Finding Work: Learning about yourself

cord helps Engineers direct message other people looking to hire them. But finding work isn’t just about access to hiring managers…

Finding your best work is a life’s journey uncovered through an ongoing conversation with ourselves and the world around us.

The Best Work Stories podcast hosts conversations between Ben (Co-founder and CEO of cord) and Founders, CTO’s, Software Engineers and people in tech who are on their own journey to find their best work.

Transcript

Eduard Stefan (00:00):

At least personally, I don’t think that I’m able to select my values and to build them. I discover them over the time. I also realize that they change in time. Right now, values that I have in this moment are not the same as the values that I had, I don’t know, two years ago, because a lot happened in this period, in this time span.

Ben Henley-Smith (00:20):

How did you get into UX?

Eduard Stefan (00:22):

Okay. Basically, when I was smaller, like 10, 12 years old, I started doing design for gaming forums. There are people that play games and they had a forum to have discussions about it, to get the admin functions on their game. And people in these forums wanted to have avatars, signatures, and visual graphics in their post. So this is how I started becoming a designer, because I was attracted to this. I was like, “How does someone create something visually? Okay, I understand Word. You write them in Word, in Google doc or whatever, but how do you create something visually?” So I started playing with Photoshop and other tools like that, but later on, when I was in the beginning of my high school, I realized that I really like to do it, but I wanted to kind of start to get some money from it.

Eduard Stefan (01:14):

Because I found a passion, and I wanted to turn it into my job, because I’m this kind of annoying person that doesn’t want to do stuff that he doesn’t like. So I wanted to have a job when I will finish high school and university that will be okay for me to do it, something that I like. And then I started to do some research on the theoretical aspects of design, and I realized that design is not just what I did, what I was doing, but also there are multiple fields like the UI/UX design, branding, illustrations and more type of designs. And I find very interesting the UI/UX field, when I realized that it means the applications, the web and mobile applications, basically, most of them. And I was like, “Oh, that’s nice.” I was also interested in coding and to develop some apps and so on, so I was like, “Okay, I want to learn more about this,” the design for web and mobile application.

Eduard Stefan (02:07):

And along with a classmate from high school, we wanted to build an app. And this is when I basically started to learn what is user interface and user experience. At the beginning, I was calling myself an UI/UX designer, but of course, for a year or two, I was actually just doing UI design, but I just knew that it’s UI/UX. But I didn’t know what UX means, and I didn’t know that I am not doing user experience design. And then I wanted to dig more into the field, like starting to look for jobs and so on, and I discovered that my UX knowledge is not what I thought it was. And then I started to also learn about user experience, doing some courses, or trying to put it in practice in our personal projects, and so on.

Ben Henley-Smith (02:49):

How did you know that your UX knowledge wasn’t good enough?

Eduard Stefan (02:54):

When I started to look into the jobs, I saw their requirements for the job position. And I started to see the keywords, like the user research, competitor’s research, or user interviews, and so on. And I was like, “What is that? I didn’t do that till now.” And then I realized that they are part of the UX process, and I was like, “Okay. So if these are part of the UX process that I didn’t know, I’m more than sure that there are other things that I don’t know about user experience.” And I was looking on Instagram, I think at that moment, for someone that is doing user experience, at the best possible, and I found a girl. I don’t remember her name now, but I can look for it, if you want.

Ben Henley-Smith (03:37):

On Instagram?

Eduard Stefan (03:38):

Yeah, yeah. I think it’s Anfisa, but I don’t know the full name. It’s Anfisa Bolog… It’s a complicated name for me.

Ben Henley-Smith (03:46):

Okay, I’ll link it. (https://www.instagram.com/anfisign/)

Eduard Stefan (03:48):

Yeah. And this is when I found her course, which was very focused on the user experience side of building an app, and then I started to learn more about user experience. And this is kind of how I knew that I’m not good enough with the user experience, because I didn’t know nearly 10% of the keywords used in the user experience industry.

Ben Henley-Smith (04:14):

What pulled you from UI, to doing UI and UX? Because there are plenty of people who just stay in UI, even if they catch those things that you did on the job title.

Eduard Stefan (04:25):

Yeah. So basically I started UI because I was liking a lot the visual thing. This is how I started, I was doing visual design for gaming forums. So when I started to learn about the user experience, I realized why it’s necessary to do that, why it’s necessary to have a UX. Maybe you, the same person, is doing the UI/UX, or you can stay as a UI designer, but you need some UX background, someone to help you with the user experience stuff in this specific project.

