Salesforce’s Nati Asher: Standing Out During Your Job Search

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 Nati Asher, Director
of Design at Salesforce, and instead

of talking about a million topics,
I've kept this one a bit more focused.

So you'll hear a really great
conversation about hiring, how to

stand out, how to create a better
portfolio, what to ask during an

interview and about linking your design
work with the wider business efforts.

This is a big episode.


Nati, welcome to Design Meets Business.

I'm so happy that I get to talk to you
today because I know you've got so much

to share with us about design leadership
and building teams and the importance

of designers understanding the wider
business context that they're working in.

So it's going to be really exciting,
looking forward to the next hour.

You're a working for , Salesforce
right now in Israel as a

director of product design.

But before that, you've also been
with Bulldots and WeWork, and

Citibank and many others before.

So before we dive into everything that
you've learned there, well, maybe not

everything, but a few of the things
that you've learned there, tell us a bit

about yourself and how you started in
design and how you got to where you are.

Nati: First of all, thank you,
Christian, for hosting me.

, I'm really, really excited about
this opportunity and yes, at the

moment, I'm leading a team at
Salesforce for the last nine months.

, before that, as you said, I've
been in different companies,

startups, corporates, all around
the Israeli ecosystem of high-tech

companies, CSA I'm based in Israel.

And I'm originally from Uruguay
and moved here almost 17 years ago.

So it's been a while.

and they have a master degree on the
computer science, but I started my

career back then when I was studying
instructional design, which in many

ways is kind of a niche of a UX.

I, I didn't know the term.

I didn't know what UX was.

And then.

Through some courses that I have the
in university, I started learning

the field and it wasn't very much
developed here in Israel at the moment.

So, eh, I just went to meet ups and read
stuff in the internet and started, , this

process of self-education and learning
until I had my first opportunity at

one of the top agencies here in Israel.

and since then, yeah, it's been almost 10
years in the area of UX and I'm actually

feel very lucky that I just found it
halfway by mistake, halfway by luck.

, but I feel very, very lucky yeah.

To work on this field.

, that's pretty much it.

Christian: I think a lot of
us have found it by mistake.

Haven't we, at least that's a
lot of the stories that I hear

is, oh, I kind of fell into it.

I didn't plan to become a designer.

Nati: Yeah.

But in the moment I discovered it
it's like everything fell into place

because I always had this, the thing
about organizing the world, organizing

low ledge, where do things go?

I need some order in my life especially
in my mind to get things working.

And so when I understood what UX
was, information architecture,

like everything clicked and okay,
I found the right thing for me.

So I'm again, super happy and
lucky to work on this field.

Christian: How, you know, you said you
had a master's in computer science.

How did you get from
computer science to design?

What was that transition like?

Nati: Well, actually, I got my
computer science master while I

was already working on design.

And it's kind of a long story
that connects between the

university of my first degree.

And there was some connection there.

So a couple of us were taken there to
do a, our master's degree in Sweden.

And my first degree is here in is,
was done, completed here in Israel.

but it was already working
on design back then.

And I have to say that there weren't
many points of connection between, you

know, my day to day work and that degree,
but I did learn a lot on how stuff gets

done, I did complete a master thesis on
creating a bot, which was a, quite a hot

thing back then almost five years ago.

So I did learn a lot of
the experience after all.

And I guess I'm a fair coder as well.

Christian: You said that about five
years ago, boats were a really big thing.

I just remembered, but it
seems that they've gone away.

There was a big discussion about bots and
bots being the next thing five years ago.

And now nobody talks
about them really anymore.

Nati: Well, since I spent such a
long time planning a bot, I had like

this very, I could speak on this
in an entire different podcast, but

I had this theory of artificial
intelligence is still not there.

So with better plan, a good experience.

And then it will be probably
the bot will probably be able

to complete some basic flow.

So that was my hypothesis and
what I tried to prove actually,

Christian: Well, how did
you, did you prove it or.

Nati: I believe so, eh, but let's
give that for the next podcast.

Christian: Right?


That's fair enough.


People are not here so listen to us.

Talk about

Nati: 2018.


Christian: Right.

And as we know that's a few years ago, so
let's just stick on the topic of design.


I know nothing about boats, so I
wouldn't be able to ask any relevant

pertinent questions about bots so, okay.

Let's go back to design.

So one of the main reasons why I wanted
to speak to you is because in all of

these companies that you work for,
you've had a lot of experience designing

products for a large number of peoples.

Whether Salesforce or WeWork or Citi
bank, these are brands that have

shipped products to probably all in
all hundreds of millions of people.

Now, one of the questions that I was
having was when you design for so many

people, how do you manage to balance
the needs of so many individuals with

the needs of the business, and maybe
at some of these companies, you weren't

necessarily pushing pixels yourself, but
still even being in charge of those teams.

How were you balancing those two?

Nati: so it's a good question.

I think that sometimes we get confused
between having docents or millions of

users and the name of, for big brands.

So products that I worked out,
eh, on at Citibank or we work or

a Salesforce recently, eh, these
are big brands, but not necessarily

this products are used by millions.

Each of the things that I worked at
there were not necessarily niche, but

had, uh, eh, uh, defined user, a couple
of personas, two, three, and at Citi

bank, these were internal users, eh,
at we work, it was various public.

