This is an interview with Polly Au, a passionate product designer, and user research expert. She has recently launched a few sessions on XpertFinder and due to great feedback from our users, we decided to have a chat with her and ask her about her experience on XpertFinder. She also mentioned some tips and tricks on how to be a successful organiser.
I really enjoy uncovering and solving customer pain points through design. I’ve been designing for various organisations from Not-for-Profits to consulting for 7 years. My proudest moment was completing my Masters of Business Administration because I am a first generation university graduate. When I was about 8, I went on a bus trip in Hong Kong with my grandpa and I saw the big red Coca Cola sign. The curious child in me asked about why the sign was red. At that time, no one around me could answer the question. I think that’s when design planted a seed in my life. I started pursuing and completed an Industrial Design degree at University and realised that there are more things to uncover behind the scenes from a design perspective. So, to prepare myself as a better leader, I decided to study Masters of Business Administration at UTS.
At UTS, I wanted to start a business and discovered UTS Startups. I jumped at the opportunity and tried to make my own app about “How might we make the podcast sharing experience more efficient?”. As designers, portfolios are our blood, sweat and tears. Portfolio is our bread and butter. Designer’s portfolio prepatruates our careers towards a better lifestyle. In hackathon terms, the true hipster we all dreamt to be.
Obviously, starting my own business is no easy task and on top of that, I have assignment deadlines luring in the background. So I put the business on hold and work on the assignments on campus.
I then overheard conversations about frustrations and misconceptions about how to make a better User Experience for products from the non-UX founders around me and decided to take on a few extra design work here and there both on campus and remotely. It has been a great run and for one of the startups that I have joined, we have won the most inspiring startup of the year in 2019.
Even though I have now completed a business degree, I am very passionate about design because it has been deeply rooted in my soul since I was 8. Only now, it is leaning more towards, “How can I solve business and user problems through design?” in a digital context.
It was at UTS Startups. I remember when I was chatting with one of my friends about life, lurking assignment deadlines and being somewhat social, the CEO of XpertFinder - Ima approached us about a program. I quickly asked about what she is doing at her startup, learnt about XpertFinder and why she started XpertFinder. I jumped onto the website and I was mind blown. At that time, I was doing a Machine Learning Subject and was very frustrated by different new terms I have to learn in 12 weeks. It is such a short time. Let alone predicting the binary outcomes, unsupervised (pun intended). I posted my queries on my personal Facebook page. No one could answer me. It would be great to ask someone who has a different communication style to my lecturer online. I thought XpertFinder is situated in a great wicked problem space and I offered to help with uncovering the user experience pain points for the company. Plus, another piece to put into my portfolio!
I think I can solve my initial startup idea around “How might we make the podcast sharing experience more efficient?” through XpertFinder. It may sound unrelated but because I am an individual who squeeze in every moment of time and opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills wherever, whenever I can. I am a self confessed podcast fan! I listen to these bite sized knowledge pieces when I am commuting. From time to time, I share news articles, podcasts and journals to friends and family around me and realise that there should be a more efficient way to find out more about a specific topic - which is to ask people directly. People tend to help if they know the answer and will point you in the direction for the best way forward.
I have been both. As an attendee, I wanted to learn more about how to communicate to engineers effectively and joined one of the sessions. The vibe was friendly and I didn’t feel so shy about asking questions.
As an organiser… I will have to tell you a story.
Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like someone is going to discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?
Well, that’s me. I didn’t realise I have a severe case of imposter syndrome until I was scheduling a session on XpertFinder. I intently scheduled it on a Saturday afternoon on a topic that I loved truly - Ask me anything about UX Design. I thought, “if I scheduled it on a Saturday afternoon, no one is going to show up because they are going to have something better to do. Who is going to listen to me? Hahaha”
2 days before the session, emails about the attendees started to pour into my inbox. There were 10 of them. 10 attendees! 10 people whom I never would have met before!
If I lived in the sit-com world, the narrator of my life would say, “It was at that moment, Polly realised that she has something to give back to the community.” My feelings changed from a sense of unworthiness, to a sense of panic. How on earth am I going to talk for an hour? What on earth am I going to talk about for an hour? Let alone to 10 strangers?
I got into the online conference room - 10 minutes early, someone was already there. Waiting, starry eyed, smiling. Woah. Time to finally talk about the thing I love. I quickly introduced myself and asked the attendee who was already there to introduce herself too. I asked about why she attended the session and what she hopes to get out of it. We spoke for 10 mins before the session even started. And then someone joined. And then more people joined! Someone even joined and registered half way! Bringing the total to 11 people!
The conversation went from furthering design career, to the need for a customer journey map from a business perspective, to learning design tools, to better layout for an ecommerce store. To my very surprise, I did it. I had meaningful conversations with 11 people at the same time about a topic I truly loved. We talked about our common interests for a little more than an hour. It was such a rewarding experience. I can not recommend it enough.
So… the next step for me was to host a design session with a social mission. This time, it was a paid session. We charged a small fee. I decided to showcase my design skills through a software tool called Adobe XD because when I was learning design tools, and starting out as a designer, I found it difficult to learn and had no one to ask for advice. I also decided to donate a portion of my rate to my beloved charity. “This time, no one is going to show up… definitely!”, as I thought to myself while scheduling the session.
It was in that morning, someone actually was interested and paid for it. XpertFinder keeps on surprising me. Fantastic! For some strange reason, the attendees didn’t show up. Since they were my first customers, I am determined to provide excellent customer service to them. I decided to host the same session the week after, at no extra costs to them because I am really doing this, with a purpose - designing with a purpose. Building a design community with a purpose.
In summary, XpertFinder has helped me improvise, adapt, and overcome my imposters syndrome. I can not recommend hosting a session enough. XpertFinder had helped me find a group of audience that I never knew I had. I believe that starting from my first session, I have ultimately become the leader I always dreamt to be.
Be on time. Mute the mic and only turn it on to speak. Have questions ready. Give feedback (emoji or questions) to organisers.
Most importantly, have fun!