Eduard Stefan (04:52):

Because it might be nice to, I don’t know, place a button somewhere because it’s a free space there and you can fill it with a button, but if it’s not the best position for this button to be there, maybe the user will be annoyed and he won’t like your app. So I started to learn user experience because I wanted the people that interact with my design to like it, to stay there.

Eduard Stefan (05:13):

I don’t want just to impress, and then to lose these people from there that I was building or whatever I was doing. I wanted people to stay and to kind of build more for them. I don’t know if it’s relevant, or if it makes sense, but I wanted to have connection with the user. I didn’t want to be alone in my own desk and working, and just that. I wanted to see people interacting with my design and improve it.

Ben Henley-Smith (05:39):

What’s been your process to find UI and UX positions?

Eduard Stefan (05:46):

I think I started with just simply looking for positions in, I don’t know, LinkedIn ads or on other job platforms. This is how I got my first job. But then while being there, and also working with some smaller jigs on my side, I started to realize that there are things that I like, and things that I don’t like, at projects and clients. And I started to make a list conditions for me. I didn’t really discuss them with the people that were employing me, but I kind of filter them on my own. If I see this in the job description, and this is something that I don’t like, I won’t go with this and look for more. Lately, when I started to-

Ben Henley-Smith (06:33):

What are they like?

Eduard Stefan (06:38):

For example, for me… I’m not sure if I said this already, I’m still in university. I’m in my last year of university. And for me, it’s important to have a flexible schedule, for example. Because of the faculty might be one of the reasons, and another reason would be because I realized that I’m kind of productive in the morning, and a little bit more in the evening. If you let me do my job at, I don’t know, 6:00 PM, I will do it, but I think that it wouldn’t be as successful, as good, as it would be if I would work in my hours that I know that it’s my golden hours, so to say. The hours in which I can deliver the best.

Ben Henley-Smith (07:18):

So it sounds like your criteria is somehow fitted around your circumstances.

Eduard Stefan (07:25):

Yeah, exactly. And I think there are also values, personal values, that should be taken into account. For example, I’m not sure if everyone agrees with me on that, but for example, I don’t like to work with companies in gambling, because my personal values doesn’t align with theirs. I want to help people with my designs, not to kind of direct them to losing money. Even though it’s not always about losing money in gambling, but this is what I think 90% of people that are there are doing. So this is why I don’t align with what they do, and this is how I also have filtered the client industry, for example, for my personal values.

Ben Henley-Smith (08:10):

Is it made anymore acute and obvious that if you’re building the experience that someone would go through if they were going to be gambling, I could imagine that you would feel even more responsible for how the end product… Kind of what the outcome was of the experience that you built.

Eduard Stefan (08:36):

Yeah. I’m more than sure that I would feel more responsible, and I think I would be placing a warning everywhere: “Be careful of what you want to do now. Be careful of the amount of money that you want to play with.” And I think these kind of design decisions that I might take, I don’t think that the business from that client would allow it.

Ben Henley-Smith (08:58):

All of your perspective comes from a deep understanding about, I guess, the processes and the approach that you want to take. How have you developed those beliefs, and a confidence in those beliefs, over time?

Eduard Stefan (09:18):

It’s coming from the time when I was just beginning, from that moment in which I realized that I was doing only UI design, not UI/UX design. I realized that there is other purposes that you need to do, not only to take the requirement, build the design, and publish it. And then I realized that there are some important aspects that you have to take into account. As I was saying before, the research, the discovery, the building of the design, testing it, and so on. So these are key concepts that you have to take into-

Ben Henley-Smith (09:52):

The fundamentals.

Eduard Stefan (09:53):

Yeah, exactly. I’m not interested really in how you are doing these things. Of course, I am, but for me, it’s just enough to know that you want to do them. Of course, the process for discovery, the process for research, the process for design, they can be improved further, of course, but I want to know that these things are happening. And also, I’m open, for example, to discover new ideas from other companies. They might be innovating, in the real sense, the design process, and I want to see that. If a company is doing a different process, I’m curious to know about it. Why are they doing it like that? So I’m saying about the process, and I kind of… I don’t say that I’m sure about my process, but I’m sure that these fundamental things should happen. This is the requirement. Not to have the specific process, but to have these phases in the process.

