In this interview, we talk with MID student Diogo Cassel, who transitioned from graphic design to UX and Product Design.
Diogo shares his journey, his doubts, and the process of self-discovery that was crucial in breaking barriers and enabling him to transition to the field.
He also offers valuable tips on networking and seeking feedback from experienced professionals. He emphasizes the importance of planning, determination, and mutual support among colleagues. His path, marked by achievements, mistakes, learnings, and strategy revisions, serves as inspiration for anyone looking to redefine and enhance their career.
Come discover more about this inspiring journey!
Diogo, thank you for your time! Please tell us a bit about yourself
Felipe, thank you for inviting me to this interview!
My journey as a designer is similar to that of many people, both in the Aela community and in the UX Design field as a whole.
I come from graphic design and throughout my career, I have worked with all the opportunities this profession can offer. I've done magazine and newspaper layout, branding, and even standard office stationery.
In my last job as a graphic designer, I worked a lot with brand development and identity for cultural event productions in the city where I live.
I started looking into UX Design around 2018/2019. A colleague at work introduced me to Aela and MID. At the time, that free workshop was happening and I signed up to participate.
I left the workshop determined to join MID.
But when I started my studies, something happened that I wasn't expecting. I entered the course with a lot of enthusiasm and began to do things without much planning; consuming content from any source, not being able to properly evaluate its quality. I put the cart before the horse.
So, I started to get closer to the Aela student community and even to you, Felipe. I began to talk more about things and straightened out my cart on the tracks to be able to set my goals.
What did you do when you realized things were off track and what tip can you give to those experiencing something similar?
I was in a pretty big comfort zone regarding my profession. I was earning well for the region where I lived and realized it would be difficult to earn the same doing the same thing elsewhere. So, I got very complacent.
Because of this, I started to neglect my MID studies.
Things only started to change when I began to look for studies for my personal development. And when I started training with coaches, I got a real shake-up.
Even remembering this makes me uncomfortable because I know that settling like that was not a good thing.
I was looking for ways to escape from studies and new challenges. I did this to not leave my comfort zone.
Even as an example, in the first project presentations of MID, I used to get very nervous and uncomfortable. So, I had decided that I didn’t want to do that anymore because it took me out of my comfort zone, even though it was good for my development. I thought I was embarrassing myself.
When I began to see that this situation was a good opportunity to learn from people who are in the same situation as me, and from teachers who would give me good feedback, things started to change.
So, the first tip I can give is to accept that you might be wasting time.
When I started to see things this way, I began to think about what to do to change my behavior.
That's when I sent you a message, Felipe, saying that I had made new career and study plans and wanted to know your opinion and perspective.
And this is another tip I can give: to accept that what I was doing was not going to yield any results and that I needed a plan to change things.
It was the planning that pushed me forward!
I can even share that, in my first year of serious planning, I met all my professional goals by the date I set. In this second year of planning, I have already achieved all my goals 6 months in advance.
Congratulations! I think there's a big misunderstanding about coaches that is unwarranted. I myself have improved many things because I had the mindset of asking and seeking to know where I need to improve.
Yes, another practice that I started doing and that was very important, was talking to more experienced people and professionals.
Everyone says that networking is cool, but asking for feedback from other professionals is also very beneficial.
For example, I was talking to various design professionals, but it wasn’t clear to me exactly where I needed to improve. All the feedback I received was about my portfolio, but in interviews, I didn't even reach the stage of the selection process where I could show my work.
So, I started looking for recruiters on LinkedIn to talk and understand if they could give me some direction in this regard.
I began to break the barrier of thinking that I was bothering people.
At the end of the day, recruiters need to find people, so receiving my contact was also very good for them, even if they weren’t going to hire me.
Then, I started correcting things, and in each interview, I asked for feedback. Of course, there are recruiters who don’t give feedback, but others are quite willing to help, telling you what was good and what wasn’t during the interview.
This made a big difference for me, starting to talk with these professionals.
I know you went a long time without a vacation and managed to take a break after finishing a project. Besides, you had the resources to spend several months not working, just studying. How did you manage to organize yourself financially in this way?
