7 JUNE 2022
Spotlight On: Brandon, UX/UI Designer by day, Entrepreneur by Night
Interviewed & written by Seja Al Zaidi.
If there was ever someone to exemplify creativity, it would be Brandon Chang, Beem’s resident UX/UI designer. Brandon is an inspiring example of what can happen when you single-mindedly choose to follow your passion - and find the right workplace to honour that.
Brandon describes himself as a ‘customer experience evangelist’, and has held a bevy of roles in the product and customer experience space before landing his role here at Beem 7 months ago. Brandon’s creative spirit has at last found a place to be honoured rather than squandered, and nurtured rather than neglected.
Brandon’s journey hasn’t been a ubiquitous one, and we were really inspired by the way he forged a career in UX despite having no prior experience in the field. His story is proof that with determination and a supportive team, you can truly honour the career of your dreams!
We sat down with Brandon to find out more about how he channels his love for art in his everyday role at Beem, the flexibility he’s given to explore and express his creativity at work, and how he manages his successful side hustle, ‘Pinbuds’, which sells ‘punny’ pins, gifts and bags.
Tell us what it is that you do at Beem.
My job is pretty broad as a designer. I have to understand what customers’ problems are, and help resolve them. I gather inspiration and sentiment from teams across Beem, and also keep track of which digital wallets are doing really well globally. I take all that information into consideration, then I design. I design payment solutions for Beem and Beem partners. My goal is to figure out how customers can pay each other more easily in a fun way.
What inspired you to get into UX design in the first place?
I was always a fan of drawing as a kid - I always loved it. Of course, my parents were always like ‘you’ll never make money drawing’. But I kept drawing on the side, and that eventuated into my side business. For my day job though, I pursued a career in marketing as a way to express my creative desires in a business context. I thought marketing would be really fun because I thought I’d be able to create ads - at the time, I didn’t even know what UX was. But marketing had a segment called ‘customer research’, and I found a lot of enjoyment in finding out why people do things, in the art of consumer psychology. I wanted to understand how to shift behaviours by designing specific communications and designs. Figuring out how design influences behaviour was really interesting to me.
So how did you ultimately break into the UX field?
I was in a product management role at Vodafone. Customer research was a portion of my job, and I slowly expanded more and more into customer research, and became the designated product and customer research person. Everything I designed had been grounded in testing with users and understanding customer problems before getting to solutions. I started working with UX designers and thought ‘oh my gosh, I didn’t know this was a thing, that you could design and do research for a job.’ So when I looked at UX, my two passions were aligned - design and research. It was the best of two worlds for me. I love knowing how people think and how we can solve problems with design.
So, you had no real experience as a UX designer until you joined Beem. Is that right?
Correct - I was never a UX designer until I joined Beem. I was always quite scared that I wouldn’t be accepted into the UX community without a really strong portfolio of work, which is really hard to gather when you’re midway through your career in a totally different direction. So, I took it upon myself to go to Academy Xi and do a UX course online during the pandemic. So by that stage, when it came to having a portfolio, I was able to eventually build one up.
In the early stages of your career, were you really demotivated by the fact that you couldn’t exercise your creative pursuits as much?
Yeah, in the corporate world, it’s very much ‘you do something, and just that’. And if you do something else, you’re stepping on someone’s toes. I felt like I had to be really quiet about these other skills that I had, and it was really hard to express my true self. I always felt like a portion of me was in the closet in the corporate world.
Being at Beem, there is no ‘box’ you have to fit into. You just look at what’s happening and fit your skills where the needs are. We all play to each other’s skills while learning. You can grow and move into the thing you want to become at Beem, which is a beautiful balance I’m noticing all across the business. It feels like we’re all taking a leap together. The ego doesn’t exist here, we all know our stuff, but we’re also learning at the same time. It creates a really healthy environment where you can ask any question, and anyone can put their hand up for any kind of work. There’s a lot of trust that you will do the job while learning. We even have a Udemy account to learn new online skills, which is great.
What advice would you give to children who feel stifled because they have a passion for art, but are being told it’s not a pragmatic career choice?
It’s never clear what you want to do until you’re in it. You will always think that you should be something, but that feeling of ‘this is exactly what i’m supposed to do’ doesn’t actually hit until you’re in it. When I was younger, I thought I was going to be a marketer. That shifted into me being a product manager. And in all those phases, I thought that was exactly what I was meant to do. Until this year though, I never felt like I was truly expressing myself in both my day job and my side hustle. So I'm really enjoying this period of my life where I can really express everything that is ‘me’, inside and outside of work. Ultimately, it’s all a game of options, I think - you need to set yourself up with options. So for me, I chose to study a business degree which gave me options to learn what was and wasn’t right for me. Never say never, and there’s always after hours as well.
Tell me a little bit about your side hustle.
I make enamel pins, which are metal badges you can wear. I started in retail at Apple in my early days, and everyone sort of had a side hustle. Lots of Etsy makers, craft makers. So I started making A4 planners and started selling those. Then I landed into making pins, since I personally love collecting pins from Disneyland and Japan. I played around with it a bit, got featured on a few Buzzfeed articles, and thought, ‘wow, this is exciting. It’s a really fun way to draw and express myself through physical pieces of artwork that people wear around the world.
It feels really good to help others express who they are - like, some people wear their pronouns, or sexuality, or their favourite movie quote, and it’s really nice to get that sense of community. I also go to Comic Con and other conventions, so it’s really great to bring joy to people and see their faces light up. It’s really good to know that you can bring happiness to the world, whether that’s through a better payment experience or through the arts. The goal of my life is to just try and bring joy into the world.
What impact do you hope to leave on the industry 10 years from now?
I hope that we live in a world where things are so seamlessly connected that we can spend less time online. That we’re living in a world where we can spend less time managing finances, and stressing about budgeting because you have faith in a certain app or two. I hope to bring customers closer to businesses in an organic way. A world where customers and merchants feel closer is what I’d love to inspire.
What advice would you give to aspiring UX designers or entrepreneurs starting out in their careers?
That there is never a real title that you need to wait for to call yourself a designer. Design is so subjective, that everyone is basically a designer. Anytime you create anything, you’re a designer. I always felt like I had to wait until I had the job title of ‘designer’ to feel legitimate. My partner always told me ‘you’ve always been a designer, you just do a different type of design now’. So never feel like you need to wait until you have the title to be a UX designer. For fun, I’d recommend recreating some of your favourite apps in Figma. There are so many Youtube tutorials - you can design something that you’re imagining, or recreate something that you love. The same way a lot of artists get popular on Youtube today is by doing covers - your version of doing covers is replicating a few apps, seeing what you could do, and how you could make it different. Build your portfolio - I wish I did that from a younger age. It’s important to have something to present one day.
What we learned…
Brandon’s message of setting yourself up with options and pursuing a flexible approach to your creative dreams serves as great inspiration for all budding designers out there. Here at Beem, we value all the quirks and skills our fellow Beemers bring to the table, so we hope you enjoyed reading about Brandon’s!
Here at Beem, we’re always looking for feedback on how we can grow, evolve, and change to better support our Beemer community. The ‘Spotlight On’ series is designed to focus on the career trajectories, passions, philosophies, and journeys of the wonderfully diverse team here at Beem HQ. The series aims to inspire and educate members of our community who are chasing their own unique and individual career journeys. If there’s a Beemer you’d like to see us interrogate chat to next, let us know and we’d love to make it happen.