#07 - Franco Falaschi - Living in a Schoolbus, Nomadic Lifestyle, Tolerate Failure, and the Benefits of Work Culture

Sep 7, 2022Dianne 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: Welcome to the pixelated, perfect podcast. Hello. Welcome to the pixelated. Perfect podcast Franco. Thank you so much for being here. The context is I chatted with you about a month ago, I think. And just kind of learned a little bit about your career path. And one thing that I'm excited to kind of tackle a little bit more is I think the beginning, your beginning stories interesting. You founded a company at some point as well. You're living in a super cool van. But you also have worked at companies and built the design team kind of built it up, I'm super curious to hear a little bit more about that side too. So so yeah, this is going to be great. So what I want to do is if you could just kind of start from the beginning, tell your story, and then we'll go back in and kind of dissect. Some of those things we want to want to pull apart a little further.

Franco: Sure. Absolutely. So I came from a small town in Patagonia in Argentina. It is very common for us to at the age of like 17 or 18 when we finish high school, we moved to Buenos Aires to start our professional career and that is exactly what I did. So like that is, I think one, the first pivotal moment I did one year of engineering when I was 18, and by the end of that year, like I had my first, we stew travel. So I come from an Italian family. My grandparents are immigrants, and they travel to Argentina. So I was like, okay, like maybe I should try the other way around, right? So when I was 18, I did my first try and move to a small Village near the floor near Florence and had my first experience traveling and it was like a complete mess. I'd like, I had like, not only, I had no rig no experience engine traveling, but I had no experience in life. I think that's the main thing. So, I went back to

Dianne: You speak Italian though, right?

Franco: I speak Italian. Yes. Okay, yeah.

Dianne: So at least you had a little bit of the language. All you are in a completely foreign space.

Franco: Yeah. Like something that was always. lAsfor my family, it was very important to like to have that Italian, like I don't like to keep the Italian culture. So so like I went to an Italian school and I spoke Italian, both with my parents and with my grandparents. So yeah, like I was IDK today as an Italian if I could say that. So, when, when I went to like, actually I can even say like each, Italian is my first language, right? So much family thought that because I was already living in Argentina I liked Spanish, like it was something that I would just learn from going to school and talking to people. So I was educated in Italian in my house. So, all my like, all day, Disney movies that I watched, we're always in Italian, like everything. Yeah. And I had like a very Italian Christmas and all those kinds of like things. Yeah, it's something that like I have an older brother, he has two kids and like he, when the first one was born, he asked me to do the same. So I only speak Italian to them. So they are like three and five now and they already speak Spanish and Italian, right?

Dianne: So that is yes, amazing. I feel like that's going to be so crucial for them, like, growing up, just knowing so many languages is cool.

