October 18, 2023

Crafting Exceptional Experiences: Meet Sheik, The Visionary Product Design Lead at Mobal

October 25, 2023
About
Introducing Sheik, the Product Design Lead at Mobal. Sheik's career spans over 12 years in product design, with notable contributions at companies like Zoho, Freshworks, Microsoft, and Smartly.io. In his current role, Sheik is responsible for product experience design at Mobal, emphasizing user-centered innovation. Sheik's expertise makes him a driving force in building Mobal. Read the interview. 
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Introducing Sheik, Product Design Lead at Mobal.  Sheik's career spans over 12 years in product design, with notable contributions at companies like Zoho, Freshworks, Microsoft, and Smartly.io. In his current role, Sheik is responsible for product experience design at Mobal, emphasizing user-centered innovation. Sheik's expertise makes him a driving force in building Mobal. Read the full interview. 

Please introduce yourself, who you are, and your role at Mobal

I grew up in a small town in Tamilnadu, South India. I'm a creative rationalist passionate about design that can change the world. Now, as the Product Design Lead at Mobal, I'm committed to crafting exceptional user experiences. Beyond work, I cherish family time, indulge in portrait photography, and satisfy my creative thirst by writing design newsletters.

A fun thing that happened recently is that I once enrolled in swimming lessons and pre-paid the full fee, but after reading a terrible Google review about the place which said, “You either Swim or Sink, nobody cares. “ I decided not to participate anymore 🤣. I think of this incident when designing a review management feature for our product.

Tell us about your background and experience in product design

Following my master's degree in communication, I began my journey as a design trainee at a prestigious consulting firm in India. It didn't take long for me to realize that my true calling lay in contributing and innovating within product-based companies instead of one-off consulting projects. My career path has seen me take on diverse design and managerial roles at renowned companies like Zoho, Freshworks, Microsoft, and Smartly.io. Throughout this journey, I've played a pivotal role in enhancing the success of several noteworthy SaaS products through my design expertise.

With over 12 years in the product design profession, my profound enthusiasm for early-stage startups perfectly aligned with Mobal's vision. The founders at Mobal prioritize design-driven product development, making it an ideal choice for me.

What does a typical day look like for you as a product design lead?

My day typically begins with dropping off my daughter at daycare and reviewing the day's tasks. Mornings are dedicated to addressing customer feedback and requirements. By noon, I engage in daily meetings and huddles with developers. The majority of my afternoons are focused on designing prototypes using Figma. However, I maintain a spontaneous approach throughout the day, promptly addressing in-house and customer feedback.

Additionally, I manage customer meetings, conduct user research, and oversee product feedback on dedicated boards. I also find great excitement in participating in bi-weekly sprint planning and grooming sessions with our product head and cross-functional peers.

One of the highlights at Mobal is our product demos and bi-weekly business updates, which serve as special events. We proudly showcase our work to the entire company during these occasions and eagerly welcome valuable feedback. It's a fantastic tradition we uphold, typically held on Fridays.

Product design is a dynamic field that evolves rapidly. How do you stay up-to-date with the latest design trends and technologies?

I am an avid reader, and my friends also work for leading product companies. So, I talk to them often and discuss product design and management trends. Exploring novel digital solutions is a regular practice I follow to remain informed about the evolving landscape of SaaS and to ensure our offerings align with industry trends. In addition, I maintain a structured learning plan that involves studying influential newsletters and participating in online courses.

Can you share a recent project you have worked on and describe  the key design challenges you faced and how you overcame them?

The Mobal profile project marked a recent, comprehensive overhaul of our existing product offering, resulting in a complete transformation of the interface and interaction compared to the previous version. However, after the initial rollout, I received critical feedback from our internal users, who found it challenging to access essential business information.

In response, I swiftly created a mockup and collaborated closely with a developer to develop a practical solution. This solution was subsequently implemented, and I'm pleased to report that users no longer encounter the previous issues. This experience underscores the importance of adaptability and open-mindedness to user feedback for a designer.

Collaboration is crucial in product design. How do you foster a collaborative environment within the product team, and what strategies do you use to ensure effective communication and teamwork?

Throughout my career, I've had the privilege of working with cross-functional teams, and this trend continued at Mobal from the moment I joined. I actively foster collaboration by organizing consecutive meetings with functional leaders and close peers, which has granted me a deep understanding of our operations and a valuable introduction to my colleagues.

