Building confidence as a designer

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Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Confidence is a critical personality to almost every role in career life, especially for a designer. To be honest, I can’t imagine myself sharing any thoughts about confidence at all. It’s not because I’m self-abasement, but I’m that kind of person who wants to be prepared and perfect to speak out loud.

Actually, I don’t plan to share more articles in English either, which is one of the many things that I don’t have too much confidence in — English writing. Thanks to the readers from my previous post, I got a lot of positive feedback, LinkedIn connections, and Medium followers. Somehow it gives me the confidence to share more instead of laying on my couch and publishing one story a quarter. So here we go.

Why does it matter?

As I mentioned in my previous post, not earning a formal design degree makes me doubt myself. However, the more I think this way, the less I feel confident. Most of the time, I don’t feel comfortable sharing opinions because I’m not sure if I’m saying things right. Comparing to other designers who have been in the company for 3+ years, it seems I know less to provide constructive feedback. I know it’s not true like we always say…

Any feedback is welcome.

Everyone holds different aspects to see the world, that’s why any feedback is welcome. That’s how we can build a better product by valuing everyone’s opinion to consider broader customers' needs.

However, knowing this not makes me step out of my comfort zone. Until some coworkers came to me and said, “I’m impressed by your works, we should find a chance to work together next time”. I was flattered and knew I deserve that. But nothing change.

The moment I started pushing myself seriously to deal with the “lacking confidence” situation is when I had the conversation about promotion with my manager, that we talked about the areas I want to grow. Obviously, building confidence came out of my mind.

Following is my journey of training myself to become more confident:

At the end of the quarter is the time to think about the career development plan for the upcoming quarter. The first question I will ask myself is the area I wanted to grow. To answer it, I will observe other seniors in the team as the role models, seeing what makes them succeed in the organization. Or simply think about something new to learn. It’s always about what kind of designer you want to become. For example, gaining domain knowledge, getting familiar with data, sharing insights about your own product area, or conducting usability tests without researchers' help.

Leveraging what you’re good at could speed up the process, also a good chance to level up the skill you already have. For example, I’m an organized and detailed-oriented person, I always documented my design process thoroughly. Sometimes there are some random thoughts about the research plan or an informative deck of the research findings that I prepared to share with product managers. By simply sharing what you’ve currently done with people is a simple way to take the first step.

It sounds like a cliche but it always pays off. Try anyways to become the person who knows the product the most. It’s also a good way to build trust with people.

When I just owned the new product area a few months ago, I certainly know nothing about what’s the success and users look like. I have tons of questions and it seems no one can answer. So I decided to conduct several usability tests to get a general idea of the user pain points and opportunities for improvement.

After observing 10+ participant sessions, I felt I can speak for my users since I truly resonate with them. The insights from the testing also help me to shape my perspective with less bias. When more and more people come to me, asking “what do you know about our users?” and I do have the answers. It’s rewarding!

After doing the hard work, time to let people know what you’ve done! It’s not only about visibility, but you need to believe that your findings and experience can really benefit someone else. That’s to say, you already have the interview with 10 users and found some interesting insights, no one should do it again, at least in the next 3 months right? Cost-saving as well!

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t feel comfortable speaking out loud in front of people. So I started by posting in the slack channel, even from a small group. Then I shared some quick updates in the weekly team meeting. Then I discussed with the team lead first (more like a rehearsal), and shared with the whole design team for the entire 30 minutes.

Believe me, it’s really really hard in the first place but eventually becomes easier. It’s also about the culture of receiving and giving feedback. When more and more people come to you and say, you did a great job! You’ll start getting excited about it.

Not sure if it’s only me, I have bad short-term memory and can easily forget what I’ve done. It’s not a good thing for building confidence. My tip is that every time I got a warm message from anyone, I will take screenshots and collect them altogether by quarter or project. I treat them as milestones that keep reminding me what I’ve done right and encourage me to do more.

Other than that, I will reflect on myself carefully at this stage. There are definitely areas to improve but remember, don’t criticize yourself too harshly. As long as you step out of your comfort zone, you should be proud of yourself.

Building a comfortable culture for everyone to speak 🎉

Be patient, it takes time to build confidence, and it hurts sometimes. It’s hard to take the first step, and you might need some push from people around you. Started from talking about your concern and obstacles, picking up small steps, and celebrate every little success. Eventually, you will be comfortable sharing your own experience like me. Cheers!

Your claps mean a lot to me 👏👏👏️

— Salie Chien

Currently a product designer at Agoda (Booking Holdings). Curious and eager to learn new things. Feel free to book a call via ADPList and Clarity, or reach out via LinkedIn.

UX Designer @ Agoda, currently based in Bangkok. “ Be the change you want to see in the world.“ Find me via LinkedIn or