Hi Janey, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Janey. I grew up in California but lived in Seoul for 5 years throughout high school. Since then, life and a healthy dose of curiosity have led me to Chicago, Mumbai, New York City and now Stockholm! I enjoy being outdoors (hiking or camping), learning languages, and taking ballet classes, which I've been doing since second grade.
Can you tell us what you do as a Product Designer at Spotify for those who are unfamiliar?
I currently work as a product designer on Spotify’s Growth Opportunities team. We focus on growing the app’s user base by making sure it appeals to people in more countries and by adding features that help enhance the listening experience. I personally focus on activating new users onto the app and finding ways to make them stick around.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career? What pivotal moments pushed you to where you are now?
It’s funny, I used to always be the one to design posters for events and t-shirts throughout high school and college, but I never thought design would be a career. In fact, I never really pursued design in any conventional sense, so it’s hard to answer this question!
I think design as a career fell in my lap thanks to 2 moments. The first was a class in college I took that focused on “human centered design” - the process of understanding a group of people and thoughtfully designing solutions that addressed their needs. This is where I first fell in love with the design process, and tried to use design mindsets and methodologies throughout a public policy fellowship I did in India the year after I graduated.
The second was in India, where I very randomly met someone who was starting up a design studio and asked me to help out. I started working with him on the side, mostly managing clients and doing some UX design, and he later hired me full time. I’ve been in design ever since!
What made you interested in design?
I always found the design process intriguing, especially the early stages where you’re just getting to know a problem space. In the last several jobs I’ve had, I’ve always enjoyed the research phase most - whether I was speaking with community health workers in Mumbai, or people with student loans across the US, or music enthusiasts in Brazil. Getting to know audiences with backgrounds different from myself is really energizing for me and is one of my favorite parts of being a designer.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
You don’t need permission to start being a product designer. The great thing about this profession is that you can pick up the skills pretty quickly using free online resources, so the barrier to entry is low.
However, in order to stand out, it’s important to start using those skills in practice and building a portfolio that demonstrates your process. This may mean making up fake projects, or bringing your human-centered design perspective to an organization or school or institution that hasn’t thought in this way. There are problems to be solved everywhere, and the more you are able to identify these and go where other designers aren’t, the more impact (and portfolio pieces) you will have.
3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field
Curiosity, critical thinking, and an ability to collaborate with others.
Most difficult thing about your job?
The most difficult thing in this profession, as in any creative endeavor, is managing the negative self-talk! There are always voices in my head saying that other people’s designs or interactions are cooler and slicker, but it’s important to remember that design is not just that. It’s important to know your strengths and look for allies who are stronger in areas where you may be weaker.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
Be patient. Choose your own definition of success, and measure yourself against that alone. It’s tempting to chase after recognition and prestigious job titles, but remember that these are only a small part of what makes life meaningful. Pay attention to the small, everyday successes at work and beyond - showing up fully wherever you are, listening actively, building healthy relationships, maintaining work-life balance. These are what make work (and life) fulfilling at the end of the day.
Best advice you've received/heard?
I came across this quote by a former president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, while researching my BA thesis, and it has stuck with me since:
"Inner success is a source of permanent and absolute power, independent of external factors; outward success fluctuates in response to changing circumstances and is therefore of a purely relative value."
It’s from his book “In Search of Identity: An Autobiography” and I think it’s an incredible reminder to be true to ourselves when we consider definitions of success.
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to learn more about Product Design?
Ask *lots* of people for feedback on your portfolio. When you’re first starting out, go where other designers aren’t. Find ways to express yourself creatively outside of work. Find inspiration in fields adjacent to yours (I personally love reading about chefs’ creative process). And finally, remember that you don’t need permission to apply design thinking to any problem.