January 27, 2021
User Experience Design is an integral part of Valtech and we have currently 330 UX/UI Designers worldwide. Silja Hallmark – Principal UX Designer at Valtech Switzerland – is one of them. We spoke to her about her career and her life at Valtech as a creative.
Silja, tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up at Valtech?
I have been working in the digital design field for over 20 years, which makes me one of the “old ones”, I suppose ;-). Initially I studied visual communication and freelanced for quite a while as a motion designer. As a freelancer I missed having a team, especially the exchange you have with other designers to bounce your ideas around. I then moved to an in-house product design position where I worked for several years. Finally, I joined Valtech 4 years ago as I was looking to widen my horizons again. What I like about Valtech is how we are so much more than 'just' an agency, we care deeply about the users and we try to create value in everything we do.
What makes you happy about working as a designer and particularly at Valtech?
I absolutely love my job! For me, the best part of it is how I can learn about so many different realities. I think not very many professions offer the chance to so deeply understand different industries, situations and people. Looking at the last projects I’ve worked on, I’ve had a deep-dive into institutional finance, health insurance, franchise sales models and nutritional supplements. All are topics I had only a very shallow understanding of previously. To me, this process of understanding the challenges of a new domain and then finding the best design solutions to solve these problems is deeply satisfying.
What I particularly like is the culture we have at Valtech. We work in cross functional teams with specialists from across multiple domains (design, technology, strategy, …) in a very open and supportive way. This allows us all to benefit from each others knowledge and encourages the constant learning process. And let’s not forget about the international aspect, we collaborate with design colleagues from all over the world.
How would you describe a UX/UI designer’s work in a typical project at Valtech?
We typically start off our projects with a discovery phase. In this phase, as a UX designer you conduct user research in order to identify user needs and problems. You also have to learn about the clients' business and their business needs. In my experience it is very important to take the time to synthesize all these findings, to be sure you are tackling the correct challenges.
Looking back at the last project I worked on, we moved on to prototype possible solutions very quickly. It helps to have something tangible early on. Prototypes really facilitate the discussion in the project team but also allow for testing designs with users. As things become clearer, the designs and the prototypes become more detailed and the UI designers become increasingly busy. Usually, you need a few iterations to come up with something good and meaningful.
We really value our ability to work so closely with our clients and run workshops with them to truly understand their needs, but also to create something that really impacts their business. The hand-off to our development teams is seamless - we work really closely with our frontend developers so that as soon as a design is ready, it gets ready for implementation.
So, as you see, as a designer you work with quite an extended team, from other designers to client stakeholders and developers.
When recruiting for new designers, what do you personally look for?
At Valtech we care about hiring a person and not just a skill. People are our greatest asset and we look for those who can live and breathe our company values.
For me personally, openness and curiosity are key qualities of any designer. There is so much to learn from what's going on around us, and if you are not interested, you are not going to grow. Modesty and humility are other qualities I look for. In our profession we create to serve others, our job is to care and to solve problems. The default process is to test our designs with users and believe me, they are going to tell you if they think your design doesn’t work for them! So, you do need the ability to stay humble and learn in this job.
What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in UX or UI design?
Personally, I would advise any young designer to try out different things. Working at an agency is very different to working as an in-house product designer. Both make you grow in a different way. Go where your heart takes you. I really don’t believe in too much career planning and goal setting – when you start off, you are still just scraping at the surface. Once you dive in, you will discover things you didn’t know could interest you. See where the design journey takes you.
Are you a designer interested in getting to know Valtech better? To find out more about us and possible openings within the Design team please reach out to Emily Bancroft for a confidential conversation. Emily.Bancroft@valtech.com