Office Hours with Fatema Raja

Fatema Raja is a UX Lead at Gojek and Mentor at ownpath. She constantly strives to make technology more humanist and ethical.

Office Hours with Fatema Raja
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Expert Interviews

Fatema Raja is a UX Lead at Gojek and Mentor at ownpath. In her journey from graphic to product and now services, she has developed a deep understanding of what it means to be a designer. She constantly strives to make technology more humanist and ethical.

Q: You have been with Gojek for 4 years now. Tell us a bit about what helped you grow as a designer?

When I joined Gojek, we were a team of 15 designers and today we’ve grown to 150 designers. The biggest thing that I learned while coming from an agency model to the product model; your loyalties lie with the customer, and you have to advocate and defend them. Another thing I learnt was that design is not just execution, but it is transformational.

And to make my stakeholders understand that it is within my right to be curious enough to ask them the question “What business problem will be solved with this?” or “How will this feature benefit my user in any way?“.

The biggest challenge I had was moving from execution to a transformational design role. What has helped me is, to be curious at every stage in the design process, from the time you get the brief to when you’re designing, never stop at one iteration. Be curious to explore all ways to explore a solution. Always ask, “How is it going to benefit the business or the customer?”.

Q: How do you collaborate more effectively?

Communicate with stories: Being an excellent communicator and storyteller is one of the biggest design skills that one needs to hone and keep developing, apart from your hard skills. Understand the audiences you’re presenting your designs to. Understand what kind of work they do, what their goals are, and how to present it in a way that aligns with what their goal is. How you present to each stakeholder tells about how much you understand and empathise with what they do.

Getting buy-ins: I divide an idea into specific steps. First, I identify the problem I want to solve, put down the story in a document, draw wireframes and map out what the vision would look like. I try to meet these stakeholders independently from business, PM, and Engineering, and sell my idea to them after understanding what their goal is.

I gather feedback from them, tweak my designs based on feedback and then meet them all together. Now everyone in the meeting will be on board with your idea because by now you have gone and taken feedback from them and aligned their goals with yours. And get them together in the same room to agree with you. This has been my go-to strategy for buy-ins.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t present your design to sound smart, present your design to get genuine feedback on how you can improve your user experience. Don’t be afraid of asking questions. Be curious. Understand the users’ patterns more than the brief that you actually get.

Sit with your PMs when they are defining the success metrics for the feature you’re working on. Whenever you’re designing a solution, find out what is expected to change. What does success for this feature look like? Once the design for the feature is done, wait and see if your hypothesis was right. Really get to know the problem you’re solving and understand when will you get to say that your solution is working.

Q: As a design lead, how do you mentor someone who has just joined the team?

Identify what kind of motivation will work for them and what are their skill gaps. By doing more, they’ll learn more. I share more blogs and books which really encourage them to read those and learn more about what’s going on. If it is about communication, I will have as many design reviews and critiques, and you’ll understand who needs to learn more and what they need to understand.

Be open to taking more feedback on your designs. Treat them as equal and keep the environment more comfortable as a team.

Q: How do the first few weeks look like for a new designer at Gojek?

The first few weeks are all about going over research material that we’ve collected over the past few months or years.

Learning in-depth about what the users are saying about our product, what are the most important numbers on the products, where are the most drop-offs, where is the most interactions in the products, identifying key stakeholders and getting them just acquainted with the team would be a first few days of a designer at Gojek.

Q: What type of methods do you use in terms of UX Research? How do you identify a set of customers to talk to?

Depends on what kind of research we’re getting into and based on that, we define our sample set. We call them to the office; go see the users in their environment using the product. Probably go to their house, be in a cab while they order food. Many people end up ordering food on their way back home from the office in the cab, so we get the users to perform the same activity in the same environment.

How we get user feedback: We speak to our users via our social media channels and customer calls and app reviews. We keep a very close eye on our customer care manager to understand the biggest complaints.

Q: How do you adapt to a different culture, how you made that shift and how did you make that habit of continuously checking if something is palatable to the Indonesian audience?

Working with my Indonesian colleagues helped me understand the culture better. With the help of our research team, we try to be a part of the interviews they are taking. Whenever I’m in the country I step out and visit local places and get more local experiences to understand the users better.

Let’s say in an error case scenario on our product, we try to be compassionate and add a meme- because that is very relevant to their culture. Like the Friendzone meme. We try to use these in our illustrations to spark joy. We also include a bit of colloquialism in our copy to be more relevant to the culture.

Q: Do you alter your visual language to the country you’re in?

Memes and illustrations in empty states would be local and slightly different across countries. Now that we’re a more global brand, we’re going ahead with redefining our illustration guidelines to be less specific and cultural but still be human and relevant.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about how you remain connected to your users when you’re not there in person?

On remote user testing: We have a stellar research team who have cracked this process and put these frameworks in place.

