Ioana Teleanu on Design Education and Speaking the Stakeholder's Language

On this episode I talk to Ioana about the importance of speaking your stakeholders' language, how you can learn from her career trajectory, and about design education.

Christian: Welcome to Design Meets
Business, a show where design leaders talk

about practical ways to quantify design,
about making our work more transparent,

and about how designers can make a
bigger impact in their organization.

I'm your host, Christian Vasile,
and before we begin, I'd like to

thank you for tuning in today..

Today, I'm talking to Ioana Teleanu,
who is working as a UX manager at

UI path, but it's more well known
in the design world for her design

academy mentor and for the content
she posts under the handle UX goodies.

This conversation is it's not so much
about the content though, but more

about the importance of speaking the
language of our stakeholders, how she

started in design and what you could
learn from that and about how you can

change the mentality around design.

When you're the only designer
in a company there's plenty for

you to learn in the next hour.

Enjoy.

You and I welcome to design which
business I'm excited to have a

fellow Romanian on the podcast today.

That's a first, you are currently
the UX planetary UI pass.

A Romanian unicorn company is
being called nowadays, I guess, but

outside of UI path, you do a lot
of things for the design community.

And I don't even know where to start,
whether that's mentoring designers,

whether that's creating content for them
on social media, hosting your own podcast.

There's a lot to talk about there.

So why don't we start by you just
telling us a little bit about how it all

started for you and how you got to where
you are today, and then we'll take it.

Ioana: Yeah, absolutely.

I'd be excited to talk about my journey,
but before heading into this topic,

uh, and unpacking it, I just want to
say thank you for having me on your

show and thank you for the invitation.

And thanks to anyone who is listening
right now to this conversation between us.

And I'm also happy to
speak to a fellow Romanian.

It's pretty exciting because most of
the podcasts appearances and even my own

podcast they're made of conversations
with people from all over the world.

So I rarely get to speak
to a fellow Romanian.

So yay to that.

Yeah.

Yeah.

And to get back to your
question of how my journey.

I think, it's interesting.

Cause I keep answering this question
for several years now and it, the, the

beginning feels further and further away.

Like at some point I will probably
not even be able to remember how it

all started because it's going to be
so, so far away into, in the past.

But yeah, I keep rehearsing it.

So I know the story right now
I'm able to deliver an answer.

So actually when I went to school, I
think everything w actually everything

started in my childhood, but I'm
not going to go that far away.

Uh, so when I finished in university
I didn't have, I don't have a design

background because there wasn't even
that option in Romania back then.

I'm not sure it is.

There's the option now.

No, I don't think so.

Yeah.

I think there are some like six
months, uh programs within different

universities, but nothing dedicated
to, to design a digital design UX

design and product design in general.

So this option, wasn't
an option back then.

That's why I went and got hired
into a big, big company, ING bank.

It was a bank.

My family was ecstatic.

Everybody was so proud.

She made it she's in like working
in a multinational was like the

best you could do in your twenties.

Like I was a, the pride of the family.

But obviously I wasn't as excited
as everyone else was because I was

working in a call center that wasn't
very glamorous, as you can imagine.

And so I kept switching jobs within
the ING bank, which was great,

having the opportunity of exploring
different positions, different

roles, different things, different
aspects of how a big company works.

And then eventually I ended up witnessing
the creation of the UX department,

which was very exciting to watch because
I started having this feeling that,

okay, maybe that's what I want to do.

I feel, I feel he's not typically
drawn to, to do whatever it was

that the designers were doing.

So I started researching the topic.

I started like shadowing them lurking
on under meetings and everything.

The more I got into the topic,
the more exciting it felt.

So I, um at some point I explicitly
manifested the intention of becoming

a UX designer with my manager.

And from that moment, I actually
waited for one and a half or two years

before getting the job officially.

So it wasn't instant.

It wasn't immediate.

And this message goes to anyone who is
contemplating a career in UX design.

It's not going to be overnight.

You really have to put in the effort
and sort of strive for it if you want.

So, so, yeah, so that's how I think
I went into a lot of detail as to how

my journey began, but I transitioned
and, uh, from a non-design role and.

And then, um, I moved to UI path,
which eventually became the first

Romanian unit car and God listed
on New York stock exchanges.

It was the best success story
that Romania had so far in

terms of startups going so big.

And, um, apart from that, I also always
had consultancy gigs part-time roles,

different projects that I work on.

I collaborated with design
agencies with different startups

from all over the world.

So I just couldn't sit still.

And just one role, I think that it's
maybe a designers, uh, disease in general,

we have to do, several things because
I think one thing informs the other.

So it's really.

An opportunity for growth and for
becoming better in your daytime

role, if you have like the spar times
role or project based roles as well.

So I always kept feeding this appetite
for experimentation and trying different

industries, teams, projects, and so on.

So so I think that's mean I'm not chill
plus all the content part, but I'm not

going to go into so much detail on that.

So we have time to talk
about something else as well.

Yeah, for sure.

Christian: Yeah.

There's a interesting something.

Something interesting that you
said there is, the way you started

by going through different roles
and ending up becoming a designer.

And I, I feel that a lot of
the people we've had on the

show have a similar story.

Nobody really started out thinking I want
to become a designer because they will,

whether there was not a thing called
design or whether they just wasn't,

they just weren't aware that it exists.

Right.

So you kind of find out as you're
jumping from one job to another,

that you want to be a designer,
what was it that attracted you to.

Ioana: Looking back.

I think that probably I have some
false memories about it because now

I'm giving the interpretation of
everything I know about design today.

I'm adding that storytelling
layer to everything.

So it was more so, so to be completely
honest, if I take out everything that

I know today, and if I take out this
magical storytelling layer that I feel

like adding to the to the story, I
think it was just some sort of intuition

that maybe I would be right for it.

I didn't really understand what
it was, but I sorta, it was.

Immediately obvious
that it's about people.

It's about solving problems.

