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In this episode, product designer and Career Strategy Lab alumni Malavika Oak shares her journey from job hunting to landing her dream role, and provides insights into the world of UX design. She talks about her transition from marketing design to UX/UI design and the challenges she faced along the way.
Malavika candidly discusses her experience as the only designer in a startup company and her search for a role that aligned with her career aspirations. She emphasizes the importance of feedback, mindset shifts, and the impact of the Career Strategy Lab program on her career. Malavika also shares her tips for navigating multiple responsibilities while pursuing a career change and participating in an extensive interview process.
Her genuine reflections and valuable takeaways offer inspiration and practical insights for anyone navigating the dynamic landscape of design careers. Get ready to gain valuable insights and practical advice from Malavika’s journey as she discusses her path to success in UX design.
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Discussion Questions About The Episode
- How has Malavika's journey and her transition between different design roles and industries inspired or resonated with your own career path or aspirations?
- Reflect on a time when you faced challenges in balancing personal responsibilities with professional growth. How did the discussion about Malavika's experience navigating job hunting while managing daycare routines and interviews impact your perspective on work-life balance?
- What are some key takeaways from Malavika's experience with Career Strategy Lab and her mindset shifts throughout the program? How can you apply similar shifts in your own career development journey?
- Share your thoughts on Malavika's approach to finding joy and learning from trying out new tools and design trends in her career. How can adopting a similar experimental mindset benefit your own professional growth and skill development?
- Consider how Malavika's insights on leveraging design frameworks and templates for both career planning and job responsibilities could be applied in your own professional context. How might embracing a strategic approach enhance your career strategy and job performance?
Episode Notes & Links
Sarah Doody [00:00:00]: Hey there. I’m Sarah Doody, host of the Career Strategy Podcast. Many professionals are seeking more impact, flexibility, growth, and let’s face it, getting paid what they’re worth. But how do you unlock this in your career? It starts with strategy. I’m taking you behind the scenes of what’s working for my career coaching clients. You’ll hear strategies and actionable, yet sometimes against the grain, advice for how you can be the CEO of your career and stop in Mondays. Ready to level up your career? Let’s get after it.
Erin Lindstrom [00:00:38]: Hey. I’m Erin Lindstrom. I am one of the coaches inside of Career Strategy Lab, and I am so excited to host today’s episode, which is going to be an interview with Malavika Oak. A little bit about Malavika before we get started. So Malavika is a product designer with 10 years of experience producing deliverables for b two b and consumer audiences. Most recently as a UX and UI designer for 4 years and previously a visual designer for 6 years. In her design process, She likes to get to the root of the problem, joining and mapping the dots, and talk to users in order to come up with human centered design solutions. Having led and managed design projects within start ups, large companies, and agencies, Malavika brings design experience in areas of user research, interaction, and visual design with strong communication skills for cross team collaboration with PMs, Customer support, data analysis, marketing, and agencies.
Erin Lindstrom [00:01:36]: Malavika naturally transitions between the problem solving investigator and creative designer while presenting new out of the box concepts, researching what trends are being followed, understanding what the competition is putting forward, and keeping her designs new and forward thinking. Alright. Let’s get into the episode. Malavika, thank you so much for being here today. I’m so excited to chat.
Malavika Oak [00:01:59]: Thanks for having me. It’s my pleasure.
Erin Lindstrom [00:02:01]: Absolutely. Okay. So to kick us off, would you mind telling us I know this is a kind of big question, but I always like to ask, like, who are you? How did you get here? So can you share a little bit about your story both to UX, to CSL? Like, Tell us a little bit more about you.
Malavika Oak [00:02:19]: Sure. So I am a design graduate back from 2009, in India, And I worked for 8 8 to 9 years while I was in India and then moved to the US in 2017. And that’s when I started to job hunt and landed my 1st job. It was a start up company, and I was the 1st design hire. So I started to work there to revamp their marketing website. But eventually, as I got to know the product more the audience more, that that’s when I started to dive in in the product part a little more. So that was like a transition between marketing design to UX slash UI design, but I was also responsible for the marketing part. So it was an overlap for a little bit until I Transition completely into product design.