Franco: Yeah and also like it's a way to pass on the culture right there's so much on the language that is a culture that I think it's a way for us to pass down that that culture to the new generation. Right. So yeah I moved to Italy. It was a complete mess. Although I had a very first interesting job like in that small village. There was like the main factories for big Brands: Ferragamo and Gucci. And I happen to like, I found a job working for Gucci. So I was, I don't know the word in English: which is like the person that handles the leather and builds purses. So it was a yeah. It was a very manual process. It was my first real, I would say the real job. Although I had an internship before that as a developer. Like, I think this was the first like just like go there and, and make mistakes and it was a very rigid environment, you could not make mistakes. So, that helped me a lot to forge. Also, my character, then I went back to Argentina. I changed University two or three more times until 2012. When I just like quit, like I remember the exact day that I was like, this is not the place where I want to be. I did like four years of engineering, I did software engineering I was working as a developer at the time. And I didn't feel like he was like a fulfilling career II, felt that it didn't. I was not learning things that I was interested in was like nothing that I learned at college. Would help me with my portfolio or anything to get better jobs. I was like why am I wasting time? Doing this when I could be doing other things, that interest me the most. So as soon as I quit University, I got one of the best advice that I was ever given and it's like A friend of a Time told me like okay but if you are going to quit University just because you don't feel it's enough, they they are not providing you with the information, you want to, you want to learn then you cannot just change like one building for the other. You cannot just go to your house and like keep learning as if it was University but like because you have to. Relearn how to learn things and maybe that changes the way you learn each subject and it was an extremely powerful piece of advice that I was given. Since then I was always a self-taught in mostly anything. To share it. Like I've been doing product design for 10 years, I'm about to launch my, my first course I'm pretty design and I never went to a boot camp or anything, so that is that is that is something, of course. Like, I think you make many, many more mistakes than if you are to go to a boot camp. So the boot camp is like, okay, this is like the the path that we suggest similar to University, right? They give you a path of like, okay generally speaking, if you want to study like engineering or design, you need to learn what you need to do these tools, right? But I think it's like with you acts and and product design. It's like every day you discover people that come into a field as lawyers or as I don't like designers or in dusty'll designers or even had a mentor. Like, recently, I had a mentorship with a doctor, so she liked the girl had just finished a seven-year University, degree to become, a magnet to become an UX designer. This is a medical doctor and he's like, yeah. But I found like my thing is ux design, in Argentina to become a doctor, you I think it's five years, plus The Residency at the heart of gold. Like the learning theory is yes. And that is comment like that. That is the you have to do like 3,000 hours. So it's like two or three years more. So, yeah, it's intense and, and she just found that That look she just found about ux and he was like, this is exactly what I want to do. Any kind of makes sense, right? So like empathy is the big ward in ux. But if you want to be a good doctor like empathy will like it's definitely a trait that you need to have. So I could, I can definitely understand that thing. And I always say that we asked Millennials, like, if there are two words that define us as a generation is empathy and technology and ux is exactly the middle point in between those two things, right? So yeah, 2012, I quit University. I started doing a lot of courses and it different courses and learning different things in different ways. I started game design which was something that I always wanted to to learn. I had a group with friends, and when I was like, my breath, my best friends from my hometown that were all leaving in Buenos Aires. How that time now? It's like I just, I just dropped out and a week later. All of them had, like, dropped out from University. So it's like six or seven of us like quitting at the same time and he was like we all have the same feeling so it's like a I studied like software. So I helped them and I taught them how to code and there was like someone that like, was studying for to be an electrical engineer. Another time, we have like the first arduinos. So he was teaching at teaching us how arduinos worked. And like, we all started like sharing little Snippets and pieces of knowledge and week. Kind of like a kind of build a community around, like learning. and I was also like extremely lucky that I got offered a like I think a month later like I dropped from from University and a month later I was offered a scholarship to do a course in a tip ownership which was a topic that I thought I liked but I didn't know much about so I used to listen a lot to team fairies and like all those like quote-unquote gurus from Silicon Valley. So I knew a few things about entrepreneurship, but in this course, I learned like a lot and one of the like, every it was a 20 lessons and have relations was taught by an entrepreneur. And one of those individuals like after the class said like, hey like what are you doing right now? Like, well, I'm working doing this. And that it's like, okay, I want to hire you sure. Let's let's talk. Why not? And he hired me. And when he hired me once I was in the office the first day, he's like, okay, so what do you want to do? I was like what and he basically left me choose what I wanted to do. And at that point, I knew that I wanted to stopBeing a developer and use the knowledge that I have as a developer and my passion for, like, startups and new products to build better things. But I was, there was a skill that I was missing, which was design. So I was like, okay, I want to work like thinking and ideating, new products but I want toSee it with the designers. And again, I was extremely lucky and like, there were two designers of the company was a small start-up like, 48, people to designers. Amazing designers like greatest designers. So every second that I have free, I was shadowing them. I never bothered. I was just like, just sitting right next to them and copying, Copying. Copying. Copying copying. It was 2012. So there was no figma. No. Adobe XD, no nothing like everything was Photoshop or illustrator and then sketch to came out and we started like doing a few things with Sketch to. And, yeah, I spent about two years just like learning everything I could about design and everything I could about like, building new products and selling products to 12 people.Like, he was my account.Working at that company. I think it's made me. Who am I today? As a professional? It was like the people like everyone there was likeTop-notch, like the best at their field, Ed be. So I was just like obsessively likeJust trying to spend every second that I have like learning from everyone about like, how to sell better, how to be a better product manager, how to become a better designer like Service Iowa. It was a pivotal moment and I won't point in 2014, I designed this project idea for a store it basically proximity marketing platform that would like understand where you are inside the store.And based on where you were the products that were there, I could know, like, with a high degree of certainty. If you were, for example, just in front of a 42 inch monitor. And if you've been there for 10 minutes, we just like, okay, like I would send a push notification saying like, hey, do you wanna 15% discount on this specific TV?So I was I was 100% sure that he was a great idea, the company didn't have the budget for it. So it's likeI will just turn it into a SAS so I built a very basic MVP using my knowledge in development. So I designed it, I built an MVP in a start like doing some testings and I wanted to travel again. So II just moved to Panama, I can just like from just in