Looking to learn about careers in product design? Today, we’re beyond thrilled to chat with Annie Cheng. Annie is currently the Director of Product Design at Compass Digital Labs. Tune into our chat as we learn about Annie’s career path and her story:
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. Can you talk about your career path and where you are today?
Thanks Eric for having me in this interview with FoundersBeta. I began my career journey in graphic design and spent the early part of my career working at marketing agencies. My work was a combination of branding and digital design projects for a range of clients in foodservice, pharmaceutical and electronics industry.
After a few years at agencies, I decided to explore the opportunity of working in-house at a SaaS organization as their brand visual designer leading all corporate branding and marketing design initiatives.
The past five years while at TouchBistro I helped build and evolve their brand design team. I was also responsible for evolving and leading their product design team as well.
Today, I am the Director of Product Design at Compass Digital Labs.
What challenges do you think startups face when it comes to product design?
Startups are incredibly fast-moving environments that value speed to market over almost everything else. The fast pace can be advantageous in some aspects but also this leaves out much opportunity for design thinking and testing that’s required to build a beneficial product.
What inspired you to get into product design?
I spent the early part of my career focused on creative and visual design for marketing and brand campaigns and believed that my passion was only within creative work. When I joined my first tech organizations I shift focus to digital and web design primarily. During this time I became much more fascinated by designing with deep understanding of business goals and solving complex user problems. This lead me to pursue product design full time.
We have many students and recent grads in the community. What advice do you have when it comes to careers in product design?
I would recommend learning or taking courses adjacent to design, this includes business, product management, development etc. This is beneficial to making better design decisions to become a more valuable designer. Being part of the technology industry means working with tools and processes that sometimes evolve quite quickly. You will also experience shifts in your project priorities that sometimes can happen abruptly or frequently. Learning to adapt to these changes are important.
For someone who is completely new to product design but is looking break into it what advice do you have?
I would advise networking with product designers who work in different industries and organizational sizes to learn more about their role and day-to-day, including the skills needed to be successful. The responsibilities of a product designer can vary depending on the organization size and structure of the company.
What are some of your favourite books and resources in product design?
Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter) 3rd Edition By Steve Krug.
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design 4th Edition
By Alan Cooper
The DesignX Community – https://designx.community/
How do you stay relaxed and take time off work?
I like to practice meditation (Headspace and Calm are excellent apps to use for this). Since I started practicing meditation not too long ago, I had noticed it made a difference in helping me relax when I felt overwhelmed. It has also helped me realign my thoughts when I struggle with being present with my thoughts.
How do you stay motivated?
My motivation comes from loving the work that I do and I am lucky enough to be able to practice in the field of design. I like to stay in touch with my peers and people who are deeply passionate about their work as well. These people are incredibly inspiring to be around and keep me motivated to do better for myself. I believe it’s essential to surround yourself with people that inspire you and who are a force of positivity in your life.
What is the best advice you have gotten?
Not everyone is going to agree with the decisions you make and the journey you have to take for your growth. You have to turn off the noise and commit to the path you believe is best for you.
About the Author
In Pursuit of World-Class Excellence. Eric is founder of FoundersBeta with a wealth of expertise in startups, growth hacking, and product development. He is a top ranked tennis player and always up for a conversation about startups. Check out his portfolio on ericrafat.com