Inside The Growth Room of Aurelia Jessica, Design Manager at Grab

Aurelia Jessica is a Design Manager at Grab. Previously UX & Creative Lead at Peoplewave and Creative Specialist, Brand Strategy at Twitter

Aurelia Jessica, Design Manager at Grab

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1) To kickstart, could you share about your current role, what the company does and a bit about your career background?

Thanks for having me. I'm currently working as a Design Manager at Grab.

2) Can you describe what your typical workday looks like?

As a design manager, simply put my job revolves around making sure the designers can design successfully, preferably while also loving it. Whether it’s team building, coaching and supporting growth, or strategy shaping, they all have that common goal in the end.

3) What does personal growth mean to you?

For me it means making progress towards your goal and that goal needs to be personal to you. :)

Ok, it doesn’t explain much, but hear me out.

Your goals belong to you and your life. Whether it’s strengthening your strong points or improving on your weaknesses, trying out a new scope of job, starting a family, or adventuring to another part of the world, it has to be tailored to what you believe in and what’s relevant to you. For every goal there’s a path to it, and if you’re making progress on it, or you discover things in the process and iterate on the path, or even the goal itself, that’s also growth.

4) Is there a habit you consciously exercise to ensure you achieve your ideal personal growth?

What I find more interesting is to evaluate the goals themselves, periodically. My ideal self and trajectory 5, 10 years ago can be quite different from how it is currently. Every birthday, I would have an honest discussion with myself about what had happened in the previous year, and how my newly aged self would want to take this situation going forward. Kinda like a self-handover. One birthday I was in an okay job, fretting about a project and some shaky relationships with some people. The other year I got a handover from quite a different career environment, some new friends, but with a busted knee that needs rehabilitation. It’s typically when I would reassess where I want to focus on in the medium-long term.

Another habit is to also have honest conversations with people who care enough to give you feedback on growth. That’s actually influenced by the culture in my workplace, Grab, where there are a lot of smart people who somehow take the regular feedback cycles very seriously in terms of giving you actually helpful data points and insights about yourself.

Personally, I enjoy having deep conversations with a few trusted loved ones and friends and I’ve been blessed with some of them who are not afraid to point out what I’ve done well at and what I can consider improving. It can be about how I shoot zombies in games and get better at not shooting my team; instead, it can also be about how I handle sensitive topics as a neutral listener, and how I can do it even better. These are not the easiest conversations to have, but for me they are what makes friends, close friends.

5) What does it mean to grow in your career? How do you measure your career growth?

For me, growth means some challenges somehow stop being one, and you’re now facing another fresh set of challenges. I want to keep it interesting and relevant. My life goals and things I care about change as I grow, and my career as part of it also needs to keep up (or down) and vice versa.

If my goals and growth area evolved, then I would know I grew in some ways. If I feel it’s becoming more rewarding; financially, mentally or spiritually, those are also benchmarks of growth. In the first few years of my career as a designer, as an IC (Individual Contributor), my goal was to get better as a designer, to learn how to ship good products that’s useful to people.

Being a manager was not in my mind, until I became a bit more senior and started mentoring other designers. And eh, it’s actually kind of fun, and very rewarding to see others succeed. Quite different from the time when I put more attention to myself as an individual, so that’s a growth. I owe my career growth to the amazing managers I have had so far, past and present, so I’d like to be one that can help others grow as well.

6) Aside from your full-time job, is there anything else you like to do outside work?

Gaming! And sleeping! Recently I built a PC to game remotely with my overseas friends and during the pandemic lockdown I took up tabletop RPGs where I can game, squeeze creative juices and catch up with friends at the same time. I’m also preparing for a wedding with my fiance and thinking about trying out some new gym routines now that I recently got chewed out by my coach on my atrocious sleeping habits.

Still, I like to have many pockets of free time to do whatever I want outside of what’s being scheduled. Creative and empathy-based work gets best output when you have the right mindset and some fire to flow into it, so rest and recharge is very important too.

7) Are there any books, podcasts or apps that have been helpful for your growth?

To be honest, I read more fiction than non-fiction. But there are some non fiction that I often refer to. If you’re considering a managerial role of any scope, I highly recommend “The Making of a Manager” by Julie Zhou. If you’re like me, an introvert trying to get better at negotiating and communicating, “Never Split the Difference” by Chriss Voss is also an excellent reference on how to negotiate like FBI agents.

In Singapore, Libby app (borrow free books from National Library) is amazing to access books anytime, anywhere. I found professional coaching helped me a lot during some phases of my career growth too - BetterUp app provides a really good one.

8) Any tips you’d like to share for those who are looking to venture into similar roles?

For designers who are thinking about going for managerial scope one day, I’d say, think about why you want to go there. It’s a quite different scope, a different job description to design through other designers, most of the time without touching the design tool yourself. Zhou’s book that I mentioned before is really a good read, even if you’re not yet a manager, to understand what managers are thinking. In Singapore, it’s available for free at the National Library and Libby.

9) Finally, what is the one quote you always live by?

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” - Murakami


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