like a few weeks. Yeah I just moved and why Panama is because I wanted to sell that to shopping malls and Panama is basically like it has a lot of shopping malls and huge shopping malls. I'm talking like over 1,000 stores in one shopping mall. It's crazy. Yeah, so I'm good. Just have like fast-forwarding.Like so I don't take that whole podcast but basically it failed miserably like I failed I did manage to do a seed round. I side with some Angel Investors and I usually use like because I was a only one person like I even got asked what happens if you just after this meeting. You get run by a car or a bus. It's like I don't know.Meaning like there's no way for me to secure an investment and know that you're going to do. Like, I will get the return. So yeah, so from Panama, how I got offered a job to lead my first team in Cyprus, so I moved to Cyprus. And from Cyprus, we just like we hired a bunch of people, most of them were from Serbia. So we moved the whole company to Serbia.Stay there for a few more months and then I just quit the, the startup and started working as a freelancer. I wanted something different. I was like that last start out, like, drained, all my energy. I was working. Like, maybe 14 hours there. Yeah. The CEO didn't make a good. Like, I think he, when we hired like I want would like 21.People and we hired a CFO and a month later like after like going through all the numbers he found that like 10,000 Euros were spent in like Grey Goose vodka. It just like parties and all those things. So it's like like just that just drain me. So I wanted like something more just like to wrestle a bit. So I just kept traveling around Europe.The time I went to Italy, went to Germany Estonia. And I have like one problem there, which was likeI couldn't find like places where like, I couldn't find jeans that I could easily join. There was something hallways, like a complex. So I started like thinking about a new startup idea, went back to Argentina developed that again. That was my the last project that IActively coded professionally. So I go to the platform started selling, it had my first few sales, but like when testing the, the market, like my biggest competitor was like pen and paper, because everyone in like, in this is something like most gyms in the world. Just manage their gym with pen and paper.So I decide yeah it's something that like its Global it's not like just Argentina or just like, I don't Serbia it's like everyone just because most genes is just a very successful trainer that has like 50 60 70.Clients. And then he just like, okay, I will put them here like Under One Roof and that's how a gene started. So they itself like something you like do professionally with the idea of scaling like the the equinox and the what is this American brand like with a purple? Yeah, one of those like big James. Those are the, like,This is a like a tiny tiny portion of all the shims. So so I felt that again like I can say like I learned a lot from that first startup and this one. And at that point, I was mentoring a designer and I was like a offered 22.Enjoy the company and start building a team. So I built a 18 like from just this this girl. And I to 13 people and then I did the same at a start-up which I love. I'm actually wearing the shirt right now by Santos. Think one of the best startups I joined.We were I think 20 when I joined and a year later we were like 80 it was like an explosive growth led by gamma extremely talented people like a great vision, great culture.So I built a team from by like four or five people to 20 something.yeah, and then again I was I wanted to start traveling again before the pandemic but but clit so yeah, maybe this is what ate my last my last year about a year ago actually August 8th and could cause I got a call I was always dream ofLike traveling, like my when I started like from Panama to Cyprus to Italy, the biggest problem that I had is that I always loved small towns.And it's hard to find a place to stay in a small town especially when you start leaving the like the big countries, right? So maybe in Italy you might find but once you go to Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro like it becomes a lot harder to find. So when I, when I went back to Argentina in 2016, I was like, okay.Things? The next time I leave, it's a forever or I mean it's permanent andI will start saving to get a an RV or a motorhome.I started saving for that and I want point, I discovered that there was this group of people in the US that converted buses into RVs Abbas, turn into an RV is called a school lie because it's like a school bus to school e.Ha ha, ha.I just like started saving I say for about like five years and I hired a company to build my school bus so that I could just jump to the US and start like a traveling and getting to know, all these amazing places that I mostly seen in movies like the Grand Canyon. And I don't like like all the national parks and there is this great culture in the u.s. about, like traveling in your own.Tree that eat, like, always amazed me. There's even like this, like US map with all the, like, State, like all the states and you can buy stickers for each state. So, each each person creates their own kind of like challenge in order to put the sticker. I heard of a person that for him to put the sticker he has to catch a fish in that state.And sometimes it happened that he went to the to that state for a few days. He didn't catch anything so he he couldn't put the stick the sticker. So now he has to go back another time to it's just insane loved it. But again, pay the company built my boss, everything was going great, I'll go State last year, they call me the company went bankrupt, and I had to go get my bus.And I was so that was kind of like the end of the dream.And a friend introduced me to these like one of the most amazing people I've ever met Donnie. And I was like, yeah, no, like this happen, blah, blah. I'm going to to the u.s. to now, to go take the bus and I don't know what I'm going to do and he was like, huh? Okay, yeah, just come just come here. We'll, we'll figure out something. And I was like, what? Like he didn't even no me like nothing. We like we just had like one Zoom call because like, yeah, don't worry, just come here. Like I have a shop. We can figure something out. I will help you build a healthy on the weekends. I was like, what? And I was like, so skeptical at first because I was, I was planning to like, if I want to to build a bus that would mean, that I would spend like the next three months.As her guest in the house. So it's, it's, it's, it's not a common thing, but, yeah, I went, I went. So, I flew to New York from there. I rented a car drove to Tennessee called the bus when back to, to New York Park, like park the bus there, and spend the next three months like focused onBeing the bus and learning mostly learning. I got my, like, my hand also, like, I have like six or seven stitches in my hand. Yeah. And when you were working, yeah. I just like tosleep the, like, the, the, like a, an exacto blade. In are, like, just like sliced, my, my palm in, like, open. So we had to give a battle scars. Yeah,yeah, your work. So yeah.Yeah, so I spend a few months building, I go for another time I came to the US. So from there, like January or sorry February this year is like, okay, we have a bad at least like there's a lot of things that are missing. We'll figure the rest. While we travel we have to leave because my Visa expires in like 48 hours. So yeah, we went to Canada, we went back.We stay for another three months, we found the homestead in the middle of Georgia. Where like schoolies went there to build their own buses, right? It was insane. It was like 68 buses at the same time, like everyone building like amazing experience. So we start for three more months. Then we left again to Canada, we traveled for three months in Canada,Driving from Toronto to Halifax and then from Halifax we shipped the bus to Europe. So the bus arrived to Belgium and from Belgium, we drove to Belgium. We did look Sundberg after that. Germany, Austria Croatia and from Croatia we entered Serbia.Were like my friend my best friend leaves. So we like I'm turning 30 for next week so on Sunday. Actually can I wanted to like it? If it's been like six years since the last time I saw him. So I wanted to to see him and spend my birthday with him. So yeah that's where I'm at right now,

