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Designing Success Globally

Fail Faster

Episode 432


23 minutes

In this Fail Faster episode, we talk with Oleg Slyusarchuk who serves as the global head of Product Design at Eleks.

As part of his role, Oleg has been managing a design team consisting of 60 designers in various countries, including the UK, US, Germany, Canada, Estonia, Croatia, Poland, and Portugal, for the past 7 years. With 20 years of experience in the field of design and a certification in Design Management from Nielsen Norman Group, Oleg is particularly passionate about business and service design. He excels in crafting customized solutions within the Healthcare, Finance, and Insurance sectors, drawing inspiration from various design methodologies.

Podcast transcript

Vandana: Hi Oleg, welcome to the Fail Faster podcast. How are you?

Oleg: Hi. So I’m doing well. What about you? I’m doing great.

Vandana: Had a fantastic weekend and it’s a great start to the week, I would say.

Oleg: Yes, for me as well. So that’s very unusual to start the Monday with this recording podcast, but let’s see how it goes.

Vandana: Absolutely, So before we start, why don’t you give our listeners a quick background about yourselves like where were you born and raised, what was your childhood like and what are your family dynamics?

Oleg: Yes, definitely. So I was born in Ukraine. So that’s on the counter right now at this moment because the war with Russia. And I was born in the city called Lviv, it’s maybe 40, 50 miles European Union border. So it’s very close to its western part of Ukraine. And so since the childhood and all my, let’s say school time and so on. So I was spent in Ukraine. 

So my first degree, it’s a degree in law. So in civil law and civil code. So that’s where it might be very strange because that’s not a computer science. So it’s nothing related to design, but it’s somehow related into, for example, some kind of psychological or behavioral stuff. 

And I was graduated from the university. It’s a Polish academy. And that was my first degree. And I guess, so I was started as a designer from the different staff of media. So I’ve been working as the head of design, starting in the newspapers. And that was the time where the news become digital, digital out of paper. So that’s some kind of digital transformation part moving from the usual, let’s say, magazines and newspapers into the digital stuff. And so that was really on the hype in those times. 

And so definitely my, you can say the whole career of designer, this first part that was spending as the media designer. So my, I have some kind of the consultants business and the major clients was the Ukrainian and European broadcasting companies. So that was some media corporations and so on. And what if it’s, how to say better, it’s advisory staff there. It was how to make any, let’s say, broadcasting or news or any sort of everything around media business. How to make it digital and how to make the success from that. So that’s the first priority. 

And that’s how I become a digital designer. So when we had a great success in this area, then I started moving more for the software because I had a lot of experience out of those media projects and out of this consultation. So in the first, I have a few jobs in different software companies, but the company which I work with at the moment, so that’s a software company, Alex. So I stay with, it’s a global company, but it’s roots in Ukraine. So the company has been founded about 30 years ago. 

It was in those time, the company has been started as part of the company in the area of energy management. So, and now it’s like a global and software house in some kind of technology consultancy company. And then, so I’m spending was more than 10 years being a part of this company. And about, I know about last seven years, I’m acquiring the position of global head of product design. Yes. And three years ago, I moved from there to United States. So I’m living in Chicago now, and before I had, I was living in Boston before the COVID. So then, then moving here and yes, living right now with my family in Chicago. Yes. So that’s, I guess, all about some kind of biography. 

If you will be interested more about, let’s say some professional areas. So that’s definitely, it’s a three main topics that definitely it’s a product design or experience design, which is at the core of any, let’s say, software company, just to one of the, let’s say leading servicer. And by, but another big portion of the opportunities is mostly about the business modeling and the service design, which is more related into some kind of consultancy or having more influence in very early stages of even like building some business or let’s say changing values or different kinds of the guidance for how you can transform and make the business more successful from one side or another side, how, how, how to make it more, let’s say, customer-centered. 

Also, also the good thing is, which is very close in or in touch with the main core design services, definitely some kind of the inclusivity and accessibility stuff. We’re working very, very, let’s say, which is right now, it’s in focus in everywhere and the sustainability as well.

Vandana: Got it. And like, if you have to talk about your biggest wins in the course of your career, what would those be? Like any wow moments that you feel very proud of that, you know, my God, wow, this has been your biggest accomplishment in your, in your career so far. So what would be those one or two stories on your biggest wins?

Oleg: So I guess the, my biggest win at the moment is just building, let’s say some kind of international design kind of agency, or that’s, that’s some kind of internal agency within the company. And so the biggest, the biggest challenge was here when you, when I came to the first time to for the position of the head of design. So I have the team of only seven persons and a part of them were involved in some marketing activities and, but the, the, the thing, and the main goal or the main target for me was to let’s say changing engineering company and bringing the values of the customers there and bringing design thinking methodology into the development processes and so on. It was really very challenging task. 