And now at Salesforce, it's also a
business interface for, people that

work in the area of field service.

So I cannot say that it's
really everyone and everything.

And I did design a product for millions
of users quite a few years back in my

career when I was at the lead designer
for the AVG antivirus on mobile.

So we had over a hundred million users
and that was pretty much a wild ride

because we have 32 languages and then app
that needs to work in so many different

devices and countries across cultures.

And the answer is that you need
to be very careful about how do

you design and always designed for
them minimum common denominator.

So if you're targeting to an older
audience and you're not going to do

flashy things or, or hidden buttons,
you are going to do something it's,

it's like with inclusive design.

Basically you rely on that.

You got to make it accessible for
the less tech savvy person that you

got, or the less experienced whatever
the the common denominator is.

Back then I also wrote an article on
what I called shiny shiny apps, such

as it was, um, Snapchat and calm all
this apps that barely had an interface.

And you couldn't know where to press so
many, it wasn't accessible to many users.

and that's fine because we evolve
and not necessarily you want to

be accessible to every user may
be maybe you want to be luxurious.

Maybe you want to be cool to a
younger audience but you, if you are

designing something for everyone,
then you just need to rely on the most

common denominator for all of them.

Christian: Yeah.

One of the things that I struggle
with whenever I've found myself

designing some of these products is.

Is maybe accepting the fact that
you were, are never going to design

something that will be perfect for
everyone, because you have so many

people who said you have to design for
the, let's say the least technologically

advanced person or whatever it is.

But there will always be a pocket of
users who doesn't necessarily feel

like they're included in the design
of that doesn't necessarily feel

that the solutions are good enough
for them, which is so different than

when you design a very niche product.

Then you can, you can tackle the design
in a very different manner because you

know exactly who you're working with,
you know, exactly what their needs are,

you know, exactly where to find them,
to put the products in front of them,

if you want to test and all of that.

I guess maybe one of the things is
that you need to accept that you're

not going to please everyone, if
you design for so many people,

Nati: or you, you're not a pizza,
so you can not please everyone,

Christian: Even pizzas
don't please everyone

Nati: but yeah.

Joke aside.

Probably a product that eh, needs
to work for everyone is probably

going to be a bit more concerted
conservative than the average.

it may be boring for some people, but
at least it will work for everyone.

And that's probably the goal

Christian: Yeah.

I know these organizations are not
necessarily similar maybe in the way

they were putting their teams together
or even in the way, even in the work that

we're doing, but I, would you be able to
extract any patterns from there in terms

of what the design capabilities of these
organizations were struggling with at

every single company you've worked with?

Is there anything that you've
found to be a problem at every

single company you worked for?

Nati: And I'm so glad that you asked
that because the answer is yes.

So if I look.

At Citi bank and, uh, also at Bulldots
and right now what Salesforce,

these are very different companies.

There is a banking company.

There was a construction startup, and
now while Salesforce is all around but

something that I've found that it's
somehow coming back again and again,

to me is the fact that humans, cause I
I'd rather not call them users, eh, but

humans don't necessarily trust automatic
processes that they cannot see and

cannot understand how and why happened.

I first noticed it back then when I
was at Citibank and I was designing

an interface for a investment bankers
and sales salesperson says people have

their trading room and this guys, we
would show there a price of a bond.

And this guys wouldn't believe it because
no, it's probably, it wasn't calculated.


I'm not sure if the information is
coming through the right the right

interface there from the right channels.

And there was like, God, what can I do
to make you believe it it extra it's

actually coming from the right place.

And it was such a struggle.

And, funny thing is that I had exactly the
same reactions and the same situations,

eh at the construction startup, because.

The construction manager would
look at the information about

the progress of each building.

And, yeah, I'm not sure
that this is actually right.

I got to go check myself on the field
because probably you didn't get it right.

And then now it sends for us.

I got dispatchers that need to manage
fields, the resources in the field.

And so we have these huge crazy
optimization and automation engine

that should, eh, put every resource,
you know, on the right time and

the right place to do their job.

And they look at this grant and
say, now it's probably not the

best way to organize a people.

And then I'm just speechless
when I get that reaction.

But yet again, it seems to be a pattern
that people don't believe automatic

processes that they cannot understand and,
and still the, the funny part of it is.

There is no way in this world that a
dispatcher can organize a 1,500 field

resources in the field in a smart way.

It's such a big, it's just big data that
you cannot manage us as one person, and

yet they won't trust what's done for them.


So it's a big challenge.

one that my team is tackling right now
on how to make this, uh this information

more transparent and more trustable.

Christian: It's a, it reminds me of
a search engine I just don't remember

the name, but one of these search
engines, that's looking for flights.

They know the, it could be my Momondo.

I could be wrong.

They know all the flights at the moment
to hit search most of the time, but

it delays, sending the results to you
to make it, to make it look to you as

a user is if you're actually really
searching hard when in fact they

have the results almost instantly.

So it goes back to that.

There's people just don't trust it.

If you're too fast with
it, they don't trust it.

So they just give it to you slowly over
time, it takes like 5, 6, 7 seconds.

So then you as a human thing, oh, the
results are probably accurate because

it took a long time when in fact the
results were there almost instantly.

