Today’s Tech Role Model is Jinjin Sun. Jinjin a freelance product designer who illustrates on the side. She began her career thinking she was going to be a scientist like her parents and even majored in cognitive science in college. Later, she ended up switching tracks right after graduation and going into digital design. She did user experience design for four years at Huge before going freelance last year. In her spare time, if she’s not drawing then Jinjin loves knitting, reading, and hiking.
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
I’m a freelance product designer. I’ve been doing that for a year. Previously I was a User Experience Designer at Huge for four years. The last title I held there was User Experience Lead.
What attracted you to this freelance product designer role?
I love the mix of left and right brained thinking. Coming from a science background, I think about things analytically and logically. On the other hand, I also love just being creative and making new things. Product design requires both of those sides of me, which makes it a great fit.
Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?
It’s different every day. Usually I’ll come in, check my email and catch up on Slack. Then I’ll tackle my to-do list, which usually is a mix of doing research into requirements, gathering inspiration and reference, and designing UI in Adobe XD, Figma, or Sketch.
Throughout the day I’ll also attend meetings where we review designs, collaborate with product managers and developers, conduct user research, give status updates, and generally make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Lunch is around 1, when I’m working in the office I am not great about bringing food in from home so I use it as an opportunity to go on a walk around the block and grab something to eat.
What skills/technologies help you succeed?
Communication skills are a huge one. Making sure you know who to talk to and when can save so much time and misunderstanding. Good listening skills are also key to understanding what your team member’s and stakeholder’s expectations are. Listening skills don’t hurt during user research either.
In terms of technology, I used Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, and Invision depending on the project. They’re all handy tools for design.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your freelance product designer role?
I love concepting and brainstorming in the beginning stages, when you’re free to let loose with all your craziest ideas before they get brought down to reality.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?
Getting all of the collaborators and stakeholders involved with the project on board with my vision. It takes not only a solid design, but a great presentation of that design and research that will bolster my case.
What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?
Other designers on my team: to get feedback and align on a consistent product
Other designers on other teams: to bounce ideas off each other and share all our best ideas with each other
Product Managers: link us to development. They also set priorities for the products and help us understand what features to work on, in what order, and what the requirements are.
Developers: build what we design.
Project Managers: keep us all on schedule and organized logistically.
User researchers: help us validate designs and research any questions we might have.
This collaboration is constant so it’s hard to give just one example.
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your freelance product designer role?
I always have room to grow, in every aspect. These days, as a freelancer, I’m trying to grow the non-design business skills more so that I can have more control of when I work, who I work for, and what I work on.
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?
Curiosity, a systematic mind, and an eye for detail.
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this role?
An eye for detail, empathy for users, rapid wireframing.
In your role, what metrics define success?
User satisfaction. That can take the form of many KPIs (key performance indicators), such as engagement, NPS score, etc.
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