#24 Adnan Puzić - From College Dropout to Conquering the UX Design World

Jan 26, 2023Dianne Eberhardt

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify,  Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.



Dianne: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Pixelated Perfect podcast. I'm excited today we have Adnan with us. Adnan is a product designer at POIs Right now. He has 10 years of design experience and he is located in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And thank you so much Adan, for being here. And maybe you can pronounce Herzegovina correctly, cuz I'm sure I did not say it correctly.

Adnan: Thank you for the intro. I think you did it good. Even though the right way on the language is Bosnia and Herzegovina, but again, it is w correct what you said. And yeah, thank you for the intro. I'm glad to be in your podcast. Yay.

Dianne: Thank you so much. Super excited. So let's, let's get into it. Tell me when design entered your life.

Adnan: It's a really hard good question because it dates down to early, early stages of my life. And when when I was a, a kid in elementary school, I was really into blogs and they were really popular at that time. So each school, each grade had their own blog, and it was pretty generic. They would upload, you know, an image. They would do like all the, all the basic stuff. But I was like, you know, I wanna be different. I wanna stand out. I want my class to be really cool. So I got into exploration around how I can customize it. So then C CSS blended into that. And I also had a neighbor who was really good at Photoshop, and he would basically show me some cool ideas, like cool image manipulations. And I was like, how do you do this?

Adnan: And he was like, it's a secret. And that's made me kind of explore more around the manipulation of photographs. And then I thought, okay, you know, what's the structure of the blog? How can I make it different? So I started to create a layout for the blog and implement in a c s s. So pretty much in elementary school I was doing all of that and was really, really far. I, I'm 30 years old, and it was not sure it was in the elementary school. So really early stages of even web design was not that established. Mostly developers kind of creating these basic layouts. And I kind of met, I was kind of creating these layouts, which were really grabbing attention amongst other grades. And at some point the school asked me, so do, do you want to kind of create our website?

Adnan: And I was like, Hmm, yeah, I wanna do that. So I started to explore design and code. And eventually my career actually started more code than design because that was something that I was interested at, at the beginning because that was kind of my entry point into this world, right. So yeah, I started to do that and explore I I created a website up for my elementary school, and then I started to create a website for my local football club, which is soccer in the us. Yeah. And eventually I got, got attention from the actual soccer club, which is my city has two big soccer clubs, and they offered me to that my website becomes an official one because they didn't have the knowledge. So I eventually ended up designing and maintaining the website with my brother, who is now also developer, a really good one.

Adnan: And I was, yeah, running the website for the, for the really huge local soccer club. And I also was creating their magazine. So I was like, this geek young kid that knows all of these technologies and is creating all of these, these things. And, you know in pair with that I start to like architecture a lot and decided that, you know, I wanna I wanna go in, in a high school that is following there's an architectural high school here. So I also, at the same time, was interested into that. And that kind of made me realize that I really like visuals more than, more than the more than the actual coding aspect. And that's how it kind of started at the beginning. So

Dianne: You were like, you were a child entrepreneur, like you were creating things, you were working, you had your brother and you like partners. Were you getting paid to, to do this work?

Adnan: The only currency that I got in high school was actually not attending the classes. . So I was excused. I was a instrument for teachers. I used to know really good flash, if you remember Flash. Yeah. And I used to create like these really cool presentations for the school. And when we went to to kind of on these how do you say, like, statewide competitions, Uhhuh, we used to one from, I, I remember I, my first presentation in af in flash was for physics. And I was like creating how light bounces from glass. And basically everybody was on the presentation. I was like creating this flash animation and everybody in the, on the, on the, it was like entire state. It was like watching it and it was fairly new and everybody didn't believe that, you know, we were able to create all these animations about glass, about lights, about, you know, all of the stuff. And in the end, I remember I had a picture of all of our entire you know, hi team that was going onto, onto the competition, and I put I found a brush on Photoshop, on the web on Albert Einstein, and I put it next to us and, you know, it was like a kind of like a conclusion and we won first place. So it was ,

Dianne: I'm sure. That's amazing. I feel like you're like a, a design celebrity there. Like who designed the genius, the con genius that did all the,

Adnan: I was at my school, but probably there, there are other people that were also good in the other schools. ,

Dianne: That's a great start to your journey. I, I love hearing that story. So you and I like how you were like doing some coding and then when you started to realize you like architecture and like you, you basically really early on realized that you wanted to do kind of graphic design, web design, more of the like visual side of, of design.

