Let me start with a brief background about myself. I started working as a UX designer in my 3rd year of engineering itself. I worked with various organisations as an intern, worked at a design studio during my winter break, and even started freelancing in my final year. But when the pandemic hit I lost all my freelance clients and I had to start looking for jobs. (PS: Yeah! I belong to the generation who got struck by a pandemic during their first-ever job search. 😱 )
I didn't want to work as an intern anymore as I was confident of my design and communication skills with my 2 years of experience. So I began searching for jobs, quite sure that I'll get one soon. But boy was it hard! All I got was rejection after rejection!
The only type of feedback I got from every company I applied to was, "You have a great portfolio but we are looking for someone more experienced." I was so frustrated after a point that I stopped sending out my resume to companies. I only sent them my portfolio link and asked them to connect with me if they found my work interesting. During the video call, I would throw the "Yeah! I am a recent grad.." bomb at them. I loved to see their reactions on call. 😛
How I got into Parallel
I tried the same strategy with Robin (Founder of Parallel), and to my surprise he was impressed. He valued the work experience I had gained during my undergrad and did not worry that I had no formal job experience. He valued the knowledge I had around UI/UX design and my process of rapid prototyping and user feedback. Things worked out and I joined Parallel in July 2020.
It was then and there that I realised that the Parallel experience was going to be offbeat, different from the norm, and exactly how I'd want my professional journey as a product designer to begin!
Years of experience are not even considered in the hiring process at Parallel. Only your work attitude and aptitude are valued.
From Fresher to a Product Designer 👨🏼🎓
Onboarding with a design sprint!
The day I joined Parallel, I was thrown into the deep end. I was told to participate in a remote design sprint that was about to begin that day. (A designed sprint is a defined process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. In case you don't know what is a design sprint, this is a good place to start)
I had a fair idea of what was about to happen thanks to the tons of resources shared with me but I was also quite nervous. I was told that all I had to do was observe, get a sense of how things are going about, and enjoy the process. I was doing just that when suddenly, during the zoom call, Robin asked me for my opinion on something around gamification. I gave a decent answer (I think 😬 ) and this is when I realised that my opinions would be valued here. At the very least, my ideas would be heard.
While onboarding doesn't always happen this way, it helps to start everyone with real projects. 💪🏻This sets the tone for what's to come and helps test your character, patience, and perseverance big time.
Everyone is given an opportunity to speak and express their thoughts. No one will ever judge you or your ideas!
My first taste of brutally honest feedback
Soon, I began visual explorations for a government project. It had been a week since I joined and I was presenting my ideas for the first time to Robin and Richa (The fierce Duo 😜 ) who were asking me so many questions on my sketches that I was sweating like crazy.
There was no sugar coating. Straight to the point. Their feedback was brutal. It was the first time someone was critiquing my "Sketches" so hard and questioning my entire thought process. that I panicked. All of a sudden I felt I wasn't fit for this kind of job. This is when I went to Chaitanya, the lead product designer on the project for some guidance.
He helped me understand how not to take feedback personally, but to pay attention to the meaning behind their words. I had to learn that they were talking about my designs. Not my character or my skills. When I started separating my designs from myself, that is when I grew as a designer. Learning to accept others' viewpoints and building on top of them rather than going against it became my greatest asset.
Honest feedback is a big part of the work ethic here. And the feedback can come from anyone - not necessarily the senior team. At the same time, everyone is encouraged to ask more questions, get quick feedback, and move forward.
Helping with a design jam with Facebook
Parallel had been collaborating for some time with TTC Labs, D91 Labs, CIIE.co, IDInsights, and other huge agencies that are working hard in the field of data privacy and ethical design. In September 2020, we worked very closely with these agencies and facilitated a design jam which is a collaborative workshop where participants try and come up with workable design solutions to critical challenges.This design jam was to solve problems related to designing for user trust and informed data consent for the Bharat audience.
There were 9 teams from students, academia, and industry professionals who had participated. I was asked to lead a team of 5 design students pursuing their Masters from Srishti Institute of Design.
I began applying some of the nuggets I'd picked earlier observing Robin when conducting workshops. Like,
- Breaking the ice within the team by randomly picking a participant and asking them to introduce themselves.
- Ensuring that my screen was always shared helping participants to follow me throughout the process as we were all working remotely.
- Keeping the team moving with fresh ideas when they become stagnant.
- Allowing everyone to ask questions around a new idea brought in, with the goal to build-up on it rather than scrutinising it.
Stepping up from a designer to a coordinator made me understand how to think like a workshop facilitator and remain neutral while giving everyone an equal opportunity to present their ideas.
Mentoring Young Designers at Parallel 👨🏻💻
Before I knew it, my weeks turned to months and months to a full year! From a fresher keen to become a product designer, Parallel had groomed me into so much more - a professional with tons of first-hand experience working with big organisations as clients; helping startups turn their ideas into noteworthy products; learning how to work within a team and co-ordinate with external teams that sometimes included navigating through difficult conversations. Learning how to work with Product Managers, communicate better with them, and look at projects from a business strategy perspective, and not just like a designer.
As Parallel grows, so do my learnings and the additional roles I'm trusted with here, the latest being a mentor to young designers. 💪🏻
Every time a new intern joins Parallel, we make sure that they have one-on-one sessions with the leadership to get an understanding of what is expected from them and to also get a taste of Parallel’s culture. Post that they are assigned a mentor, better known as a design buddy who helps them move through the first few weeks, polishing their Figma skills, providing reading materials, giving them a chance to sit on client calls or workshops to initiate them into the Parallel life.
As a first-time mentor to new interns, I am helping them learn the ropes and work ethics at Parallel for the first few weeks. It also gives me a chance to know them better, their designing skills, and where they need hand-holding before becoming part of high-stake projects just like I did a year back!
While I know there is a lot more to learn and experience in my design journey, I couldn't have asked for a better start than Parallel to help me see my potential and my work shine through.
So, you wish to be part of Parallel too? Check out the current openings and apply. And thank me later with the best plate of chole-bhature in Bangalore, found not very far from the office! 😋