Leo Wang is a graduate of the Umber Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION he was a lawyer at a global law firm in Toronto.
Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m a Product Designer at BoostHQ in Toronto.
Tell us briefly about your company.
BoostHQ is a knowledge and project management tool. We’ve found that a big obstacle to collaboration is that important documents get lost across different platforms, like Google Drive, Slack, and email. BoostHQ aims to solve that problem—it facilitates collaboration by keeping workplace deliverables and resources indexed and accessible. The result is teams spending less time hunting for documents, and more time actually getting things done.
Tell us briefly about your job.
We’re a startup of about 12 people, and when I joined BoostHQ, I was the only designer on the team! We’ve since added another designer, but my responsibilities continue to be quite varied. I’m responsible for the end-to-end design process for many initiatives, which includes everything from initial research and ideation right down to working with our developers to implement the design. Because we’re a small team, I also provide input on our marketing initiatives and the company’s strategic direction. Although being on a small design team has its challenges, it’s exciting to have a direct hand in setting the design vision for the product and seeing our designs coded and shipped on a weekly basis.
What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION?
I was a lawyer in the Toronto office of Norton Rose Fulbright, a global law firm, where I practiced mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance.
It turns out that there are lots of parallels between being a lawyer and being a designer. In both roles, for example, it’s important to be comfortable asking stakeholders lots of questions to uncover the problem at hand before working toward the solution.
How did you hear about DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
When working with startup and tech clients as a lawyer, I began to hear the terms “UX” and “design thinking” crop up. I’ve had a longstanding interest in design and technology, so I set out to learn more. It wasn’t long before I was seriously thinking about pursuing a career in design.
There’s no shortage of design bootcamps to choose from, but DESIGNATION stood out from the start. I saw that it could give me real-world experience, working collaboratively to solve real design problems for actual clients. The portfolios from DESIGNATION grads were consistently a step above those from other bootcamps, largely because DESIGNATION portfolios present real client work. Lastly, I chose DESIGNATION for its intensity and focus. I wanted to be surrounded by fellow designers serious about advancing their skill set.
How would you describe your DESIGNATION experience?
It was a process of self-discovery more than anything else! I arrived at DESIGNATION ready to learn practical skills to help me launch my design career. However, in building my identity as a designer, I learned a lot about myself, including my values as a designer, and the importance of curiosity and empathy in working through difficult problems.
What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
Getting to know my cohort and the staff at DESIGNATION. It was a privilege to be around so many uniquely talented and creative people with such diverse outlooks on design and life. They were a constant source of encouragement, wisdom, and good cheer, especially during late nights working on client projects and the job search process.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
Before coming to DESIGNATION, my design process was largely based on intuition. Learning to frame my work in terms of assumptions, design objectives, and desired outcomes helped me move beyond intuition and toward making justified, rigorous design decisions. In turn, this has helped me give specific, actionable feedback on my colleagues’ designs, and ask others for the same.
How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job?
Being able to speak meaningfully about my design process and client work from DESIGNATION. In many respects, DESIGNATION makes this part easy for its grads. During the program, I spent so much time discussing and thinking deeply about the problems we were trying to solve for our clients. When it came for interviews, it was easy to speak knowledgeably about the client projects in my portfolio.
“ Learning to frame my work in terms of assumptions, design objectives, and desired outcomes helped me move beyond intuition and toward making justified, rigorous design decisions.”
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now?
It’s fun being part of a dynamic profession that’s full of opportunity. It seems that every week there’s a new tool, process, or framework for design. The industry continues to change at a rapid pace, which means there’s always more to learn and new opportunities on the horizon.