Adnan: Yes. I was really amazed how in great impact I u I was able to make with design and especially when I was designing the magazine for the entire you know, club that was printed in thousands of pieces. And it was really amazed, like when, I remember when the first time was, the first version was printed out, was the first magazine ever the club had. And basically I know the stadium has, it's not a big stadium, maybe 10,000 seats. And because the stadium now it's more built, so it has more, but at that time it wasn't that big. So I remember like on each seat there was my magazine and I remember I felt great that, you know, people are sitting and listening and I felt like I have control over emotions and what people see and how people perceive the club.

Adnan: So I felt really good. And at the same time, I wasn't paid that much, but, you know, I was always more because of the opportunity and not because, because of that. And then I realized that I like to create things that are visual. And that's why I decided I want architecture because it, I kind of get that same excitement feeling. When I was looking at buildings, I was a part of these forums and I was sharing images of upcoming projects. I would go onsite. I had a digital camera for my aunt from the uss she sent was a, like, it was really in the early stages, so it was a really good camera. So I would kind of take pictures of, of construction buildings and post it on forms. So I was into that space of of architecture of visuals, which has kind of led me into early in the stage to go into the design, graphic design, web design, and then eventually stepping into the field of user experience very early in my career and then continuing on that path until today. Fascinating.

Dianne: Ok. So let's kinda rewind a little bit. So you, you talked about architecture in high school. So what happened? Like, did you go to like a specific type of high school? Did you get a degree and design? Like what, how did you kind of continue your, your education and design after your childhood?

Adnan: Start ? Yeah. So in, in, in the meantime, when I was doing archi when I was going to high school architecture, I was working on site projects and earning already some money while going on high school. So at that time I was kind of in into the architecture because we have a high school that is only focused on architecture. So you learn the basics of architecture so you can afterwards be more prepared when you go to actually the, the, the college or fa faculty as we call it. And I was kind of really into that, but we had some of these subject subjects that were more kind of math based and calculation based. So I wasn't seeing myself, I was really excited when I used to draw on paper, like all the, all the concepts of buildings.

Adnan: And especially when I was translating that to computers, I was in elementary school. And even in high school, I was always really tech savvy because I really liked computers. So I was always, I always knew the, everything about the tools, and I kind of liked that. So after high school, I went to, to to try to sign on the architecture college, but I wasn't so skilled with handwriting. And a lot of people were saying, you have to be really skilled because it was a subject so you can get accepted. So I decided, okay maybe I should go on civil engineering because that's a little bit closer to architecture. And my parents were kind of pushing me into that field. So eventually I decided to do that. But I think I'm glad that I did that because it helped me realize that I like more visual creations than what you do in Siji, which mostly calculating buildings and how a balcony stands and pillars and and stuff.

Adnan: And eventually I, I realized that I and during high school I already found a job and I was working and, you know, going in high school, in college, my parents were not too happy about that because they wanted me to finish college. But eventually I started to work really full-time at this company and I was designing websites and and developing them at the same time in WordPress. So we had like a, if you remember theme forest, we had a, this company had, was really selling really good on theme forest, and I was generating a lot of good themes. So I am the person who is a college drop off because I decided that I cannot go on college and work full-time, and I decided to drop off for college. But because my parents pressured me, I did enroll in another college on the side, but that was more mostly like a cover up so I can pursue my career dream, which was design. So yeah, entire my career, I was mostly learning by myself teaching myself. And the fact that I was really early in the, in the industry, in the early ages of the industry, I could learn a lot. There was no specific schools at that time, at least in my country, there was only courses that I used to follow online, but not a specific school for that.

Dianne: So you kind of, you kept your parents happy by like going to school . So that was covered, but you really kind of took that initiative to learn on your own and gained the knowledge because there wasn't really a great place for you to like learn about web design, UIUX design. You probably learned a lot in your job and in like actually experiencing it and doing it yourself.

Adnan: Exactly. And yeah, it was, it was quite tough because at the same time, the, the parents and also everybody's expecting from you to finish college, but you on the other hand are really into passionate about design and, and the environment doesn't really trust that much, these technologies because they're fairly new. So they, everybody was mentioning that, you know, that's just a wave that's gonna pass. It's not something you can live from. And I was pretty young and I was mostly my pay in the first company was really low, but I wasn't actually worried about that. I didn't care. Money was at the least. We had this company had an opportunity to sell, sell themes on Team Forest. And also I was creating websites for clients from the US who are mostly photographers Mm. Wedding photographers. So, and logos. I was, yeah, mostly working on that. And I didn't care much about the money. I cared about the learning and impact and spent two years over there, learned a lot, and it eventually opened doors to new opportunities, which afterwards was a really amazing journey once I kind of stepped away from this industry of just generating theme generating websites and stepped into the new world world of user experience design. Okay.

