Design Chat: Nick Mazur, Lifely

Meet Nick Mazur, a Senior Product Designer at Lifely, who admits to having previously enjoyed taking the ‘wrong’ step and learning more from what people tend to avoid. Nick has been enjoying designing for clients for the past 6 years. His main goal is trying to help people around him to improve on their design skills and to also learn during and after the process. In this interview, Nick and I take a deeper dive into taking the wrong career step and how this can help you to achieve more moving forward.

What are your own experiences with taking, what you feel, was the wrong career step?

I have always taken the path that came most naturally in regards to making a decision, however, this means I’ve taken steps that weren’t right from the get-go.

I think, especially coming into this industry, I was over the moon when offered a job whilst being an intern at the time. I left that company pretty hastily to try something different and outside of the industry, in retrospect that was pretty naive. After moving around a couple of times you learn a lot about what the right move for you is, so although moves can feel like mistakes, they are all learning curves.

In hindsight, everything looks different from when you first made your decision and I’m really grateful that I have learnt from the steps I took. These steps led to decisions after being easier to make, every single time.

How did this help you transition to where you are today, both career-wise and as a designer?

As for my career, taking a couple of different steps really helped me ask the right questions moving forward, and being able to read people and understand their intentions a little more. After talking to other people in the industry over the past couple of years I can honestly say I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. However, when you look back and analyse what you chose, there is always scope to learn and, for my career I feel that is one of the most important aspects. You should always analyse and improve.

As a designer, you should always want to gain momentum and be the best designer you can be, however never be fully satisfied. I take a lot of inspiration from creators outside the design industry and think this is really important to help to open up your creativity. Also, never underestimate practice, practice always makes perfect and a lot of becoming a better designer comes from simply designing. Also, never be afraid to be bold and take risks to find your place within the design and an organisation.

Do you feel there is a stigma around voicing your experiences with taking the potential wrong step for your career?

Most definitely! The common phrase ‘Do you think this would be the right step for me?’ ring a bell? Don’t get me wrong: I still do this. It reflects our humanity, as of course we always want to have reassurance in big life decisions. However, this false pretence makes for designers to question themselves; more often than a lot will acknowledge. This can often lead to people holding themselves back and missing opportunities due to fear.

Then again it’s not just a feeling; people talk and that’s ok. Just get a feel for what this means to you. It might be that the previous company was not the right fit for you on a cultural or career level, or that maybe your next move is one people will not understand.

That being said, I have an appreciation for those who just looked me in the eye and told me that my next move didn’t make sense and they don’t understand. I feel like this is just as important as the reassurance we crave, as it gives us something to look back and reflect on. It also makes for an interesting conversation when you next see them.

During where you felt you were heading in the wrong direction, did you still gain value from others around you?

I credit some of the people I’ve met during these times as being really close friends. Having your fair share of mistakes made in the past builds character and also relationships that maintain whilst moving forward. Nonetheless, it also says a lot of the people around you; your personality reflects in the people you surround yourself with. Still to this day, I think I’ve definitely handled a lot of conversations wrong, however, I have learnt and developed not only people skills but also design skills from this. It is often easy to forget the people around you when you are caught up in trying to become a better designer.

The most common mistake is trying to do it all yourself, where is the fun in that? Even when your job means you are depending completely on yourself you have to keep looking around for support and also other opinions and ideas. I’ve learned more about design by trying to gain from the perspectives of my colleagues than I have from any book or training programme. Not to forget the humans interacting with our product and the clients responding to your products on a consumer level. Your consumer can often be your biggest learning curve, as products aren’t always used/received as expected.

The greatest value you can gain from the people around you is brutal honesty; nobody will gain anything from fake smiles.

Learning from previous experience, how did you tailor your search to ensure you were heading in the right direction for yourself at the time?

First of all, do your research. Read about what companies are looking for in a designer, what their mission/drivers are and whether they resonate with you. You should feel passionate about their product offering and also how to better this to elevate their business. These factors should be the basis of your match. In the beginning, I was really eager to just get a job, so just seeing ‘junior designer’ made me scan the requirements and immediately go for it, even if the job itself did not fit in with my long term goals.

Toning down your excitement to understand the company and its vision is really hard in the beginning. For a lot of companies what they want to be and what they are are not always aligned and this is something you will begin to recognise even more with experience. Their portfolio can be an indication that you as a designer are a match, however, don’t forget sometimes being a fresh pair of eyes can mean way more for a company.

With these factors in mind, I always do some research on what the company shows the world that they are, so when they do invite me I can ask them what their vision is to get a better understanding straight from the horse’s mouth. Reading people is a skill some possess and others try to develop for years. It’s all about asking the right educated questions, you don’t want them to question why you even applied.

So for me, it was a matter of doing research and working to get the answers when invited in for a conversation. After that combine the two and then let my gut feeling tell me if I’m making the right decision.

What would your best advice be to other designers that are thinking about their next, career-defining, step?

Follow your own path and be open to learning from others in the process. It’s a cliché but nonetheless, I feel that making the wrong decision is a good thing on many levels.

When you’re starting out, just go out and find your own path, you will always learn better by doing. Just always make sure you’re honest to yourself and those around you. I’ve credited the people I’ve worked with and learned from to this day.

Still not sure how that’ll help you? Maybe these questions will help:

What have I done in the past? What steps did I take? What do I want to achieve when taking this step? What would I gain from moving on?

Got your answers? Well, then you know what you’ve done and where you want to go.

Stay hungry!

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Molly Jennings

I am a Senior Recruitment Consultant specialising in UX and Digital Product Design across the Netherlands. 🇳🇱