It's about talking to your users,
understanding how to build products.

They love understanding how
to make products better and

ultimately their lives better.

So I don't know if there are
people out there who would,

wouldn't be attracted to this idea.

They think it's pretty
seductive for anyone.

But for me, I was a person who was
fascinated by people for all my life.

Even since childhood I'm into all
sorts of things, psychology, trying to

unpack what goes on in people's minds
and their emotions and everything.

So I'm naturally drawn
towards understanding people.

And I felt like this job kind of
combines working in a company in a team.

So I don't have to become a therapist
to work with people, but I can solve

problems for them through technology.

And I think that was a very
seductive and powerful.

Christian: We had someone in the past
in the past on shore, who said that she

also started working in a call center
first and became a designer afterwards.

But she feels that while she was
in the call center, she was doing

the job of a UX designer without
being called a UX designer.

Because at the end of the day, you solve
problems, you talk to customers and

we solve problems the best way we can.

So it's

Ioana: parallel.

Absolutely correct.

I think the call center was the best
foundation I could have for my career

as a UX designer, because you start, I
started by listening to people, which is

what you do as a designer, essentially.

Christian: I think, uh, some of these
jobs, I think it was Casey Neistat.

Who said, when someone asked him,
well, how do you, how did you find

out what you wanted to do in life?

And he said, well, I
had all this crap jobs.

And I knew while doing these jobs
that I didn't want to do them.

So kind of through that experimentation,
I found out what I didn't want to do.

And through that, I found
out what I did want to do.

And for me it's a bit similar because
while I did work in a call center,

I worked in a sales call center.

So it's a bit, it's outbound, not inbound.

And I knew right away, that
is just not something I want

to do for the rest of my life.

So, um, yeah, it's, it's sometimes
it's a, it's figuring out what

you don't want to do first.

And then you find out what you.

Yeah,

Ioana: absolutely.

For me, that was the case
for my personal life.

Like having different relationships
with people, it kind of helped me

understand what I care about in
relationships in general and help me

filter out people as I grew older.

Christian: Yeah.

I think that's, it's still valid today
in any area of life, but mostly at work,

I can see it manifesting because when
you work at a company in a specific

team with specific people that you maybe
don't feel that you're a really good fit

there, that's how you find out where you
want to work, who you want to work with.

What type of companies?

For me, I know agencies
are not really my thing.

I prefer to be in-house, but
that's because I worked in

agencies and I had that experience.

So I always say to people who
ask me well, I'm working at this

place and I'm not really enjoying.

And I ask, well, what do you think that.

If you're not enjoying it,
what do you really think?

It means?

Oh, like, I guess it means I don't really,
I shouldn't do it more of this, you know?

Yeah, exactly.

you gotta have some bad experiences
too, to figure out what you want to do.

At least that's the way I think about it.

Did the because before you
became a designer, you were

also a content manager, right?

So you had a lot to do with the
content of the bank, is that correct?

Ioana: Yeah, that's correct.

It was a job still in the digital team.

So I was, so the banking app for
ING Romania is called home bank.

And so I was working on the banking app.

Uh, I was sort of very, very close to
UX designers and product managers, but I

was doing something completely different.

I was actually managing the content
and, um, what I would say it was like a.

Product.

It was it wasn't the
direct banking product.

It was a product that would give
you, uh, some money back when

you were shopping with ING cards.

So a sort of cash back program, if you
want a very, it's a Buddhist very simply.

So I was the one who was operating
with all the offers, making sure to

offer us make sense that the images
look good, that the logo is good.

And I was working with Photoshop, which
eventually became my first design tool.

And at that point, nobody was
using sketch at least in Romania

sketch or Figma wasn't even around.

And Adobe XD was.

Launched at all.

So, so the thing is that I started
doing UX design and Photoshop.

So the thing that helped me kind
of pick up very quickly, the UX

job was that I mastered this tool.

But if eventually in my career,
I understood that tools are like

the last sort of least important
part of the design process.

It's the process and the
product thinking that matter.

But, knowing the tool kind of gave me
a quick jumpstart into prototyping,

ideas, solutions, testing them and so on.

Christian: Yeah.

I love what you just said.

There tools are the
last thing that matters.

There are all these other
things that matter more.

So let's talk about them.

What are these other things
that are your opinion?

And I tend to agree with you matter
more than just mastering Figma

or whatever other tool there is.

Ioana: Well, the first thing that came
to my mind maybe because my, I have this

bias, uh, towards people being at the
center of everything is I think in UX

design, people matter most in two ways.

If you want, on, on one hand, I think
the users should be obviously, and I

know that there's a conversation in
the design industry that argues that.

Ditch the term user and just call
them people or humans, because user

sounds very the, I dunno, impersonal
and a bit strange, but we normalize it

by even the name of our role, right.

User experience designer.

So I think that human people
should be at the core of

everything we do and understanding
them is actually our mission.

But also I think that a very
important part of the design role

is working with other people.

So aligning people around
a goal for your users.

So collaboration for me, was probably the
the most important part of my design role.

Being able to align people around a
design goal and to make sure that things

are happening and that the users needs
are reaching other people in our team.

So everyone understands why we're
doing what we're doing and so on.

I think that's the most
important part of design.

And then there's also the.

The process, if you want to
thinking, like, what's the

problem I'm trying to solve?

Why am I solving this problem?

Is this the right problem to solve?

Is this the right way to solve it?

And so critical thinking, always
asking questions, always being

intentional with everything you do.

In design challenges and design
projects, um, was something that

looking back became more important.

So in the beginning it was just
like the classic checklist.

I have to do wire frames and
then I have to do a prototype.

And then it's something that
I criticize openly today.

But in the beginning, I was
just like that, obviously.

So I kept going from one stage to
another in this linear process,

which was totally fake and unnatural.

And it proved to be very messy in reality.

And there was a lot of back and forth.

And now I know the design process
is non-linear, but in the beginning

it was pretty much like that.