Dianne: I love that. I feel like when I talked to you last you were In Canada since then you've shipped your bus. Crazy. Okay. Okay, I want to ask more about that but sure, let's go back to the beginning a little bit because I have some questions there and then we can Perfect come back to this. Absolutely, some of my questions, some of the things I want to dive deeper into is this theme throughout all of your stories which is learning on your own. You talked a little bit about that. You said that's how you started. You said, you kind of just watched product designers for a while and just a lot of what you've done as an entrepreneur as anyone. It's kind of like you learned on your own. So for other designers, or just other people that are maybe thinking of going to bootcamp or learning on their own or just any advice or anything that you have from your experience, like, what would you suggest to people for kind of like learning and growing?

Franco: So I think the best way to learn is like a project driven learning. So if you want to learn something, just find a project that you can developed that will force you to learn that thing. I'm not saying, okay, I will learn typography and then apply to these testing project, it's more like kind of like okay, like I'm interested in typography. What are the things that I can do? That will help me develop this as I learn it. So, it's like a, like a, like a doing the two things at the same time. So the learning and doing learning and dueling them learning into. I think that most of the times, it's just like, okay, I read this book. Now I'm going to try to apply it, and I think it works better if you just like . It may be simpler to understand with a software project, let's say you are a junior software developer and it's like, okay, I will build a Chrome extension that helps me track my times, okay, probably, you know, how to build a table and how to make the clock and all those things. But like, okay, you will not need to learn how to connect to that like how to create. And and how to upload it to Chrome and all those things that will like as you like build, this product will help you like understand and probably explore many other things that you didn't know that you might need or that equivalent. Like Like in here like yeah, I think it's discovering new skills to that. Is that is one of the the most interesting things about like self like self learning or like being self-taught. I think there's no just one way like that. That is what I get from like, don't just change the building, right? It's not like, okay, University like there's a teacher and you're just like, taking notes and then like, I Point, like, you do something. If you try to do that, same thing at your house was like, probably suboptimal. So it's not like changing the teacher for a YouTube video. You taking notes and then doing something it's more like. Okay, I'm interested in video games, perfect like just start building a video game. It's like There is a very well-known phrase in the startup World related to learning to open the parachute while you jump from the plane. I think that that applies to to learning in my case. I don't know. Like like I wanted to start like my main reason to learn design was like I wanted Will I have a lot of ideas in my mind and I wanted people to be able to understand though those ideas. So I learned some like to convert those ideas into visual things and I even like I read in a book that it was like the first book about like ux that I read is like the first the $1 prototype and instead of like saying like get out of the building, It said just goes to a like people are always waiting at Starbucks. So just grab your sketches, go to a Starbucks line and ask people if you can like show them something. And if like they accept, maybe you can even pay for the coffee right at the time. A Starbucks coffee was like one dollar, so it's not like a like a nine dollar like fancy Frappuccinos like a like a regular coffee. That helped me a lot.

Dianne: Yeah, I love that kind of that idea too. And you know, I think a lot of some of the other people that I've chatted with some other designers you know, they've gone through boot camps and the past or or not and I think. So I'm from the same generation as you and more of millennial. I was like in the Forefront of product design before it was product design and something that I took to heart is definitely learning on my own and making my own mistakes and kind of figuring it out and I think that the willingness and drive to push you to figure out on your own, it's going to go a lot further than like you said like being forced to read a textbook like you're not going to gather that knowledge in the same way it's like by doing right is really where you grab.

Franco: There's. so many ways you can explore the same topic. For example, let's say I know you are a shy person and you want to learn how to present better to others. You could say, okay, I will take a like an improv class or what I did. I started like a like I'm learning magic. It might sound counterintuitive, but there's these, like, magic is extremely precise. So it's like with a good stand-up comedian that like, it sounds like he's like doing that for the first time but it's like because of the repetition. Yeah, with magic. If you want the trick to work, you have to choose the perfect words and practice it and practice. This is a lot and like saying it slightly different to see if if you get the reaction that you need. So for example I started like magic and it helped me a lot to become a better kind of like a spokesperson. It helped me a lot to choose better words and to articulate better at the ideas that I wanted to share. So there's a lot of ways to do that same thing for some people. It's going to be like improv or stand-up comedy.

Dianne: I like something you said earlier, which is kind of to this point to is like when you start learning on your own, you might find something else. You're really passionate about and like by doing something outside, of, maybe that's standard, you open your mind, up to so many other possibilities, and so many other directions. And so many other things that you find that you enjoy to tackle and learn about neck.

Franco: Yeah. Like I get a like, I don't like a small following on my Instagram, like I talked a lot about a lot about product design and like, I get asked this question of like, oh how do I start it like with product design and it's like if you are asking me that question but like you didn't spend like one second on Google because you could you could Google that right is like, probably probably probably sign is not for you or like the same with development. It's like it's 2022, there's so much information. If you come with the question. Like oh I've seen so many courses. Like which is the course that you would recommend that is a different question but if you start with like how do I learn like you you have the wrong approach and I think that happens a lot with people that are very I do like they did like all the right things and the right path. So they always, they were always taught by teachers in a union, like an academic environment and like now they have this kind of like, passion for something. They like something, but it's like, huh? Like like how like I need someone to tell me and for product, design is like, I think one of the best things is like there's no degree for product design. There's a lot of boot camps but there's no like like a three year, four year degree. So there's a million ways to do the same thing. There is a lot of tools, there's like it grows and evolves constantly. So you need to be constantly learning and every day and getting like an exploring. It's like a, it's a requirement for the field.