Malavika Oak [00:03:13]: So and then the company was small, and I Thought I wanted to learn more. I wanted to get into a bigger design team. Since I was the only only designer here, there was a lot to Handle in terms of talking to the management within the company, get budgets, or negotiate timelines. There was a lot of lot things happening other than design in that role. So I wanted something that was very dedicated to the craft, Something where I could learn from the seniors in the team or there was a manager who knew what design is for or how, design impacts business. So I was looking for that kind of a role, and that search went on for 2 long years. And then I realized that the industry has changed. There is Terms like UX design, product design, graphic design, visual design.
Malavika Oak [00:04:07]: So there were a lot of details that were going on within the 5 years of my coming to the US. And I’m assuming this transition was happening all over the world. And because, Generally, I’m in the Bay Area, and things do move quickly or change faster here than the rest of the world. That’s what I suppose that Might not be true also. So there was a lot going on in the industry in general and just to zoom out. But zooming in what I was looking for was to just learn more and get better at my craft. And the work I had was enough, At least I believe that, but I was not being able to present it in the best way possible. So that’s when I started to look for a mentor to Create my portfolio and then also talk about it.
Malavika Oak [00:04:58]: And then I found c s l via just a simple Google search where I found Sara’s articles, videos, YouTube channel, where I got to know a lot more about what she offers. And the fact that She works on or the program works on building confidence or talking about your materials in a very Confident way, that’s what drew my attention versus all the other search result companies.
Erin Lindstrom [00:05:25]: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. Had you ever done, like, a program like this? You know what I mean? Haven’t. No? Okay. Are you someone who usually jumps into things, or is this like, Was this like a I’m I’m wondering, like, was your partner surprised that this is something you wanted to do, or is this like, that’s Malavika always trying to you know what I mean? How did it Yeah.
Malavika Oak [00:05:45]: So back in 2018, 19, I went through a short course, and it was UX for smart things within a larger UX program, but I signed up only for the short course because to get a feel of how the entire program works. And after getting that course, I thought this is not what I’m looking for. I’m not looking to get another project in my portfolio. This is not well, it was not a great fit also. So I that’s when I realized that I don’t need to go through another course. I need someone who can tell me, hey. This is the thing that you’re doing wrong, and please shift your perspective so that you can get ahead. So, yes, there was convincing for my partner that he comes from a software background, so it’s hard for them to understand My challenge is in the design industry in general.
Malavika Oak [00:06:40]: So, yes, there was convincing, but but, yeah, I was 100% sure that this is what I’m looking for, so we went ahead.
Erin Lindstrom [00:06:49]: Interesting. Okay. I love what you said about, like, shifting your perspective And, like, wanting someone to do that, I think that sometimes it it sometimes we think we want that, and then we get into the situation. It’s like, actually, no. It’s very uncomfortable to be doing things just as I’m doing And, like, having that openness to be you know, to have things reflected to you, it that takes courage in my book, Really, I’d like to get feedback and then to implement it and all that jazz. Can you speak a little bit about that? And, like, what perspectives shifted for you as you move through on the program.
Malavika Oak [00:07:22]: Sure. So as I said, I was the only designer working in this start up company for 5 years, And I missed that pure input, or I missed some some designer talking about design to me. It was just a lot of software engineers or marketing heads talking to me about different stuff or critiquing my design even, Which I I did not always think it was the right perspective, but it is what it is. So sorry. I lost track of your question.
Erin Lindstrom [00:07:54]: That’s okay. When it comes to, like, shifting your perspective, what how did your perspective shift?
Malavika Oak [00:08:00]: Right. So when I got into CSL, I got that missing piece or that missing missing piece of the puzzle that I wanted. Like, I wanted to talk to designers. I wanted to design. I wanted designers to critique my work, and that that’s what started to happen. I also learned that there are a lot of people in the same boat like me, And I’m not the only one, like, feeling left out as if I’m falling back in my craft or as a career in general. I I always thought I was falling behind, but when I joined CSL, I realized that is not the case. There are a lot more people struggling to find their zone within the design industry, and that kind of help build confidence.
