How to kickstart a Career in UX Design and become a Product Designer? We asked Senior Product Designer at Zalando SE Erika Lauro

It is true that no matter your situation, a career change, or just starting out, it can be scary starting a new career path. Even just levelling up your career by acquiring new skills can sometimes feel like standing at a crossroad with no map.

But if you are on this blog, it means you are ready to take a step in the right direction, and we are here to tell you some great news. Did you know that LinkedIn ranked UX design as the fifth most in-demand skill in 2020, and the salary of a UX design can be very rewarding with ample room for growth? Just look at the average UX Design wages from around the world. In Austria, France and Belgium, it is around €45,000. While that goes up to $50,000 in Germany and the United Kingdom and then to €60,000 in Ireland, Denmark, and Norway. 

Also, UX Design roles have excellent opportunities to grow in the role. It is a true career path, no dead ends. Like the evolution from UX Design to Product Designer, for example. But don’t take our word for it. We sat down with Senior Product Designer at Zalando SE, Service Designer, UX Design Mentor and Talent Garden Innovation School Faculty member Erika Lauro to learn how to kickstart a career in UX Design and become a Product Designer.

How to kickstart a Career in UX Design and become a Product Designer?

 

Can you please tell us about yourself?

Hi, I am Erika, an Italian Senior Product and Strategic Designer currently based in Berlin, Germany. After my Bachelor in Industrial Design, I specialized in Strategic Design with a MA at the Politecnico di Milano.

I started my career in a more traditional environment, working in advertising agencies like Publicis in Milan for big accounts and few other boutique branding agencies. After a couple of years though, I realized I was missing the user-centric part of my work and actually research, structure and design new solutions to improve people’s lives.

So in 2015, I decided to gather all the learnings on strategy and research and go back to my design roots to grow more as a User Experience and Service Design professional.

 

Can you start by explaining the difference between UX Design and Product Design? 

In general, to make it simple, these two roles are very close to each other. UX designers are mainly taking care of the usability and interactions of a service or product. Product Designers are UX designers that can also think strategically and holistically and they go through a longer design process, starting from the problem definition until the development phase.

 

Are UX Designers and Product Designers in demand? 

The Covid-19 pandemic during this last year brought so much attention to digital services and products as a fundamental asset to keep a business functioning. At the moment the demand for UX designers and Product Designers is really really high worldwide. But also is the competition. 

At the beginning of last year, some designers lost their job due to Covid but the remote work allowed some UX and Product designers to work from anywhere for any company in the world.

At Zalando, we are currently already 100 designers in house and we are planning to expand the team even further by the end of next year. 

 

Do you think there are soft skills that would help people understand that UX Design is the right career path for them?

In my opinion, there are two skills that are pretty important for this job.

Empathy is a fundamental skill for becoming a designer, of any kind. Especially in the field of User Experience, our role is to advocate for the customer perspective with other stakeholders like external clients, product management and tech development. The capacity to step in the users’ shoes and learn more from the users’ experiences is key to build meaningful and valuable digital products and services.

The second is Critical Thinking. Often I see designers just be the executors of clients ideas based mainly on business needs or pure assumptions. As I often say, I believe the role of designers is also to challenge the status quo, ask uncomfortable questions and make sure to bring to the surface risks and gaps in knowledge from the customers perspective.

 

What is the evolution from UX Designer into Product Designer and why is it a natural career path?

There is still a lot of confusion regarding the different kinds of Designers (that causes us existential dilemmas). I think it depends a lot on the organisation you work for and your level of design maturity. Like I said above, UX designers are mainly taking care of the usability and interactions of a service or product. Product Designers are UX designers that can also think strategically and holistically and they go through a longer design process, starting from the problem definition until the development phase.

My evolution to Product Design came naturally after a couple of years of practising UX design.

 

What can a person do to kickstart a career in UX Design and eventually move into a Product Designer role?

As for any career change, gathering knowledge on new topics is key. So I always advise three concrete actions for new starters: 

  1. Do a high-quality UX Design Course 
  2. Read articles from Nielsen and Norman
  3. Get a design mentor that will support you on one of the online platforms


These are the perfect starting places. Also regarding the UX Design courses, we are going to kick off the first international UX Design Fundamentals Online Course, where I’m going to teach different research methods and validation techniques in the design process, you should consider joining me. During the part time course, you will work on real business projects for partnering companies and build your design portfolio. Talent Garden Innovation School also offers a full time intensive UX Design Bootcamp.

 

If you would like to hear more from Erika make sure to watch the recording of the live late night event: Deep Dive into the world of UX Design.

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