How I Got My Job as a Senior UX and Product Designer

Guilherme Castellini, a Senior UX and Product Designer: Currently work with Innovation Management, Circular Design, and as a Business Strategist.

By looking at my story now, it feels like I followed a straight line in my life to work as a product designer. But this is not how it happend, and I almost quit everything in the middle of my path.

My name is Guilherme Castellini, I am a Senior UX and Product Designer and I currently work with Innovation Management, Circular Design, and as a Business Strategist. I’m also leading a design and innovation department in an industrial national institution in São Paulo (Brazil), alongside professionals that I respect and admire. I have already helped institutions in different sectors to innovate, such as Avon, BMW, Disney, Faber-Castell, Furukawa Electric, Natura, PSA, Saint Gobain, Siemens, and was fortunate to be awarded more than 18 design awards.

My second degree was in Product Design, right after I graduated in Digital Design, just like my father’s, although he was also graduated as product designer, never managed to work in the area, because the term “design” was still very new in Brazil and this forced him to pursue a more conservative career in the administration business. This story has always frustrated me, because in addition to creativity and will, my father had a natural talent for drawing and artistic perception. But, well, I never had the intention to really follow his steps at the beginning.

The Incentive

It was in the drawings, where I could express myself freely. I always liked to be inspired by real models, but it was in the free creation of objects, characters and monsters where I really managed to feel authentic. 

Being a boy in a Catholic Elementary School, where the teachers were nuns – very friendly, but also very conservative -, I felt like an outsider. All the other boys were extroverts, while I prefer to sit quiet, observe and draw. This outside feeling haunted me from years to come, until I finally found my fellow artists in university.

Both my parents always encouraged me to continue to value my creativity and express myself artistically, and I owe so much to them.

My notebooks were filled with drawings with everything I learned during classes at school: medieval warriors battling, forests, planes and cars. I loved to reinvent everything I was hearing in my drawings. 

At the same time, my curiosity grew every day, trying to understand how things were done and how they worked. I disassembled everyday objects like phones, pots, toys, fans and, well, couldn’t always put them back together, – much to my parents’ unhappiness.

The First Steps

As soon as high school was over, I started looking for which course to take. The idea was a course that could bring together the things that I most identified with at the time: art, computers and creation. I knew that in order for me to stand out in any segment, it would demand hard work and would only be able to endure it if I was doing something that would quench my artistic soul.

Digital Design’s course seemed to me as the perfect balance between everything I loved to do. The amount of job opportunities for graphic and digital design started to increase a lot at the time I was studying and it didn’t take me long to find my first internship in the area.

During this period, I worked in large companies, being part of the graphic design team and later integrating the marketing teams in the development of internal and external campaigns. Despite creativity was, if I may say, my speciality,  what made me promoted a few times, it didn’t feel that this was the career of my dreams.

Creating campaigns, disseminating advertising materials, taking care of social media and engagement taught me a lot about people’s behavior and how to communicate with them, but I was far from exploring my passion for creating and that sense of discovery I had when I took things apart and tried to understand how everything worked.

The Turnaround

One day, on my way to work, I passed by a giant billboard with inscriptions for a Product Design course with a beautiful sketch of a car. This college was well respected and was close to my house. I wasted no time and contacted the course coordinator, who informed me that this was the opening class of that course at that university.

I was lucky: It was my last year in the Digital Design course, so I didn’t even have to think twice and did the selection process for the new college.

That’s when everything started to change completely for me and I started to feel confident that my drawing passion would lead me somewhere. All thoses classes enchanted me: The projects, new challenges, creating products, modeling, prototyping, testing new things and applying new materials. Despite the differences with the digital area, the focus was always the same: the human being and his needs.

I applied to all the competitions that showed up, trained a lot in drawing, especially the creative process, and spent hours beyond class time talking to teachers about design and the future. Then I started to gradually win the first prizes! I wanted to leave my mark on all projects and make each presentation convey the emotion felt during the development stage, and so far I truly believe that the projects were my voice to do so.

If at the beginning of the course I avoided research, at the end it was research that defined my graduation project, which happily earned me a maximum grade, awards and international recognition for addressing a system that was able to provide water in situations of calamity and in any situation or place on the planet. A balloon named Skydrops that can remove moisture from air and transforms it into drinkable water for people to use for feeding, hygiene, health and others.

The fear

Still, I had not yet left the area of ​​marketing. I had achieved a lot with my current job, being promoted several times, with a good salary and prestige in the area. However, to become a product designer, I would need to give up everything I had achieved in my current job. To make It even worse, in this same period, a new opportunity appeared for me to join another company, also in the marketing area, with a higher salary and career projection.

I knew that my life would become much more comfortable with this new job, but my dad said a very powerful phrase at this time: “Choose the place where you will learn more, then think about the other benefits.”

I decided to turn down the job offer and quit my current work to dedicate myself to creating a new product portfolio, improving my presentation and looking for a new opportunity. It also helped me to finish my graduation project and reach some recognition.

