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Mentoring at Google Launchpad Week

November 19th, 2015

I had the pleasure of mentoring local Indonesian startups at the first Google Launchpad Week in Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

Mentoring at Google Launchpad Week Jakarta

A total of 43 mentors and 13 startups attended this event, spread over five days of full-day intense workshop, presentation and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Each day has its own theme: day 1 was product day, day 2 was UI/UX day, day 3 was technology day, day 4 was marketing day and the final day was pitching day. Each of these days had its own dedicated group of mentors. I was in the UI/UX days mentoring 2 startups. I also had the chance to talk with the other startups and gave my humble opinion on their UI/UX processes and results.

Mentoring at Google Launchpad Week Jakarta

It’s my first time mentoring in Google Launchpad Week and I am really proud of it. I didn’t give any presentation, but I enjoyed the one-on-ones. It made me realize how important UI/UX to a business is, and sharpen my idea of design process. Learning is both ways, of course.

It’s really interesting to see how these startups are so dedicated and enthusiastic about their businesses (of course, they should be). Some have prototypes, some have MVPs, some are still in ideation stage.

UI/UX Mentors at Google Launchpad Week Jakarta

I would definitely do it again. Thanks Google!

No Job Is Too Mundane

November 12th, 2015

Some people understimate regular 9-to-5 gigs. While it’s true that there are more options to sustain yourself and achieve your dreams, and to stay out of the corporate rat-race, there is something very substantial about working for someone else.

First, not everyone is keen on pursuing lifetime goals with starting their businesses. We understand you can take risks more than anyone. However, not everyone is entitled to taking that risk. Family issues can force someone to take any job they could to sustain themselves in the short and the long run. If you have a family that is basically peaceful and have enough financial means to support themselves without disturbing your life-changing dreams, then be it. Take the different paths. Be different.

But, please, don’t just think anybody should do it.

I see career as two-way goals. First, it sustains you, mostly financially. Second, it helps you achieve your creative goals, particularly if you are passionate about something. Of course, you can work on something solely on financial goals, or solely on doing something you love. Your choice. However, I don’t see any problem in people taking whatever means they want to achieve the two sides of career goals, including if they can bear the 9-to-5 thing, and not do some breakthrough entrepreneurial endeavours.

I agree that people ought to have passive income and asset and whatnots, especially when they bear kids and they get older. However, we can achieve it without breaking our bank accounts or sacrificing our family.

Yes, you can go to India to help poverty and live very simply. Yes, you can go to Laos and be a monk and forget about life. Yes, you can go to the south of France to live remotely and drink wine to contemplate on life, then write an epic novel. Yes, you can travel the world and live like a nomad and advocate people to leave their cubicles to break free. But no, you can’t think your only way is the only way that other people should live their lives.

I find it a bit selfish to be out there in the world of your own and claim it a success or a way of life, while the closest people around you are suffering. Imagine helping to help people in other countries but you don’t take care of your family. Of course, if your family is happy about you doing all that, it’s totally fine. Just think of them first.

So, just remember that your parents might have worked the “regular jobs” that you hate now to be able to allow you to enjoy what you wish for. Never take anything for granted, and every small step towards sustaining life, whether it is a boring or a euphoric adventurous job, counts towards the continuity of human lives.

It’s a Good Time to be a Designer

October 30th, 2015

I started my design career in 2007, when I graduated from undergraduate school of design. I joined Oracle that time designing for a non-profit web platform for schools worldwide.

Even though I’ve been designing for the web since five years before that, joining Oracle was a point where I had to learn how to work in a big organization and working on their digital product(s). The products are not commercial, but still, they managed to develop and maintain it internally and did so very well. I was working remote from Jakarta, with my manager in San Francisco. I thoroughly enjoyed the “remote working” feeling of it, although I worked in the Oracle office in Jakarta. I learned about product development, user interface design (visual design, wireframes, specs), even learned a bit about persona and user experience methods (although not comprehensive). I also learned how to observe the users of my products, students and teachers, by attending trainings (and actually taught them how to use the product). It was both educational and fulfilling. I felt like I was doing a good thing.

Then, I moved on briefly to a national English-speaking newspaper. I helped them conceptualize one of their digital products — a travel site.

My best career move was the next one. I moved to Bukalapak.com, an Indonesian e-commerce that connects customers in a marketplace. Customers can sell items to other customers. Achmad Zaky, the CEO, is a friend and he gave me full trust in revamping Bukalapak. I was not set a deadline. I was given access and freedom to the team to see what we can do with the product. It was a great year. I learned to do product design from scratch, validate the design with the team, speak to customers, work with very smart engineers and a team full of energy. Everybody was in sync with their work. We came to work everyday with passion and a strong sense of ownership. I was learning to use multiple tools to design, including Apple Keynote — who would’ve thought?

