Lead UX designer sits at their desk, working on a laptop.

A Day in the Life of a Lead Experience Designer

Camren Browne

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a Lead UX Designer? We sat down with Berlin-based designer Flávio Bezerra, Lead Experience Designer at BCG Digital Ventures, to get the scoop on life as a Lead UX Designer and his journey through the UX design industry. Originally from Brazil, Bezerra has an impressive 11 years of design experience to share with us and filled us in on his humble beginnings as a graphic designer all the way to his accomplished career as a Lead Experience designer. 

We asked Flávio a few questions to better understand his background, his current role as a Lead Designer, the biggest challenges he’s faced, and his best pieces of advice for UX novices and experts alike. So whether you are a blossoming designer trying to climb the UX ladder or a seasoned senior curious about other colleagues’ experience, you’ll be sure to take away some key pearls from this insightful interview. Here’s what we asked him:

1. How long have you been a UX Designer?
2. What got you interested in UX Design?
3. How did you get started in the industry?
4. What company do you currently work for?
5. Describe your current role and what a normal day looks like for you
6. Can you tell us about how your salary has changed throughout your career?
7. What is your favorite thing about your job?
8. What have been your biggest challenges as a senior or lead designer?
9. How did you make the leap from junior to lead designer?
10. What are some “must-haves” for lead designers?
11. What are some “nice-to-haves” for lead designers (things that aren’t required but may set you apart)?
12. Best piece of DO advice for people looking to follow a similar career path?
13. Best piece of DON’T advice?
Key takeaways

Lead Experience Designer Flávio Bezerra

1. How long have you been a UX Designer?

I’ve been a UX designer for 9 years now but I started in graphic design in 2009 back in Brazil. 

My first job was an intern position as a graphic designer doing lots of print work and then I moved into marketing and flash ads—that was big at the time. Brazil did not have many opportunities for a UX career back then so I moved to Berlin, completed my Masters, and began working as a UX designer.

2. What got you interested in UX Design? 

For me, it was the fact that it’s always there. I always make a joke that UX is comparable to a referee in a sports game—the better it is, the less you see it; the worse the UX, the more you see the flaws, complain about the product, or see the problems.

UX is this omnipresent thing that’s always there and you are in touch with it every day, all day at different levels in different ways. This really drew my attention. I like the idea of having an impact on people’s routines and improving people’s lives.

3. How did you get started in the industry? 

Well, I had a Bachelors in graphic design and then I got a scholarship and moved to Germany for my Masters where I could focus on digital and UX design because in Brazil, where I’m originally from, the chance of studying UX design…there was absolutely no opportunity—no courses, no Masters, nothing that would touch the topic of digital or UX/UI design. So, I moved to Germany to find better opportunities and complete my Masters. 

I’ve also always had entrepreneurial interests because my father is a big entrepreneur. He created multiple companies throughout the years, always trying different markets and always adapting to the needs that he sees. 

So, I think that entrepreneurial spirit got inside of me and I tried to start my own companies, both in Brazil and at the time I was moving to Germany. Both companies failed but I was still happy to have spent the time working on them because the experience made me the designer I am today.

I was able to focus on the whole process of product creation like business, engineering, coding languages, communicating effectively with colleagues—not just perfecting designs. This approach can really put you in a different mindset than a lot of other designers. 

Those projects kickstarted my design career, but I also got into it through networking and finding mentorships. So, all in all, I’d say it was a combination of studying and networking effectively. 

UX designers networking and sharing projects

4. What company do you currently work for?

The current company I work for is BCG Digital Ventures (DV), which is a daughter company of the Boston Consulting Group. And we are a product building company that builds startups for big corporations. We have all the capabilities for building a product from ethnographic research with strategic designers to business planning with Venture Architects. After lots of research, we consolidate what we’ve learned into a product and eventually deliver the product to the client. 

And there are a lot of subtle parts of it and soft skills needed like communicating with corporate partners, understanding what they and the users are looking for, and coming up with a product that satisfies them and is relevant to the market.

5. Describe your current role and what a normal day looks like for you

As a Lead Designer I’m responsible for managing the team, setting the tone and direction, and making sure my colleagues have all the information they need to execute the project. And depending on the venture and its size I’m also expected to perform the hands on work and be working on the deliverables for the client. At DV, we work mostly in small teams with different capabilities, and sometimes I’m the only designer on the team and other times I partner with some strategic designers or a bigger design team.

On a normal day, I usually start my routine between 5:30 and 6:00am. Once I’m up, I try to catch up with some sports and latest news, prepare for the day, and catch up on any tasks that may need an early touch, since that time of the day is the easiest for me to focus.

Besides that routine, I try to keep the working hours as reasonable as possible, to respect myself and give myself time to recover. Earlier in my career I did my fair bit of grinding, pushing late hours, but I realized it was not sustainable for me.

My working hours are normally from 9am to 6pm, but depending on the project I’m working on, and how busy the day was with other things, I stretch it out for an extra hour or so. But it’s situational. And now, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve been working from home in Berlin.

In terms of design tools I use daily, lately I’ve been using mostly Figma for designs and testing, and Miro for documentation, workshops, and planning. But in past projects, I’ve used a combo of Abstract, Sketch, and InVision.