Dianne: So I'm excited to get into the UX side. But before you, the question about maybe advice for designers that are kind of doing design and development, I mean, today, I guess there's a lot of other tools, like now there's like these, all these no-code tools or webflow or things like that. But what are, what is your advice and do you think it's important still for designers to kind of have that knowledge of how to...

Adnan: Code? I think that's a really good question. And I did have a, at one point a, a specific speech about that local, in local design in a community that we had. We, when we, back in the time it was sketch was a thing, the main thing, sketch would organize these communities. And I had a topic around that, what specifically you ask. And I put a, I made a parallel between design and architecture because I thought that would, it's really similar me as an architect, when I design a building, I have to know the basic basics of statics and some basic things because that will allow me to you know, design a building that can actually be possible to build. Of course, these rules are sometimes broken. Let's take a look at the Sydney building. You know, that building was designed in a way that the engineering could not solve it, how it could stand.

Adnan: But the, and actually at the end, which is really interesting, the architect solved the problem of how engineers could calculate the standing of those, you know, those nice curved iconic roof elements. So I think, yeah, so I think that it's really important for designers, they don't have to learn that deeply all of the aspects of code, but they have to know the basic knowledge of it. Because once you have the knowledge of code, you have the power to create what you think and what create your ideas and then have a backup of those ideas. So we all know sometimes engineers not, I don't blame them, it's normal. They tend to say, you know, that's hard. That's, that's not possible to create. And of course that's okay to say because there's a lot of factors like deadlines and such, but evident, then you have the knowledge of actually code.

Adnan: You can create something, create an additional version that will accommodate that other version that you could not implement. And then you could say, okay, I know this is possible because I understand the basis of code. And also when you do qa, you if you know the basis of code, you can actually make your own iterations suggestions and then send that to a suggestion to the developer. But overall, I think it's really important for designers to know that, and they shouldn't be a afraid of code because code is not that complex. In essence, it can be when you dig deeper. But for us, what we need to know is the basics. And those basics are not complicated. And I encourage every designer to try, once you try first few days are hard because it's a new world that you step in. It's confusing you, you cannot connect all the dots. But what after some time, you get to understand the high level, the holistic level of, of code. And it's that from that point, it becomes really easy.

Dianne: That's an amazing answer. I absolutely love that. I think that that's like great feedback for designers that are trying to understand like what they need to know, what they need to learn, how it's gonna benefit them. And I do think that a designer knowing code, a lot of things you've said, like they can go in and if a developer says no, they have more of the knowledge to say, okay, well maybe if we do this or this or this, or in the QA process, you can literally just go in and say, no, this is what I was expecting. So I think it makes that the design dev handoff is always like kind of a sticky situation, and it's, everyone's still trying to figure it out, right? But by you, the designer knowing and having those tools to be able to code, it's gonna make that relationship and help bring your designs to life in a better way. So I think that was really, really great advice.

Adnan: Of course. And I would like to add one more thing. We all know that Figma is trying to close the gap between design and development and what's gonna happen, and we can see that also with design tokens, is that Figma, Figma is trying to close the gap between our communication with designers and developers. And that's where the money is lost for companies. And what's gonna happen is that Figma will be, even now with Alto layout and all these, it's actually built on the pillars of code. And if you know to basics of that, then imagine you can actually know Figma and you can know even some of the code. And I think it's really powerful and it's an essence for a designer to know these things because that gives you a new toolkit and gives you more power and makes you stand out more from the rest. And it's not that hard to achieve that.

Dianne: Yes. Oh, ama yes. I now feel like I need to go back in and be like, okay, Figma, like if I'm thinking about you from a dev perspective, like making sure that I understand kind of that output and those expectations from a developer, because Figma is that tool. And I do think that design tokens like coming and like becoming the new next step is going to be really, really exciting. So yeah, I think no matter what it's like learn those basics of code because it's gonna be really helpful in whatever you, you do and you design in the future. Well, that was totally agree. Amazing. I love it. Ok. So amazing tangent. Kinda getting back to, actually, I think this is a great segue into like you taking on more of that uiux product design. User design. So what, when did that kind of pop in and how did you navigate that?