The only thing that lacked from my Bukalapak career was I didn’t learn much about how we should develop products: waterfall, agile, scrum… and all that stuff, but maybe there’s a good side —we were experimenting fully with what we thought best for the product at that time.

As a year went by, I yearned to develop my portfolio and learn more about product development. I thought joining Ice House, a mobile development shop, was the right thing. It had everything that I wanted at that time: client work to build various portfolio, smart engineering teams, good employee benefits, and an agile workflow. I learned to continue my design process & methodology, but also learned how to integrate it with agile. I worked with some of the smartest engineers I know. I enjoyed working with clients (I never thought I would, judging by how difficult I am with interacting with people). The team gave full support and respect for me.

Another opportunity came, and this one was an easy call. It was DBS Bank from Singapore. It was perfect. I wanted to work overseas. It was a really good pay & benefits. I was about to have a baby. It was a solid team, with a long designer friend I admired, and a boss who came from PayPal. While I enjoyed my time at Ice House, I wanted to try this before it went away. Ice House offered me to relocate to San Francisco as an attempt to keep me, but I had a baby coming and the financial benefits of Singapore outweighed San Francisco. Sorry, Ice House. I moved on.

At DBS Bank, I learned how to work with large organization again, and to be a “fox” — how to make my way through the organization, justify, seek consensus and generally be friends with the bank team members to push my design through. It was not an easy process. I was frustrated so many times. However, I feel like I made the most progress at DBS Bank, as a designer. What I mean is that I discovered about myself more than in any other place. I also worked with super-talented team members who continually gave me support no matter what. Thank you, there, Chooake.

Now, I am back in Jakarta — helping some companies in starting up products and businesses. Leaving DBS Bank was a difficult decision. My thought that time was I want to take ownership of my work more and live a simpler life. I want to feel better & happier in general. I was burnt out. I was worried if it was a totally wrong decision. It might have been. Sometimes I feel that I regretted doing it, especially for my family. It was a solid company with good pay, and a good team. Maybe the way I coupled with things was a little wrong. But anyway — here I am, in Jakarta, back at home, with the baby and wife. I would like to make the most of my time while here in Jakarta.

It turned out that by opening myself to opportunities, those opportunities really come to me. Some freelance works came. There are even full-time job offers.

It seems that as a designer, it’s a good time to be alive and working, and I will not worry about not having anything to work on.

Things are getting better.

Why Designers are Rebels

October 2nd, 2015

Designers are often misunderstood in several ways, especially in a company setting. They are perceived as rebels, misfits, or generally a bunch of people who are hard to work with. “Why must we consolidate with designers? Why must they decide what goes on in the page? Why must we hire them?”

Companies that are not design-driven often have this struggle. Engineering-driven companies think everything should center around engineering, and they reward engineers the most, and hire engineers the most. Business-driven companies think everything should center around business, and they reward businesspeople the most, and every other things must follow them. Designers don’t always get the fair share of voices, because they are executors. Only a few companies really care about design and put designers up top in the top level management. It’s hard for designers to make a change if they keep being in the “lowly” levels. They should be part of the strategic levels.

So, why are designers often perceived as rebels? Priorities, priorities, priorities. I’ve had a friend who works as a design manager in a corporation and when he participated in a managerial-level training, they were asked, “What motivates you everyday to work?”. There were businesspeople, engineers, designers and administration staff in the room. Most of the people wrote “money” as motivation. The designer friend wrote “to make a good product”. While money is important, designers come up to work daily not to pursue it blindly: they want to make good products and be known for them. We have a portfolio to build, not just CV, or sales numbers. We want to show case studies, how we succeeded in solving problems with design, and that we carry on towards the next companies. It’s not enough to just think about numbers of years we pour into a company or product. It’s more about what we achieve. To achieve it, of course we need money, but it’s not the goal.

I think this is where the problem lies. Designers care about the product more than anybody else, who mostly think they work just to survive the months. We work towards a life-long goal of being good designers who solved real-world problems, and have a design portfolio that we can be proud of. You can’t talk to designers about career progression only. You can’t talk to designers about key performance indicators only. You can’t talk to designers to go about pleasing anybody, including clients, only. Our work and life goal intertwine, and that is bigger than the sum of all parts — career progression, KPI, making clients happy, bringing in revenues, and most importantly, we breathe in and out everyday thinking about the users of the product.

The Case of Small Datepickers

July 23rd, 2015

Hey, travel sites, booking sites, any reservation sites:

What’s up with the small datepickers in desktop websites? Why restrict clicking area while we have big screens today? Are you worried that users don’t see anything else? But, isn’t the primary action for that particular moment is to pick dates?

Standing ovations to Virgin America and Malaysia Airlines for having a spacious and focused way to select date ranges.