The issue of financial organization came up during personal development meetings when the coach asked us: "how rich are you?". He clarified that today, someone can consider themselves rich if they are able to spend some time not working, maintaining their standard of living, without delaying bills, and without reducing their consumption habits.
This concept really struck me.
I had been thinking about the possibility of resigning if I couldn't get a UX position while still employed. I even remember sending you a message asking if it was feasible to land my first opportunity in UX by the end of the year. You replied that it was possible, but I would have to dedicate myself a lot.
So, upon hearing this definition of "wealth," I decided to plan. I already had the habit of investing and taking care of my finances. Therefore, I always set aside 30% of my salary for a reserve.
Around the middle of the year, I spoke with Rick, mentor at Aela. He had a project that needed a designer and, as soon as I heard about the vacancy, I immediately offered myself.
I sent him a message saying “I’m ready”. As he already knew my work through Aela, he realized that my skills aligned with what he was looking for. It was an incredible experience and a big boost.
When discussing remuneration, I felt insecure due to my lack of experience in the field. I based my calculation on what I earned as a graphic designer.
Rick's response was, “No, that won’t do!”
When he said that, I thought I had asked for too much.
Then he added: “It has to be at least double that.”
Considering the contract on an hourly basis, compared to a CLT job, the project was equivalent to half a month's work. So, I worked half and earned double.
When I received this amount, I clearly saw the possibility of a career transition. In this context, influenced by the classes with you about professional valuation and positioning, as well as the personal development training, I did an interview for the position I am in now.
I suggested a higher salary than I was receiving, and to my surprise, the company made an even higher offer, praising my profile.
From your old job to this new one, how much was the salary increase, percentage-wise?
Oh, it was about 50%.
Cool! What many people may not know is that there is usually a salary range that companies work with.
Yes, when they offered me more, I remembered exactly what you said. If they are offering me more, it means that the salary range allows them to pay me more.
And nowadays, I feel quite comfortable sitting down with people to talk about salary, knowing my worth. Of course, I won't be arrogant about my price, but I am quite at ease discussing this today.
It's interesting that you talk about arrogance because Brazilians often culturally confuse kindness with humility. Knowing your work and charging what you think is correct is not arrogance! Designers usually do this, they are afraid to charge what they are really worth.
I had some freelancers and started to end some jobs because of this.
Some things that still fall to me, I start to charge more, because of the lack of time, the things I want to dedicate myself to, like MID, IPD, my work, etc.
And then, by charging more, the client accepts and I keep thinking "why didn't I charge this amount from the beginning?"
But this is an issue that designers themselves influence. The designer looks at the price tabled by the Association of Graphic Designers and they themselves say that those values are expensive.
And there's another side. Working as a Product Designer, having access to what the company I work for charges the client, investment in the product, and all, you have more clarity on how much you can charge too.
Speaking of which, I can give two additional tips. One is that from the moment I make my plan, I look for people to be my mirror, a reference. And one of them is you, Felipe, a lot for the things you say and convey to us. There's obviously a time when you want to test everything you say to see if it works, and everything you said that I tested and applied, everything worked. So I made it for myself that everything that comes from you, Felipe, from Aela, I will test and use.
And the other tip is the part of having a study partner, this was very strong not only in the matter of studies, but in achieving things. My duo is incredible, he lifts me up. We don't even know each other personally, but we support each other a lot and that's very important.
This ends up expanding not only to this colleague of mine but, if you look at all the other interviews, you can see that I have a little bit of each of these colleagues in me.
There was a time when every time an interview came out, I would watch it, take notes, and apply what people said. So, my process was built on listening to others who had already gotten there. Everything that these guys said, I noted and tested.
And it's fine, what worked I continue, what didn't, didn't work for me, there's no mistake!
These were the two things that were important to me, to look at what people who had already gotten there did, and the peers.
And our community is very incredible. People there can lift you up, motivate you, if you're having a problem, they embrace the problem as if it were theirs too. This is one of the points of MID that I find strongest, the community.