And so that, that was the, the first obstacle I have because, because when you’re working with 2000 engineers and only seven designers, it was very, it was too tricky and the big challenge how to rebuild everything. But really that right now we have the big international team of designers in different areas and, and, and living in different, in different countries. So we have here in the United States, Canada, Argentina, United States, Germany, and so on. Let’s say how we have a lot of different, different staff and we, we increased the services of the design services within the company. So it’s right now. So the design service in one of the major, or I would say, so the most frequently used for any startup cooperation with new customers within the company. 

So I guess that, that, that was my biggest win. So to start within just a small, small group of the, in a small team and during could say last year or so in large dozens of time. So to make it, make it very, to make it very global and of course, so the variety of design projects and variety of the products when we, which we are delivering. So that’s, that’s a really great challenge that we, we are achieving. So that’s, that’s, I guess, the biggest win at the moment. And also the another, another thing is we have founded some kind of design community global which is, which is more related to some meetups and events. So it called product design meetups, they are, they are setting up, so they are annually different, they, we were organizing them annually in different countries of the world. 

So last time we had this summer, so say months ago, two of them, one in, in, in two of them, but both in Europe. So one of them was in Copenhagen, in, in Denmark, and another one were in, in cooperation with Microsoft France in Paris. So that’s, that’s another, that’s another, that’s a good thing because the, the, the, the major, the major value from that is to, to get, to combine designers with, from different countries, from different experiences, from different companies, and united them by, by, by any professional topic. And of course, not only designer, that might be project, product managers and so on, every, everyone who is related to the product stuff.

And that’s really another big challenge that, that, that we had, because if you organize some type, type of event somewhere, even, even in the country where you don’t have any business relations, so that’s usually tough, but, but it works well. So, and I looking forward to have some more events here in United States, in Canada, maybe this, this fall.

Vandana: Yeah. And what about your most epic failures? Like, you know, we all fail, but then in your career or your like journey so far, what have been your biggest failure and what did you learn from that failure?

Oleg: Oh, from the biggest, biggest failure. So that’s, that’s very interesting question, but usually, usually I’m not, not, not saying, so this is like a fail or as much as you are failing some stuff, so you’re learning. So, and the, the another iteration of that, you’re doing always better than previous one, but the biggest failure, I guess, that’s, that’s, that’s very strange, but sometimes when you would like, when you’re taking the head of designer and you’re thinking that every other problem might be solved by design tools or methodologies. 

So this is, and you are not a familiar with some, let’s say domain and, or business domain or some business, let’s say process, which you have not learned by, by having, by having the lack of, let’s say, education or something like that, because it’s, if you have some, some kind of topics, which are related to worry, let’s say tiny things like a body reactors or some stuff in, in the energy fields and so on. The biggest fail for me was when you’re trying to apply design methodologies into the industry where everything is too regulated or everything is too, everything is too tough to change within the ideation or, or any sort of, let’s say design activities. 

And that’s, that’s, and the best thing, what, what, what I have learned from that experience was if you’re, if you’re having something in the field, when you’re not an expert, do not try to be expert there. So, and you cannot figure out everything, you cannot figure out everything can change the world in one second. You have to learn a lot. So you have to research a lot. You have to empower your team within different experts in the field to be more, let’s say, bored within the topic or something like that. So that’s, I guess, my biggest failure that I have. So for me, that’s what’s not like a losing or something because you have learned. 

So being a designer, having, I would say, the right tools or the stuff you have, it’s, it’s great, but if you’re not in very tight relations with very tight topics, it’s better to take the experts, which are more, I don’t know how to say it, they have more experience in the field.

Vandana: So now talking about your background and experience, so first of all, what is your approach to gathering and incorporating user feedback into the product design process?

Oleg: So definitely, it’s the user feedback, it’s very necessary in a few stages. The first one is definitely in the part of initial studies on the user research in the beginning of our scene and it depending, if you’re, if you still work with them, like creating new products, so that’s one way. So if you have, let’s say some product, which is already in the market, so, or any sort of legacy products, this product is failing because of some reason, you know, definitely so you can, you can have, you , you can have the part of the research or anything started just to figure out why. 

So that’s, that’s the great to have this, let’s say, user or customer, or I don’t know, any, any sort of the feedback. So to, to get to know what are the problems people have was in this, let’s say, digital source or what they’re not expecting or why they are not using that one. So that, that’s very necessary. But another thing, it’s another thing, it’s when you’re as a designer, so when you have to be ensured that you’re thinking the right way, so you have to be ensured, you have to be sure that so what you’re providing the end of the day, so we’ll get a really useful for the customers, for the users and, and so on. So the best thing is just providing the usability testings, but that usually goes through the whole delivery or development process. So having on the, on the every stage or during discovering. So it’s definitely a testing, a testing, what hypothesis testing, 10 ATA testing, 10 prototype testing. So, and that’s, that’s, that’s really helpful. 

