UX Design: 6 Things I Want to Share with My Junior Designer Selfby@yutongxue
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2,623 reads

UX Design: 6 Things I Want to Share with My Junior Designer Self

by Yutong Xue March 6th, 2023
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During my 6 years working at Meta and Google as a product designer, I have heard similar questions from New grad and Junior designers (include from myself in the past). Now as a Staff Product Designer, in this article, I will share my thoughts on some of the frequently asked questions.

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I joined Google as an Interaction Designer as a new grad around 6 years ago. During this time, I’ve worked in multiple teams at Google and Meta. Along the way, I met many amazing mentors and sponsors who shared countless valuable pieces of advice with me. As my experience grew, I also mentored new-grad and junior designers around me.

While specific situations may differ, there are questions that come up repeatedly. So, in this article, I want to pay it forward by sharing my thoughts on some of the frequently asked questions from junior designers.

Here are the questions that I asked myself when I started my work at Google as a new grad.

Question 1

New Grad me: I’m just glad I’m working here. Should I care about promotions?

I had this question when I first joined Google and heard others often talk about impact and promotions.

Me now: You should get rewarded for what you do. But as a new grad, don’t get stressed about promotions.

  • Focus on doing great work, one project at a time. Promotions will come.
  • I would even say: don’t worry about identifying growth areas yet. You don’t know where you want to grow until you’ve had enough exposure.
  • Just keep your eyes open, observe what others are doing, focus on doing good work, and have a great time doing it.

Question 2

New Grad me: Everyone else seems to know what they are doing. I wish I could be like them!

I still clearly remember my first few months at Google’s Mountain View office, observing people rushing in and out of meeting rooms, holding their laptops. I thought everyone was so cool – busy and knowing exactly what they were doing! I couldn’t wait to be on top of my work and know how to do things!

Me now: I’ve come to realize that no one really knows what they are doing (even directors and VPs sometimes!).

  • People are making their best guesses and best efforts based on what they know. “Fake it until you make it” is true and works.
  • The truth is that you will almost never get so familiar with the work that you feel like you know everything about it.
  • What doesn’t change is that there will always be ambiguity and unknowns. But what can change is how you react to them.
  • Focus on getting comfortable with ambiguity and the unknowns. Then you will be okay, regardless of what you are doing.

Question 3

New Grad me: I freeze up at meetings, but it seems I need to say something to get noticed. Should I say something for the sake of it?

Me now: For new grads specifically, I would say yes, push yourself to speak up, and get into a habit of speaking up at meetings.

  • (For more experienced designers, I would suggest differently. Don’t speak for the sake of speaking. Prioritize efficiency and be result-focused.)
  • For new grads, there’s so much to gain from speaking up, even if you just say that you agree with what others are saying or ask a question.
  • Pushing yourself to speak up will also help you stay more focused.
  • If you aim to speak up just once at every meeting, you will find it natural and easy to do it at any meeting in no time. When you get to that point, you can re-evaluate if what you are saying really adds value.

Now it’s time we move on from the questions of a fresh new grad to those of a junior designer, and here they are.

Question 4

Junior me: I’m not a new grad anymore, I don’t want to be led or be told what to do by another designer.

Me now: It’s okay to be led. In fact, you should be grateful if you have a lead designer on the same project from whom you can learn.

  • So you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Observe how different designers approach things differently. Different designers have different superpowers. Learn from them, but understand you don’t need to be exactly like them to be successful.
  • Observe how they lead so when your time comes, you could be a great lead designer for others, too.

Question 5

Junior me: I hate self-promotion for the sake of performance reviews. Do I have to do it?

This is a question many designers have asked me. Sometimes, designers see creating polished presentations or articles for self-promotion as a waste of their time and they are not sure if they want to do them.

Me now: What you think of as “self-promotion” to others may be “knowledge sharing”. You may think what you are sharing is obvious, while others may find value in it.

  • This is something I’ve started to realize only recently, too. To me and many others I know, it doesn’t come naturally to feel so proud of what we’ve done that we broadcast our work and thinking.
  • But if we change our mindset from “self-promoting” to sharing knowledge with others, we can feel more comfortable doing it.
  • You will be surprised how many people will find value in what you share with them!
  • Sharing is also a great driver to reflect on and summarize what you’ve learned.

Question 6

Junior me: I deserved to be promoted this time! But it didn’t happen. I’m behind my

peers now.

I remember feeling defeated, frustrated and angry about my first promotion. Most of my new-grad peers got promoted half a year before me. This feeling stayed with me for a long time even after my promotion happened.

Me now: Comparison is never helpful. Everyone has their own path and pace.

  • My first promotion was my slowest promotion yet. In hindsight, half of a year is fast and really doesn’t matter. Even years don't matter.
  • There are so many people who change roles and industries mid-career. There are people who willingly down-level to change roles or go back to school.
  • When fresh out of college, it’s inevitable to keep comparing yourself with new-grad peers. But as time goes by, everyone gets on their own path. Respect others’ pace and enjoy your own.

There is one more thing that I feel is important to share with any junior employees who just start their career in tech. Remember an old saying: “There is no destination; enjoy the journey.” And I hope the advice I’ve given you in this article will help you get the most out of this exciting experience.

Finally, there is an excellent motto at Meta, a question that any person should ask themselves once in a while, and the answer to which will inspire you to aim high and follow your dream. It goes like this: “What would you do if you were not afraid”?