It’s a Good Time to be a Designer

I started my design career in 2007, when I graduated from undergraduate school of design. I joined Oracle that time designing for a non-profit web platform for schools worldwide.

Even though I’ve been designing for the web since five years before that, joining Oracle was a point where I had to learn how to work in a big organization and working on their digital product(s). The products are not commercial, but still, they managed to develop and maintain it internally and did so very well. I was working remote from Jakarta, with my manager in San Francisco. I thoroughly enjoyed the “remote working” feeling of it, although I worked in the Oracle office in Jakarta. I learned about product development, user interface design (visual design, wireframes, specs), even learned a bit about persona and user experience methods (although not comprehensive). I also learned how to observe the users of my products, students and teachers, by attending trainings (and actually taught them how to use the product). It was both educational and fulfilling. I felt like I was doing a good thing.

Then, I moved on briefly to a national English-speaking newspaper. I helped them conceptualize one of their digital products — a travel site.

My best career move was the next one. I moved to, an Indonesian e-commerce that connects customers in a marketplace. Customers can sell items to other customers. Achmad Zaky, the CEO, is a friend and he gave me full trust in revamping Bukalapak. I was not set a deadline. I was given access and freedom to the team to see what we can do with the product. It was a great year. I learned to do product design from scratch, validate the design with the team, speak to customers, work with very smart engineers and a team full of energy. Everybody was in sync with their work. We came to work everyday with passion and a strong sense of ownership. I was learning to use multiple tools to design, including Apple Keynote — who would’ve thought?

The only thing that lacked from my Bukalapak career was I didn’t learn much about how we should develop products: waterfall, agile, scrum… and all that stuff, but maybe there’s a good side —we were experimenting fully with what we thought best for the product at that time.

As a year went by, I yearned to develop my portfolio and learn more about product development. I thought joining Ice House, a mobile development shop, was the right thing. It had everything that I wanted at that time: client work to build various portfolio, smart engineering teams, good employee benefits, and an agile workflow. I learned to continue my design process & methodology, but also learned how to integrate it with agile. I worked with some of the smartest engineers I know. I enjoyed working with clients (I never thought I would, judging by how difficult I am with interacting with people). The team gave full support and respect for me.

Another opportunity came, and this one was an easy call. It was DBS Bank from Singapore. It was perfect. I wanted to work overseas. It was a really good pay & benefits. I was about to have a baby. It was a solid team, with a long designer friend I admired, and a boss who came from PayPal. While I enjoyed my time at Ice House, I wanted to try this before it went away. Ice House offered me to relocate to San Francisco as an attempt to keep me, but I had a baby coming and the financial benefits of Singapore outweighed San Francisco. Sorry, Ice House. I moved on.

At DBS Bank, I learned how to work with large organization again, and to be a “fox” — how to make my way through the organization, justify, seek consensus and generally be friends with the bank team members to push my design through. It was not an easy process. I was frustrated so many times. However, I feel like I made the most progress at DBS Bank, as a designer. What I mean is that I discovered about myself more than in any other place. I also worked with super-talented team members who continually gave me support no matter what. Thank you, there, Chooake.

Now, I am back in Jakarta — helping some companies in starting up products and businesses. Leaving DBS Bank was a difficult decision. My thought that time was I want to take ownership of my work more and live a simpler life. I want to feel better & happier in general. I was burnt out. I was worried if it was a totally wrong decision. It might have been. Sometimes I feel that I regretted doing it, especially for my family. It was a solid company with good pay, and a good team. Maybe the way I coupled with things was a little wrong. But anyway — here I am, in Jakarta, back at home, with the baby and wife. I would like to make the most of my time while here in Jakarta.

It turned out that by opening myself to opportunities, those opportunities really come to me. Some freelance works came. There are even full-time job offers.

It seems that as a designer, it’s a good time to be alive and working, and I will not worry about not having anything to work on.

Things are getting better.