Nati: Absolutely.

And we have the exact same case back
then on th on the antivirus, the scan

would take two seconds, but then you,
as a user would think that they, they

were not properly scanning my phone.

So we had all this work of creating
fancy animations to fill the time

and actually figuring out what's
the right time to let you wait.

Is it eight seconds?


Is it 12?

Oh, there was a lot of work around that.

Christian: Yeah, I can imagine.


It's interesting.

I'd like to talk about trust in
an organization when it comes to

design and designers and their work.

But what you're talking about is
on the other side, which is trust

between organizations and their users.

So I find that an Eva, probably an
even bigger challenge, because you

could be having in an organization,
you maybe have, you know, 20, 30 people

you might have to build trust with.

But on the other side of a
product, you might have hundreds of

thousands or millions of who knows.

So probably a massive challenge
that you you've got to find a

solution for in, uh, one of the
articles that you wrote on medium.

And I, I will put this in the
show notes cause you wrote quite a

few ones and they're really good.

And we're going to talk about two of
them today because I found a couple

of nuggets there, of information that
I think it would be good to unpack.

So in one of your articles, When
you work for a business, you would

need to understand how the business
makes money caring for the users.

Not enough.

You're a product designer,
not a social worker.

Let's unpack that because that's
what this podcast is all above.


So yeah, I wrote that a while ago,
not too long ago, eh, but I absolutely

believe on, on what I wrote there.

And the reason I, I think it's pretty
obvious, but somehow I got to that

realization while I was interviewing
a young designers to replace me back

then on one of my maternity leaves.

And the thing that I noticed is
there's a lot you can learn about

designers and their experience and
the way they work by, eh, by asking.

Letting them ask you questions.

And it was very, very clear to me which
of them were junior designers and which

were more experienced because the more
experienced ones with always ask about

the business, always be more interested
on not just how is the team, how many

people you have you got in the team?

Do we do the research?

You know, all the logistics,
that's pretty basic.

Anyone can ask that.

but senior designers will come
to you with tough questions

about how do we make money.

what would be my goals in the next
30, 60, 90 days which eh, business

functions do, I have to work
with them in business functions.

I mean, stakeholders.

And so that, that got me thinking.

I got to realize that also myself as a
designer had quite an evolution on that.

At first, I was kind of, you know,
young and naive and it's yeah.

On about user centered design.

And I want to make it right for the user.

And I'm not trying to mock anyone.

If, if anything, I'm mocking myself
about being naive about the fact that

I'm actually working for a business.

So my job as a designer is to
provide solutions that can answer for

that business goal, hopefully when
making it the best way possible for

the user providing God delightful
experience or a good experience, or,

easy to use, whatever is your KPI
or whatever you're maximizing for.

It could be a fancy app and then
you want to make a delightful.

a business interface and then you
just, if there's a person that's

going to use this 12 hours a day,
you don't want to make it flashy.

You want to make it easy to
use and easy to understand.

So yeah, my take on that is that as
a designer, you cannot, eh, isolate

yourself from understanding the business,
understanding how the company makes

money and what are the business goals?

What are the KPIs that we are all
together as a team working towards?

I that's a takeaway as a, as a senior
designer who understands the business.

I understand that I don't
work inside a bubble of making

fancy nice looking things.

That's just not good enough.

And so that's what I would recommend
every designer ask the tough

questions and understand that
we're not an isolated function.

Part of the team and that's
what makes us partners.

Yeah, I think there's some experience that
needs to be earned there by designers,

because to be able to do that because
school doesn't really teach you that

we don't really talk about it enough
in front of junior designers or with

junior designers, we just bring them
in and we bring them up to speed with

tools and we bring them up to speed
with process learn how to do, how to

run a testing session, do this, do that.

But I feel that that conversation or
that if the evolution of a designer being

able to be in a room with business people
and talk about business calls and all of

that from a design perspective, I think
that happens a bit later in your career.

I don't think when you come out of school,
you're ready to, to go in front of a board

and argue for this next design iteration,
because it will do this and that metrics.


Well, what's your,
what's your take on that?

No, absolutely.

I agree with you there, there
needs to be an evolution.

I think it's really, really bad
that actually the academy and the

different, you know, places where
designers learn how to be designers.

Don't talk about that.

And that's something that
could be easily fixed.

Guys be aware we don't design
for ourselves and we don't

design just for our users.

There is a business.

And if you guys want to get the money by
the end of the month, then you probably

need to align to those goals too.

You know, it sounds
funny, but it's reality.


If you were working on charity or
you were a social worker, then that's

fine, but we're not, we are working and
helping teams achieve a achieved goals.

Now, I think it's fine that designers
are maybe naive or unexperienced, eh,

at the beginning, it's fun by fine.

I mean, it's natural.

And, but at some point when you
work in product companies, I would

expect product managers or other
senior designers to enlighten junior

designers about guys, it's fine that
you are new, but this is how it works.

And I wish we all aligned together.

So I was very, very lucky.

I worked with very experienced
people right from the beginning.

and yet it still took me a
while to understand that,

Yeah I think it's also a thing
that designers can do themselves.

So when they know that they're in
this role where they are supposed to

care about metrics and all of that,
but they don't understand them well

enough well that's where, what they
can reach out to a product manager.

