The Journey : From Individual UX Designer to UX Leader


Learning new things in life is actually really easy. You just have to strengthen your curiosity and wear an optimistic cloak. However, that’s just a theory. In real life situations, accepting new things in life is not as easy as it is in theory. Before joining four startup companies, my design was just good enough. It was decent enough, with no major flaws and it was considerably good. However, my design and my ability didn’t reach its potential. It was worthless, for lack of better terms. I was just a rookie, a beginner, still green in UI / UX world. But I am grateful for the experience. I picked up and learned a lot during during my time working for various startup companies, and I developed my skill as UI/UX Designer

Before taking shelter in GOJEK, I was an ordinary Informatics Engineering student. In 2012, I began to delve into Web Design. At that time, I realized that having an interest in something is not enough. My goal is to be skilled instead of just interested. I had my share of failures, my bouts of fiasco in some projects I handled. Wandering from project to another, from there I came to learn some more things to add to my pile. For instance, I learned how to work with consecutive and hard demands.

In the span of 2 years I was working for GOJEK, I spent my time with 2 different VPs (of UX), Alamanda Shantika and Monika Halim. They had different approach managing the team. Alamanda was more futuristic, she was quick at thinking on her feet and she tackled problems as fast as possible. She was able to navigate all of the team to work closely. Monika, on other hand, was more mature, wiser at making any decision. She could manage and tackle all of issue from business issues to technical issues with admirable ease and aplomb. Sometimes I couldn’t understand how she managed to keep her calm and be professional whenever she had to make big decision since GOJEK has millions of users. Between the two of them, with their very different decision making styles, it makes up a deeper understanding of leadership which I learned a lot from.

Today, I decided to be self-sufficient by setting up a UI/UX Advisory, uxmarker. In the past, I was a contributor. Now I’m more of a preceptor, an adviser. In GOJEK, I learned about leadership, but I don’t think it truly satisfied my cognitive thirst. The rapid development of a digital online business demands that a UI/UX should grow as fast as light travels. Knowing the basic theory, methodology, or even design techniques is not nearly enough. There is still so much to learn, so many layers to peel, so much to delve into. That’s why I still need a lot of learning and experience to grow as a UX consultant.

Chelsey Glasson and Ian Swinson gave me the idea to take the leadership helmet and set up my own UX consultant team. Taken from Glasson and Swinson’s journals, here are 5 things needed to foster leadership for UI/UX designers:

1. Career development helps designers become Master of UX

Have you already thinking about career development? The majority of UI/UX designers are only concerned with design details. Their heads are full of data and user observation results. As a result, they forget about themselves. On the other hand, it does help to encourage a designer to focus on the project being worked on. Unfortunately, he drowned and didn’t return to the surface immediately.

The shocking reality was revealed.

Of all the UX designers interviewed by Glasson and Swinson, none of the designers sit on the executive level. Honestly, that is unfortunate. UX designers know both the problem and the user’s expectation the best. However, they can never sit as a general decision maker. Why is that? Because they never think about career development or even career goals. Matthew Holloway, User Experience Design VP, Shutterfly said:

“When I was starting in my career, I was not aiming to be a manager. At the time, I have never thought about laying out career goals. I just kind of started doing more of the management tasks for the team because I was good at them, and it went from there. “

Try to think of career development. Through career development, a UX designer will absorb the unique multi-disciplinary perspective, insights, and skills required to be a successful UX Designer.

2. It takes a time to become an expert. Learn everything in order to make the “root” stronger and the “twig” towering.


Optimism is good. However, good things do not produce good conditions when the intensity is excessive. The “Great UX Designer” label can’t be obtained overnight. In fact, when your cognitive value is superior, you still have to lower and absorb all the nutrients that exist on the surface.

Great potential will drown if not treated well.

Many professional UX designers have a good leadership talent. Unfortunately, the opportunity never sided with them. They too enjoy the job and forget that they shouldn’t be in that zone forever. There are still many other “colonies” that can be visited. Try to get out of the comfort zone. Stop (fully) paying attention to project details. Divert the mind and energy to get to know the responsibilities of the various divisions of the company. Recognize the project flow from the researcher to the decision maker. At that time you do, then you will realize that a UX designer is not enough to solve the problem. A final product will be successful if UI/UX designer, developer, PM, until bosses synergizing each other. These figures can’t stand alone.

Think again about your career goals. Study the responsibilities of each division and make your insights in the field of UI/UX designers as a stepping stone to build a professional career. Not just as a foundation but also a permanent wall like you will design the product forever.

3. Give positive attitudes and words to burn up the team performance. Not criticizing the details of teamwork

A preceptor is required to be able to move every element of the team, so that the project ends with a good note. Originally, as a UX designer, you were required to think of every icon in the layout, every flow and the grand design. No matter how small and tiny the icon or even an element, you have to think about it. Data, methodology, and design techniques are the three mainstay weapons. However, it isn’t so as a UX master.


As UX designer, you should start to leave all detail activity. Currently, you are acting as a translator for all elements of the team. You can’t be too impartial in one of the divisions. Absorb all information and feelings with business goals. Sara Ortloff Khoury, User Experience VP, Walmart Global eCommerce explains:

“When you become a VP, you become a translator. That’s a great word to describe what I do: a translator of business problems into design opportunities. I am more exposed to executives and able to translate business problems into design opportunities in a way that is compelling and inspiring to the cross-functional team. “

4. Know the true meaning of the word “leadership” for the UX Leader

A preceptor is not just “clever” in pointing to someone and telling you about your work. Emotional, cognitive, and affective intelligence must go hand in hand. Each division will be responsible for certain elements and must be mutually compatible. Your background as UX designer shapes you as an individual who behaves on a data basis. However, it isn’t always the right thing. As explained in point two, everything that is excessive will not be ending with “happy”. There are times when you should use “fell” when deciding.

According to Dawna Jones, you should be accustomed to:

“Avoid making a quick decision out of desperation. Give yourself enough time to reflect a “quick fix” solution instead of taking the time to find a more lasting solution “.

Various conditions and different types of team personality will be encountered. Play like a chef. You will be exposed to various types of basic materials and cooking utensils. All you need right now is the ability to mix all the ingredients properly, cook them properly, and serve them with a” tasty” look and taste.

Be calm. Everything needs time. Keep walking!


5. Being a good listener is not enough. Learn more carefully

Access to all information sometimes makes you being “drunk”. Overwhelm Information are just as scary as when you have lack information. Your listening skills are very good, but don’t overwhelm them. You must remember your position and foothold. Learn to be balancer between divisions.

Skill as a decision maker should begin to be nurtured.

John Addison says:

“Good decisions are contingent on knowing your business inside and out, through a combination of analytical reasoning and gut instinct. Leadership and decision-making is a combination of these factors, and it’s more of an art than a science. If a decision does not feel right in three months, chances are your instincts are alerting you to a disaster waiting to happen.”

Moreover, Addison added that being a successful decision-maker you must have several aspects: patience, honesty, collaboration, and instinct. Extend your shell again. Make it an insight as a UX designer as a stepping stone. The next step is, build your career foundation with:

· Career development or clear career goals

· Extending insight about business in general

· Practice how to move teams to act aggressively and effectively

· Understanding the meaning of “true” leadership.

· Strengthen leaderhip skills through patience, honesty, collaboration, and sharpening instinct acumen.