Dianne: I think that actually like Segways perfectly, you set me up for kind of the next piece of your sory and this theme that throughout is like learning and failing. So feeling is a hard word but it's a part of life. So you had a couple of startups that failed and I personally I would love to your take on it. I feel like every time this is I guess kind of a standard when you fail when I failed I definitely feel like I learned the most from those experiences versus when I succeeded versus when someone says these are the five things you have to do by doing this. You're going to get to that end. But what happens when it doesn't work out? How do you handle that situation and I think that's like what leads to people being able to discover who they are and to push their boundaries and to figure out what they care about and to really rethink everything. But yeah, talk a little bit about like, failing as an entrepreneur and what and what that felt like and maybe how you were able to pick your back yourself, back up and like rethink next up.

Franco: Yeah there's like two stages of learning. When you fail is like the immediate like stage stage where you learn the the like the specifics are on our own where were you messed up? But those there's like the knowledge that you get like maybe one year later or two years later is like, huh. If I do this? I will make the same mistake that the at that time. And it's like a point where it clicks something. To me personally something that I learned is like the both times that I try to start my own startup, I did it on my own like just alone and the biggest risk of doing that as a solopreneur is that you are never wrong until it's too late. You are never wrong until I you just like smash yourself against like the biggest wall on the first start up. Like I think one of the main problems is like I went Ah, so on the surface like the idea was good selling it to shopping malls was maybe a good idea but I didn't know anything about the what Panama is a country and all the the culture and when I arrived to Panama, they didn't have a startup scene, it was none. So I was at that time like 24, I had my my like my whole hair was blue, It's like and I arrived to this country where everyone is wearing like a suit even like on a like I don't like 90 degree weather like everyone. Everyone is wearing a suit and tie so everyone is very extremely like formal mm. It's like they wouldn't like no one would ever pay attention to like a 24 Argentinian with blue hair in that situation. So that was like a huge mistake. I didn't know, I didn't know nothing about that the market. And the second time, I think I chose the wrong. I think I chose the wrong platform to develop. I mean, I could have had a fair share of quote-unquote success, but when I made the numbers, I needed like to have like 100 genes to pay for my own salary. It's insane. It's see it was it was not worth it because it was not scalable. Like, I need like I need to incorporate 100 GM's every time I wanted to to hire someone, there's there was no way. want to scratch my own Edge. I think the the mistake there was like, should I have been just a passion project and and leave it there? I tried to come back to to the the fitness industry from time to time and

Dianne: Kind of my experience with failure which is kind of similar to. This is i-i've done branding, I'm in product design but my background has been branding. And for a while, I wanted to help Rebrand cannabis companies when cannabis like I used to live in Colorado, when it became legal, they're all these candidates companies coming out and I was like, oh my God, like I'm so tired. of seeing like the same Leaf everywhere. Let's do something that doesn't look like hippy dippy. And I was like, this is such a great idea and I had and everyone all my friends are like, oh, yeah, I would totally like shop at a place that was like, higher-level those the Cannabis industry. I think it's shifting slowly now, but back then a few years ago, like they were like no, we don't care about bringing. People are going to come and buy weed, no matter what. This is not something we want to invest in. This is not something where to put our money in and so it I ended up kind of failing. I had this big idea and like the Cannabis industry was not ready to invest in branding or do anything different than they decided to do because they were getting customers. They were getting people to buy.

Franco: I mean, sometimes we see things, we are, especially as product designers, we see things that could be there but I don't know. They're especially when we say like, okay, if you like, if you use my platform, you will save unlike x amount of dollars. So, like my platform pays for itself, it's like, yes. But for them to, to get the value out of your platform, they have to be measuring it. If they are not measuring it like there is no value. There's no way you can sell that platform to them because I mean for most people if like if it's already working, why fix it? So that's why I like it. 2022 and pen. And paper is the main tool for gems, like they, they do not measure, they just like they have enough money to run the gym and, and and make make ends meet. That's good for most people. So when you and when I went with my softwares like yeah, but my software will help you like manage your agenda and you will have so much free time to do whatever you want to do is like yeah but I have pen and paper.

Dianne: Right? And they filled their daily. That's the process. And that's what they do. They don't need something different.

Franco: What are the main differences? Like I usually say, like, that approach designer is I seen your ux designer? Because for a designer you need like two things that are. You excited usually doesn't have like usually it doesn't learn. Especially from boot camps, which is all the I would say product thinking and business design or business thinking that is like, that is the keep the key point because like, I mean, as a ux designer, I would say like yeah. Like if I want to improve the, the experience of like flying we need more room and more space in between seats. I was like, yeah, sure. But that goes against, like any Airline click publish. He ever so you need to start like, so, like first thing like like the business model and like, the things you can control and then start like thinking about the problems around those those. And, and what I think that happened to me with my startup is, like, I started with a solution instead of a problem, like, instead of going to the gym owner, which was my customer and saying like, hey, okay lets just talk, it's just talking and trying to figure out in which ways I could solve a problem from them. I was like okay like I know that they have this problem, they they manage their gyms and they do not measure and they cannot scale and blah blah so I will be the solution. So I started like when I said, like, when I went testing, I was testing for a solution, not for a problem.