They can reach out to an analytics team
rather than waiting for, for it to be

the other way around, which is, I think
in my opinion, less likely to happen.

But if you reach out and you start being
interested in and you start trying to

connect the dots between what happens
when I change something in the interface.

What happens in the product, what
happens with our conversion rate?

And as soon as you start trying to
understand those metrics and you

reach out to other people, what I have
found is that your learning curve goes

like that just super fast, because
people want to talk about their work.

Just like us designers want
to talk about their work.

If anyone in the team comes to you and
wants to know about design, you will

talk for ages and they will learn.

Cause you talk, you're excited
to tell them about your job.

Well, similarly, if you go to someone
whose job is numbers, they would

love to just talk numbers with you.

And that's how you can learn.

Nati: I agree.

But also, you know, as also as young
designers you just assist us, you just

said, you just gotta be interested.

You just gotta ask.

And then probably the answer is there.

So, okay.

We are redesigning this logging screen.


Why aren't we doing that?

Why is that important?

What is the benefit that we're trying to.

Achieve, eh, or what is wrong right now?

Why is this not working?

I mean, there's gotta be a reason
and if it's prioritized, then it's

probably, there's probably a better
reason than just make it beautiful.

Eh, so as a designer, you just
gotta put yourself out there,

explore, ask the right questions.

and then that's the way you learn.

Christian: I think asking questions.

You've mentioned it a couple
of times is so important.

Not only asking questions, but learning
how to ask the right questions.

Because I remember when I was working
in product teams a few years ago, and

I wasn't this experienced than you,
you get features, feature requests

trickled down to you and you don't
really know where they're coming from.

You don't really know why
they're happening at your

job is really to ship them.

And I think that actually, if you
think about it, your job is to ask

questions before you ship anything.

Or as you said earlier,
why are we doing this?

What's not working right now.

Not only because you want to get the
reason to see what metrics you can

improve, but actually sometimes what
ends up happening is that if you ask the

right questions, everyone else in the
team will start wondering the same thing.

It's like, oh yeah.

Why are we doing this?


And sometimes features that come
from above, get pushed out of the.

Because someone asks a couple
of questions and makes everyone

else realize what actually we
don't really need this right now.

It's not that big of a deal.

It's not that big of a priority.

So I find that to be the responsibility
of a designer in a team, especially

in smaller teams, when you might not
have a product manager or someone who

takes care of that side, I find that
that's where designers should fit in.

Nati: Absolutely.

Also, if you don't ask the questions, you
cannot really know what should be fixed.

Is it everything?

Maybe it's just a little thing that
that's making it hard for users to

move on the funnel, unless you ask you
just kind of know where to start from.

Christian: Yeah.

And what are the success criteria?

How do we know that after we've shipped
this, we've done it right or not?

Is it just, and you know what, it's also,
in my opinion, it's also fine to say we're

doing this because we want our absolutely.

Maybe for our brand that's, that's
also fine, but at least, then at

least we know that's the goal.

And then we know how to
measure at the end of it.

But I find that if you start every project
with figuring out what the goal is, or the

success metrics or criteria, rather than
trying to retrofit them afterwards, you

are much more likely to actually help move
those metrics in a positive direction.

Nati: I cannot agree more.

I think that together with the
whole concept of a business goals,

something else that is not taught back
then at school is a KPIs and goals.

And I think that when designers hear that
term, many of them get scared because,

oh my God, how they are going to measure
this, how are they going to measure this?

And how am I going to
make it, make it right.

And I believe that goals.

They shouldn't scare us.

They are actually there to advocate
for our work, because how can you

measure the success of something
if you haven't set a goal?

I could say that, that same thing
for almost every process in life.

I mean, if you don't have a criteria
of, what's the, to consider it

done, then you cannot measure this.

So whenever someone comes after
a year and asks you, okay, so

what did we achieve with this?

And you don't have a good
answer, then that's too bad.

If you have an answer, if you had a goal
from the beginning and then, okay, you

can say, okay, yeah, we achieved this.

Or we didn't or what would I
do to make it better next time?

But you got to have a
goal from the beginning.

Otherwise there's nothing to compare it.

Christian: I also find if you've
been in a company for long enough,

this is more of a long-term play.

But if you keep asking the right questions
all the time, if you keep talking about

metrics, if you keep bringing results
in front of your stakeholders sooner or

later, I don't know when, I don't know
if, if it's after three months or one

year or two years, but at some point in
time, people in the business will start

thinking of you as more of a business
person, rather than just a designer.

So sometimes it's, it's just so happens
that they come straight to you and

they say, Hey designer, we are really
struggling right now with our conversion

rate or we are really struggling.

Whatever metric right turn or whatever
it is, what can we do about that?

And I think that the moment you start
talking about it, the moment you start

putting design in that light, where
design stuff suddenly can start moving

metrics, you become such a, such an such
a much more important part of the company.

Then if you're just there and
you just push pixels around,

Nati: of course, and you have
everything to gain in that situation.

Because first of all, they see
you as a, as a business partner,

not just again, a pixel pusher.

And so that's the first benefit benefit.

And second benefit is that after a
while, you will actually, you will see

that you don't need to ask that much.

They will already come with the answers.