Malavika Oak [00:08:45]: It might sound weird, but it’s just As humans, we just want people like us with us to navigate through whatever circumstances we are in. Yeah. Absolutely. That perspective change definitely happened. Positively looking, I also like the mind mindset calls that That you hold held weekly. Even though I did not attend even, let’s say, 5 of them, I always watch the recordings later, so that helped too. And The circle community where everyone was open to sharing their thoughts, that was also very helpful throughout the 6 months.
Erin Lindstrom [00:09:21]: Yeah. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. When you so the mindset calls are, like, are an interesting piece of the puzzle, and I think mindset through all of this, It’s interesting to go through because, obviously, you’re very talented. And having, like, critiqued some of your work and seen it all and, like, really been in the depths, like, it’s Amazing. The work that you’ve done, like, in the world. Okay. Yeah.
Erin Lindstrom [00:09:41]: Absolutely. And I know that, like, as you mentioned, like, we’re all humans, And, like, it’s hard in a weird way because sometimes we have, like, the very simple steps of, like, updating your career materials, but just because it’s simple doesn’t make it easy. And I’m wondering, can you talk a little bit about, like, were there mindset shifts or, like, hurdles you kind of had to, like, get over? And And how has that changed now, like, going forward?
Malavika Oak [00:10:04]: Yeah. So first, when I started to write about myself in the The Compass statement article, so I myself wrote several versions of it before I shared them for 3 d. That’s When the feedback came in, that’s when I realized that the visual design experience that I have, I kind of was not I need to present it very openly in my LinkedIn profiles or my work or my interview introductions, for example. So The feedback that came from the coaches helped me to own that experience and look at it as Not a downside to get a UX role or a product role, but an addition or just look at it as a good to have thing and not something that I should be hiding about. So that definitely did change, and I ended up owning All of the experience I had, I put up my past visual design projects on my LinkedIn profile where you can add images to your So all that happened, and I would say definitely reflected on hiring managers or recruiters looking at my profile in a very Different way than earlier.
Erin Lindstrom [00:11:18]: Very cool. And then how does that so now you’re moving forward, you know, in your career, you got a new role. Number 1, how’s it going? How’s life in the new job?
Malavika Oak [00:11:28]: Couldn’t be better.
Erin Lindstrom [00:11:29]: Really? That’s
Malavika Oak [00:11:29]: Couldn’t be better. Yeah. I was so one of the questions that CSL gave us words like, what is your dream role or what is your dream company? And then work towards it as you apply, to the different jobs that come up in these companies. So for me, any role that give me a team, Give me an experienced design manager. Give me a company who believed that design could impact their business was a dream role. So all that came together in this job which I found and got hired for, I would have never asked for better.
Erin Lindstrom [00:12:06]: Oh, that’s amazing. So good to hear. Would you mind sharing a little bit about kind of how it went down? Was this, I had 1 interview and ta da. I’m here now. Or was This a longer a longer interaction? Like, will you tell us a little bit about the process and how it kind of played out?
Malavika Oak [00:12:21]: Yeah. So when I When I joined CSL, I was still working in the start up that I mentioned before.
Erin Lindstrom [00:12:28]: Mhmm.
Malavika Oak [00:12:28]: And the start up had already done 2 rounds of layoffs, and I thought that, okay, this is going to come to me at some time. I should start preparing. I was already looking for my next role, But this market scenario didn’t help me either. Right. So but then I thought that, okay. This Can I can see this as an investment? Doesn’t matter whether it works out, doesn’t work out. I can still improve my materials and Just try another thing. If it doesn’t work out, it’s fine.
Malavika Oak [00:13:00]: I will just look at it as an investment. So that’s the mindset that I came in with. And then the first 2 things I think that I did was the Compass statement update and the LinkedIn LinkedIn update to my profile based on the framework provided, and that itself started to give my profiles more views, getting me recruiter calls even though they were not the Dream companies or the team roles that I was looking for, but any views or any calls were good. Yeah.
Erin Lindstrom [00:13:30]: It all helps. Yeah. Yeah.