And then eventually I started
redefining my own defense.

Of UX design.

And today I think it's it's
people process and thinking

Christian: those mistakes
are part of the growth.

That's how you learn, isn't it?

That's the nobody comes out of school
or get self-taught and is a perfect

designer or knows everything about design.

So I think we all have
done those mistakes.

We all have done those processes
thinking I technically, I don't need

a wireframes here, but I'm going to
do them because it's expected of me.

So it's expected for the
portfolio to have a wireframe.

So yeah, I think we've all done
those, but you said something

interesting there aligning people
around the common goal is one of the

most important parts of the role.

So tactically on a daily basis,
how do you go around about that?

Doing that?

Ioana: Well, if we're going in the
trenches of how you're doing design

work and trying to understand, uh,
what it feels like from the front line,

I think that, you do it through a
lot of conversation and I think that.

What I've learned gets us to the best
results, not only in terms of the best

alignment, but also the best outcome for
our users is to be in a constant state

of, in a constant, conversational state.

So I think that the number one.

Method, if you want, or path to
building alignment is to have

continuous conversations while
also respecting boundaries.

Like now we're like in our free time.

And so I've been, I say that
because I've been in projects and

I've worked with startups where,
uh, the boundaries were very.

Fuzzy.

And we kept talking even Sunday
evening conversations about

a users or an interesting
insight or an interesting idea.

And I, I don't want to
support that anymore.

I feel like that, that we should also, we
should talk as much as possible, but also

respect the mental health and breaks and
disconnecting and having a personal life.

So, so with that, uh, out of the way,
I think conversations should be a part

of our daily role with other people.

And I think that as designers, I mean
the purpose of design deliverables is

actually to create the right conversations
to generate the right conversations

and to align people around different
goals at different stages of the design

product, uh, of the design process.

So with everything we do as
designers, we basically socialize.

Design goal, a design insight,
or a couple of design insights.

We socialize the rationale behind
everything we're doing and everything.

So we're we're socializing,
um, insights and everything.

So that's why.

We should, fight for conversation and
that to be more tactical, even more

tactical, I think we do it through, okay.

I'm not a fan of personas, but it's the
first example that comes to my mind.

So if you want people who are not
designers, non designers, to understand

who you're designing for at least in,
in an abstract conceptual way, right?

You can or make it less
abstract or less conceptual.

You can build this fictional person.

That again, there's a lot to
unpack about personas and not

be a huge fan of personas, but
it's a way in which we socialize.

We circulate insights that we have
from research and that the main idea

or the gist of what I'm trying to say
is that we should do it continuously.

And we basically do it through our.

Christian: There's a again,
to stay on a tactical level.

Another way that I've managed to do that
and rally people around, not necessarily

a goal, but more so a persona, if
you will, was a few years ago, I was

working with a company where every
user customer would have a profile and

a profile picture attached to that.

And then sometimes we would
bring them in for testing and

then we would take the profile.

And if they had a problem in testing
or if they got a bit frustrated or

whatever, and then we would write
down kind of a quote from them.

And then we would print the profile
picture on that same piece of paper,

and then we put it on the walls.

So every single day you would walk
into the office, you would have on

the left-hand side and right-hand
side on the Wallace, you would walk.

Okay.

Kind of like on this corridor,
full of images and quotes from

customers and that in the morning
framed the work you were doing.

It's like, okay, these it's not an
abstract user somewhere in the world.

We're doing it for it's these people
on the left, on the right-hand side.

So humans.

Who we're designing for.

I find that to be a great way of
bringing the entire productive

together around that goal.

Because as designers, we care
about the users because that's

our job, but the engineers, maybe
product managers, testers, it's not

really part of their job to care.

If you somehow manage to bring them
around, turn them around and make

them care, they're going to start
advocating for design themselves.

So kind of makes their job easier too.

So you say people matter the most.

And we agree on that.

So how about the business?

Because at the end of the day,
none of us would have jobs.

If the businesses would be working
for wouldn't make any money.

So yeah, the people matter, but what's
the balance there between designing for

people and designing for the business.

Ioana: I love the question.

And I know that it's actually
the title of your podcast.

So you probably have this conversation
quite often, but I didn't really have

the tense to have this particular
conversation with this focus.

So I'm very happy to talk about
my thoughts about this problem.

Um, I think that I want to start
by saying that understanding.

The importance of business and
collaborating with business

and understanding business is a
maturity lesson in your career

ladder or in your career path.

I feel that in the beginning, I somehow
demonized the business like businesses,

the bad guy, uh, businesses, uh, like
the evil that's trying to like steal

from the good experience that the user
has, that, that there's always going

to be a conflict between what the
business wants and what the user wants.

And I have to be the superhero that sort
of advocates for the user perpetually,

and doesn't allow the business to win
this battle because the world will,

will go to pieces if business wins.

So business was the bad guy for me for
a couple of years early in my career.

And then eventually I realized that I
was looking at things from a very skewed

or inefficient perspective because.

Like you said I was, I had a job
because that business was working.

So the business needs.

And it's definitely not the devil that I,
I, I felt like I have to stand up against

the business and reject, then push back
on whatever the business or the CEO wants.

So then I eventually understood that we
have to become friends and I feel that

it's a mistake that I see very often in
junior, uh, ship with many designers.

I think that, um, that you
become a mature designer.

Once you understand that you're
also working for the business.

I mean, you're working for the business.

That's where you get paid from.

So the business also has to succeed if you
build the perfect product, but the company

has to go out of business, then, then.

Okay, that's great.

But, but it's not really it's not ideal.

So, so to your question, I feel
that the business is a very

important part of our work as well.

And understanding is the business
side of things and building, I, I'm

not a huge fan of the word empathy.

I think it's very much
diluted this days and overuse.

But to sort of, if it makes it
easier to like push my point building

empathy towards the business as well.

So not just towards the user, but also
what is the business struggling with?

What is the business trying to achieve?