And then that's awesome because
things become way more clear.

And when you've kind of.

I wouldn't say, finished that
education process of your stakeholders,

but they are somehow aligned on
what you need to start working.

Then it makes it easier for everybody.

And then when they have to prepare all
that stuff before coming to you, and you

already make sure that the things that,
that you get to do are more important

or more elaborated, or they have been
thoughts through in a deeper way.

So that's, you know, gain for.

Christian: Yeah, this reminds me
of something that the director of

design used to say this, my door
will always be open, but I don't

want you to come to me with problems.

I want you to come to me with solutions.

And the interesting part about
that was that you, you always had

to present the list one solution.

Here's the problem.

And here's what I think we should do.

And his role would be to
not necessarily validate.

Cause obviously he couldn't validate that,
but to say, this is the right direction,

or this is not the right direction, but
what ended up happening more often than

not is as you start working through the.

You don't end up going to him at all
because you actually have a solution

already so very rarely would you end up
talking to him because more, most of the

time you just wouldn't need it anymore.

So it's a, this is similar to that.

when people just come to you with
a well-thought-out problem versus

just, Hey, here's my problem.

Help me solve it.

Nati: Yeah.

Sounds like smart guy by the way.

Christian: Oh yes.


We've had him in the first season
and he's episode was really

successful for a great guy.

So I want to segue a little
bit from talking about this

article that you wrote in.

Into another one, but I won't refer to
the article straight away because that's

a, I'll do that a bit later, but I want
to talk about hiring because at this

point in your career, I can only assume
you're not really pushing pixels anymore.

I can only assume you're not in Figma
that often anymore, or at least not

as often as you used to be, I can
assume that a lot of your work revolves

around managing designers and maybe
talking to stakeholders on a daily

basis framing design in different ways
in front of these people evangelizing

the power of design, whatever it is.

So let's talk a bit about, first
of all, the, some of that work

that someone at your level does.

So people get the context and understand
a bit more what you do on a daily basis.

And then we're going to
talk, hiring a little bit.

Nati: Okay.


To your question.


My time gets divided between some
hands-on work, which I still have

because we have a relatively small
team and still there as much to do.

And personally, I still
enjoy the hands-on work.

So I keep a couple of projects
to myself and, but definitely

there's a lot of time spent on em.

I call it, enabling my designers,
just helping them do their best work,

facilitating whatever process they
got that is stuck, or maybe fair.

They want to review, go through some
of their work to get more ideas or come

with a problem and hopefully an answer.

Um, and a while, you know, since say
we are stealing the COVID era and

most of us are working from home.

So I spend a lot of time on.

On thinking of how we can build
our team and feel as a team.

So we got out all our offline meetings
and we meet once a week at the office.

also my team is located here in
Israel, but we have another half of

the team in the U S eh, so sometimes
it's quite complicated to coordinate.

And, there's a lot of, there's a lot
of collaboration though, but we spend

a lot of time on thinking out this
processes, how to work together with

our team in the U S how to field as
a team right here when we are not

all together in a room and yeah.

Some hiring too.

So there's a, there's quite a
lot of time spent in all this.

Christian: And when it comes to hiring
someone told me recently hiring is

the most important job of a design
lead or someone who leads the design

organization what's your take on that?

Do you find that this one a more
challenging as well as important

parts of the job, or maybe not
necessarily now at Salesforce

because of the size of the team?

Nati: Eh, right now at the
moment, it's at the moment it's

not taking much of my time.

And also the Israeli design community is
so small that, eh, in the last time we

had to recruit, I couldn't, eh, interview
all of our candidates because I had some

previous acquaintance with some of them
and then I didn't want it to be unfair.

So that's like a challenge
of a whole different level.

but my take on this is.

It's a very time-consuming activity.

There's a lot of candidates, some of them
good, some of them bad, and most of us as

recruiters just don't have the time and
the patience to focus on each of them.

I give a lot of advice on mentoring
to designers who are starting their

recruiting processes and it all the
time I tell them to picture me as

a persona who is, jetlagged, tired,
bored, and annoyed in general.

So I just want to have, I would
just want to see the value of your

portfolio in 30 seconds or less.

I need to understand really, really
fast that it's worth for me to

go deep into whatever you got.

You have to show me.

so yeah that's actually my best advice.

If you get me to be interested in
your portfolio and read what you

did and see your mockups prototypes
videos or whatever you show there.

And then there's a good chance
that we may talk and move forward.

But you know, that saying that
there is only one, one opportunity

for, uh for a first impression.

So it works pretty much like that.

Also with a portfolio I get 20, maybe 30
portfolios need to go through all of them.

If I don't see the spark
in 15 seconds, it's gone.

It's not fair, but that's reality

Christian: for sure.

I like that idea of imagining a persona
for your portfolio, because your portfolio

is a project that is a design project.

If you think about it.

So you've got to think,
well, who do I want to read?

What state will they likely be in, when
they're going to read this, how much

time are they going to have, and then
adjust your portfolio based off that.

So I think that is really some great
piece of advice there because I, I

think w we talk a lot about portfolios
and we tend to say, well, here are

kind of the things you have to do.

Talk about this, talk about that,
but very rarely do I hear this idea

of, but also think of, who's going to
read your portfolio and also think of

how little time they actually have.