Can you tell what changed in Diogo's life from being a graphic designer to a Product Designer?
Initially, there was young Diogo who saw the profession as mere fun. If things went well, great; if not, it was all right. However, as he matured, he began to see life more seriously, handling opportunities with criteria and carefully selecting with whom and where he wanted to work.
When I started my transition to UX and Product Design, I accepted any opportunity. However, today, my perspective has changed. There are companies I simply wouldn't work for, regardless of their size or the salary offered. Currently, I'm satisfied working in the financial sector, but I recognize that this might change in the future.
This transformation is not just about professional evolution, but also personal. I started to understand the importance of making decisions with my own well-being in mind, whether in relation to career, studies, or leisure time. Reflecting on my development, I feel genuine pride. Even though I matured a bit later, I see that I grew rapidly and significantly.
It's gratifying to realize when things are going well. Despite having a structured plan, I confess that, at times, I felt anxious about being unemployed. However, my maturity always led me back to focus. I understood that I couldn't act on impulse or desperation. I would only allow myself to feel desperation if I were a week away from a big deadline and hadn't taken any action.
If something doesn't go as expected, it's crucial to seek guidance, ask for help, and adjust the course, always maintaining dialogue with those close to you. All this discernment came with time and personal growth. Otherwise, I would never have sought your help, sending messages in search of guidance.
Reading Tip: 7 Soft Skills to Help You Transition to UX Design
Can you explain your process to achieve your current position? How did you reach this goal ahead of schedule?
When we have a well-defined plan, we know exactly which steps to follow to achieve the proposed goal. However, when faced with uncertainties, it's crucial to seek guidance. In my case, I turned to you.
When setting goals for this year, particularly to secure a stable job, I analyzed all the tools at my disposal and what I needed to face the selection processes. I admit that initially, I didn't know how to optimize my LinkedIn or prepare a resume properly. Today, although they are not perfect, they are significantly better than at the beginning.
I started dialogues with other designers, scheduled mentorships, and talked with members of our community, who were extremely accessible. It was amazing: I sent a message and quickly received a proposal for a video conversation.
I realized the need to improve my tools and skills. Even with the help of recruiters, there were times when I wasn't approved in interviews. Therefore, I worked on improving my posture during these interviews. Asking for feedback from interviewers was a valuable strategy in this process.
I abandoned any fear of admitting my limitations and began to specifically train for interviews. Additionally, I dedicated myself to understanding resume screening technologies, as most of the positions I applied for used online platforms. The goal was to ensure that my resume overcame these technological filters and reached the recruiter.
In summary, I established a plan, identified areas for improvement, and acted on them. I firmly believe in the energy we emit: when we mobilize towards a goal, things start to happen. This movement strengthens us, bringing us closer and closer to the final goal.
Naturally, there are moments of discouragement. There was a phase when, despite all the effort, it seemed that nothing was going right. However, with persistence, interviews began to appear and, eventually, I found myself being selective in opportunities, as I had clarity about what I was really looking for.
It's crucial to recognize that, even when we don't directly achieve our goals, we are constantly building and learning in the process. I evolved considerably in various areas, from LinkedIn to interview techniques. We need to value and celebrate these small advances along the way.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their studies now?
Firstly, stay calm and breathe. The MID is a well-structured program, designed for the professional's evolution. Remember to take one step at a time; as you progress, you strengthen your competencies.
My turning point was when I realized that I could follow the MID methodology, starting with solid foundations and gradually improving myself. This understanding was crucial and is a powerful tool.
Avoid rampant consumption of information. Trying to absorb everything at once can be counterproductive and lead you to a state of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The most important thing is to breathe, be patient, trust the process, and, above all, believe in yourself.
If you chose to study and follow the MID, it's because you have a goal and are fully capable of achieving it. Don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself with others, especially those at different levels of experience. Instead of comparing, try to learn from the more experienced by asking questions and seeking guidance.
Stay focused, believe in your potential, and persist in your studies. Once you start dedicating yourself and moving toward your goal, you will surely achieve success.