My Journey to Becoming a Lab Mate

· Nafis Ishraq

Hello there! I am Nafis. I started my career as a Graphic Designer back in 2017. However, in 2020, I decided to pursue a career in UX design. I was confident that I can offer more to people with my knowledge and experience through UX design.

I spent 2 years studying UX design and preparing case studies for my portfolio, then finally decided to look for a good UX design job. I decided to work remotely in an international organization since my country is yet to present good opportunities for junior UX positions.


The Beginning 

It was April 12, 2022, I came across an opening for a Junior UX/UI Designer position on the Lab’s website. Before applying, I went through the website first.

Every content of the website was to the point. I just needed a few seconds to learn about what the organization does, its value, its product, and its people. I did not have to mindlessly scroll through different sections with fancy transitions, I did not have to navigate between pages. The contents were to the point and the website felt transparent. Which is very important for remote workplaces.

Most importantly, my values matched the value of the organization. The very first thing I read was, “We build software to help people save time, money and make them happier human beings”. That is the exact reason why I transitioned from graphic design to UX design. Because I wanted my works to be more meaningful and I wanted them to be used for making people’s lives better.

The job description and the responsibilities were documented very thoughtfully. They showcased a solid understanding of UX design. There was no hint of unreal expectations from a junior designer. In fact, it was written in a manner that felt encouraging. I felt confident and I saw a scope to grow.


Hiring Managers Going The Extra Mile

I filled in my details, wrote a cover letter and applied right away. I used my webmail as my email. I got selected for the initial interview. HR sent me an email letting me know that. But for some weird glitch, I did not get the email, and so I could not respond.

Usually, the hiring managers stop pursuing the candidates if they do not respond. But the case was different here. Hyejeong Park, the product owner of LaLoka Labs directly knocked me on my Instagram account. If she had not done it, I would have no way of knowing that I was selected.

I was given a set of timeslots to choose from for my interview. They mentioned they were gonna take the interview on Google Meet, but I was having problems with that so they switched to Zoom. 

I know these things may seem hardly worth mentioning, but trust me they boosted my morale as a candidate. Their approach gave me a positive vibe and made me feel that as an organization they are very sincere.

If a candidate gets the job here, by then they would already be aware of the level of sincerity of the organization. If they do not get the job, they can still get a good experience and finish the process without having a dent in their confidence.


The First Stage

From my experience, there is a common format the hiring managers follow while recruiting candidates for creative positions. They will have a very short interview with the candidate. Then they will hand over a task with a strict deadline. If the candidate produces a satisfying result, they will then schedule a proper interview.

Sometimes, they will skip that brief interview. There is no problem with this format if you are hiring a graphic or a motion designer. However, the problem occurs if you use the same format to hire someone for a UX position.

I think to judge a UX designer, you need to understand their motivation, their value and last but not least their thinking process. For this, you need to invest a good amount of time on each individual candidate equally from the very beginning of the recruitment process and LaLoka Labs did just that. My very first interview lasted an hour.

My interview was on April 27, 2022. I was interviewed by Hyejeong Park, the product owner of the labs and Fathur Rahman the senior front-end developer.

The interview was pretty structured, but it did not feel strict, robotic, or intimidating at any stage. It did not feel like I was required to prove my knowledge and experience. It felt like I had to share what I learned so far.

Since we had plenty of time in the session with a very thoughtfully designed set of questions, I was able to share everything I know and can do without feeling hastened or nervous. It was like having a conversation with two humble experts. I considered it to be a good experience regardless of the outcome.


The Task

Exactly an hour after the interview, I received a test task. The task was straightforward but enjoyable. I had to design a single screen for the organization’s task management software. I was not given a strict deadline, rather I was told not to invest more than 8 hours and to note the times for tracking purposes.

8 hours were more than enough for me to design the UI for a single screen. However, I was applying for a position that is responsible for both UI and UX. So I was not convinced that a single screen would suffice. So, I decided to design two screens to justify my design decision and to showcase my understanding of the process.

I did a brief product analysis, sketched some wireframes and finally designed the screens. I also designed some additional components. Then I compiled everything in a pdf document and sent it with a time breakdown.

The hiring managers were satisfied with my submission and I was selected for the final interview – which was to be taken by the CEO. They also added that I was an excellent candidate for the position. I think if the hiring managers are sincere and willing to go the extra mile, it brings the best out of the candidate.


The Final Stage

I was reached out by Iqbal Abdullah, the CEO of LaLoka Labs for the final interview. Again I was given several time slots to choose from. On May 4, 2022, I had my one-on-one interview with Iqbal.

Unlike the first interview, this interview was not about my skill or knowledge. It was about how I am as a person. It was all about figuring out my compatibility with the organization. Because skill and knowledge do not translate to loyalty and commitment. They are not sufficient to build a sustainable relationship.

This interview was more like having a conversation. I think it needed to be like this because structured questions and answers are not enough to know a candidate as a person. For me, this interview was more challenging than the first one, but in a good way. I was able to measure my capabilities from the perspective of the organization.

Along with the rules and responsibilities I was made aware of the additional things the organization was expecting from me. Things like traveling for training, conferences and workshops; writing blogs to share my knowledge, and giving talks. Besides that, I learned about the history and culture of the organization.

Once the interview was over, I was told to wait for a week for the result. From that point on, I had nothing to do but wait. However, I was convinced that, no matter the outcome, it was a great experience overall.

I was excited and motivated. Throughout the recruitment process, I came to know about my shortcomings and things that might cause trouble if I do not address them. I started working on those while waiting for the final verdict.


The Verdict

The time was 11:55 pm on May 13th, I saw my phone blinking its notification lamp. I unlocked the screen and saw that it was the result from The Labs. My heart skipped a beat. But I opened it immediately without thinking anything at all. I was told that I am the best candidate for the role.

I felt relieved and excited at the same time. I felt relieved because I worked hard for the last 2 years to switch my career path from graphic design to UX design. During these years, I sacrificed opportunities in a field I was already an expert in. There was anxiety, self-doubt and many sleepless nights. I felt extremely grateful for the opportunity. I was excited for the road ahead filled with new possibilities.


Welcome to LaLoka Labs

I was set to start on the 25th of May. I got my company email address and I was added to the company’s Wiki the day before.

A meeting was held to welcome me. All the lab mates attended the meeting. Iqbal Abdullah introduced me to everyone. I learned about everyone’s role in the company. I had small chats with everyone. It felt really welcoming.

After the meeting. Hyejeong walked me through the time tracking process and the task management system. I got up to speed on the product the lab is currently working on. I was asked to give a small description of myself along with my photo.

Exactly 44 days ago, I came across the website LaLoka Labs. I saw a great opportunity. I pursued it. Now I see myself on that very website along with the other talented individuals, who we call The Lab Mates.