Malavika Oak [00:13:32]: So it just tries to keep your pace and then it just helps to keep moving you forward. So that started to happen. In the course of 5 months or so, I Interviewed with 10 different companies and then multiple rounds for those companies. Sometimes I went In 2nd or 3rd rounds, but for some, I just did recruiter screenings and then they thought it wouldn’t work out. So it was a lot of ups and downs, talking about myself, the same things over and over again. It was really tiring. Like, it feels really crazy that you get up every day and talk the same thing about yourself, and it does not work out most of the time. It is really hard to keep that positivity and keep up the mental levels to Uh-huh.
Malavika Oak [00:14:20]: Form in every interview. Mhmm. So as this was happening, I was also realizing that I was getting better at my introductions. Sometimes I recorded myself and shared those recordings with the coaches, and then they give me feedback. So all this was happening in the background, not just the interviews. We also had demo days and stuff like that to better prepare for the interview presentation. So that helped to so This was really a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you thought that, hey.
Malavika Oak [00:14:50]: The these 3 interviews have gone so well. Right. It is sure that I’m going to get an offer, kind of a mindset.
Erin Lindstrom [00:14:56]: Yeah. Yeah.
Malavika Oak [00:14:57]: But then you get that quote email like, hey. We chose another candidate, and sorry. We are not moving forward with you. So And by then, like, when you do 3 or 4 interviews with a company, you’ve kind of build build a relationship or you are meeting the same team members Again and again, and you start to make up stories in your mind about this job and this company that you’re going to get into. But next morning, you get a rejection email, and it is very cold. That’s the hardest part, I think.
Erin Lindstrom [00:15:28]: That is so hard. Our human hearts do not like that process for sure. So when you went on the inter for the job that you have now, was it a multi
Malavika Oak [00:15:36]: interview process? It was. It was about 6 rounds of interviews and then a last one with an SVP of product, I think. Yeah. Wow. So
Erin Lindstrom [00:15:47]: It’s really slow. You gotta really like the
Malavika Oak [00:15:49]: It is slower. It was very, very slow. Like, When it was a panel session, if someone did not show up from the team, then we had to set up another call with them depending on their schedule. And When that happens, it just adds to an to a round of the in of the entire process, which
Erin Lindstrom [00:16:08]: Got it.
Malavika Oak [00:16:09]: Which is very, like, hey. What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen? Yeah. Yeah. Mindful mindset. You’re on
Erin Lindstrom [00:16:14]: the edge of your seat, like, constantly waiting for, like, to get back. I think you make a really good point. That’s, like, a good reminder that, like, the process self can be very slow, like, to go through and talk to all of the people and, like, move through. And the the the urge to do things really quickly, I think it can be helpful when you’re moving through your career materials to kind of, like, have that momentum, and then you almost have to shift to, like, it’s out of my control now. Like, you show up and do your best, and you kinda have For the feedback. Right? Interesting.
Malavika Oak [00:16:41]: Get into that zone where okay. Fine. I’m going to perform my thing and then get out of the stage and let Let the audience decide.
Erin Lindstrom [00:16:49]: Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah. So as someone who’s gone through something like this and you showed up and, like, worked on your career and really, like, committed to the process, obviously, to the interview process as well, but, like, on both sides. Do you have any tips for anyone who’s, You know, considering kind of starting on a journey like this. And especially, I’ve actually spoken to a couple people recently who, as a parent, they’re like, Time wise, like, it feels very hard. So if you have any Mhmm.
Erin Lindstrom [00:17:17]: Just kind of, like, tips or perspective to share around navigating multiple responsibilities, would love to hear them.
Malavika Oak [00:17:23]: Yep. So for me, I I feel that I was lucky to have I mean, after the layoff, I was lucky to have a severance which covered the four months of my nonworking, so I could continue my daughter’s daycare routine. That was a really, really big help. So that helped me to just follow the routine as we as we used to before. And then the The work period, I just use it to work on my material or prep for interviews, so that was definitely a big part of this. But, again, like, the mindset mindset shifts that you need to make because during the 10 to 4 or 9 to 9 to 4 Timing of the day, you’re just focused on how to solve this situation and how to get through the interviews and find the correct company for you. And then after 4 PM, you’re with your kid. You have to, like, be song and dance and happy for them.