Ben Henley-Smith (10:49):

Once you’ve got these foundational things, when you’re figuring out where you want to work next… And it’s almost like a checkbox exercise, that then becomes a slightly deeper question, which is, “Am I building a gambling app? Am I building something that’s really going to help someone? Is this experience one that I want to design?” How do you go about assessing what projects you want to work on, from that point of view?

Eduard Stefan (11:19):

I think this should be divided into two things: If I want to work with this company, this manager, this client, something like that, and if I want to work in this industry. About the company manager and so on, I think it’s just you having to decide on this after a talk with this person and seeing what they’re saying. I don’t think there is a process of checkbox and list, or something to do this. I think you just have to simply feel it: “I want to work with this client, or I don’t want to work with this client.” And about the industry, I think it’s trial and error. Of course, every designer at the beginning will have a company to come up to them, “Hey, do you want to work for us?” Or maybe, of course, you are just applying to the jobs.

Eduard Stefan (12:07):

There, you simply decide if you want to work with it or not. You don’t have a comparison benchmark, you don’t have a benchmark to compare with it. So if you feel it’s good, in my opinion, I would go and work with them and discover if I like it or not. I think this is the beginning. After time, you build these values. I don’t think that you can decide them. I don’t think that I can decide my own values. Of course, I can change it in the long term, but I don’t think that I can decide them at the beginning like, “Okay, I have this value one, value two, value three.” I think it’s a journey, and you discover your own values by doing this work. I had this experience where the client wanted me to, I don’t know, build something that will help people to achieve their best.

Eduard Stefan (12:53):

Well, this is something that I liked. I think there is something… I started to ask myself, “Why did I like to build this experience?” And I kind of discovered the value that, “Okay, my value is to help others.” Maybe it’s a common value for all of the designers, because this is why we’re doing that, to help users to interact better with the applications. And in the time, you also discover things that you don’t like, like I’m not liking the fact that this company didn’t want to see what the users are liking. They were so keen on their proposal and their design idea that they weren’t interested in the user. They were more interested in impressing people like, “I’m the product manager of this application and I want to implement this because, I don’t know, I like it so much and I think it’s the best idea.”

Eduard Stefan (13:45):

And you discover these things, and you realize that you don’t like them. I think it’s simply trial over the time. You discover and simply, again, it’s something that you feel. I don’t think that… I don’t know. At least personally, I don’t think that I’m able to select my values and to build them. I discover them over the time. And even [crosstalk 00:14:08] now… I just want to say one more thing. I also realize that they change in time. Right now, values that I have in this moment are not the same as the values that I had, I don’t know, two years ago, because a lot happened in this period, in this time span.

Ben Henley-Smith (14:24):

The word that’s popped up in my mind, as we’ve gone through this conversation, is intersection. Because UI/UX is about the intersection between design, business, thoughts, ideas, creativity, and the user and what they want, but it also sounds like… And that’s a conversation in some ways. It’s a process that you go through, where you meet in the middle, and it’s in the middle where the magic happens. And it sounds like a similar thing in your own professional life, where you come at it from your own perspective of best work, but then, through your conversation with your own work in the different projects that you work on, it becomes clearer over time.

Eduard Stefan (15:12):

Yeah, yeah. It becomes clearer over time. But for me, for example, I also realize that I can’t get a piece of knowledge from each project. Of course, if you have, I don’t know, hundreds of projects, you will build that experience, but at the beginning for small jigs, you might not learn something from a project. And it’s okay, in my opinion. You don’t have to learn something in each project, but you have to make sure that in the long term… I don’t know. Let me just give a random number. At each three projects, you have to make sure that to learn something from there.

Eduard Stefan (15:50):

Okay, if this is a small project, maybe you don’t have what to learn from it. You are doing your job. You’re a designer. Someone came because he needed the design. He already saw that you were working in this industry, I don’t know, beauty clinics and beauty projects, applications. They liked it and they’re coming to you. Of course, it’s the same thing that you did maybe with some small tweaks here, but it’s okay to not learn something from this, to not develop further. But you have to make sure that in the long term you are doing it.

Ben Henley-Smith (16:23):

Eddie, I’ve loved hearing more about your story. And I think figuring things out through a conversation with both users and yourself, I think, it’s really amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Eduard Stefan (16:42):

I’m glad. I hope I didn’t talk too much.

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