One thing that has worked well for us is the “Ask customer anything” and “Ask merchants anything”. Anybody from a QA to an Engineer, PM, or Designer, can just be there, asking questions to the merchants or the customers, regarding the product or regarding their working style inside the kitchen or what their restaurant is like; it could be any of those questions.

Every week we prepare a sample set of SMBs; a diverse set of business owners come in every week and be available for an hour, and every designer or researcher be present with the list of their questions and to ask them anything.

This is how we’re trying to connect to our users without solely relying on usability testing. However, if we have a specific feature going out, we do video conferencing, and we try to understand how the users are using the feature.

Q: Do you have different designers working on these different sections, like people specifically in research, and people specifically in illustrations, and how does that work?

We have three teams, the creative, the product experience, and the interaction design team. The creative team takes care of iconography, illustrations, and the tone of voice.

Product and experience designers are more into the product and are working on why we are building something, how will we build something and how is it impacting our users, What do our users want more from our product or how are they using our product?

Interaction designers design the visual side of things, are responsible for the design language system, do the motion design work and decide the transitions from one screen to the other.

Q: How do you estimate timelines for a project?

Bucket tasks in terms of T-Shirt sizes- small, medium, and large. A small task is about a week for wireframing or user flows wireframe to interaction flows, and a medium is, let’s say 2-3 weeks and a large is 4-6 weeks and go can go for months.

Find out what are your buckets and then understand which project fits into which bucket. Ask for a day to get back on timelines without committing to a deadline for the project. In the meantime, understand what questions on the data you want for the research.

Then work on the scope of the project, and that’s how you’ll be able to set a timeline. Also, no timelines are carved in stone, you will make a couple of mistakes initially, but then you will get on with it. In six months from now, when you will get your next brief, you’ll be better prepared to bucket your work.

Q: Design agency vs Product company: Pros and Cons

Variety of projects in an agency: Sure, variety is given to you in an agency model. But I don’t think that variety is only available inside an agency model because I’ve had my fair share of a variety of projects even at Gojek. When I’m working on something and I really want to work on something else, I try to find a problem and then suggest a project out of it and the solution for it, and then work on it, like what we did with the rebrand.

It was something that Gojek needed, but no one started it. In an agency you work very closely with the designers, than you do with the other stakeholders, which is like your product managers, engineers, etc.

At the start of my design career, I would still choose to work with an agency because that would not just get me a variety of projects, it would get me to work way more closely with other designers and improve my design skills.

In a product company, you have a sense of ownership where you are completely responsible for the success or failure of the product. You can bring in strategic changes and you’re able to understand product strategy more. This helps you as a designer see what difference you made to the end product and the business.

For someone who likes total flexibility and autonomy, you can be a freelancer as well.

Choosing a company to work at: Understand who are the designers working there, and who you want to learn from.

Who are the product people or business people with whom I will not have to convince that good design is important, but they already agreed to that, and I have to just do the work of making the design. A lot of these things will change and it depends on what stage in your career you are at, what you enjoy doing, etc. Nothing is the right or wrong answer, make the most of wherever you are.

Q: Working as a sole designer at an early-stage start-up, how to convince my stakeholders to let me be a part of the decision-making conversations?

Being a part of the decision-making conversations: I recommend that you be a part of writing PRD and documents when they are building a product feature. Get noticed by asking relevant questions on those documents. Start with Slack groups or in the documentation where you comment on an interesting insight that you read online. Share these suggestions and they will eventually see the value in what you are trying to say.

Sometimes, go to the meeting uninvited and say Hey, I saw that meeting is on the calendar, can I jump in that meeting, I want to be a fly on the wall and observe what you’re doing”.Do that for a couple of months until you build up the confidence to ask them, “How will our users benefit from this feature?” sometimes just asking this is really going to make people think and want to give the answer because they have to.

Don’t wait for them to give you that power or to give you that invitation, just go to these meetings uninvited, but within reason of course.

Q: How do you grow your career in a large company?

You will hit saturation at some more point. There’s a possibility to move to another team or product within the company. Identify what is not working very well. Go out of your way and do different things instead of waiting for someone to give them to do. Attend design crit of other streams and if you find something interesting and pair up with someone where you can work on that project.

Do what you’re not even asked to do, that’s how you’re going to grow in a job. If you only do what your boss gives you to do, you’re never going to grow. Your job is to make your boss’s job redundant.

Q: What are the qualities that Gojek would look for in a Product Designer?

For a Product Designer, we like to see the process of how you got to that solution than the solution, what were the influences that led you to take this decision. When you present your design to someone, if you go there with hard facts, Hey, this is what my users were doing,”, “This is not what my users were saying, and that’s why no matter how many people say design is subjective, when you present with facts, they know that you’ve thought these things through.

As a person, what we would see is, are you humble and are you driven? Those are the two things I look at when I do recruit for the GoFoods team. Are they humble enough to work with the rest of the team? Do they have the drive, even if they might not be the best-skilled designer, but do they have the drive to learn more? I think once a designer has that, skills can be achieved. More than skills for me, is the drive of wanting to learn.

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