What would make our
product more successful?

What are our success metrics?

Also speaking the language of business
was something that it took me a while.

So in the beginning, I just zoned out
whenever I heard business conversations

or I, I felt like it wasn't.

Place or my role as a designer
to understand whatever the

business was in regards to.

But, but now I realize that
it's essential as well.

So it's not just a user,
it's also the business.

So yeah the bottom line would be that
businesses is very important and we should

listen to the business people as well.

Christian: I find that one of the
more effective ways to have this

conversation with business people is
to speak their language, obviously

and speaking their language.

What do I mean by that?

I mean, using data because most of the
business functions around design are very

much data focused, whether it's someone
in finance, whether it's someone in

customer support and they have this cost
that they need to cut down, whether it's a

CEO cares about the bottom line, whenever
you're able to link your work on a daily

basis with some sort of a metric that
other business functions care about, it's

much easier to have this conversations.

And it makes people listen to design
versus 10 years ago, when we didn't

really know about these new metrics,
KPIs, what are all these things?

And we would just come in as a
more, a more of a, more of an

artistic function, if anything.

So how do you use data on a daily basis
to how, or do you use data on a daily

basis to have those conversations?

Ioana: So I think that in my
experience, it wasn't that much about

data, but about numbers in general.

So I feel that business people respond
very well to like the language they're

speaking, which most of the times is ROI
or whatever way they translate or they

name their profit or their business goals.

So I feel that in the beginning I used
to be not naive, but like very, very how

can I say sweet, a sweet person that was
just talking about how the users will

love this and it's going to be great.

And we're building such an
amazing experience for our users.

Yay.

But nobody, I mean, of course they care.

Everybody wants their product to
be nice to use and to be delightful

and to be, uh, usable and know.

But at the same time, I wasn't able to
get buy-in for research or for hiring

new people or for if, if I couldn't like,
just like you said, speak our language

and our language is numbers because that's
the mindset they're in because they're

in a way, I think the people running
the business are our users as well.

So we also need to understand them
to understand who is this persona,

if you want that we're talking to.

And what's the vocabulary,
what's the, what's his space.

If you want, what what's the,
of course the language, but also

like, what are his concerns?

What are the goals, the needs,
everything, when it comes to business

I think we should make money.

Maybe not equal, but we should
make a considerable effort

in that direction as well.

So in my experience, yes, speaking to
our language work and, um, it, it over

time working with different startups and
with senior people from business, I got

better at articulating what might be.

So now I feel that like experiences
in a way, like we means that we

have educated guesses if you want.

So I, my intuition got better as to what
I might need to say, to get buy in for

whatever thing I was trying to get buy in.

So language, yeah, you made a great point.

Speaking.

The same language is essential.

Christian: I find that whenever you
are able to speak their language and

have conversations around it, what he
said to ROI or whatever the metrics

are in that business, these people
also become very much your support.

They become allies in the business
because suddenly they realize,

oh, oh, this design team, they
can actually help us push metrics.

I didn't realize that if it's a con,
if it's an organization that didn't

have a lot of designers before, or it
doesn't have a design culture, it's

not really a well known that design
can push metrics in the right way.

So I find that by having this
conversation in their language, you

earn their trust, which is so important.

And you earn an ally at work, which
again is very, very important.

And there will come a
time when you will need.

You will need some budgets for research
or whatever, that's where you would

be able to catch seen all of that
karma that you build up over time.

Ioana: Absolutely.

I agree with that.

And I think that trust is such
an important part and I think

that they feel like somebody
needs to fight for them as well.

And when you show that as a designer,
definitely, they feel just like you said,

that someone is on their side and I think.

Thing or phenomenon that helped us with
building a better, a stronger relationship

with business was that I feel that in the
industry as a whole, the conversations

around how design benefits business have
like increased or they're more out there

or more often or louder, starting from
studies like McKinsey's study of the

design industry and how much does design
can benefit numbers and then the profit,

then the effectiveness of a company.

So there were studies about it
senior leaders from like the

big four, whatever co whoever is
influential in the world of business.

I feel like voices started tackling these
topics and the importance of design.

And we've seen a lot of reports.

We've seen a lot of conversations.

I think now they're they're
again, a bit tuned down, but

there was this moment in time.

Where even through the like design
thinking, which I'm not a fan of.

And I think that for some parts is
doing more harm than good, but I

think that this entire conversation
is about innovation design thinking.

Every company needs to have the
least, at least a business people

starting hearing about design,
which is pretty powerful in itself.

And they gave it a chance if you want
so that we, I think these buzzwords

kick the door open, but we're the
foot in the door that we needed

to like start a conversation and.

Yeah.

So I think that a couple of things
happened, uh, at the same time, which

were favorable to these two sides
of the, of the fence to like join

forces or maybe I have a personal bias
around how things shaped out for me.

Christian: Yeah.

Well, we've seen a lot of
companies in the past 10 years

that have been really successful.

And whether you look at the media coverage
or anything like that it's spoken quite a

lot about how the impact of design or what
the impact of design was on that company.

And I think more and more people are
listening to that too, or are watching

those examples and they want some
of that success themselves, which is

where they go in and hire designers.

But what I found in the past is that,
okay, someone hires designers, because

they've seen that apple has succeeded
or all these design led companies or

designed it form whatever, but they
don't really know what to do with this.

The hiring a designer versus being
a design driven organization.

Totally not the same thing.

So do you have any experience going to
beat the first one in the company and

having to build and anything like that?

Ioana: Yeah, I've had this, experience in
my life and it's not a very happy place to

be, but it's also, an exciting challenge
because you get to shape and organization,

but also a mindset around design.

And that's something that you
like aspire to be able to do

when you grow in your career.

So I'm not complaining that
I've had this situation in my

life, but it it wasn't easy.

I think that there's a limit
to this experience in itself.

So I think that I would only be
able to be the only designer or

the first designer in a company
for a couple of years in my career.