Adnan: Yeah, it was pretty I would say sudden move. I was working in this company, which like I mentioned, it was more like a industrial on track generating logo, generating designs, really fast track. And I was, you know, really efficient and I thought that the efficiency is the only metric for being successful at the end of the day. But when I moved to the new company, which was a local company that was based in, in the us and they, they had their us headquarters and they also had here an office. And basically they were working for projects on retail industry. So, you know, tools for Target, for for, they work for album, album Payne Panera Bread, which is today, and with different tools about catering and how you would develop a product.

Adnan: Then, you know, from the idea to kind of sending it down to the shelves, coupon auditing. So I entered this world and was, I didn't have much knowledge apart from the knowledge that I was exploring and reading articles. And because I was interested in that. And it was pretty hard in the beginning because it was totally different from what I've used to do. I used to create websites, I used to create logos. I used to create those like things that break the rules that you have to have to followers, but suddenly I have to follow some rules and I don't know these rules. Wow. And luckily I had a really good mentor and he thought taught me a lot about user experience design, user interface design, and a lot of these segments around communication with clients, design process. So I was really lucky to get that opportunity to get that person as a mentor.

Adnan: Yeah. And I learned a lot from him and kind of, he kind of pushed me to become what I have become today even much faster. And I'm really glad that I had that opportunity to work in this company. And it suddenly, I went from a industrial pace company to a company that was more modern company. It was more slow pace, but you know, more research based, more kind of figuring out how we can create, create value from, from a, for a business or from a specific group of users. And that's how I started to do user experience, user interface design. Mostly focused in the beginning on ui, but then afterwards when I, when UX was becoming more complex, I started to poke into UX and eventually I started to lead projects on my own and communicate with the clients directly, which, you know, I really enjoyed doing and I enjoyed today as well. I like to talk with clients, I like to present new ideas, challenge concepts. So I think, yeah, that was, that was a really good opportunity that I had and that's kind of, that pushed me into this world.

Dianne: What, what advice do you have for designers today that maybe do have like a graphic design background or maybe more web design that are trying to get into the UX UI field? It sounds like that mentor really taught you a lot. Maybe there's some advice or maybe some websites or some tools that other designers could, could help make that transition.

Adnan: I think the most important part is to understand the difference between the two. So once people understand the difference, and again, I'm referencing on architecture , but I kind of think it as you know, the, the building, when you look at the building, the UI is the nice glass, the nice doors, and, but the UX is what makes the building stand, where the door is placed, how do you enter the building and all those details where the rooms organized. So once you figure out the differences between those two, then you'll be able to poke more. And you don't have to necessarily be, for example, the, for graphic designers, and I personally am similar. I'm more working in the ux, but I more enjoy user interface design. And I'm really good at, at user interface design, because I have a strong background in graphic and web design, and that kind of helped me have a better feeling of space of how to do typography, where to place certain elements, all the smaller, you know, doubles and details.

Adnan: And I think that also makes a really nice user experience as user interface. And basically when I think designers shouldn't be afraid, afraid of that. But of course, if your biggest strength is user interface or UI or the visuals, you should definitely know some basics of UX because basic basics of UX help you the same way about design and code. Understand what you can build, why a certain element is placed, why is it a specific size. And there's really good resources. Like of course we know all medium, which you can Google a lot, that's a really obvious part. You also have uxl, which is a website where you can, you know, in a gamified way, you learn a little bit more about ui, ux have challenges. It's a really entertaining way and a fun gamified way of learning. But yeah, otherwise I think it's all up to the designer to figure out where you belong to.

Adnan: And of course, there you could be a hybrid as well, which I consider myself. But some people are more into each of these fields, which is not wrong. And of also, I suggest finding a mentor or somebody who can help you get started, motivate you, tell, tell you a couple of really nice words so you can, you know, give you a, give you a a challenge and you know, you can use that in your local community. You can use a d p list and schedule a call with somebody and, and somebody will help you out. And I also did a lot of mentorships for a lot of people, and today are their really amazing designers. One specific example is and also people shouldn't be afraid of changing their profession. One example is my friend who was an architect, and I tried to convince him from college to move to UX ui, but he was hesitant because of, of a big change. And eventually I managed to convert him. And today he's an amazing designer UX designer mostly, specifically, and design systems master, but also really good UI designer. So, and he also earns a lot more, and a career is much more successful than in the fields of architecture in the local area where I live at least.

