EPISODE #42 || Aliya Marder, Associate Director at Philosophie


Aliya tells us everything we need to know about getting started in UX and product design. Hear about her transition from the wine industry to UX, the hard and soft skills needed to be a product designer, specific resources (including blogs, courses, and communities) for those starting out, and her advice on the biggest hurdles that junior designers face—including building your portfolio from scratch and finding mentors.

Heads up: Introducing the We Are Next Index, a crowdsourced directory of resources that help students and jr. talent start and slay in their careers. Check out the list and help us build the Index by submitting a resource you love!

Topics Discussed

  • How she went from studying history and math, to working in the wine industry, to fighting her way into a role as a UX designer.
  • Things she learned in the wine industry that applies to what she does now, including empathy, organization, and working hard as part of a team.
  • Specific examples of the type of work Philosophie does—namely aligning business objectives with the value to the end user.
  • The hard and soft skills involved in being a product designer (and what the heck a product designer is/does), including what she thinks is the most important soft skill for designers to get good at.
  • Specific resources including blogs, courses, and communities that Aliya recommends for those just starting out in UX.
  • Advice on the biggest hurdles that junior designers face, including building your portfolio from scratch and finding mentors. (And why she always says yes when juniors email her for help!)
  • Why what a company does is less important than who the company is and who you’re going to be working with.
  • Her best practices for managing different teams and personalities.
  • How to turn experiment-driven design into a tool for self-discovery through your creative hobbies.

Mic Drops

“One of the most important things a designer can get good at is giving and receiving feedback. Designers have been talking a lot about the problem of critique, and how you critique something without undermining someone’s self-worth and motivation on a project. […] As a designer, I think it was year 4 when I finally understood that critique of my work wasn’t critique of me. It finally took me from there to really embrace feedback, and to be like, ‘Yes, I understand. l I hear what you’re saying and I agree that that’s a very good point.’ And sometimes saying, ‘I disagree. I think it’s okay that we disagree, and I take your feedback and thank you for giving it, but I’m going to continue on the way that I’m currently going.’”

“I didn’t do a good job finding mentors. I didn’t reach out to people, I was too scared. I got in my own way. Being on the other side of that now, people who reach out to me—I love that. Because I was in that position where I wasn’t willing to swallow my own ego and admit that I was a beginner. […] I always say yes to those. I will get coffee or have a call with anyone who emails me to ask for help, because I think that shows so much humility and understanding, and shows such a good mindset.”

“What the company does is less important than who the company is. Who you’re going to be working with. Do they care what’s good for you? Do they care about your professional goals? Do they care about creating a learning environment that you can succeed in? Because otherwise you’ll end up trading in your passion because the job environment isn’t good for you.”

Resources Mentioned

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