And then I do want to join immature
design organizations and go in, in,

in companies where I design is already
settled and is already influential.

And the power that the value
of design was already proven.

And everybody agrees that design
is important but yeah, I've had

the experience of being the first
designer or having to convince

people that design is important.

And I think that the best way to do that
in the beginning, uh, is to two things

have worked in my experience to go in a
very tactical on a very tactical level.

Again number one is doing small.

Proof of concepts.

so I think it's, it's, it's very
valuable to show people in with the

small features or small improvements
or small research projects showed him

at controllable scale that doesn't
require a lot of funding or a lot of

effort from their side showing them.

Why design is valuable or
how design can benefit them.

So doing these pilot experiments
with would definitely be a way

in which just start out promoting
evangelizing and getting buy-in

for design and scaling design.

And then the second thing is exposing
them to users as much as possible.

You sort of touched upon briefly
earlier in our conversation on the

importance of seeing the users.

And I want to build on that because I
feel that whenever I saw significant

shifts in mindset or an attitude
towards how important research is or

how important design is in general,
it wasn't a presence of users not

necessarily live, but like, as a result
of seeing how do users interact with

a product, then many times it was.

On a ground of panic or on grounds of
like just concern or being frightened by

the issues that you see when you observe
your users interacting with the product.

So, and then you want designed to
save you obviously then you won,

then you say, okay, maybe my bet.

Wasn't right.

And maybe the product needs improvement.

So please, now I trust you.

I handle, please save me.

This is the kind of shifts that
I've seen, in my own experience.

So yeah, two things, uh, small
projects to start building on and

gaining power and influence, and then
as much as possible everyone who's a

non-believer should be around users
because that will make them believe.

Christian: There is nothing that
I have ever seen change the minds

of business stakeholders faster.

Then seeing a user struggle or a
customer struggle using their products.

They're instantly there, their mindset
shifts instantly because I guess in

their minds, you're not really thinking
on a daily basis about the user.

Again, this is not their job.

So suddenly you're you get the
reality in front of you, very close

to see someone struggle with the
product that you're trying to build

and mentality shift very fast.

And the importance of design
becomes apparent very quickly.

So you said something, you know,
he's not a very happy place to be,

to be the first designer in a company
where design is not very valued.

It's not a very happy place to be.

And I've been there myself and I agree
it's not a very happy place to be, but

I think it's a place of opportunities
and the place of growth because I have.

Experienced tremendous growth, more
growth in the roles where I were designed.

Wasn't valued than the ones where I
came in and people kind of knew, okay,

we know what this business function
can do and I found that a lot in the

business to business world in the
enterprise software, where design

is historically not known to be a
differentiator like in the consumer world.

And you go into a business to business
company, they never had a designer before.

The difference you can make, there
is so much bigger than going and

working for Spotify and working
on a little feature in a corner

of the app or something like that.

So, you know, you work in
business to business right now.

And I'm wondering, how have you seen that?

Moving from ING, working on a consumer
product to UI path, working on

enterprise software how have you seen
that opportunity and growth happening?

Ioana: Well, it was a huge change for me
on many levels, because I was also like

a different style of company, if you want
a different size and obviously maturity.

So Beth was a fast growing
startup hypergrowth.

I joined right before one
year or two years before IPO.

And so it was sort of a big
company, but it wasn't ING bank big.

So the.

The pace and the way of working was
completely different from what I

knew and what I was accustomed to.

So I've been with ING for 10 years.

So I was very much, yeah, I had
roots in, in the way we were doing

things, the speed at which we
were doing things, the pressure.

And when I moved to UI path, I felt
like I'm overwhelmed completely by the

pace at which things are being done.

And the, like the hecticness of
everything and the opportunities that

you have for shaping a design language.

And I'm meaning I'm, I'm talking
about a design language within

the company, not the design system
or something like a style guide.

Um, so.

So it was a huge opportunity and it
was also a culture shock if you want.

Uh, because I wasn't ready for a dotcom.

I wasn't, I mean, not that I wasn't
ready, but I wasn't used to that

speed and that hecticness and like
grabbing things to solve from a

bucket of many things to be done.

Design was not yet mature.

I wasn't the first
designer to join UiPath.

there were plenty several designers before
me, so we kind of joined forces when

I came, I already joined us frontline
of designers, trying to evangelize

design and D purchase of design.

But what you can imagine
are what's an interest.

Thing is that there was
no design leadership.

So there wasn't anyone in
a design leadership role.

There was no.

Okay.

Okay.

Maybe not many companies have
a chief design officer, like a

C level, a role for designers.

Maybe that's a rarity, but we didn't
even have a VP of design and we

didn't even have a director of design.

So there was no one
representing us on that level.

Uh, talking to top management, talking
to the CEO or the chief product officer

there wasn't, there was none on design.

So that was a clear, uh, telltale that
there's a problem with how design is being

valued and perceived and the power the
influence design has within our company.

And that changed after I joined, I
think in even less than one year, we had

infused the company with design talent
senior leadership talent from the.

Mostly Seattle, mostly Microsoft.

So there was this this new wave
of leaders that were trying

to build up a design culture.

And, uh I apologize if
anyone can hear babies in the

background, but this is just, uh,

Christian: that's the
life that's the life.

Yeah.

So I think a lot of these conversations
that we're having right now are

really important to have for junior
designers to listen to, because I

feel, you know you said to yourself
you're not educated in design.

I am, but I can't really say
that I've learned a lot in design

school that I'm still using today.

I think there is a fundamental
problem with design education today.

Well, with education in general, but
we're not going to talk about that

today, but with design education, I think
it's severely lacking behind what the

business world needs because the business
world moves at a really fast pace.

And in education, a traditional
education system has a really

hard time keeping up with that.

And that's fair.

So I know that you many other designers
and many other design leaders all

over the world are trying to solve
that problem in a way or another.

So you have the design academy.

Uh, could you tell us a bit about that?

Why did you start it?