Dianne: I mean, I love, it's like, don't be afraid to like, make the jumper make a change. I think that's really great advice. And I think a lot of those sites you referenced are awesome sites. I, I really, I think maybe we can put that in kind of the description from this chat so anyone can, can see and go use some of those references. And I, you also mentioned something which I was gonna ask you, but you mentioned a couple times is mentorship. And so it sounds like you had a mentor and that really just helped elevate your career. And so encouraging other designers that are trying to get into the industry or even trying to level up in the industry, like finding a mentor or someone that they can go to, sounds like that really helped you and was really like a, a big point in your life.

Adnan: I think it's, all of us are like a small, a snowball. So if somebody just pushes you and it pushes you a couple of times, you know, just a few times it's totally fine, even more. But then once you kind of grow and become a huge snowball and you find a downhill, then you're gonna become, you know, even more huge, but be, don't go too fast because you might break in the pieces like the snowball does. So be aware of that. Burnout is really common in our industry, and we should be mindful of that as well. But of course, mentorship, don't be afraid to, to ask people, ask the community. I think there's a lot of great people in that maybe you didn't heard of, but you just have to ask and they can't wait to give you, I know in my community, we have right now also Figma friends events and, you know, these really, really skilled designers, amazing designers are always telling, please, you know, tag me. Here's my email. I'll go look into your Figma file. We can schedule a call. Just be proactive and you'll get everything. Today is just like a, our world today is like a treasure chest. You just have to pick whatever you want from it. It's up to you to gain that momentum and just do whatever you want need for your career to excel. Well

Dianne: Said. No, that was beautiful. Another one last thing I, before we move on, I wanted to ask you about, you said that communicating with clients is something you really enjoy and that you kinda learned to, to do more of. And you, you like having that kind of ownership over being able to communicate with the, with the client. Do you have advice for people that wanna get better at communicating with, with clients and being able to defend their designs or be able to talk through their designs?

Adnan: Yes. like I mentioned before, I think knowledge is an important weapon for you. And for example, an easy step for everyone is to take, buy the book, which is called Laws of ux, read all those laws mm-hmm. . And once you are, first of all, you will understand why A C T A is a specific color. Why is it placed in a certain spa place? Why you know, when you click on a job down, it's not on the other part of the screen. So those are all logical things that we see. But, you know, p somebody made that so you don't see it, don't think about it. You'd use it intuitively. And I think that knowledge will help you in communicate, communicating, defending your ideas. And also a lot of pe you have to try tools because what is really important is to follow mental models.

Adnan: We're not here to invent new things. Of course, we do invent sometimes. I did work on a project that I couldn't find a reference because it was a new startup and everything was fairly new, and it was hard to understand what is a mental model of a user. What I say, what I mean by mental model is a previous experience of a user. So you don't have to invent things necessarily, but if you are tech savvy, you use 10 tools. You saw how filters work, of course, that you will leverage that knowledge and put it. And once client says, okay, but I don't think this is a good pattern, you can say, okay I agree not I agree, but I understand your point of view. But here are five examples that I did in my research. And all of them use the same pattern.

Adnan: And they use this pattern because X, Y, and Z. And that's how you start to be more efficient in communication with client. And also I think you know, just starting to do that because a lot of people are either afraid of confronting the clients. They don't ask ques enough questions, they just, you know, stand at the meeting, say yes to all. But you have to ask questions. You have to understand the context. And you have to break the ice and start your first interview will be a disaster. Your first meeting with a client will be a disaster, but the the 10th will be great. And I suggest, for example, if you're afraid, start using a D P S and just talk with mentors. That way you can, you know, schedule more calls. And a lot of people are also afraid because at least non-US people are afraid to talk with clients because they don't have a good skill of English. And I think any communications very important. It helps you perceive your confidence and your clarity and, and kind of helps you inspire people. But of course, that you have to start and you have to gain con con confidence and that gain of confide happen through multiple failures, which is fine, but you have to start, and eventually you're gonna be really comfortable with talking with

Dianne: Clients. That was really great. Great advice. . I, I mean, first of all, the book laws of ux, I think that that's a great starting point. And I really loved how you talked about like you don't just say yes, like it's really about kind of defending and just making sure that you have the knowledge that you can go in and like, talk through best practices and why you did what you did. And, and if you just do what the customer client says, you're gonna end up doing something that's probably not the best experience. And you're just saying yes to something that's gonna end up snowballing if you bring it back to the snowball in a bad way, like gonna fall apart because you weren't there to speak up and to voice your opinions and concerns. And I also liked what you said about like people from other countries, maybe just speaking English feels like a little nerve wracking or scary, but I think it's like the more you do it, the more confidence you gain. And now, I mean, especially after the pandemic, like everyone working remotely, like there's so many opportunities to get jobs and work with people from anywhere and everywhere. So I think that's like really awesome to be able to go in and no matter where you're from or what you do, as long as you have like the knowledge of English, you usually can communicate and be able to voice your opinions and work in, in whatever environments you want, wherever you

