Derek Mei is a UX Engineer at Putnam Investments in Boston and doing UX Engineer job. His strengths lie in implementing high-level design thinking across different teams, helping bridge the gap between designers and developers, and optimizing the entire user experience all the way from conception to implementation. Outside of work, he enjoys playing basketball, learning to play guitar, and writing articles on his website.
University & Fields of Study:
Graduated from Boston University with degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Business Administration. Currently, at Bentley University, pursuing a Masters in Human Factors in Information Design.
Current Job: UX Engineer at Putnam Investments in Boston
Top Three Books: 1) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: this book is a wonderful portrayal of the fragility of life. It reminds me of how important it is to cherish each and every day and live in the moment instead of over-planning for the future. Face-to-face with death, Kalanithi shows an incredible amount of courage and strength — something that’s both inspirational and aspirational.
2) The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman: this book changed my perception of how products are developed with human factors in mind. It’s amazing how the physical objects we see around us involved some type of analysis and critical thinking in determining how actual people would interact with them.
3) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: this book drives my creative ethos; although I might not agree with all of Rand’s ideologies, I aspire to emulate Howard Roark and his defining qualities — relentless drive and dogmatic individuality.
Hobbies and Interests: Outside of work, I love playing basketball, trying new beers, and learning how to play the guitar. I also enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts, both on my blog and on Medium. Occasionally, you’ll find me on Steam playing CS: GO or Dota 2 with friends.
On UX Engineer Work and Careers
What do you do in UX Engineer job at Putnam Investments do? I do many different things at work, but if I were to give you a single sentence that describes what I do, this would probably be it.
“I help implement high-level design thinking across different teams, bridge the gap between designers and developers, and optimize the entire user experience all the way from conception to implementation.”
As a generalist who enjoys combining my creative and analytical mindset with my technical ability, I work with various stakeholders — from product owners to developers to other designers — to reduce friction and improve the overall experience of those using our products. I love being involved in strategic meetings that help identify problems before they exist and develop solutions that address those issues.
What does an average day look like doing UX Engineer job at Putnam Investments? Every day, I get up around 6AM and get into work around 7:30AM or 8AM. During the hour I’m on the train for, I generally do a bit of light reading (on my brand new kindle!) or work on a side project so that I’m mentally prepared for the rest of the day.
At work, I split my time 50/50 between writing code or working with others to design new features or applications. Sometimes, my days are booked full of meetings, and other days, I am granted the opportunity to get in the zone and focus purely on the work.
I make a note to try to visit sidebar.io and producthunt.com everyday just to see what’s new in the design space and what types of products other people are coming out with. On the way home, I’ll do more reading or listen to a podcast (usually related to design). One of my favorites is Jared Erondu and Bobby Ghoshal’s High Resolution series, which invites design leaders from top organizations to provide insight on their processes and way of thinking.
Advice to Others
How I Got Into the Design Industry: In the realm of UX and HCI, there’s a famous law called Hick’s Law that states the number of possible choices a person can choose from will logarithmically increase with the amount of time it takes for that person to make a decision.
While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I struggled a lot trying to figure out what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do after I graduated. I was interested in a variety of different subjects but didn’t want to commit to just one. To counter the fear of missing out on what I enjoyed learning, I graduated with degrees in mathematics, computer science, and business administration.
It’s a stroke of luck that I discovered the field of user experience design because it allows me to combine so many of my interests into a job I love. I envision the role of a UX designer as being at the intersection of a lot of different fields, acting as the glue that helps bring together different parts of a business to help it address challenging problems.
On Your First Job: My UX designer job at Putnam Investments Your taught a lot about myself and what I might want in the years to come. Don’t be discouraged if you start at a company you’re not proud of or hate — just because you didn’t land the job you wanted at the dream company you wanted to work for doesn’t mean you won’t be able to work for them in the future.
When I comb through all my previous emails, I’ll sometimes come across old job applications where I never even heard back from the company or recruiter. I’ll feel a brief tinge of disappointment all over again but quickly realize that although I might have felt like I would be a shoo-in at the time, companies care more about fit.
Like a pair of your favorite jeans that you can’t fit into anymore because you put on too much weight since college, your dream job might not be attainable now, but if you work hard and put in the effort to improve yourself, you’ll be able to achieve your goal.
Recommendations on Resumes and CVs for UX Engineer: Always be honest. Not just with others, but to yourself too. Don’t tell people you’re something that you aren’t because people will eventually detect your BS, even if you end up landing the job because you look good on paper. The same applies to interviews as well.
Don’t lie or exaggerate. Especially in today’s culture, we try to over-inflate our egos by trying to show and tell others that we’re something that we aren’t. When you write or talk to someone, humanize the experience and speak from your heart. If you don’t know something, openly admit it. More importantly, talk about your plans to actually improve and follow through. People value honesty and respect the ability to be vulnerable in uncomfortable situations.
On Finding Your Passion: I think a lot of people have this strange fascination about finding their passion like it’s buried somewhere in the sand or marked by a big large X on a map. The issue with this is that we spend so much of our time searching instead of looking introspectively and asking ourselves what we enjoy and what we’re good at.
Over the past few years, I started to slowly realize that whatever I was learning in school was not what I truly enjoyed. I felt drained after my classes, and I frequently questioned the majors I was pursuing and asked myself if it was worth it.
I’m fortunate early into my career that I realized I liked the design a lot more than programming. Although I’m fully capable of writing code and developing applications, I much rather spend my time designing and communicating how they should work instead.
“Never get good at something you hate.”
If you get good at something you hate, you’ll end up moving further and further down in that particular field, to a point where it’ll be difficult to pivot careers. Furthermore, if you hate what you do for a living, then it’ll be harder to move up the corporate ladder because there’ll be people who love doing what you hate and are willing to outwork you because it won’t feel like work to them.
On the other hand, if you want to get good at something you love, it’ll feel less like work and you’ll be more likely to enjoy the process of learning. You can trade material goals like money and fame for the prospect of bettering yourself, which to me, is the most rewarding goal of all.
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