In this interview, we talk with Alessandra Aranha, a student of the Mastering Interface Design program, who shares her journey from graphic design to UX Design.
Alessandra tells us about her interest in design and why she was so drawn to UX and Product Design.
Moreover, she shares how she managed to land a UX opportunity at the same company where she worked as a Visual Designer.
Check out this inspiring conversation!
Alessandra, tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Alessandra, I'm 36 years old, and I'm grateful to be part of this interview series!
I graduated in design in 2011 and have been working in this field ever since. I've always been interested in design because it was something I learned to enjoy and love over time.
My journey in design started in a curious way. I've always been passionate about video games and technology. In the 90s, I had the opportunity to get my first computer, coinciding with the internet boom.
It was in this context that I got involved with online forums and ended up actively participating in a design community, where I took on the role of a moderator. There, I developed skills in creating banners and avatars for the community. This was my first contact with design, and from there, I started to see the field as a possibility.
At the same time, my interest in fashion was quite strong, and I considered pursuing a degree in fashion design. However, fate led me to digital design college, where I deepened my knowledge in the area.
During the course, I had the opportunity to explore other areas of design, such as 3D, illustration, and usability (now known as UX).
Although I was enchanted with the usability classes, graphic design continued to be my great passion, especially due to its connection with fashion and visual publications. After graduation, I sought out the area of print and layout, working in an advertising agency.
But over time, I realized that my professional growth was stagnant, which left me restless.
It was during this time that I was lucky to find one of your videos, Felipe, on Facebook about career change. I was captivated by your ideas and participated in the free workshop you offered. That's how I got to know Aela and MID, and I could see a new professional path in UX and Product Design.
I don't remember the last time I opened Facebook! So, you can see that we've been together for a long time! You talked a lot about passion and curiosity. Why would you say Product Design is the ideal path for you?
Well, I really like having the freedom to create. I've always appreciated this possibility to explore what I can deliver, and the forum, as I mentioned, provided me with that.
As I matured, my view of design changed over time. I asked myself, "Why should I do something just because someone said to do it that way?" I started to question and realized that I wanted to take a different approach, seeking to understand things and not just create for the sake of "creativity".
Back in the days of the forums, there were highly creative designers, and everyone displayed their potential, but often we didn't know the origin of the ideas or the reasons behind them. Even in the usability classes at college, the encouragement was to go after the arguments, which always interested me a lot.
However, this dormant part of me began to want to flourish as I grew and better understood the graphic design scene. I realized that this approach no longer made sense to me.
Besides the financial aspect, I was looking for the possibility to reach new heights. And that's exactly what I found in Product Design. It was a complete turning point in my career, a true milestone for me.
Do you remember how it was to create a study routine, to focus and absorb and learn what you needed? What did you do to manage your anxiety a bit and focus on your studies?
I confess that my journey through the MID had its ups and downs. At one point, I had to take a break due to work and the lack of time to fully dedicate myself to the course.
In the beginning, engaging in the student community helped me a lot, as I received encouragement from everyone. People talked about the levels [of the MID] and shared their experiences.
Committing to participate in the classes and receive feedback was crucial, even when I didn't have deliveries to make. This motivated me to reflect and expand my mind to develop what I needed.
Besides, I kept my computer organized, with separate folders for Aela and the MID, each level in its respective folder. This allowed me to have an order to start.
So, first, I conducted desk research. I did the initial research to understand what was necessary for each project. From there, I would separate what I needed to do, identifying the problem I chose to solve and which company was involved in the project. This way, I could better structure the next steps.
The commitment to reserve at least one day a week to focus on the course is essential, as we know it is easy to self-sabotage and postpone our tasks. Even when facing moments of stagnation, I always sought help from colleagues to overcome these obstacles. Having someone to exchange ideas and experiences was very valuable for my progress.
In the end, I believe that creating this routine and having mutual support were fundamental elements for my success in the MID. Maintaining focus and discipline during the course allowed me to absorb as much knowledge as possible.
Your case is special! I would like you to elaborate more here. Often, people think about migrating by studying and embracing new opportunities. Another path is to make the migration within the same company where you already work. That's what happened with you, right?
Yes, exactly! It was quite interesting because I had already been involved with Aela before joining my current company. They already had Product Designers there, and I thought: "Wow, there might be an opportunity here too."
However, the available position wasn't for Product Design, but for Visual Design, related to the marketing department, which was also something I enjoyed doing.
Despite this, I realized that it was a good opportunity, as I was already working in a technology startup, which wasn't my area of expertise, but I was having the chance to work with digital products, which was really cool.
I decided to make this migration within the company and found it amazing. This movement isn't always so easy, it depends a lot on the company and the manager's openness to listen to your professional aspirations.