Adnan: Want. Yeah. That, that's an advantage of of our of our new era. Yeah. Is we, we are connected, we are all, all equal, and we all have fairly the same opportunities, right? More and more other countries that are being put aside our having opportunities to work on the global market, which is great, but a lot of people want are talented and want to leverage, want to step forward into the industry, but are really afraid. And just, you know, just be poke around ask and you're gonna eventually hop to somebody who will want to help you and guide you through your career. And it's not gonna be hard because there's so many people out

Dianne: There. Amazing. Yep. Totally agree. I think that's super interesting in the world we're in today. So let's keep going. So after kinda this opportunity, you moved into ux, you were doing UX ui, well, you started doing a lot of ui, you started to do a little bit more ux. What, what happened there? What happened with this, this company? Yeah.

Adnan: Worked a couple of years at that company and yeah, it was really exciting. I worked on a lot of projects. I know I worked on that project. It was , it was like a early Figma tool. Back in the days we built like a web tool where you could pull in images and create you can pull in like images and ad and manipulate rotates. It's, it's like a UI interface tool on the web. Uhhuh . Ok. But it wasn't so it wasn't performing so efficient because it was you know, back in the days it was not that efficient as today. And yeah, basically we started to I started to work on these projects and got a lot of opportunities. And, and that tool, I remember it was for Target, and they were, they like had like a stand with a tablet, and basically the people who were creating those promotions would upload all of the brand files and, and then somebody could do some surveys that we built.

Adnan: And that was that was really exciting. But at the, at some point I started to feel that I need new challenges. Mm-Hmm. And all the projects, I felt that I'm kind of, you know, I, I'm just getting to the, to the top of everything that I do, and I just wanted to step into new fields. I wanted to p put Bend the Boundaries, and I decided to apply to this platform called toptal, which is a platform that is their headline is like top 3% of all freelancers. And it's pretty hard to get into the platform. There's a lot of interviews a lot of rounds mm-hmm. . And eventually, first time I was I didn't succeed. I couldn't, I didn't, I didn't succeed in, in the interviews. And once you don't succeed, you have to wait for I think six months or one year to apply again.

Adnan: So I was really you know, I gotta do this, you know, I have six months or one year I can remember, I have to do learn a lot. I have to work a lot. I, I wanna be, I wanna get to the platform because I was also having the imposter syndrome mm-hmm. . And it was, it was following me a lot in my career, even sometimes today, which is normal. But I, I, I wanted to find proof that I can actually that I'm actually really good. And eventually I managed to hop, get onto the platform second time. And even then I thought that my imposter syndrome will disappear because, you know, I'm in the top 3% of best freelancers as they state, and that's great, you know, I finally did it. But then, you know, I started to actually go on interviews on other local big tech companies, and I would pass the interview for the role and, but I wouldn't decline it.

Adnan: So I was just always finding a, a seal of appro approval that I'm a good designer. Yeah. But once I got into Toptal, I actually started to work for US clients, which are more I would say at Patrick Kleins, then what you can find on Upwork. And they don't care that much about, you know, your exact time that you spend on one login screen. They're not screenshot shotting your screen, they're not right watching your mouth sensitivity and all that. They just care about the outcome no matter how you get to that outcome. So I started to work on a lot of projects over there and yeah, I was so exciting. I would you know, I started with some small gigs for a couple of months, then for a half a year, then I eventually went into three years project.

Adnan: Mm-Hmm. So it was it was really crazy because I met a lot of amazing people, a lot of big companies, a lot of startups that had a lot of funding, and it was, it was a really interesting journey on that platform. But eventually I started, I got new opportunities outside the platform, so I stopped working over there. But that was a really good excel of, on my, of my career, just getting those really big opportunities for big companies and Yeah. And giving putting me on a spotlight and giving me opportunity to prove myself and to prove value that I can provide to, to these companies. And yeah, that was a really interesting period of my life.

