At a certain point in our careers, many of us feel stuck, lost, and lacking purpose. Taking the leap to make a change can be overwhelming, whether it involves switching roles within a company or embarking on an entirely new career path. In this article, we introduce Catarina Marques, a MB.ioneer who bet all her cards to become a Product designer.
A Dip into the Work Life
Catarina didn't grow up wanting to be a designer. It was more of a happy coincidence. Despite graduating in renewable energy engineering science, she found herself working for a prominent international company based in Portugal. Beginning as an intern in the sustainability department, she was tasked with navigating complex legislation on safety, health, and environmental concerns for shopping centres.
Over time, her internship evolved into a full-time position spanning seven years. As part of her role, Catarina ensured that all shopping centres adhered to regulatory standards, covering aspects like risk assessments, safety, health, environment and green building certifications. A role that helped her practice dealing with people from all kinds of areas:
"We were the "mother" company and all the shopping centers were our stakeholders. We also visited these centres onsite in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Romania to see the actual action in place and to work closely with a lot of different people, such as the cleaning team, maintenance workers, managers etc."
As many people can relate in their career, Catarina entered a phase where she was "just living life because you're living it". She realized that she had been merely going through the motions, doing what society expected of her without questioning her own happiness.
"Yes, I wanted to study, but it was also something that people are "meant" to do, and then I found a job in the area of my studies and I just kept doing it. You know, you're doing it because it's what you're supposed to do. But I wasn't really asking myself up to that point: Is this something that makes me really happy in the morning when I wake up?"
This realization led her to reflect on the dreams she had set aside and the importance of not letting life pass by without pursuing them.
Catarina's first encounter with UX/UI design occurred when a friend introduced her to the field in 2019. Her initial thought was: "Hey, that's actually really interesting. I never thought about how people were creating digital products and the importance of taking into consideration the users." Intrigued by the idea of creating digital products while considering user experience, she delved deeper into the subject over the years. She extensively researched online resources and sought workshops and courses, until one day, she stumbled upon a boot camp that caught her attention.
However, she faced two significant challenges: the need to continue working full-time and the expensive costs of the boot camp. After much hesitation, Catarina made the courageous decision to fully commit to the course:
"I knew I had to commit to the course and do it full time, it would be too overwhelming doing it part-time after work."
A lot of uncertainties arose during this period - how would she support herself financially? Was it wise to abandon her stable situation? What if she couldn't find employment as a UX/UI designer? Is this where she really wants to go?
The insecurities gradually faded as she progressed through the nine-week boot camp, surrounded by individuals from around the world. Yet, upon receiving her course certificate, she experienced a "heavy bout of imposter syndrome", causing her initial courage to waver. Still, she embarked on a series of unfamiliar interviews, involving technical conversations and design challenges. Finally, the breakthrough came after months when she secured a position at Mercedes-Benz.io.
A New Home
With Mercedes-Benz.io, Catarina discovered a new professional home as a Product designer. What she truly values about the company is the accessibility and approachability of its people, regardless of their positions or roles. She appreciates the ease with which she can interact with fellow MB.ioneers, the freedom to express herself authentically, and how helpful everyone is around her.
"One of the things I love about working here is the supportive environment that allows me to be myself. It's all these small, yet significant, layers that make navigating in this company much easier."
Furthermore, Catarina really appreciates the remote working policy and the flexibility to allocate time for working on additional projects alongside her main responsibilities. Moreover, the company's understanding of work-life balance allows her to adjust her working hours when she did some overtime, enabling her to maintain a healthy mindset.
Words of advice
When asked for advice on making life changes, Catarina emphasized the importance of taking action:
"Do it. Obviously, I don't mean to get an idea and just change your life from one day to another. It was more like a process for me that was building up over time. I heard about the topic, searched for it, got into it, informed myself and then it started growing. There are a lot of situations in life where we're not in a happy place and don't recognize it. We just keep doing it until at some point we can't stand it anymore. So my advice would be: Reflect & do it! Study about it, exchange with other people in that area, check Webinars, YouTube or Coursera."
Although "doing it" may sound super easy, real-life implementation can be challenging. However, every journey begins with a single step. Change is a process, and sometimes, making small steps is the key to transforming one's circumstances for the better.