So thanks for being somewhere, some, well,
some much needed the reality into this.

Some people just spend
15 seconds and that's it.


What attracts your attention than
if you only have 15, 20 seconds?

What attracts our
attention in a portfolio?

Nati: It's a good question, because it
also depends on the kind of designer

that I'm looking for at that moment.

I met maybe focused on
UX, maybe focused on UI.

Usually when I'm looking for product
designers, I'm looking for someone that

does both, but I realized that 99% of the
designers are stronger either here or, I

mean, UX or UI and unicorns don't exist.

Eh, I'm sorry to disappoint you all.

And so well, depending on my
focus, I'm kind of in, in a certain

state of mind, but in any case,
even if it's a UX designer that

I'm looking for stronger in UX.

I still expect a very clean and neat
portfolio, which has a good structure.

And that can, you know, I got
to look at one of your projects

and understand very clearly.

What was the problem?

What did you do?

What was the result?

Actually, I, a few years ago I had one,
a project in my portfolio, and then I

spoke to some startup founder and he
told me, I read one of your case studies.

And it was so clear to me.

What was the project and what did you do?

And I felt like it was like one of the
nicest things someone ever told me.

I actually made.

It, was able to explain the properties.

I felt very, very good
about it and explaining.

In two or three sentences, it's really,
really tough, but you gotta get it right.

You gotta have that summary on the top.

What were you trying to achieve?

What happened?

And then that may be the the teaser
for me as a recruiter to, yeah.


This sounds interesting.

Let's let's read on.

Christian: I don't know if you know about
this saying that journalists use called

don't bury the lead, which comes from
the second world war when they could

only send a short messages and they
wouldn't know when the message would cut.

So they would send the most informed
the most important information first.

And that's the way I think of a portfolio
if you only had one or two sentences, And

that was everything you could communicate
to someone about the piece of work.

What would that sentence be?

And what I always say is for as much
as possible, and I would be interested

to hear if you have a different opinion
on this is start with the results,

something along the lines of designing
a business to business tool that helped

the company increase conversion by 5%.

I don't know this is off the top
of my head, something like that.


Nati: well, of course, and I'm not
sure if you necessarily need to

have the results there, but it's got
to be a very short and very clear

paragraph on what is this all about?

with enough motivation to, to read
on, eh, what about what you just said?

I do recommend writing goal those results.

In your CV, you know,
sometimes people post, yeah.

I was a UX design lead
that this and that company.

and in that description, they write
design mock-ups and wire frames

work together with stakeholders.

And I'm like, okay, that's fine.

That that's pretty obvious.

That's a place actually,
where I would be happy to see.

I designed an app that converted
a hundred percent better.

I don't know it yet.

Again, we're coming up with all these
KPIs, but that's actually something that I

would like to see are our results focused.

A C.

Christian: Yeah.

And I don't think people should
be pressured into necessarily

putting a number to it, but results
doesn't necessarily mean I've

increased conversion by 5% because
that's also very much depends on

what work you're actually doing.

If you don't work in the growth team
of your company, you're probably not

going to touch the conversion rate.


But again, going back to what we said
earlier, starting every project with

some sort of a success criteria, that's
what you want to talk about and say,

well, maybe, maybe it's not a number, but
maybe it's allowing disabled people to

access universal credit, whatever it is.

Again, this is totally
off the top of my head.

Nati: Absolutely.

But it can also be, you know, design
goals such as created a design

system, which helped consolidating
the entire design language of,

uh, of the company's products.

That's a design goal.

That's perfectly okay.

Christian: Yeah, for sure.

Any portfolio red flags, anything
that you you see and your

straightaway turned off anything.

It might depend on whatever
role you're looking

Nati: for, but good question.

I try really hard to be objective
and not be guided by my own bias.

Eh, but I think that when I see
grammatical mistakes or like a little

grammar mistakes here and there, I don't
mind, but when I see like really bad

English or things that very, you know,
big typography issues, eh, things that

just seem unprofessional, I'm kind of
turned off and it's sad because it doesn't

necessarily mean that this person is.

It's not the good UX designer or
they don't understand how to do

their stuff, it's your presentation
card, so you got to get it right,

Christian: for sure.


It's, it's all about, it's all about
what you can control and you might not

be able to control to control what's
someone looking at your portfolio

thinks about it, but what you can
do is you can control your grammar.

You can control how clean it is.

You can control the way
you write your study case.

You can control the imagery you use.

It's all of that.

That's quite easy to do.

I would say

Nati: of course.

And, uh, you know, some people sometimes
have the excuse that it's not their

matter language or stuff like that, but
you can always find someone to review

your things, even if it was, if it is
your own language, I would recommend

you to have someone, a friend of yours
review read, even someone that is not

experienced in design ask a friend of.

You read this, do you
understand what I meant?

Do you understand what I did?

It's all I know.

It's not a designer and maybe they
will not understand everything, but

keep in mind that also HR recruiters
sometimes go through our work portfolios.

So the person that can, it's not only
the hiring manager, you got to various

personas that could go through it.

Christian: No, I actually think asking
someone who's not a designer is a really

great piece of advice because they will
not be understanding naturally some

of the jargon you would normally be
using and it might push you to write.