Dianne: Yeah, I mean, I toptal's definitely like they're 3%. It's like people know that about them, and I'm sure you got to work with really, really awesome companies. It sounds like it really was able to elevate you. I have a question about imposter syndrome, like how it sounds like that was definitely something that kinda like, was a difficulty, a challenge for you. How would you, what would you tell to other designers that are experiencing imposter syndrome? I

Adnan: Think , I once watched from, I think it was Pablo Stanley. The more you fake it, the better, better you are . And it was a really, really nice presentation that he had. And I was kind of, you know, like, maybe he's right, like, when you're surrounded with all of these people and, you know, sometimes they even, they don't know what they're saying or what you're saying. They're kind of you know, nodding with their heads and confirming, but eventually, sometimes they even don't know what they're doing. And, and it's totally fine. It's, you don't have to know everything. And of course, you as you work, you learn and that learning will will affect to, so you'll make some mistakes, but then in the future you'll gain experience and somebody will pay you a lot for the, because of that experience, because they wanna avoid those mistakes.

Adnan: And I think it's a normal thing and you have to accept it. And once you accept it, you don't fight it. It's the same with other syndromes like depression and, and, and all of these syndromes that humans have. You have to not fight it, but accept it that it exists and it's gonna always exist next to you, but then you have to understand it and have a better context that it's normal for a human to feel that way, because you cannot know everything. And people who say that they know everything, they don't know everything, they just are good in faking it. Like Pablo mentioned, they, they learn four or five words that sound really technical that nobody knows about them. And then they just repeat all those words all the time. It's like when you go on a meeting with a client and say, you know, we have to take care of those mental models, you know how that is important, but they'll say, oh, this guy knows what he's talking about you.

Adnan: I don't even know what these things that he's saying are. It's saying when you go to you know, to a guy that is repairing your car and he says, you know, this bolt and, and use these couple of th terms. And he was like, and also the doctor uses a couple of like Latin words and you're like, you know, this guy knows what he is doing. And same as with our industry. So it's a really tough syndrome, I would say. And it took a lot of time for me to gain control of it off of it. Yeah. And it comes back and forth, you know, sometimes in certain situations it, I feel it, but sometimes it goes away. But again, when you step aside in retrospect on your career and where you are now and how amazing you are, then you'll have, you'll figure out that you know, you are good and that you should keep going. And I think it's just something that you should be aware of and understand and accept it, and it's gonna help you you know, kind of have it by your side as a friend that keeps you learning more keeps you exploring more because if without that you wouldn't push your boundaries, but at same time you shouldn't overwhelm you that you get anxiety and it blocks you in progressing and blocks you in your daily projects.

Dianne: Yes. I really like that. I think that's a really great explanation for people. I think it's like we all have I imposter syndrome, and I feel like the further I get in my career, the more I don't let it bother me. It's more like, if I don't know something, like I'm excited to learn now, I'm excited to like push my boundaries. Like you said, it should help you like maybe use it as a tool to like get to that next step. Maybe there's like AOC recurring thing you feel like you're not doing well or having imposter syndrome on, figure out what that is and work to, to improve that skill. That was really great advice. That was awesome. Okay, well let's, let's talk about some top. You were there for a while, you had some awesome opportunities. You really got to like, get more knowledgeable about working with clients from everywhere. You got to dive deeper into your processes in uiux. So what, what happened from there?

Adnan: I, like I mentioned, I had a lot of connections and at that time I was also really present on different platforms like Medium I was creating. I was I had a Instagram account where I was posting a lot of interesting stuff about user experience. And yeah, I was really present. I was posting on dribble on, on B hands, like I was creating a lot of use cases. So I kind of gained a lot of attention. And I think all of us should do that. We should create, we should I think our goal in our life and careers to impact, and that's how I, we, you know, work and live and I, I mean, of course somebody lives only for the money and the fun, but I think us as creators, we primarily work to make, create impact in this life.

Adnan: So to create positive impact on people's lives during our, in their work or inspire others. So I think we should do that as much as we can. We should create and put that, put it out of the world because people should see what you're, what you're doing. And yeah, by, you know, being very present and active, I gained attention to companies and I worked for various bay area companies. Latest one was poised, and I was yeah, I was I eventually got into a state where I was going to the US all the time. You know, and this is the beauty of the modern world, like one person from you know, Europe from this really, really small 3 million tops country is having an opportunity to go and work with people from California, from the Silicon Valley, from the center of all all tech.

Adnan: And I, I'll, I'll te and I was doing that eventually, I was going to the US five or six times per year you know meeting with the, the team having really amazing offsites going to visiting all amazing places like in California and in other states. And yeah, it was a, it was a amazing journey working for these startups and you know, connecting with people and, you know, I'm kind of continuing that pace, working for startups, smaller and larger ones and helping them build a product or maintain a product. And I think once you kind of focus on what you love, which is in my case design, but it, it's applicable to any other profession, once you are focused on that on and not on the, on money and you know, all these material things, you eventually figure out, okay, you know, I, I look behind me and you know, look where I am, how, how successful I am, how, how, you know, aside from that, I'm also earning really good.