And of course, having this, let’s say, feedback loop and dialogue with the potential customers or the business, the business users. So during the whole process of product development or the whole process of, of the product lifecycle. So that, that, that’s a beneficial. Yeah. So, yeah, definitely there is, there are a lot of methodologies. So how to feel, how to get the feedback. So I know in the testings, if you were just deciding what might work better with the audience, so that that’s also helpful. So I think any, any sort of qualitative and quantitative research is, it’s great to get the user feedback anytime.

Vandana: Yeah. And what advice would you give to aspiring product designers or those looking to advance their careers in this field?

Oleg: Okay. So, The first thing, I guess, I guess the design, it’s not something which concept of art or something like that. So design is the problem solving and you have, you don’t have to be, I know some, someone who has, who has, let’s say, the opportunity to work beforehand as a graphic designer or any sort related to, to design. So, and I guess everyone who is, who is looking for enhance any, let’s say, area of the relation between or any, any services you have, you see, or anything in the world, which is related to the, to, let’s say, people, user, customers. 

So within any area, so they might, might be switching to design because if you’re creating something, I mean, or changing something, yes, definitely you’re designing. But the thing is about your, the mindset and feeling, and feeling how you’re, yeah, how you can behave within the more, how you can apply, let’s say, design methodologies into changing any sort of, let’s say, services or any just things which we are using in daily life. 

And if you’re trying to learn this design methodologies, if you’re trying to, let’s say, to figure out how you can change anything using those, those stuff, and you’re trying a couple of times and you’re figuring out that it might work for you especially, or if you’re trying to change something, you become a designer. And if you have this feeling, so follow the way. 

So indefinitely when you’re, when you have any candidates which would like to be a part of your team and a part of your company. So the first thing is not how the people are prototyping. So not how they are providing the research and so on. The first thing is how the people think. If you see that, so that, that’s a major step because everything else, so how to, how to perform, I don’t know, the, any, any sorts of interviews or how to figure out how to, how to, let’s say, provide design workshops or anything so that everything you can learn. But the mindset and the way of thinking, so that’s, that’s something which is hard to change.

Vandana: Yeah. And then how do you like stay updated with the latest design trends and emerging technologies in your field? Like, are there any conferences or community groups that you follow? So how do you stay on top of all these advancements that happened today?

Oleg: That’s, that was the reason why we were organized this, let’s say, series of events, which called design meetups. So just the first priority there was to have, let’s say, the community, when you can share with any, any sort of design experience or product related experience between the experts from different countries of the world and to know how, how to work or to have any, any sort of last trends and so on. And feel how, like what kind of, let’s say, technologies are using or changing something and so on. 

That’s the first thing. And definitely, so while you’re working within the technology company, you definitely know everything from your colleagues or the, also you’re usually in touch, we’ve been in close touch with the customer, with your customers. So you know what, how, how their business is changing. So in trying to adopt definitely and you see what, what is, what kind of emergency technologies are changing, what, what industries, for example, if you’re in the fintechs, so you know that this is the trend, for example, for neobanking. So when you have, you have to be there and you, you have to, so to be very proficient in the way, because you know that the world is changing for, for having the personal mobile banking. 

So you’re in insurance, so that’s, let’s say, things, you think about how to collect the behavioral data and how to, how to get it more for making more sophisticated offers. So in the, in the healthcare, so that’s, that’s not a different way. And so having those knowledges, even having those knowledge and not being the subject matter expert in the field. So it’ll give you an opportunity to change and adopt, let’s say, what you were doing in the area of design into the needs or some industry. And definitely the professional conferences. So that’s, that’s, that’s another thing. 

So last time I was visiting the Leela Technology in France, I had the big conference where the Elon Musk was coming as well. And so I have learned because of talk with, talk with the participants and also hearing a lot of good conversation in the, in the, let’s say, technology area. So you become also in holder of that one. But definitely, so the professional community online in the variety of books, I’m trying to not, not, not stop reading. So that’s, that’s, that’s I guess the best, the best how you can develop yourself.

Vandana: Got it. Okay. Awesome. Now, Oleg, before you go, if people want to reach out to you and if they want to know more about the stuff that you’re doing, where can they find you online?

Oleg: So definitely on the LinkedIn. So we have a very open profile to everyone. And so my work in the mail or if you can reach me, they can reach me through the Alex website, the company, but in any messenger. So just Facebook, LinkedIn, anywhere.

Vandana: All right. Thank you so much, Oleg, once again, for being here today and sharing your insights and your experiences with our audience today. We really appreciate you taking our time for this.

Oleg: Okay. Thank you so much.

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