What gap in the market have you seen?

Have you tried to plug
that and all of that?

Ioana: Yeah.

I love to talk about that because it's
my most important project as a designer.

Up-to-date and it started just like you
assumed by spotting a gap in the market

by understanding that there's a pain, a
huge need for better design education.

of course.

I didn't start out believing
that I can create the perfect

system or the perfect recipe.

There is no such thing.

it's a combination of many things
that a person needs to do in

order to start our design career.

But we observed by looking at
other bootcamps by following

conversations in the industry.

And most of all, the experience
that bootcamp graduates had

after they finished a bootcamp.

And once they, they were on the market
and had to deal with the realities that

they many times they weren't warned about,
or weren't very transparent to them.

So we kept seeing myself.

And when I say we, um, I co-founded
mental design academy with my co-founder,

uh, he was a design manager at Fitbit.

He's now VP of design.

So he also had an, a startup in Germany.

And so he also had leadership roles
working with designers, junior

designers and mentoring designers in
different bootcamps, uh, the bigger

boot camps that probably everyone knows.

So he was mentoring and doing, and I
was also mentoring through UX Goodies.

So we were both doing similar work
in different setups, and we were

encountering the same problems again
and again, and the same stages in.

Transition the transition to
UX design started to Curt.

And so we realized that there is a
gap there that there's an opportunity.

And for me, there was this constant
feeling that, okay, now I have

a community on your equities.

I have close to 200,000 followers.

what does that even mean?

It means that now I have a voice, whatever
that is, and I also have a responsibility.

So what am I doing for all these people?

Who in a way, give me some.

Offer me.

So they grant me some of their time and
what am I giving, what am I offering?

How am I helping them?

How am I, I have a lot of messages
even today from people in my inbox.

And I felt like in the past,
before mental was launched.

I had nothing, no way of helping them.

I kind of pointed them or it's different
resources, but it felt very unstructured.

It felt not that it didn't feel like
a reliable system of helping people

transition into UX design or start
a UX design career from scratch.

So, so mental was sort of on my mind
for several years before actually having

the conversation when reached out to
me and then it took a year to build it.

We underestimated how difficult
it is to build a design school of

any sorts and how much content and
effort and talent had to go into it.

We assembled a team of 10 designers.

With different backgrounds,
different specialties.

So researchers, visual
designers even a project.

So design ops, we have people from
different backgrounds, right about

the part of the curriculum that was
where they were specialized then.

So we try to fix many of the
problems and starting with the

broken curriculums that we ran into
another bootcamp, then continuing to

the problem with mentors, not being
specialized in design it's a problem.

You've seen the design industry
today, as well as so many bootcamp

mentors and big boot camps.

They're actually front-end developers
or they're graphic designers

or they're branding designers.

So who is teaching you?

UX design is another important point.

So we had like, I can talk
about it for days because I've

been in this problem space.

So immersed for three years,
I think now that I kind of

understand everything about it.

So, but that would be it in a nutshell.

Christian: So, what are some of the keys
that you've spotted as that, that are

useful for someone who either wants to
transition or wants to start from scratch?

What are the two or three things
that are just so much more important

than everything else to learn?

Transition or starts.

Yeah,

Ioana: I that's my favorite
question in the world and I'm

actually launching a course about
it with a big chorus platform.

so yes, this is the most
interesting question.

So what do you need?

And I, I.

Kept thinking for many years, for the past
year is building mento, doing X goodies,

doing the podcast, doing all the content
that's educational at its foundation.

So what am I teaching people?

What am I telling people?

what is the message that
I have to send out there?

And I realized that by, by doing
a lot of introspection, by being a

self-aware as possible through, I don't
journaling watching the conversations

I have with people and genuinely
listening to the people who are either

struggling to start their career
switch or just, they just did it.

And they're struggling with
what follows after you learned

the theory and do a project.

so by really, really paying attention
to this problem space, I realized that

there are like four main ingredients
that you need for a successful

career switch into UX design.

And those ingredients are theory.

On one hand, I wouldn't say this is the
most important because the theory is.

Like design working as a designer
is very practical and you do

need to know the concepts.

You do need to speak the language.

You do need to understand why
we do what we do and everything.

So it's, it is important, but even
more important than theory, which is

the first ingredient is the second
ingredient, which is practice.

So doing real design work, you like
with everything in life you learn by

doing and design makes no exception.

Art it's like in particular important
to work as a designer before

understanding what goes into UX design
and Practice is super important and

it feels very discouraging or daunting
or difficult in the beginning.

Oh my God, where do I start?

Who will hire me?

Nobody will hire me.

I have no background.

I have no experience.

How do I find my first project, but
through our bootcamp and through all

the work I've been doing, mentoring
people, I I've learned that.

It's not that it's hard to find
the real first design project

that you can apply the theory.

I think it's really important to okay.

Get dual course basic course that gives
you the theory or, or, I don't know.

There are so many, I think you can
do it for free on the internet today,

but you just need some structure.

Uh, so you gain the theory,
you apply it into practice.

You can do that by reaching out to
people in your network asking them if

they have any sort of design problem
with their business, with their, I

don't know, restaurant online, shop
website, presentation, website, whatever.

It might be.

Someone in your network has
something that you can improve.

So, and they're where you, that's
where you get real experience

working with a real person.

So that's all you need to do.

Just try a little, to reach out
to people to find real projects.

And then the other two ingredients,
which I value a lot as well are

mentorship, which is why I decided
to call my bootcamp mentor.

I think it's, it's really, really
important to have someone Giving you

feedback challenging you, teaching you
how to think, because the biggest problem

when you're starting out is that you
don't even know how to look at things.

So you're doing things,
but how do I look at them?

You are not able to think critically from
the get go, and it's totally natural.

A mentor will teach you
how to think critically.

And which are your blind spots,
where are your unknown unknowns?

Where do you need to do that?

You haven't done yet.

Mentors are essential I transitioned
without a mentor or I had some

accidental and informal mentors
but I think it's ideal and.

