Diógenes is a Product Designer at Slack in San Francisco. We talked about how his education in both engineering and design has made him a well-rounded designer and when he knew that product design was something he could pursue as a career. He shares some of the challenges he faces in his current role and how he manages them, as well as some great advice on things to consider when joining a company.
Tell me a little bit about your role at Slack and what that encompasses.
I’m a Product Designer at Slack. I’ve been here for over 2 years so my role has evolved over time in terms of what areas I’m working on or what teams I’m working with, but overall it’s still the same job. I’m helping people figure out exactly what it is that we should build from a very detailed perspective.
That involves working with product managers and executives to help define the problem and where it’s coming from, and then exploring the landscape of possible solutions for that problem. After that, it’s about pulling related ideas from the team, research, data and other interested parties to make the final design direction artifact to explain what it is that we’re going to build and how it should work.
What was your path like to your current role at Slack?
When I was in highschool, I used to build computers. I’d order all the parts and assemble them for people. That stopped being so lucrative eventually, so I switched to making websites. Someone I had built a computer for asked me if I could make a website and I said I could. I figured I could just Google it, and I did! It wasn’t a very good website, but it was good for that client. That’s how I ended up in web design and then I continued to do it throughout college.
In college, I knew I wanted to do some sort of engineering. I looked through the engineering handbook and found that mechanical engineering had the most interesting classes. It was great except for a few boring fluid mechanics and thermodynamics classes. Right underneath engineering in the book was Product Design, which was all the same things as mechanical engineering, but in place of differential equations and calculus was design and psychology. All of that really appealed to me, so I did that instead. That’s where I stumbled onto my passion. I had always enjoyed making things, but discovering that design was a thing you could do professionally was exciting. So I ended up doing product design with computer science on the side. After I graduated I went to work at Squarespace for two and a half years and then LinkedIn for 9 months and now here at Slack.
Was there a certain point where you knew that design and product design itself was something that you were going to pursue as a career?
It was in college that I assumed the identity of a designer. I enjoyed making things and creating designs for the things I was building. After I discovered the Product Design major, I went to talk to my advisor because you’re supposed to do that before you declare a major and his description of who a designer was really resonated with me. I decided that’s what I would do.
Since it was a mechanical engineering major, a lot of people came out of that program and did more physical product design or mechanical engineering design. But since I was already doing website design on the side I went right into digital interfaces and web product design. I had a portfolio with those types of projects in it because of the websites I had been making.