Dianne: And I think that's important like business thinking, like, understanding the customers, obviously, a huge like, the ux side of things empathy understanding their needs. And I definitely think that having that business sense and learning more than just design and opening up your mind to how the world Works. How business works is going to be super impactful as a deception. Like so many customer like something that we do at the design project is like every time we work on a future for a project really? How can we measure this? How can we say that this is a success or failure and bringing in those that business side is going to make sure that all of those people that are maybe higher up in the company are don't see. The design side are going to see the value and that is so important in all aspects of design

Franco: And even like with with measuring this present especially with an agency, right? Measured like how can we measure successful? He's like it's not even like for the client is like okay? Like how are you measuring the impact that you generate on your clients? So, like the like kind of, like, giving the client, like, hey, now you can start measuring this by following this. I don't like go a lot, eegs or like you have to hot jar like whichever tool or like these are the kpis we came up with this like how we are going to do it? Like I'm like a complete redesign for a website. Okay like how are we going to make sure that these redesign its it has a positive impact? How are we going? To measure this because if you if you can measure it then you can be a like you can showcase it on your on your portfolio or your website or whatever. It's like, okay, we managed to in 90 days increase by 127 percent the traffic on this website, by changing this. This and that boom success. If you just like, okay, like the client wants a website, let's build a website and that's it. It's like how Like if we are in the industry of adding value like how do we know that we are effectively adding value? Because like yeah, like you might have done things prettier but I mean there's a reason why Craigslist is as ugly as it is. I mean it works. And it's freaking past. There is no need for, like thinking about like complex research complex. Responsiveness is just like a very extremely basic HTML CSS, and some JavaScript baby and that's it. It works like on any device error, like that works. Probably a redesign would hurt Craigslist more than more than it would benefit it, right?

Dianne: That's fascinating. Yeah. I don't know why this thought just talked to my head and what your thoughts on it. I, if I see another Junior designer redesign Spotify, and I've talked about this in the podcast before, like I am going like to explode, like don't redesign Spotify but you know what? I've never seen as someone redesign Craigslist.

Franco: I've seen a lot of people redesign Craiglist and if I happy they apply to a job opening, I instantly reject them and I I think there's even a quote from the founder of Craigslist saying likes, please. Stop asking me to resign this as like, never recommend people to redesign things. Maybe, maybe maybe what you can do is like if you grab a specific pattern or a specific element on the web or web app or website application, whatever and you propose a new solution like okay, that might be interesting. But like Spotify redesign is like, okay. You just like three or six months bootcamp and you're telling me you are better than the hundred and something designers at Spotify, it's kind of like and it's not even using the same elements or like, oh yeah, I just downloaded their design system and I used it. It's like I will not only a redesigned Spotify, but I will redesign the brand. And it's like, okay, but what point are you going to think about the business side of the equation and the product side of the equation goes? He's not just like this is annoying, I will just change it or yeah, like this text could be like more visible as like there's no like digital products are living things. They are constantly evolving and there's always things that you can do better. I always wonder like why the notes app by Apple is like so basic when you have like so many great products. It's even like by one of those by one of those and just like implemented. Like there's a gazillion priorities that companies have like the reasons why they don't do things like you can adjust comment. So Ikea, I will just redesign Whatsapp, redesign Spotify. No.

Dianne: No 1000%, I agree and that's for any Junior designers out there. Listening bootcamp, God's, please, do not redesign product. I love what you suggested about, like maybe taking one element of it and rethinking. But yeah, these companies are spending tons of money. They have business goals. I mean, are not necessarily aligned.

Franco: It's always better to build your own case study, but with your own idea, because worse scenario is going to be a case study, but base case scenario, you have a startup.

Dianne: So yeah. So I love that. I actually talking to someone last week, a designer on the podcast. And he's talking about he's part of this this company that's mentoring and they bring all these designers developers together and they have like a hackathon essentially and they get to learn by doing and come up with a product and they're supposed to put it on product hunt and launch it. And I think that's really powerful. Absolutely great way to get that experience.

Franco: I know that a lot of jr designers are saying like, hey, like they are, they're asking me for like experience and I don't have it like experience and it's like, okay, like experience can be faked because experience is not like working at a specific company and getting paid experience has like four elements is like having deadlines having stakeholders, having a team and using like everyday work tools. If you can emulate those four things, then you have it like a real-life experience. Like, it doesn't matter if you don't get paid like, getting paid or, or working for a specific brand company, whatever, it's like a secondary. So, you can like, as a junior designer, you could say, like, okay, like I will like, post on a forum, whatever slack Discord that I'm looking for a developer and a program manager or a project manager. So we have like a the trifecta for like the perfect team. We're going to use Trello as our tool and we are going to try to build the product. I like a month and you can even say like, okay, you can contact a non-profit and said, like, okay, can we like, can we help you like take a non-profit as your client, which is going to give you like the stakeholder kind of like side is like, okay? Like what are the things that you like try to investigate like their problems, try to come up with a solution, bill, that solution. And boom, you have a again like a real-life experience because you used Trello or a sauna or whatever tool you want notion or and thigma and you have it on GitHub and you work with a developer and also a product manager. It's like and although like old like the three of those can be junior that like Junior in their field and they could all get that experience. And again, worst case scenario. You have a case study, basically scenario, you have business partners

Dianne: That's amazing. Yes, this actually okay, I wanna bring up culture because you've built your own teams. You also talked about some of the serbs who worked with, they didn't have a great culture, you had burnout and like what what to you is? Is great culture. What what are the ingredients to make a great culture out of colony?