The strongest foundations are
built with mentorship as well.

And then the last thing is community.

I, whatever learning journey you're on
community will help you stay on track.

Feel motivated, feel like you're part of a
bigger group that's going through the same

thing helped you figure out some I don't
know roadblocks that you need to overcome

or things that just knowing that someone
else is doing the same thing as you are

at the same time is, is pretty powerful.

And I feel that design communities
are very accessible, very welcoming.

I feel the design industry as a
whole is a very nice place to work

in because we're working with people.

So most of the times for nice
or just, I dunno, welcoming.

So to recap, very quickly theory,
practice, mentorship, and community.

This is what you need for a strong
transition into UX design in mind.

Christian: Well, yeah, for sure.

I feel mentorship is really easy to
get nowadays with incredible platforms.

Like ADP least it's as easy
as finding a person in your

time zone and booking a slot.

That's it?

It's, there's no excuse to
not have a mentor today.

If you need one or if you want one or if
that's what you need, there is no excuse

to not go there because it's just, this
platform has made it so easy for everyone.

So I wanted to say whenever people
ask, where do I find my first project?

One of the things that I say to them that
I've been involved in the NGO world for

about 12, 13 years now of volunteering.

And I've made that connection.

There are so many NGOs that are need
NGOs that do great work that obviously

cannot afford a full-time designer
on stuff that need some somehow.

And I would argue that that is a
better project to do, rather than

taking one of these, you know, fake
clients.com or whatever all these

sites are because not only you get to
work in a real world situation, but

you also get to have an impact on the
world, which is the, one of the reasons

that some of us started this in the
first place is to be able to impact.

And so I only say there are so many
NGOs out there that need design help

badly that you could be, it could be
a mutually beneficial relationship.

Ioana: Absolutely.

And I just want to mention that
there are even places that kind

of gather opportunities from NGOs.

And I would recommend checking
out with democracy, lab.com.

That's a website that has NGO volunteering
work opportunity opportunities.

And another one is UX rescue.org.

So these two websites are like aggregators
of, of opportunities from NGOs.

And definitely volunteering is a
wonderful place to, to build your

first case study and explore.

Yeah,

Christian: we'll put those in the show
notes so they can be easily found.

I, I didn't even know about them.

See, that's so great that we can now
share these resources with more people.

So before we finish, I really want to talk
about UX goodies and you as a brand, over

the past few years you have built a brand.

Let's just say it as it is, you've posting
a massive amount of content to help

up and coming designers, become better
and not only up and coming designers

with even people who work in design
and have worked inside for a while.

So I'm just curious how did you
think about studying that and why.

Ioana: Well, I, I feel like I have
the long story and the short story.

So the long story would be, uh, that
before creating your goodies, I was

actually doing some social media
work for some rock bands in Romania.

So that's how it all started.

I started doing social media without
being a social media person, but

of, I had friends that had this
rock band and I said, you know what?

I'm going to help you grow.

And social it's really important.

Even if you have like a
live concert, it's nothing.

If the internet doesn't seed, so
I'm going to help you with that.

So I did social media for this
rock band and for two, three years.

And then I realized that that.

Um, w what if I do this, like for myself
and I do it for myself, and I do it for

something that I'm passionate about,
and I was passionate about UX design.

So I started building this page where
I basically just, I was spending

a lot of time on Instagram anyhow.

So I just said, you know what,
I'm going to spend this time

constructively from now on.

So the point of UX equities was
never to have many followers and.

I didn't think it was possible.

I thought that UX design was such
a small niche and who would ever

want to like learn UX from Instagram
because it's not the place to learn.

So I didn't start out saying
I'm going to build a spade and

I'm going to be like this brand.

And I had no idea where
the journey would take me.

It just started like a small, personal
project do not waste so much time.

And to kind of force me to be learning
everyday something new or synthesizing

a topic that was interesting or doing
some sort of research work or maybe, I

don't know, it was just a self-discipline
kind of effort for learning.

And I started doing it and of course
it wasn't spectacular for a long time.

It was like I had 400 followers and
I remember very, very clearly that

I said that if I ever reach 4,000
followers, it's going to be unbelievable.

I will tell everyone.

I mean, my, all my friends
will know everybody it's yeah.

It was like a dream to reach 4,000.

And now I'm at almost 220,000.

So, so yeah, the thing
is that I did it for.

Not fun, but I actually
genuinely enjoy social media.

So so I think that's one thing.

Cause many people think that, oh,
I should start a personal brand.

Everybody has their UX, Instagram
nowadays, and everybody has a

personal brand and I have to do it.

I have to be there otherwise I won't
find jobs and I'm not competitive, but if

you don't like it, maybe that's not your
way of, of building a personal brand.

Maybe you want to write medium articles,
which is always superior to creating

an Instagram post, to be honest.

So if, when I, when I
started writing on medium.

When, what it means to create long
form content and how difficult it is

to actually build a coherent story.

In words, not just like bite-sized
Instagram posts, one one-pagers

with these are the resources, which
of course those take time as well.

Cause I, I spent a lot
of time on Instagram.

So the following that I have today
is though this, the result of hard

work, I'm not going to minimize it,
that it happened because I spent a

lot of time building this community.

But it, you don't have to, I mean,
for people looking to build a personal

brand, there are many, many ways you
can start a podcast like you did.

You can start, I don't know.

Maybe you're more into yeah.

Writing whatever works best for you.

And the most important
part is that you have to.

Christian: Oh, for sure.

You know, Gary Vaynerchuk talks
about, if you want a great content,

you don't need to get on video.

Like he does.

It's just because he's
comfortable on video.

That's why he does it.

Maybe you don't like to hear your voice,
then you should certainly not do podcasts,

but maybe you're good at writing, but
maybe you're good at graphic design you

just need to find what you would enjoy
the most, which is exactly what you said.

So, um, I like that.

What have you learned in the years
you've made all this content?