6. Can you tell us about how your salary has changed throughout your career?

At my first job, my starting salary was around 38,000 euro/year. It was a small start-up, working as an entry-level designer right after my masters. I was doing not only UX work, but also digital and print design. I was the only designer in a start up of 40 people, so I had to be really flexible. Due to my current company policy, I can’t say much about my salary now unfortunately.

(According to Payscale, average salary for a Senior/Lead UX Designer in Germany with 5-9 years experience is  55,517 Euros or between 39,000-70,000 euros. To learn more, check out our UX designer salary guide.

7. What is your favorite thing about your job?

My favorite part is that I can change industries in a very short span of time. For example, last week I was working on an AI health product and this week I’m working on mortgages. It’s a change of context that in the normal world would mean you change jobs. But with DV, it’s a product context.

Since I joined DV, I’ve done geospatial information systems, warranty claims management, industrial IoT (short for Internet of Things), even supply chain management. It’s super interesting and you get a lot of different knowledge from different markets. It makes you adaptable and forces you to understand ways you can tailor your learning to the needs of the project. You can’t be an expert in everything. You have to find ways to leverage the right points and get enough of an understanding to produce a relevant product. It’s really motivating and the challenge keeps you sharp. The flexibility is super cool. 

And with DV specifically, there is an understanding of design that makes things easier. Unlike a startup where you may have to fight for every penny or explain why user testing is necessary, here you don’t have to fight for necessary resources or basic design methods.” 

8. What have been your biggest challenges as a senior or lead designer?

Sometimes the product you are working on is very confidential—so much so that you have to convince people that it’s still necessary to test it. It can be really hard to test when we can’t give too much away about the product. Instead, we have to convert the context of the product, repurpose it, sanitize and anonymise it in order to test, and consider questions like, “Is the work we were doing clear enough?”

Or sometimes you can’t find users to test. For instance, we were working on an industrial IoT product but couldn’t find operators to test it. So, in order to assess accessibility and user-friendliness, we contextualized the product into a shopping product in order to receive input on the visuals and UI components and see if it was clear enough for a similar user group. 

And as a senior or lead designer, there is a balance between selling the value of the design method to the client and executing and delivering the product. You have to emphasize the value of your methods but still keep designing and keep the team running. So, there is a gray area that seniors can get caught in.

Senior UX designer standing in a sunny office hallway working on a tablet

9. How did you make the leap from junior to lead designer?

Being able to show that I have a wider view on the impact of design really helped me make the transition from entry- to senior-level. As an entry-level or junior designer, you’re getting a lot of foundational experiences. You’re not expected to think holistically or know much about the business aspect, the engineering side, or the feasibility and deliverability of the product. Learning more about those things and showing I could look beyond, into the future of the product, really helped me leap from more junior roles to where I am now.

10. What are some “must-haves” for lead designers? 

Similar to making the jump from junior to senior, you have to be able to understand the road map or the long term view of a product. This helps you understand how to negotiate on deliverables, the practicality of the product, and how things will work on the engineering side. Taking this look into the future helps you avoid problems down the road. When you can see the small, subtle things that may impact the quality of the product, then you’re ready to be a senior designer.

11. What are some “nice-to-haves” for lead designers (things that aren’t required but may set you apart)?

Staying humble and being able to accept feedback whether negative or positive is really important. It can make people more empathetic to your cause and want to collaborate with you in the future. You’ll have a better experience when you can appreciate people taking time to give their feedback. That doesn’t mean you have to do what they say, but understand how you can balance the feedback.

And definitely learn to pick your battles or try to understand the context before you pick the battle. What you’re wanting might not be relevant. Try to think rationally before you spend a lot of time and energy fighting for something small.

12. Best piece of DO advice for people looking to follow a similar career path?

Get exposure to as many different topics as you can whether it’s business, IT, strategic design, etc. Developing that holistic view or wider perspective of design and product creation is key. Keep an open mind on how to evolve your career. Maybe you like research, engineering, or product management more and want to focus on those areas. Keep an open path and get exposure—that will help give you direction in your career.

(To learn more about how to broaden your knowledge base, here are some of the most important non-design skills you can cultivate.)

13. Best piece of DON’T advice?

Don’t be afraid of the challenge and don’t be so harsh on yourself. Many times I thought I wasn’t doing enough but in reality it was more than enough and I was just stressing myself out. And when you’re getting started in the industry, don’t be intimidated by lack of resources or funding either. You just have to get creative. There are lots of ways to test things nowadays.

And don’t be afraid to keep putting your work out there, whatever it may be. I started in January of 2020 to incorporate illustration into my routine. I challenged myself to just draw one illustration a day. I wanted to practice and sharpen my storytelling, drawing, and illustration skills, but at the same time have an escape from work and unconsciously process some information. So I created The Cow of the Day Instagram account and put my work out there. Don’t be afraid to try new things! It will only give you more experience.

Key takeaways

Leaping from a junior to a senior/lead designer role might seem like an intimidating goal—especially if you’re just starting out. But, as Flávio has shared with us, by obtaining a broad range of experience, staying humble and dedicated, and adopting a holistic approach to product design, achieving senior status is more than plausible—it’s totally possible!

If you’d like to learn more about how to start or advance in your career as a UX designer, check out these articles:

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Camren Browne

Camren Browne

UX Designer & CareerFoundry Tutor

I’m a designer, writer, and father. I quit my job of 6 years to become a digital nomad after the birth of my daughter. She has been to 6 countries before the age of 6 months. My passion resides in helping people achieve their greatest state of being as well as my own.