Fortunately, I had that openness. I worked in the marketing team for almost two years, about a year and six months. Then, when a headcount appeared in 2021, during the pandemic, I saw the opportunity in the product team, where the Product Design team was located.
I thought: "They are going to hire! Maybe I can signal my interest to my managers and see what happens. I'll talk to them to understand better how this transition would be."
In addition, I already had good contact with the UX Designers who were part of the other team and worked with them on some projects. We had a nice closeness.
After talking, it turned out there was a "match," and I managed to make the migration. It wasn't immediate; I didn't leave one team and join the other the following month. I had a period of experience and adaptation in the company's UX team, working for a while in both teams until we formalized the change.
This transition was very beneficial for me, as I already liked the company and was looking for such an opportunity. I managed to achieve this goal, and it was incredible for my career.
Can you explain what your routine in Visual Design was like and what changed when you moved to the UX and Product Design team?
When I joined the marketing team, the department was in the process of being structured, and I was one of the first people to be part of it. This meant that I actively participated in the construction of many processes, especially regarding design deliveries within the area. Besides marketing, I also served other teams in the company, such as HR, Content, among others. Thus, I ended up contributing in various areas beyond marketing itself.
However, when I migrated to the UX and Product Design team, my operational role changed significantly compared to marketing. In this new scenario, I was allocated to a squad, working directly with a specific product of the company. The use of agile methodology was more intense in this context, as in the marketing team, I started to implement the agile methodology, since it was not yet used.
In the Product Design team, this part of working with the agile methodology was better developed, including collaboration with Product Managers (PM) and Product Owners (PO) to define deliveries and conduct refinements with the technology team, based on the proposals I presented. The ceremonies and practices in this new team were completely different from what I was used to in marketing.
A significant change was the possibility of carrying out the discovery process, something that was not so open in marketing. Now, working with digital products, I could conduct research, raise hypotheses for the products, and improve them, both in terms of enhancements and proposing solutions based on these insights.
In summary, the most outstanding aspect of this change was the transformation of my role in research and the adoption of a strategic perspective directed towards the product, something that already existed in marketing, but gained even more emphasis when working specifically with UX and Product Design, focused on a specific product of the company.
Reading Tip: 7 Soft Skills to Help You Transition to UX Design
What would you say was your biggest challenge as a Product Designer?
During this period, my biggest challenge was to develop myself in the strategic aspect. When migrating from graphic design to UX and Product Design, one does not naturally have the mindset to think more with a business approach.
Thus, the challenge was to create a connection with the product team and focus on the strategic part, understanding how this product could scale and develop. This challenge is still ongoing, as I am always learning and seeking to improve in this aspect.
If I had to point out a single challenge, it would be this specific one, as the UI (User Interface) part seemed more straightforward compared to developing a strategic vision.
I realize that companies are increasingly valuing designers with a strategic outlook, who understand the business and act as partners of the Product Managers. It is precisely in this direction that I seek to constantly improve myself.
If a new position opened to work alongside you, and you received some portfolios, what would be the main thing you would look at when deciding on a designer?
I would pay special attention to the person's line of reasoning and how they developed the project from beginning to end, in an end-to-end manner.
Because, as I mentioned, the visual aspect itself can be perfected and each company has its brand guide and design system, so this can be adapted.
What I would really consider is the line of reasoning, the strategic outlook, and dedication to research. These would be the key points I would take into account when analyzing the portfolios of the candidates. The strategic approach is essential for a designer who wants to work with us and be part of the Product Design team.
If a colleague from your forum days met you today and became interested in the field of UX and Product Design, what advice would you give to this person?
I would suggest they look for videos on YouTube, just like I watched one of your videos on Facebook. I believe by watching these videos, one could better understand the possibilities and mature their idea, which is very important.
Instead of just hearing about it and thinking it's cool, it's crucial to mature the idea. I would suggest they take time to think: what do they really need to do? It's important to understand more about the field, what drew them to Product Design, what people are consuming, and what courses are available.
This is exactly what I did back then, and your videos helped me a lot. I was understanding step by step and evaluating what made sense for me.
So, I would advise them to list their goals, define in which area they want to work, and in which company they wish to be. This clarity is important to have a "match" and avoid disappointments.
In summary, I would mature the idea first and encourage the person to move forward! Getting to know Aela would also be a great idea! (laughs)
If you could go back in time to your college days, what would you tell the younger Alessandra?
I would say: "Give more importance to usability, because it will be essential in your future. Don't just focus on graphic design!"
Today, I have the experience that allows me to perform various roles. At that time, I was very focused only on graphic design, I couldn't see beyond that and wanted to dedicate myself exclusively to this area.
However, over time, I realized that opportunities arise when we open our minds to new possibilities. So, I would advise to pay special attention to usability from the start, because in the future you will work with it, and starting to familiarize yourself with this area now will be very beneficial!