Ioana: A lot of things.

I think that UX goodies became part of
my identity professionally, personally.

So it's it just, I, if I start talking
about what I've learned, I can never stop.

I I've learned so much, but, um, but I'm
going to just maybe tell you the top three

to three things that come to my mind.

Um, I've learned that You learn
a lot when you teach others?

So teaching, well, I don't consider myself
a UX teacher really, because I think

teachers are traditionally people that
build a course, that's like consistent

and I don't feel like I did that.

I have a lot of bite-sized content.

I have a lot of content everywhere, video
in all formats, but it's not like this.

Like I go to university and for three
years I teach people how to do something.

I don't feel like I have that level of
knowledge and expertise and authority.

So I'm not a teacher, but I feel that
every time I try to present a concept or

promote a concept to my followers, I'm
learning, I'm the first one to learn.

So that's really, really valuable.

I think this is one of the most important
lessons or a thing that I'm grateful for.

And another important
lesson is that having a.

I hate the word personal brand in a way,
because I feel like it's also a bit fat,

the shies, then everybody talks about
personal brand and it feels a bit like

commercial and for some parts cheap.

And I really, I'm not a big
fan of calling it a personal

brand, but that's what it is.

I mean, I'm not going to invent another
name for it, but it's great to have

a personal brand because my network
has grown so much and I've met a lot

of people from all over the world.

I've made a lot of friends.

I found you mentors.

So it's incredible.

Once you have, once you're comfortable
enough to put yourself out there through

any means, that makes sense to you and
you're proud of, and you enjoy, and

it's go here and with your aligned,
with your personality, then once you're

out there, you're going to meet people.

And that's the best part of the journey.

So for me, what mattered most is.

I got to meet all the people
that otherwise I wouldn't

have known from my podcast.

Co-host to my mentor, Stephen Gates to,
I don't know, even talking to Chris DOE

was something that I, I wouldn't have
had the opportunity if I wasn't there

consistently putting myself out there.

So there are a lot of benefits, but the
most important part is meeting people.

Christian: Yeah.

100% for me, the podcast it's two things.

One of them is meeting people and the
other one is giving back to the community.

I really want people to listen to this.

And at the end of the episode,
think I've learned something today.

I've enjoyed that.

So this 100% and teaching
is the best way to learn.

I agree with you.

I know we're almost at the one hour mark.

So I'll ask you the end
of podcast questions.

Two of them, everyone gets these,
and then I will, um, let you go.

And, uh, you know, did they care for
the baby who was crying a bit earlier?

So first one is what is one soft skill
that you wish more designers would possess

Ioana: critical?

I have absolutely no
hesitation, critical thinking.

I think many designers sometimes
forget to like question themselves

and question the things they're doing.

And the point is to like, have a rationale
and intention behind everything we do.

So critical thinking
is, is the number one.

Christian: Okay.

We haven't had that answer just yet.

So that's good.

The antibodies, what is one
piece of advice that has changed

your career for the better?

Ioana: Hmm.

I gotta think a little, because now
it's like overwhelming, uh, ones

in my mind, I have a lot of things.

It's hard to pinpoint.

Just one.

I think there were a lot of things,
but one of them was definitely in

the beginning of my career, I also
created a sort of professional persona.

We all have a professional persona.

It's like how our minds work.

We are show up as something that's
a bit controlled and and adjusted

to work in society and so on.

So the best piece of advice
that I got was from my mentor,

Stephen Gates, who told me that.

There is nothing more powerful
than being authentic and

vulnerable and as a designer,
but as a professional in general.

So I was very much afraid to say
something that wasn't right or say

something that's controversial or
say something that's uncomfortable.

And he pushed me to become more
authentic and to be a bit more

confrontational with everything that I do.

And I was avoiding or, yeah.

So just being authentic and being
you, if that makes sense that that's

the number one piece of advice

Christian: for sure.

That's and it's a good piece of
advice and we haven't had that one

either before, so there you go.

Tip that is great.

Yeah.

And I work in people find
out more about you reach out.

Follow all your content,
all of that stuff.

Yeah.

Ioana: I think you you should start.

So I have a lot of content
on different platforms.

I think you should start.

Everyone should start from Instagram.

My handle is UX goodies with
no point no line or nothing.

Just UX goodies in one word.

And, now I'm trying to grow my tech talk
because I feel like it, it helps me.

I laughed at tick-tock and I thought
it was like the worst place for

content in the history of content.

But now I find it pretty addictive
because it, it gives me the

freedom to not calculate so much or
over-engineer the content I create.

It's just very spontaneous and
it is like liberating in a way.

So I've started to enjoy it and on.

UX goodies actually, I'm
UN squiddies everywhere.

So if you wanted to find me on Twitter,
on Facebook, on Tik dog, wherever it's

your exclude goodies, it's that symbol.

And also people can listen to my own
podcast, which is called honest UX talks,

and we have it on all the platforms.

And I think that's it.

And also mental design academy.

So if anyone is listening, that's
looking to transition into a UX design

career or know someone who wants to
transition into a UX design career.

Mento design academy is the way to go.

Christian: Those will be very
easy to find in the show notes.

We will put everything there so
people can easily get ahold of you,

your honor, this has been a great
conversation and a fantastic experience.

Thank you so much for being on the show.

This has been really great.

I'm sure people will learn a
lot from this conversation.

Just as I said earlier, when people
finish an episode, what I want them to

say is I've learned something today.

So a check this has happened today.

Learning has happened.

Thank you

Ioana: very much, Ioana
thank you for inviting me.

Christian: That's a wrap for today.

I hope you found this episode
useful and that you've learned

something that you you're ready
to implement the work tomorrow.

If you've enjoyed this as always,
it would mean the world to me.

If you'd share it with your
community, if you'd leave a review.

And of course, if you'd remember
to tune in for the next one, peace.

Ioana Teleanu on Design Education and Speaking the Stakeholder's Language
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