Jonas has made a leap from architecture to UX design and joined Vinted over three years ago. He doesn’t think it’s a complete change of careers since there are multiple parallels between the two.
How did you become interested in UX design? Tell us about your career path.
I was determined that I wanted to be an architect at a young age. After finishing my undergraduate degree I moved to Lisbon to join a small but ambitious architectural firm called Camarim Arquitectos . It was a great place to grow as an architect. Couple of years later I came back to Vilnius to do my postgraduate degree and got a chance to join the office of one of my most admired architects Rolandas Palekas . Due to an unfortunate halt in an architectural project I was working on, I got back on the search for my next challenge. Thanks to my dad, there were computers in our home for as long as I can remember. And it was thanks to my first Apple’s MacOS experience that I got fascinated by UI/UX design.
I’ve got driven by the idea that understanding UX will help me become a better designer in any area of design. It was then that I came across a UI/UX designer position opening at a tech. company called Jumsoft and to my surprise they hired me. They are a truly design driven company that focuses on making digital products that would look and feel native on Apple's software ecosystem. It was an amazing learning opportunity in a new field for me.
How did you come to Vinted?
After 3.5 years at Jumsoft I was choosing whether to come back to architecture or dive deeper into UX. I decided to commit myself to becoming an expert in UX design. A strong design team, an inspiring product vision and a data-driven design process made Vinted the perfect place to pursue my goal. At that time Vinted was probably the only Lithuanian product company that had well-developed user research methodology and teams of usability researchers, and analysts who made sure that our business, product and design decisions are well informed. I knew that if I wanted to grow as a product designer, this was the company to work for.
How do you think being an architect has helped you in succeeding as a UX designer?
I’ve learned that the principles of great design prevail in architecture and product design. The denominator in most areas of design are the people. No matter if you’re designing a city, a chair or an app, in most cases it will be perceived by us, the people and our five senses.
Both architecture and product design are all about problem solving and storytelling. The tools, tech and titles differ - Vinted has significantly less civil engineers and more software engineers around.
What is your typical day like?
Lately, I’ve spent most of my time looking for great designers to join Vinted. I love that my work includes meeting a bunch of smart and creative people.
When I’m not doing that, I’m working on design projects with my teammates.
What would your perfect day look like?
A perfect work day is when I’m in the flow. This often means getting really psyched about an idea first. Add the whole team being in the flow too and we go from perfect to otherworldly.
What challenges have you faced at Vinted so far?
Growth is a constant at Vinted. There were a number of firsts for me here - designing for Android and Web, doing international user research, leading a company-wide rebranding, leading a team of designers, hiring and the list goes on.
What have you learned and which events changed you professionally?
Together with the development of the company, the role of its designers and their expectations evolved. For a long time, many people in the industry were confused about what the role of a UX designer entails. Designers used to be perceived as magicians who would get a seat next to C-level executives and be asked to make the product easy to understand, user-friendly and loved by everyone. That’s no longer the case, at least at Vinted, and it has to do with what I had to learn as the UX role developed. At the point when you’re no longer a magician, you have to understand how design decisions impact product success and start speaking the language of business. Vinted’s teams use OKRs to set and track the company's goals. What was new to me was that I had to start using new metrics to measure how UX work can match the company’s strategic direction.
There were a few important lessons I had learned during the process of Vinted’s rebranding. When our company faced the need to change the direction, we thought that the task of rebranding should be given to external agencies, which we did. However, we were never satisfied with the result. At the end, our design team took the initiative of creating a new company image and Vinted trusted us. We didn’t aim to create a brand that other designers would fall in love with. We wanted every person in the company to see a new logo, feel proud and think “That’s my company”. I believe we managed to achieve this. The revamp we gave our brand was well-accepted: both by Vinted’s employees and its members. I see this as an example of good leadership - being able to make team members believe in what they do and keeping everyone within the company engaged.
What are the key principles that you follow in life and at work?
In a recent conversation with my grandfather about the reasoning for some of his career choices he told me that he operated on one principle - “do honest good for people without seeking to be praised for it”. I wish that this would be true to my thoughts and actions more often.
What have you learned as a team-lead? Were there any mistakes made and lessons learned?
Turning from hands-on delivery to leading a team of incredibly smart and capable designers is my latest and arguably the toughest challenge at Vinted yet. To be honest, I’m still figuring this one out.
All in all, I think that a famous quote sums up the expected leadership style at Vinted quite well: “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” This is why I’m learning to listen thoroughly and to communicate efficiently, since a lot of my mistakes were a result of not doing so.
In order to enable our designers to improve the quality of Vinted UX I’m also learning to attribute design projects and users’ needs to the company’s business goals.
If you could ask any person a question, who would it be and what would you ask?
Several years ago the answer would have been “an astronaut!”. When I met one at SXSW, I found my hands trembling and voice shaking. All that I could think of asking him was: “So how’s space?”
I’m always excited to interact with someone who truly loves what they do, no matter the field.
What do you like about Vinted?
The culture, the resilience and brilliance of people and the fact that we refuse to settle with mediocrity. Oh, and the freedom to work remotely too.
One fun fact about yourself
I have too many hobbies.
The podcasts you love listening to
Is there any blog that you follow and would recommend to others?
I’d only recommend for other designers to not limit your range of interests and to follow ideas from all lines of design.
What music do you like to listen to?
Here's my 2017 summed up by Spotify
Is there any book you could recommend?
I'm currently crossing some books from Lars Mueller Publishers off my reading list. The latest one was "White" by Kenya Hara - totally recommended to everyone who's into Japanese aesthetic and philosophy.