At Mobal, we embrace an open feedback culture, allowing me to be accessible to our teammates and providing an environment where everyone's input is valued. As a product design lead, most of my responsibilities revolve around collaborating with our leadership team. We are deeply committed to building products through robust cross-functional collaboration.

This commitment is evident in our weekly meetings and work sessions, where I engage in activities like customer research alongside leads from Customer Service and Marketing. These interactions are enjoyable and intellectually challenging, emphasizing the importance of effective teamwork in our product development process.

Design thinking is often cited as a valuable approach to product design. How do you incorporate design thinking into your processes?

Design thinking is an invaluable process, but its application should align with a company's unique dynamics. At Mobal, a structured approach begins with:

  • Understanding user needs and preferences.
  • Challenging established requirements and reimagining problem-solving strategies.
  • Embracing creative, wide-ranging exploration of potential solutions.
  • Rigorously testing critical workflows.
  • Continuously monitoring usage patterns.

Our primary focus is on data-driven design as we move forward. The foundation for this approach is already in place, and we aspire to cultivate an increasingly design-driven culture within our organization as we continue to expand.

User-centered design is a core principle in product design. How do you gather and prioritize user feedback, and how does it influence your design decisions?

Mobal utilizes multiple feedback channels, including input from internal marketing experts who actively use our product, vocal customer feedback, insights from prospects, and interactions with our sales team. We also gather insights from churned customers. These discussions occur in various Slack channels, with the design team consolidating feedback to prioritize feature development. Our commitment to staying closely connected to users ensures the creation of meaningful products.

In addition, I regularly conduct "Guerrilla research" by visiting entrepreneurs with our CS lead. This helps us better understand user challenges and refine our offerings to suit their needs effectively.

Product design often involves balancing aesthetics with functionality and usability. How do you approach this balance, and what principles guide your decision-making?

I deeply appreciate Dieter Rams and his design philosophy, particularly his emphasis on good design being aesthetic, unobtrusive, and meticulous in every detail. Inspired by these principles, our core design philosophy centers on creating aesthetically pleasing and highly functional products.

Since taking on my role, I've strongly emphasized integrating our brand essence seamlessly into our products, ensuring that users have a consistent and coherent experience. Our priority is functionality, ensuring that users can efficiently achieve their goals. Following functionality, we enhance the user experience, making it compelling and engaging.

What tools and software do you and your team rely on for product design, and why have you chosen these specific tools?

Our design toolkit is comprised of several essential tools. Figma stands at the forefront, serving as our core design tool and fostering collaboration between our tech and marketing teams. We rely on Figjam for prototyping, while all our documentation is efficiently managed through the Notion app. Slack is pivotal in enhancing collaboration and daily interactions with our skilled developers.

Regarding issue tracking and project management, we've adopted Linear, which streamlines these processes. A recent addition to our toolkit is product boards, which have proven instrumental in consolidating and managing user feedback effectively.

What qualities or skills do you look for when hiring new designers to join your team, and what advice would you give to someone aspiring to pursue a career in product design?

Mobal fosters a transparent, ego-free workplace that values diversity in skills and personalities. Embracing diversity contributes to a more robust culture, superior products, and more effective customer solutions.

When seeking new designers, I prioritize skills such as user empathy, research, creating highly intuitive interfaces, and crafting engaging interactions. A passion for building world-class software and solving problems with a fresh perspective is key. Alignment with our company's culture and values is essential.

In my role, I find joy in my work every day, and my goal is to ensure that everyone experiences the same satisfaction. While product design remains a thriving field, I've been mentoring individuals for years. One crucial piece of advice is to recognize that designing interfaces is just one aspect of the role; a more substantial part involves contributing positively to the company's growth.

To excel in your design career, it's essential to acquire complementary skills, including storytelling, data-driven design, and documentation. Embrace collaboration with cross-functional talents, as it's a path to elevating your design career.

To wrap up, could you please share any upcoming developments, future projects, or industry trends that your team is currently focusing on in the field of product design?

At Mobal, we're actively delving into the realm of growth design as a fast-growing startup. We consistently experiment with product-led growth strategies and harness the power of AI in various capacities. Additionally, I see data storytelling and personalized experiences as pivotal emerging trends in the UX design landscape. We are committed to exploring these areas further as we continue our journey.

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