Adnan: So people should focus on their their, their passion. Because once you focus on passion, then you don't really realize how big you're growing and how huge impact you're get your, you're you're creating on all aspects of your, of your career. So yeah, I'm right now working for poise, which is a startup and AI speech startup that analyzes your speech while you speak and gives you feedback on that on your speech. And they are an amazing team, amazing product that has a goal of what I also mentioned is to help people communicate better. And by doing that, help people elevate their careers and also not also for people for the entire world that, you know, today English is a world language and people all over the world can download the, the app and use it as a tool that will help them perform better, understand how, why they did not perform in a good way. And eventually, you know, having that mission of having huge impact and improving people's lives, which is what kind of gives me the excitement, the goosebumps, and why I love my job. Cuz you know, I can I impact people, I can affect their lives, which is an amazing thing when you think of it. Amazing. Gonna pause the way, of course, .

Dianne: Yes, of course. I think us as designers, we always usually feel an attachment to the products we're building. And I, I love what you said about like, finding your passion. So like, as long as you get to work on products that like really resonate with you, I think that's really powerful and it's like that's what's gonna set you up for success, that you're gonna wanna keep learning, you're gonna wanna grow, like all the good things happen when it's like synergy between what you get to design and it kind of falling along with what you love. So it sounds like, yeah, that was definitely something that you've been looking for and you've, you've found throughout your career. So, so kinda the last question I have for you is, after hearing your whole story from your, your childhood entrepreneurship to, to diving in and like learning about web and then going into yux and toptal and startups, like what's next for you? Where, where do you see yourself going in the next year, in the next five years?

Adnan: What I see myself as actually taking all this experience and helping other companies avoid mistakes that are being made in the early processes of early stages of, of startups. And also apart from that, I'm kind of more leaning towards the field of design operations, design systems, how to create multiple design sy multi-brand design systems and how to maintain those design systems. Also stepping the field up, like I mentioned at the beginning of design tokens and kinda exploring more a around that because I think that is also that companies will spend more and more attention on because they want, they understand that design is an essential piece of their products and they want to have a efficient, flexible design system that will help them have a great user experience. Because today it's all about great user experience and design system will help help companies create that sense of consistency, sense of of a really, really great user experience, especially for companies that have multiple brands, like huge corporations that buy many, many other companies and then try to blend them into their own ecosystem.

Adnan: And kind of the goal is that once they buy a company, you know, they just take their own the company's style set and just drop it into the machine called Blender Design System, and it kind of blends that and, and spits out all the components, all the patterns, everything. Yes. And you know, that's, if you think of it, that's amazing how much money the companies can save and that amount of money they can invest into marketing, into other explorations of other ventures possibilities. So I think that's something that is, that I'm really interested in and that would like to explore more where I see myself in and also doing some consulting for companies and helping them find their way. And of course doing mentorship, helping young designers find their path and get to the state where they can work for for global companies and, and, and bring value because at least I can see in my community, but every community, there's so many good people, skilled people that need a guidance and we are here to provide that. And we should do that, that should be our mission in, in our careers. So overall to recap, that's kind of the, the goal in the next upcoming years.

Dianne: Oh my gosh, that's so exciting. I'm excited to follow along on your journey and see what, where you go, where you end up, what you build, what you're designing who you're consulting for. So thank you so much for chatting with me and telling your story and giving amazing advice to other designers out there that are trying to make some of these leaps in the design world. I really appreciate it and I look forward to following along with what's next for

Adnan: You. Yeah, thank I, I enjoyed our conversation and thank you for giving the opportunity to tell my story and hopefully some designers out there or anybody will find this inspiring and they, they will, you know, start to roll that snowball and become a big one and yeah. Yeah, I think you should not never stop because there are tough times but you know, it's a cliche, but it's true. There are tough times, but rainy days, but eventually they pass and then good times come. But you never can expect that there will be fully good times, there will be ups and downs challenges but that's part of our life, that's part of life. What makes life interesting is that we have challenges that we need to solve. So encourage everybody to pursue their dreams and I hope yeah, this, this makes at least 0.001% impact to me. That's enough .

Dianne: I love that. Yes. Well said. I definitely think it's gonna have some impact on our listeners, so thank you so much for being here. We'll, we'll chat soon.

Adnan: Thank you.

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

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