Even clearer or even more jargon-free
at which we'll never hurt anyone.

Nobody will ever say, oh,
this portfolio is too.

Well-written see.

I read.

So I think asking, asking someone,
and even you look, look, even if

it's, if you don't have anyone can
do it, whatever, just use basic

stuff like Grammarly, at least it
iron's out your grammatical mistakes.



Nati: And they would, I would
avoid the jargon anyway.

Christian: Right.

Yeah, for sure.

So that's that's yet another advice is
try to write this clear as possible avoid

words that not everyone might understand.

Nati: I have this love and hate
relationship with the jargon sometimes

because sometimes I want to, you know
clarify some point about something

which is not clear and maybe it
doesn't have enough affordance.

And then I feel really bad about saying
the word affordance to our stakeholders.

I have this love and hate relationship.

I gotta, I gotta admit that.


Christian: Fair enough.

When you write affordance and then
you write the star and at the bottom

of the presentation, you write the
definition of affordance just in case or

Nati: straight, the linked
to Google somewhere, right?



So when it comes to hiring, I
would assume you approach hiring

differently if you'd go for a
junior designer, a senior or lead.

So what are some of the differences,
but also what are some of the

similarities in how you would approach
hiring people at different levels?

Nati: So we already
spoke about this a bit.

Eh, I can learn a lot by the questions
people ask , and, uh, well, sometime

in the last few times that I had to
hire, we weren't necessarily looking

for a senior or a lead or a principal.

We were looking for a designer and
we would be happy to find the right

person regardless of the title.

but a few years ago when I was hiring
in one of the companies I was working

at, I just understood that one of the
things I'm looking for when they hire

is, uh, is that I would like to drink
coffee with that person every morning.

I look for, people that we can get along
with, um, that we will have interesting

topics to talk about that I can see, you
know, a thinking person with critical

thinking, that questions, things
that could work in a team together.

Be helpful, be helped and help others.

So I'm looking for designers,
but I'm also looking for people

that can work together as a team.

Christian: Yeah.

And culture is very important.

So no wonder, like, I can remember many
times when in interviews we've rejected

very well-skilled people because we
didn't think they would fit in culturally.

So I think that's fair.

Nati: That's a complex topic though,
because culture doesn't mean that

everyone should be, you know, same
age or, living in the same city

and being B kind of like minded.

but I do need to see a connection.

I think that teams that have a people
of different ages and different maybe

even coming from different countries.

I think there's a lot to win from having.

Different people with different
perspectives parents with little kids

or people that are not married, you
know, in different stages of life.

So I aim to have a various
team, but again, I need to

have some personal, okay.

Christian: Yeah.

W 100% when I said culture, obviously
culture is a very wide word.

I didn't mean, I didn't mean culture.

I meant what you said is what I have a
coffee with this person every morning,

which is I find is important because
it creates relationships between people

who didn't have to work all day long.

And you're much more likely to want
to, I know, give better feedback or

have an open, honest conversation with
someone you're connected with in a way.

So I find that to be very important at
work, especially when you work remotely,

because that's, sometimes it can feel
alone or, sorry, not alone, lonely to

be remote, but if you have a really good
connection with a couple of people in your

team, you can always reach out to them and
say, Hey, don't have a five minute chat or

about this robot that are about nothing.

I find that to be very important.

You, wrote an article and this is the
last thing we'll, we'll talk about

all the topic of hiring, but you wrote
an article about the questions that.

People to ask you doing an interview
and then you categorize them.

You know, you said, know these
are the boring questions and

these are the smarter questions.

So let's talk a little bit about
the smarter questions and why it's

important to ask some of those.

What does it tell you as someone
interviewing when someone

asks one of those questions?

Nati: Well, first of all, he tells me that
they took the effort of even planning,

what would be a smart question to be.

So that's already something.

And my claim is that the boring questions.

I mean, the answer to those questions
will come up anyway, because

you're probably going to know who's
going to be your manager or what

projects you guys at working out.

So that's going to come up anyway.

Um, but I think the smarter questions
first make you look more experienced, more

interesting more, eh, Well, you know, just
more knowledgeable of what's your craft.

Because again, if we go back to the
topic of the podcast, design meets

business, then we need to remember
all the time that we are not isolated.

We designed for a company, and then you
got to be connected to whatever that

company is, or at least undersstand it.

Christian: Yeah, I'll just run really
quickly through a couple of them.

and I'll just, we'll just link the
article so people can actually read the

reasoning between, um, behind everything.

But what are the biggest
challenges the team faces at the

moment, strengths and weaknesses.

If I loved this one, if you could do
any magic what current problem in the

product you would solve right away.

And I think that tells a lot about
what problem you might have to solve

if you joined that company, , what
are the traits and skills that

would make me successful in this,
in this company or in this position?

These are a few of them and the last one,
which I actually think is the best one.

Do you have any doubts or concerns
regarding my fit to this position

that I can address before we end?

And I think that's a ballsy question
to ask, but I also think it's yes.

It's, let's talk just
for a second about that.

Cause I love that.

Nati: Okay.

So just let me go back to the magic
wand question, because I think that.

Eh, you know, you got to remember that
when you go into an interview, they

are interviewing you, but also you are
interviewing them in some way, and there's

so much you can learn from that company.

