My two cents for organizations: when recruiting, don’t only rely on the safe choices of friends and referrals. Give opportunity to people who are capable and outside of your organization’s network. Your team’s culture and productivity would benefit from the team diversity.
My two cents for fresh graduates: be brave to ask for support and mentoring, you lose nothing by doing it!
My two cents for those considering product design: have empathy. It takes you far!
Find your unique path
Young adults entering university may not even know what they want to do in the future, which often leads to following their parents’ wishes and guidance – and in China, art is typically not something that parents want their kids to study. I had always been passionate about arts and design, and I decided to follow what felt right for me and what I could see myself enjoying also long-term. After high school, I got into Sun Yat-Sen University, one of the best schools in southern China that offers a variety of subjects.
Growing up, I never thought I would live abroad. Until I saw my friend following her dreams and it inspired me to seek what could be out there for me as well. She was studying Japanese in order to move to Japan – I really saw her as a role model, paving the way and showing that such opportunities could be possible! So, in the last year of my BSc in Arts, off to Germany I went.
I spend a wonderful 1.5 years in Germany which included an internship and a 1-year pre-master programme. I then moved to Silicon Valley to work for a start-up for half a year, until I got an offer from Futurice and moved back to Europe and Finland.
Starting a career in Finland
I started as a summer trainee at Futurice – that was five years ago! -, and I was also able to pursue my Master’s Degree in New Media Design & Production at Aalto University, a real top-level school when it comes to arts (and back in 2014 it was free for the student outside the EU).
Working in Finland has been wonderful! However, the starting point wasn’t that smooth – over the years, I have applied to tons of different jobs, some of which I never even heard back from. Now looking back, I had the skills required all along, but it was hard to get my foot in the door. I would really like to encourage companies and recruiters to truly open the positions for everyone and not only rely on those already within the company, or with referrals from friends.
Nowadays, I have fresh graduates reaching out to me regarding insights and advice for landing a designer job. I am happy to look at their portfolios and help them further – I have been in their shoes too! To fresh graduates: there is nothing to lose, so be brave to ask for guidance and mentoring from the people who you truly admire.
For the past two years I’ve worked as a Senior Designer at Futurice, and life here is good. When people ask to chat, it feels genuine; when you need support, people are willing to help. Our company culture is built on trust, care, transparency and continuous learning, and I do think we all live by these core values. As a foreign female, I really appreciate the transparency of the whole organization. As an example, Futurice has great transparency when it comes to salary raises: what percentage of men and women, and of Finnish or foreign talent get it. This shows fairness and inclusion towards all of our employees.
“Working in Finland has been wonderful! However, the starting point wasn’t that smooth – over the years, I have applied to tons of different jobs, some of which I never even heard back from.
Now looking back, I had the skills required all along, but it was hard to get my foot in the door. I would really like to encourage companies and recruiters to truly open the positions for everyone and not only rely on those already within the company, or with referrals from friends.“
About being a designer
Working in design has a lot to do with understanding user needs and responding to them in the best, most inclusive way possible. I work in close collaboration with the whole product team to make sure our interfaces serve all users; easy-to-use designs, friendly copywriting, and joyful illustrations. If you are interested to read more about my learnings as a designer, check out my blog at https://lishadai.medium.com/!
In my eyes, the most important qualities for a successful designer are empathy and passion. Tech is constantly evolving, so one has to be passionate about learning. Designing is not technical – simply having empathy takes you far. You have to be able to, and want to, see the world and the apps from other people’s perspectives and understand their needs. We all use digital applications and have our opinion on what makes a good service, so we are all designers in some way already!
Lisha Dai, Senior Designer, Futurice