Franco: Let me let me start by saying, like the one of the most interesting things about culture is the only thing like you don't have like full control of So you can like you can put a process in place and that like like we can do things like XYZ according to process, but you cannot say like okay this is going to be our culture and just like okay like everyone will respect that. So culture will be affected by the people you hire usually for a start up, like eight said, like the first ten people are going to be the ones that are that, that create the culture. And I've seen more and more companies like having these specific interview to like to check this, a cultural fit, right? If your values and your goals aligns to the values and goals of the company, so that is like that is one of them the most important things. And then the times I saw like, like a total failure in culture implementation is when culture is for employees, but not for managers, right? So if you like culture is a lot of like leading by example, if I don't let's say having a work-life balance is important for you. Then you cannot like be at 9 p.m. at the office on a Friday. Because people will feel that pressure and I remember what time one time with Paisano's we were in every startup mode and we got asked to developed basically a fintech into month. We have like two months to develop the application like for a wallet. And like, we had to put some all-nighters, like, some, like, 24-hour 48-hour kind of like work days and we saw that it was creating a negative impact on other employees and like saying like, hey I don't want to do that. I want to have my Wednesday for myself. I don't want to be working like 3 a.m. like crazy. So we realized that like although the kind of like hackathon kind of like style and adrenaline is like sometimes it's just lovely and amazing especially if you have like a great team. That was the last time that we could ever do that. Cuz if not even if we say like, you don't need to, you don't need to do to work for try for 24 hours or 48 hours. People will still feel the pressure in the end will still feel like a kind of like a this like it will still feel as if they had to stay because the boss is staying, right? So culture is something that is completely that led by example and you have to take a lot of care of also trying to Not only like embody those values that you want to promote, but also to kind of, when someone at your company when an employee like, when they reflect those values, you have to also recognize that. So there has to be a recognition. A problem with very strong, cultural environments, and usually culture when it's very strong inside a company, it also tends to push people away so people that don't quite fit in with that culture like they feel like completely outcast in and left alone. So it can also be a thing that kind of like It's people, so that like that, that is something that has to be.

Dianne: Yeah, I guess I have it. I think that's a super interesting concept is like, you should know your values and where you stand and you should definitely bring in people that like are respectful and follow those values. But also you need to make sure that your values and what you stand for is not so closed minded that you're getting like, copycats of yourself. Right. You want to have a diverse.

Franco: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I've seen it in in, in companies wherecan be even like a great culture, but it because there is a specific trait that is like that everyone kind of like embodies that if you feel that you don't have that, you can like I don't belong here like I don't have this so I don't belong. It's like, baby, it's not that but like the some cultures I've seen like that are so strong that like people feel completely left out.

Dianne: Yeah, I think there's, I totally forgot the book, and I definitely need to remember, and the exact terminology because it's famous book, but I'm the concept is like, there's two type of like people, right? There's the people, the entrepreneurs, the ones that are pushing themselves, they always want to grow and get to that next step, and next next. And then there's the people who want to become experts in really want to focus and hone in. And they like very happy and content. And, and a lot of companies that are in this group growth mindset, they actually

Franco: Feeling because they don't have these people that are really the backbone of the company and that embody like some of those core values, but maybe in a different way. Like it's not always exciting but they're like Yang the company together and that resonated a lot John and there's like with big companies that happens like that maybe they they start with these like for example, talking about like the Googles and the Facebook's and like they have like the these famous 20% of their time, you can dedicate to whatever you want and like that that is how Gmail was born. And that is how like blah blah blah was born like. Yeah. Okay. That was when they were like 40. But like now they are like, how many? Like 200,000 maybe at Google like? It's absolutely impossible. So I think like also like culture, is this changing thing, right? That at some point you might like it might be some way and then it just grows and changes and it becomes something different. So especially for, like, for junior designers. I think it's very important that you during the process that you actively ask for the quill, the right questions to understand if the company you're joining, is the company you want to be joining because maybe you have like this idea of Google, being this amazing place where like everyone goes like on the scooters to a like, a ping-pong table. And when like, when they are not like just enjoying and drinking beers, they are working and it's like, it's like people never use like any of those facilities like people just work and leave or less. There's no time for fun. So like don't get, I think the word is embellished by those stories and like things and ask actively ask. Like you can eat. You can ask. What is the like a like a day in? Like like I would like what does a work day look like for a person that does this, but you can. Also, if you are like in a second, as the third stage of the process, you can even select. Hey, could you? Could I have an interview with a person that holds the same role at your company? So that you also understand this this culture and and you get like the whole the whole picture not just like the the recruiters side of the equation which is like, yeah, this place is amazing and yeah, sure.

Dianne: I love that suggestion. Highly recommend. Yeah. Like asking someone in that position because they're always going to tell you all the perks. So we have a ping pong table. Yay, come work with us. I've never seen anyone using them.

Franco: I mean, like, and we have to be honest here and it's like even the Product Industry, we make like a really good living. So instead of like just playing, like the PlayStation, if you want to play station, we can probably afford it and get it in our house where we have like our stuff and it's our place. So, Yeah, none of those things will ever be used.

