How I became a Senior Product Designer at Simple - Tony Joy

Tony Joy is a Fellow from cohort 4 of the Product Design Fellowship, who graduated to join Simple.org as a Senior Product Designer. We sat down to chat with Tony about his rollercoaster of a journey in design, his Fellowship experience, the magic behind forming connections with people, and his new opportunity with Simple ✨

Can you tell us about your story? Your education, passions, and journey in design.

I think I’ve followed a path very similar to a lot of designers in my circle—an engineer by education, I went on to work as a mechanic and factory supervisor for a year and a half. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me in the long run, so I took a leap of faith to explore opportunities that would allow me to use my creative skills. After an unpaid marketing internship in Mumbai and a brief stint as a real estate broker in Bangalore, I landed a job with CallHub as a Content Marketer.

Over the course of 6 years at CallHub, I jumped from one role to the other - dabbling with content writing & strategy, website design, brand design, and eventually also held a role in product management. The entire time, I worked on small, personal design assignments on the side, because I really wanted the company to place me in their design team.

On Fridays, the company would make time for team presentations—a space where you could talk about any topic of your choice. I took this opportunity to present my assignments - highlighting certain hiccups with our product, and how they could be solved through design. It eventually got to a point where I became so annoying (😂) that my managers had two options - say goodbye and fire me, or place me in the design team. Since then, it’s been a wild ride and I’ve truly found my calling with product design.

What made you decide to take up the Product Design Fellowship at ownpath?

After I shifted to the design team at CallHub, I noticed that I had a clear skill gap in lots of areas. At that point, the company was a small start-up, and design wasn’t the factor that gave them the most leverage in terms of business impact. However, I knew that design could solve several issues faced by our users. So, it became an interesting challenge for me to elevate our design so that it could hold a bigger seat at the company’s table. In order to do so, I knew I had to upskill as a designer, because my outputs did not match the standard I had set for myself, and I was hitting a ceiling with the quality of work I was producing.

This is when I realized that it was important for me to strengthen my foundation in design. Luckily, a colleague recommended ownpath to me.

I viewed the Product Design Fellowship curriculum and realized that there was a massive well of design knowledge waiting for me to explore. The Fellowship seemed like the best way for me to develop a comprehensive skillset, gain access to such an amazing set of mentors, and build my design network.

I also felt an instant connection with ownpath as a platform—it felt warm, inviting, and friendly.

So, I spoke to the folks at work, my boss generously offered to cover 50% of my Fellowship fee, and I had no reason to look back—I applied immediately.

Which aspects of the Product Design Fellowship did you find most valuable?

The most fascinating and eye-opening masterclass for me, was Interaction Design with Akshay Verma. For me, design has always been about questioning assumptions—sometimes your assumptions turn out to be true, and other times, users break your assumptions and you have to figure out an alternative approach.

Akshay’s entire masterclass was about getting people to build up certain patterns of thought, break those very patterns, and rebuild them to better understand a user and their journey. I absolutely loved his approach towards unlearning & relearning, and I was so happy to have found immediate scope for applying my learnings at work.

I also loved Shivani Gupta’s session on Psychology in Design. It was one of the most revealing and insightful sessions for me - understanding how nuanced it can be to explore a user’s problem, as well as the various analytical methods I could use to derive insights from those problems. I also found Mahima Chandak’s session on Usability Testing to be incredibly interesting, and I enjoyed how interactively I got to work with my cohort members during the session. So yes, these sessions stood out to me the most.

I also developed a lot of trust and faith in the ownpath team. After my first few sessions, Shreyas - the Founder of ownpath, asked me for my feedback, and I was taken aback by his will to craft a more meaningful experience that would truly work for us as participants. I really felt like the team listened and cared about my experience throughout the Fellowship.

Congratulations on your placement with Simple! How did this opportunity come to be?

(laughs) This was a very interesting turn of events! I didn’t really take up the Fellowship’s placement track, I simply wanted to upskill and apply my learnings at CallHub to uplift design at the company. However, a few months in, Shreyas introduced me to Daniel Burka - he had some really nice things to say about me, and said that the two of us should talk.

I’d already been following Daniel for a long time - he was an idol of mine, and I was familiar with most of his work. We got to talking, and I heard that Simple was planning on expanding their team here in India. Shortly after, I was presented with the opportunity to join their team as a Senior Product Designer. I feel like the opportunity fell in my lap after years of seeking to better myself as a designer, and I’m so grateful to be part of the team.

Have you formed any valuable connections with your cohort, as well as other people from ownpath?

Yes, absolutely - I’ve become very close to two of my cohort members, Muskan and Nishant. We catch up before or after every session, and we also meet when we’re in the same city. They’ve been two great connections I’ve formed through the course of the Fellowship.

I’m also glad to have formed a great connection with Shreyas - we met during my first call upon joining the Fellowship, and we’ve caught up in person a few times since then.

I think that it’s important to form connections not just to use them as leverage for opportunities, but simply to connect with people, find joy in your conversations, and hope that you add meaning to each other’s lives—no matter how small it may be.

For instance, I didn’t apply for the job at Simple - Shreyas mentioned that he’d been observing my participation throughout the Fellowship, which prompted him to recommend me to Daniel.

So I truly believe in the power of forming meaningful connections, and ownpath has given me access to a wonderful community that I can return to whenever I need to.

We’re so excited about Tony’s new role as a Senior Product Designer at Simple, and to witness his future in design unfold 💜

Applications are open for cohort 9 of the Product Design Fellowship! 🎉

To know more about the program or apply, head to: https://ownpath.com/product-design-fellowship/

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