Malavika Oak [00:18:22]: So Yeah. That for me was the toughest part, I would say. Like, to show up after 4 PM like a normal person, but Mhmm. Mhmm. Really, you are not feeling the happiness within you when you are with them because of the things that are going on in your career life. That was the biggest challenge. But, Sure. Well, to look at it from the other side, I got I got that happiness from my kid Because they were there, I could shift my mindset and be a happy person even though sometimes fake.
Malavika Oak [00:18:57]: That also helped, I would say.
Erin Lindstrom [00:19:00]: Yeah. That’s it’s so interesting. Yeah. Because you have to, like, show up, which sometimes is actually helpful when you need to pull yourself out of the like. Yeah. I’m just focused on this all the time. To have something else is, like, really a gift. Thank you so much for sharing.
Erin Lindstrom [00:19:13]: When it comes to UX, I’m kinda gonna, like, wrap us up here, and I so appreciate you sharing, like, about your journey. I’m I’m wondering, can you tell us, like, why do you like this? Like, why is UX a thing for you?
Malavika Oak [00:19:25]: Well, I would say I cannot do anything else. That’s one reason. And the other reason is because I just like to be like, go in-depth about why people think, how they think, and Also help businesses to make profits or have some impact on their user base on How they can improve it, how people can interact more with them, how the business can make profit. So there are both sides. You get to dive into people’s minds, and also you get to help businesses make profits for themselves. So I love both sides of it.
Erin Lindstrom [00:20:02]: I love that. The dynamic that you gotta get to do a bit of both, have a foot in both worlds, and really intentional design intentionally design Products and spaces and softwares and all the things. Awesome.
Malavika Oak [00:20:13]: Yep. And I also like all the new tools that come in the market. I try them all, I get free trials, try my hand at everything. I might not master all of them. Yeah. But I I do give them a try, and I love that process too.
Erin Lindstrom [00:20:27]: Beautiful. Do you feel like that is the same thing you do, like, in your life? The way, like I feel like CSL kind of brings, right, like, designing your life and your career and that sort of thing. Do you feel like you’re using the same things in that part of it?
Malavika Oak [00:20:40]: Now that I have a job, I can start to think about that. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Because it it just changes your perspective on how you should be thinking about things. Like, what have you done so far? What do you like about The things in your life that you’ve done and what would you like to keep from it, and then find the next opportunity or the next milestone that you want to Get to.
Erin Lindstrom [00:21:06]: Love it.
Malavika Oak [00:21:06]: So yeah.
Erin Lindstrom [00:21:07]: Get
Malavika Oak [00:21:07]: to As Sarah sorry.
Erin Lindstrom [00:21:09]: No. Go ahead, please.
Malavika Oak [00:21:11]: And as Sarah always says that You can apply the same template, the same framework in your job when you’re doing presentations or you want to get buy in from the management or any other teams that you’re working with. So, yeah, definitely going to try to do that too.
Erin Lindstrom [00:21:26]: Awesome. Well, definitely let us know how it goes. We’re rooting for you Always. Yep. Yay. Okay. Well, Malavika, this was so generous of you to share your time and your perspective on Your journey and the reflections here have been so valuable. So thank you so much for being here.
Erin Lindstrom [00:21:41]: We appreciate you, and we look Forward to seeing what happens next on your journey.
Malavika Oak [00:21:46]: Hey. Thank you so much for having my back, all the guidance, Eddie, all the feedback, and From all the coaches of this state. Yep. It was it it is something that I will carry for the rest of my life.
Erin Lindstrom [00:21:58]: I love that in honor. Thank you so much, Malavika.
Sarah Doody [00:22:01]: Thanks for listening to the Career Strategy Podcast. Make sure to follow me, Sarah Doody, on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn. If anything in today’s episode resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it. Tag me on social media or Send me a DM. And lastly, if you found this episode helpful, I’d really appreciate it if you could Share it with a friend or give us a quick rating on Spotify or review on Apple Podcasts.