I was very afraid to leave the area that was “safe” to pursue something completely new. Fear gave way to courage, as it was my dream, which in a short time gave way to fulfillment: I got my first job in the product area right after graduating.

In three days I would start working at an office that creates exclusive packaging and products for large companies in the cosmetics segment. Despite handling the creation, design and research process, I had one major flaw that kicked my anxiety to higher levels: I didn’t master any 3D modeling tools. In spite of fear, I went to a bookstore and bought a modeling book. I spent the entire weekend reading and studying 3D modeling. After all, Monday would be my first day as a product designer.

The Beginning

My enthusiasm, hardwork and courage in the face of new challenges helped me to stand out, guaranteed promotions and new contracts with large customers. I started designing packaging for the largest cosmetics companies in Brazil and also internationally. In a partnership project with Avon and Disney, we designed a packaging for Pixar’s Planes animation. It was the first time I dealt with Disney, an old dream since I started drawing my fantastic creatures when I was a child. I still have the first tryout cologne bottle I saved as a souvenir.

I traveled to India to solve an engineering problem in a set of Faber-Castell bottles. I accepted the challenge, even though I was afraid and anxious about going alone to fix something I didn’t even imagine, faced it head on and focused on work. After that, I went on a sequence of international trips for the company. I always sought to innovate with the team and was lucky to work with professionals who inspire me until today.

I brought my old university closer to the company, holding contests and giving lectures to encourage and support design students. In one of these competitions, the coordinator, who became a great friend of mine, presented me with an opportunity to become a designer in one of the largest institutions in Brazil linked to the industry.

To apply to this opportunity though, I had to face a severe competition, with several stages and tests. As I was in a confident period due to my growth in the current company, I dealt with everything calmly and unafraid, even though there were more than 300 candidates. I got in and was quite happy, and how!

The Growth

Always looking to do big and meaningful things, I was side by side with entrepreneurs and designers to always get better at my work and innovate. I never refused to do anything just because I didn’t know, I always tried to do everything in the best possible way. All this was encouraged  by my family and I tried not not to be concerned to face any obstacles. 

But, to be honest, I was afraid several times: Fear of failing, of not knowing enough, of not being able to do or finish something, of not being able to overcome, or even failing and disappointing those who believed in me. Feeling fear is natural – and I learned that at a hard cost – and it’s part of any work: you can only have courage if you feel fear. Still, nothing exists until it is done and I always tried to bring life to the best ideas I had. In my heart, I believed in them.

With a lot of work and many new and challenging projects, I won my first awards for the institution and was called to join the first team to take care of startups in partnership with the company. This made me so fulfilled that I was happy to create the Integrated Design Center, which brought together professionals from the design areas, engineering and research to promote unique projects and real innovation companies from different segments.

I had the challenge to deal with all types of companies and segments imaginable and of all sizes as well. I learned and still learn a lot every day and this will be a constant throughout my professional life, and of any professional in the ​​creation’s area. Today I tutor companies on managing their innovation and strategic planning for new markets and new businesses. This was only possible because I went through all the stages and levels in the companies, from the tooling to the corporate leadership. And that gave me the vision I needed to feel confident to “speak all languages” within the corporate environment ​​and understand the complex scenario that is innovating in a company.

For Those Who Are Starting

I’m happy to provide some very simple tips for those who would like to join or are starting a career in Product Design, and that helped me a lot along the way:

  • Fear: This will be a constant in life for those who will work with product design. Everything will be new, challenging and will seem overwhelming. There is only courage if there’s fear;
  • Learning: Developing products is an act of constantly learning through research, which is the most powerful tool we have to guide us when we can’t find answers;
  • Problem: Learn to love the problem, not the solution. When we focus too much on the solution, we become short-sighted and focused on solving something that doesn’t match the problem. When we fall in love with the problem, we look for the best way to solve it.
  • People: Our biggest mistake is when, through our own experiences, we try to predict what will move other people’s behavior. Hearing the problem is listening to people.
  • Fail: To innovate is to fail until you get it right. If someone demands an 100% correct innovative product, what they are asking for is a copy of what already exists, not an innovation. To innovate, we have at least 50% chance of getting it right and 50% chance of getting it wrong.
  • Purpose: Have a purpose, seek meaning. Being happy is a gift, but having a purpose is our moral obligation. Build solutions that have a narrative, a reason to exist, otherwise we are just creating different things, but not better.
  • Portfolio: A designer work speaks for himself. This is the part where a product designer has to spend more hours working and polishing all the material that is going to fill with. Doesn’t matter if the preference for demonstrante the projects are sketches, renderings, videos and texts, but show them the best way you can.

And, if I may say, my journey is far from over, but I’m quite glad that it brought me all the way here, with the opportunity to design for all kinds of companies and entrepreneurs and be honored by working in great projects filled with meaning and purpose. For the future I hope that my projects will be destined for Circular Economy, providing a green and viable future for all the species that habit our planet.

Also read: How I got a Visual designer job

How I Got My Job as a Senior UX and Product Designer

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