Dianne: Okay. So one of my last questions for you is working and traveling, what is that like for you? What do you recommend to other people?

Franco: So something that will usually come up in any interview is like a question related to, how are you going to ensure that you can like the in the middle of the Jungle and work for like and and be online at 9 a.m. on Monday? So you like like even if you like travel with a backpack or with a sprinter the Caravan or a car or a school e, whatever like have at least two ways to help you be online. Like it right now, like I for example my primary is starlink so I have like Sterling and he even has a roaming version and like, they even built a backpack so you can, you can just like go backpacking in the middle of the whatever place you want. Carry the, the antenna and just like, I'm like, on a Monday, just like is solid and five minutes, you are online. It's insane and it's like $100. It's that is crazy but extremely affordable. So startling for me is traveling for me is the like a primary and then I installed on the school bus. There is a an antenna that it's like a 17 1 which has GPS 4G 5G and Wi-Fi. So I can for example park at a Walmart or a Starbucks and kind of likes Steal their internet and Amplified inside my bus, Which is my secondary but also my router has a SIM card and it allows us to have like two SIM cards at the same time. So I know for example in the u.s. some I think the the the east coast is like AT&T dominated but the rest of the u.s. is like T-Mobile so you might want to have like two SIM cards and again That's my tertiary. So I had like three ways to always be online and if something fails then I have the other two especially again like in in the u.s. everything is simpler. Because in some countries like you don't even have to go far in the u.s., you can get like unlimited data plan for $100, and there are some plans that are called grandfathered plans And which are like truly unlimited. Like there's no cop, no nothing. But if you go to Canada, you just cross to Canada. You will pay. Maybe $200 for 100 gigabytes. So, even in the in the US has everything to just like traveled around the country like, and it's really simple to do. It's insane. How simple it is in the, in the u.s. like, I'm so like I want to come back so bad because there are so many things that I still need to see that. A secondary thing which is like the concept of like Geo Arbitrage which is basically like get your salary from the US, which is basically the highest-paying economy right now and travel to places where that money like goes a long way. Argentina is one of those places. So let your American General Europe in Europe. Usually, if you wanted to like analyze say, you are a designer in New York and you wanted to move to Berlin to for the same job, you will have like a 50% cut on your on your pay. So just keep working for the US and just move to Berlin.

Dianne: That is definitely the way to do it for sure. So yeah, like finding that American company. I completely.

Franco: Yeah, I think there's also something else is American companies. Usually have a more developed culture especially when it comes to ux and UI design, they are more mature. So working like I for myself like I find it that working for American companies is more fulfilling because there are so many things that I can do that. Maybe I was not able in in some of the companies because the company was not mature enough to have those discussions, especially when we are talking about, like, not only the design but like I think that the fun part of like you acts, which is strategy when we started like talking when we start getting invited before the project starts and we can like start thinking about like all the strategy and how are we going to like turn these problem into the best solution possible that is? Usually more, like you can usually have those conversations more often in American companies and anywhere else in the world in my experience.

Dianne: My final question to you think was like, what's next for you? What, what are you planning on doing in the next year? In the next five years...

Franco: Great question. For now November. I am going back to Argentina for, like, some time, just to mainly because I have to do a lot of paperwork, like renew my passport. Like, I have to like I have a CDL, a professional drivers license, but I don't have the driver license for bikes so I need to get that one. Like I can't drive like an 18-wheeler. No problem. But I like, I cannot legally drive up so I'm going to get that that for sure. And that like I think Okay, every month that I spend like leaving this nomadic lifestyle, in a school bus, like a school bus forces you to go slow, it does seven miles per gallon. It's not, it's not something that you want to move. A lot specially with the gas prices right now. Mine is 37 feet. So it's a big one, but like just, there's a few things that I want to remodel on the bus and I want to start like traveling slowly but steady first around you like we shipped it to Europe and basically that unbox, three continents Europe, Asia , Africa. So there's so many things that I can I can choose from that it like hits. I will just like just go with the Wind on that and that sense and yeah as a product designer, I like one skill that I'm trying to think how I'm going to learn next is typography. It's something that I like and I would like to improve a lot more especially cuz It has such a huge impact on anything. Like it is basically 70% or 80% of like anything you will ever design. So yeah, like that, that is something that I'm starting to think of how I'm going to to, to study a little bit more. And then of course, like just like leadership. I just like the first time II, let a team I fell in love with it. Ah, I just surpassed 200 mentorships on a list, which will is insane by like, I enjoyed so much.

Dianne: That's amazing that that's really awesome. That's something we didn't touch on. Next time I, we have to talk to you with that mentorship.

Franco: I don't know if it's a career or like a hobby or what is it? But like every time like now I started mentoring people, I five years ago and now I'm seeing those people become leaders themselves and it's like I think it's like a I'd so joyful that is like I feel like so I don't like because I my whole career was like just me making mistakes and learning and seeing like maybe something that took me ten years that I can. Teach someone I may be in 34 years, they are better than me. Like, it's insane. It leaves a better generation of designers eyes.

Dianne: I agree that is my wishes, all the designers of design projec

t will surpass, me and Leadership and design and skills and excited to watch like their Journeys wherever it takes them. Super exciting. Thank you so much. I feel like we covered so many different things and it was really enlightening and super interesting to hear all of your stories. So thank you so much.

Franco: Thank you.

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

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