me.
What are the most interesting aspects of working at Contractbook?
Contractbook is a simple tool that lets you sign and store all your contracts digitally. The most interesting aspect of working in Contractbook is that this product really helps people with improving their workflow, making it more efficient and providing them with peace of mind. They no longer have to stress about paperwork. There’s no better feeling than knowing that your work creates value for it’s users and makes their lives a bit easier.
Contractbook also has one of the greatest remote work cultures I’ve known so far. It’s impressive how the founders managed to organize the company while hiring the right people from all around Europe. This is certainly not an easy thing to do but in Contractbook, thanks to the tools we use and ongoing communication, I no longer experience any typical downsides of working remotely, like lack of motivation or lack of social interactions.
I do feel that I’m a part of a strong team and it gives me a lot of satisfaction and joy.
What’s your role at Contractbook?
As a Product Designer in Contractbook I take care of everything that is related to UX/UI. I focus on creating a cohesive design language and make sure that a consistent style is applied across the product. I happened to be the only woman in the team, but this doesn’t affect the way of how I perceive my role in Contractbook. I have a very conciliatory nature and often try to reconcile different interests and requirements so that both groups, product, and business, are satisfied with the results.
How does your work create value to you?
Working on the product that matters to other people and being able to make their lives easier is something very important to me. Being able to work remotely gives me the freedom which is also something that I look for in my life.
I can choose the best surroundings and time for work which results in better efficiency. Remote work also gave me the possibility to make my dreams come true, as I spend one year traveling around the world and visited 17 countries.
I didn’t have to suspend my career for this time and I could still do what I love most.
What are your work-life dreams?
At the moment, I’m very happy with my career and work life in general. I work for an amazing, rapidly growing startup and have the ability to challenge myself on a wide range of tasks. I’m working with highly skilled people who also happened to be great colleagues. As if that was not enough, I’m able to work from my own place, spend less time commuting, and more time with my family instead. I wish I could try Product Management at some point. I would also see myself living at least half a year in some other country and combine traveling with regular work schedule.
What has been the hardest part in your work life at this point?
I’m very self-conscious and responsible person and sometimes I tend to stress too much about everything related to my work, starting with the quality of my creations and ending on managing others’ expectations. While working on managing my stress level, I’m lucky enough to have the support of the team, a comfort to make mistakes and learn from them. It gives me the confidence to try new things and step out of my comfort zone more often.
What are you most proud of to have accomplished?
I am very proud of the choices that I made and that I can be where I am right now. I’m grateful for taking this path of working as a UI/UX designer as this allowed me to land my dream job and that I was able to fulfill my travel goals as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was not always easy, especially in the beginning. It required sacrifices, taking the risk, challenging myself, but the hard work eventually paid off. I’m very glad that I did not give up when it was tough.
What’s the best advice that you ever have been given?
This won’t be a single specific advice, but my parents raised me with a feeling that I can learn and become whoever I want in my life. They gave me the freedom to choose my own unique path, encouraged me to dream big and showed me that if I only work hard enough, I’m capable of making those dreams a reality. Taking responsibility for my own life choices was uncomfortable, but it’s the thing that gave me the greatest reward in the end.
Do you have any good advice to others?
There’s not one right career path to follow in order to succeed in this field but what helped me much was educating myself constantly and spending a lot of time on learning all I could about the field.
This doesn’t mean you necessarily need a specific university degree, but rather becoming a life-long learner and improving your skills in a more lasting manner.
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