It’s difficult to pin a label on Fabien Fedy. As he casually runs through his work experience with me, it becomes apparent that his previous jobs and responsibilities stretch across the entire gamut of business development and design. He’s a startup personified – an entrepreneurial designer who can trace how a new product will reach and impact its audience from the discrete user level all the way to the broader market level.
It strikes me how receptive he is to change, how willing he is to adapt and learn, and how habitually he seeks opportunities to learn new things and challenge himself. Given these traits, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Fabien was drawn to the startup world, where novelty is the norm and adaptability is highly prized, but he didn’t march straight out of school into Silicon Valley. Far from it, in fact.
Fabien studied law in Paris, France, and Potsdam, Germany, and went on to work at law firms in both Berlin and Paris before becoming a legal advisor at the European Agency for Consumer Protection. After more than two years working knee-deep in EU national law, he found himself craving creativity and an outlet for his entrepreneurial spirit.
“I started my studies 15 years ago, and I trained as a lawyer in both France and Germany. I worked for a few years for the European Agency for Consumer Protection, and did some policy making and worked for the European Commission. From Germany I moved to Finland and started learning Finnish. And then I opened a restaurant in Helsinki – a downtown bar for music as I love music. My Grandparents had a restaurant in Paris back in the day. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve always liked trying new things and learning new things. I get excited about self-development.”
Fabien first moved to Helsinki nine years ago and now counts Finnish among the five languages that he speaks fluently – no mean feat considering Finnish is often considered the most difficult European language to learn. The bar was only ever intended to be a temporary indulgence, however, and soon he regained the appetite for change.
“I had a kid and realised it was time to change. What I had done for the government wasn’t fulfilling enough for me, and I was interested in tech in general. I started doing a lot of reading about entrepreneurship and design – reading The Lean Startup – and then I thought we could move to Berlin – a new adventure. In Berlin I had many different experiences – I worked in online marketing – I was a country manager for an online shop, for instance. Sometimes I worked as a business developer, sometimes I tackled legal issues. In startups, you basically do everything.”
He enjoyed the fast-paced nature and variation of startup life, but was disappointed by the lack of user centricity so often preached by startup evangelists. Indeed, he came to recognise the degree of user centricity as a product of company culture rather than company size, and noted how startups often stumble blindly into the trap of working more for the investors than the users.
“I also worked for larger corporations like Amazon, and there I found a very different angle to things. They really put the user in the centre. So my perception changed. It completely depends on the culture.”
As we discuss the evolution of businesses at different stages, a pattern to Fabien’s self-development becomes apparent: A new field intrigues him, he reads widely about it, and then decides whether to formalise this knowledge through study. In 2013 Fabien undertook an MBA in Berlin to do exactly this:
“Even before I found out about CareerFoundry, I studied Business Design and Entrepreneurship. During my studies we had to come up with ideas and pitch them, and that’s where I came across Design Thinking and was blown away by the methodologies, so I decided I needed to learn more about it. I knew how to turn an idea into a business, but I didn’t know how to visualise it, and everything is so visual nowadays. That was a wake-up call. I needed more skills to show what I had in my mind.”
Given CareerFoundry’s status as an industry leader in the tuition of UX design, it won’t come as a surprise that UX provided him with the skills necessary to do exactly this, but he wouldn’t have discovered the field if it weren’t for a happy coincidence – one of those sliding-doors-moments.
“One of my neighbours was a UX designer. When he explained what it was, I realised it was for me. It combines lean startups, interviews, customer centricity, and being much more hands-on, rather than simply making a pitch deck or being too abstract. I thought that this is something for me.”
Fabien is a great advocate for online learning, and he has repeatedly turned to web-based courses over his career as a flexible, enjoyable and effective alternative to attending classes in person. That said, he recognises that not all online courses are created equal, and that some providers have placed too much emphasis on automation at the expense of the student over recent years.
At CareerFoundry, the student is at the very center of the company – our success is entirely contingent on your success. Not only do we love seeing our students graduate and land a job which significantly enhances their quality of life, but we’re also fundamentally invested: if you don’t get a job within 180 days of graduating, we give you your money back.
“I did the course on the side and I loved the way the content was presented. I’m a huge fan of online learning and I have been since a very early stage – since 2005. It was nothing new to me, but with the MOOCs, the industry was moving towards video and automation. We are in a consumption society where we all just watch Netflix and we don’t pay attention, but for once I needed to focus on what I read: You have assignments and you have the motivation to go through them, and I thought the quality was very high.
Most of all, my mentor, Darren, helped me a lot to show me where I need to improve, and to understand where my strengths were. He noticed that I’d get many areas of design very quickly. The visualisation – sketching wireframes and picking the right color – that was more difficult for me.”
Fabien is now back in Finland and works for Nordea, one of the biggest banks in the Nordics. He sees himself as a UX generalist. His days are varied, and tasks range from the operational to the aspirational: One day he may be prototyping, testing and creating wireframes, the next he’ll be running a Design Sprint or pitching an idea to C-level managers. There is a broader goal, however: As banking becomes more of a commodity, he wants to make financial services increasingly relevant, meaningful and readily understandable. This, he says, “is something that affects everything and everyone.”
“I wasn’t hired to make incremental improvements on the product. We are here to reinvent the financial industry and rewrite the future. A big part of our business will be gone in a few years time, so this could be banks’ Kodak moment, where banks are asking themselves who they are and that they do. I hadn’t imagined working at a bank before, but it’s actually the best job I’ve had. I have full freedom to use my creative skills, and my personality and creativity are appreciated within this environment.”
Fabien is obviously an ideal candidate for an online course. He’s driven and ambitious, and endowed with the necessary introspection to be able to plot out what route makes most sense for him to achieve his goals. And he never stops learning: Since completing the CareerFoundry UX Design Course, he’s gone on to further his expertise in digital and service design.
For us at CareerFoundry, it’s a privilege to have been able to help Fabien broaden his skillset, communicate his ideas, navigate towards where he wants to be, and, in his words, “tackle projects from the 360 degree view.”
“More and more people will need to understand the process – to understand digital – so you can comment on a design or contribute to some extent. That is the challenge we have. I consider myself a multipotentialite who’s had a very transitory career path. I’ve had very different jobs and I’m good at different things. UX can be applied in very different settings and industries, so it plays to my strengths.”
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