2 Years as a Start-Up Product Designer

Chen Zhi Liang
5 min readJun 2, 2022

A lot of things have happened since my last yearly review. I am still in Seedly, I am at least more familiar with the tech industry, but I am still learning new things every day! It took me a while to write this article as I don’t even know where to begin with. Here’s my attempt to summarise my thoughts for the past 1 year.

#1 — New opportunities, new learnings

I am learning new things almost every day. Late last year, I got the opportunity to build the Product Design team at Seedly. It was daunting and scary as hell. This is perhaps a path I’ve imagined myself taking later in my career but encountering this early in my career? WOWZ.

I had never been a manager before and let alone a design manager. I am learning on the go, attending conferences, reading books, and blog posts, watching Youtube videos, and doing whatever can help me to solve my problem.

How to be a design manager? How to be confident in the things you share? How to provide the support your team need? How to encourage them to do better? How to how to how to how to…it’s never ending!

Most importantly, I learn a lot from my team and the colleagues around me. The ‘failures’ from each project became an important lesson to me to improve our team processes. This brings us to the next point.

(I will be writing another post about this career path switch and the challenges I faced in detail, more claps please!)

#2 — Processes are the hardest to get in place

Reaching this high level of coordination is what I am hoping to achieve!

With more people and new joiners being involved in projects, a lot of processes are being tested and ironed out. These are often good improvements that are needed to set things in structure.

Our product and engineering team have proper (close to) agile processes now and our design team has better project handling processes as well!

Our design team has since used Jira to keep track of our project while also staying close to the product sprint cycles. Our immediate challenge at this point in time will be to improve our handoff process which is ever-changing and improving.

That said, I still believe that a lot of the methods mentioned are not prescriptive and we should be agile enough to adapt and improve on the go.

#3 — Losing teammates for the first time is hard to accept

My best teammates graduated from the company and it took me a while to accept it. It was tough as I felt like I lost both my arms. The synergy between us was great and it is almost synonymous with the things we do. Now thinking back, it’s really inevitable that people come and go in a company.

Now that I’ve my team, I realised that there is a lot more to be done to build an actual team. I am definitely looking forward to building the team and having teammates tackle challenges together!

#4 — Reminding myself that work is a marathon and not a sprint

Late last year, with all the changes going on, I felt the fatigue and was going through the motion for some days. One fine day, I was checking my available off day and realised I still have 90% left untouched 😂. That’s when I realised I was this close |🔥| to burnout. Or am I already burnt?

Jumping into remedy (tackling problems like a designer heh 🤨), I immediately took some time off to reflect. Firstly, I got into sharing the challenges I’ve faced with more people and found out that I am not alone in this. I have also discovered the joy of running which greatly helps to reduce my stress. My conclusion: there’s only so much you can do in a work day and prioritising them is very important.

I believe in working 100% during work hours and knocking off on time to rest and recuperate. Of course, finding purpose in my work is still very important to me and speaking to our users has always been assuring of the things we are doing at Seedly.

#5 —I am still solving problems and am thankful to have these problems to solve

No doubt, my problems have evolved a lot since the 1st year. I am now testing different working solutions (usability testing 😐), and empathising with my users (team and stakeholders).

I am also finding myself to be reaching out to more designers and finding people who have/faced similar challenges. This is one of the best ways to improve and learn from people.

Well, after all, I am a designer and I solve problems.

I am thankful for the people (you know who you guys are!) who have helped me over the past 1 year to help me settle into this new path. They have provided me with good feedback and are very open to sharing their experiences.

I am also learning a lot by getting feedback from my immediate team and having chats with my own manager as well. They have kept me sane and continue to believe in the things I am working on.

What’s next?

There are still a lot of things for me to learn both as a designer and as a manager. For example, setting goals for the team, making the right hiring choice, encouraging the team to do better, etc. If I continue here, the list will not end. Of course, keeping and honing my craft will always be there!

I am also on the lookout for a wider support network and programs that will help me to tackle my problems. Please share some of your favourites in the comments too!

Here’s me signing off at my 2.3 years mark, I would love to chat with other designers to learn from y’all! Drop me a message on Linkedin if you would like to or are going through a similar transition!

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Chen Zhi Liang

Product Designer@Seedly. Linocut Printmaker @westsideprints.sg