And that person, when you ask that
question, then you can see if, if

there's some bright brightness in
their eyes and they are all excited

about what could be done or maybe
they just start raising up all this

issues that make their development
process so slow or so complicated.

I mean, it could be anything, but I've
seen so many different questions, so many

different answers, and that bring up so
much information for you as a candidate.

So it's really worth asking that one
as for the last question, eh, yeah.

It, uh, it requires a lot of confidence,
eh, and guts, um, But I, yeah.

You know, I stand by what I wrote.

If these people tell you that
everything is fine and then they

reject you, then they are not so
nice people just to put it that way.


Christian: Fair enough.


But they might also tell you something
that's been maybe misunderstood in

the, until you, and you get the chance
to clarify it or something that you

haven't had the chance to talk about.

That's quite important for them.

I find that to be such a good question.

Nati: Yeah.

That's exactly the idea.

I got to say that even myself,
at some point I wanted to

ask that and like, I, okay.

I kind of put on myself to
ask that in that moment.

but it's worth doing.

And the, whoever did it from what
I've heard, had good results.

So you got to try,

Christian: I also think you, you kind
of know where, when to ask that question

and when to not ask the question, if
you know the interview hasn't gone

very well and you're not too fast
about it, then why would you ask that?

But if you think it's gone
well, if you really want the job

then maybe it's a good time to

Nati: exactly.

Don't push it.

If it's suits, then ask it also, if you
don't that want that position, because

what if, what you have just heard
during the interview, then maybe it's

not worth, you know, Yeah, for sure.

Christian: Yeah.


Something you mentioned earlier,
you said I am still pushing pixels.

I'm still doing work at the
moment cause I enjoy it.

And because the team is quite small
and something that I wanted to

ask is you start in design and you
become an individual contributor.

And at some point in time, you get so
good at what you're doing, that you

are at a, at the junction where you can
get to decide to continue on that path

of being an individual contributor.

Or you can say, do you know what
I want to go into managing people?

And very rarely there is that combination,
that hybrid role, where you can do some in

some, but when you find yourself at that
junction, how do you know which way to go?

Nati: I guess it's a bit of a
personal calling and it requires to

be very honest with yourself about.

What you like, what you're capable of and
where you see your career in a few years

from now, I can tell you that before I
joined the Salesforce service, one of the

designers on my team, and he was asked
if he would be happy to lead the team.

And he explored the position for a
few months, and eventually he decided

that he's not happy being a manager
and not so interested in that.

And he's happy being an
individual contributor.

And I have so much respect for him,
just for being honest about what he's

interested in and what's he's not.

Um, so that's the reason why, especially
big organizations have this parallel

titles of principal designer and
the same level as this director.

So that's perfectly fine.

There's a lot of to do
in both, uh, in both.

Christian: For sure.

All right, let's go to the end of
a podcast questions, a couple of

them, and then I'll let you go.

So one of them is what's
one soft skill that you wish

more designers would possess.

Nati: I think if I got to pick one,
then I would go with the communication

skills, more specifically storytelling.

A lot of what we do of
course is the work we do.

But I think even more is the way we
tell it the way we explain it to our

stakeholders, the way we present it,
both in interviews and also, you know,

in the day-to-day work there's a lot to
lose and a lot to there's a lot to miss

when designers don't know how to explain
their work properly, you may have done

great stuff, but then you are not able
to make it through stakeholders and.

It's a lost opportunity.

So I would love it.

If designers got more
practice on that too,

Christian: that's a great answer.

And the other one, and
this might be a tough one.

What is one piece of advice?

Step has changed your
career for the better?

Nati: well, I'm not particularly proud
of this, but I think that as a young

designer, I felt that my work was me
and it wasn't necessarily from a place

of ego, but I was very passionate
about every single thing I did.

And when I learned that it's not all
about me, but it's about us as a team

working together towards some goal and
just leave your ego at the door when

you get feedback or you get criticized.

It's not because you are not okay.

You're not a good designer
and a good person.

It's just because someone is trying
to help you make whatever you think.

Better or simply giving
you a different opinion.

And then I think the whole design craft
became better and nicer for me to complete

because until then I felt like under,
you know, a very criticizing guy and

then I understood it's perfectly fine
to get feedback about something that

maybe it's not as good as it could be.

Leave the ego at the door, be open.

And from there, I think that's
kind of a realization that really

changed the path of my career.

Christian: Awesome.

That's great to finish on.

So not any last words,
where can people find you?

Anything that you want to
let everyone else know?

Nati: So first I want to say thank you.

This has been great.

you can find me on LinkedIn.

You can find me on medium.

And the guest Facebook and
Instagram, just as anyone else.

Tick-tock not just yet.

I'm just watching from the
side and I guess that, yeah,

LinkedIn would be the best.

Christian: Sounds good, Nati.

Thank you very much.

Once again, for being part of
Design Meets business, this

has been a massive pleasure.

Uh we'll uh, we'll be in touch

Nati: Thank you very much.

Christian: That's so wrapped for today.

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

ready to implement at 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.

Creators and Guests

Christian Vasile
Christian Vasile
🎙️ Host & Growth Product Designer
Salesforce’s Nati Asher: Standing Out During Your Job Search
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