A Senior Product Designer's Journey
With the growth of our Design team, we recently welcomed Camellia Yang: designer, artist, writer, wearer of many hats. Here she shares her nontraditional pathway to Design, her thoughts on Berlin, and why now is an exciting time for designers at GetYourGuide.
Senior Product Designer - Camellia Yang
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I think my background is not as straightforward as other designers. I came to design on my own, through several different steps. In fact, my personal website is called the 11th me because “Designer” is already the 11th profession I’ve tried.
My journey started in China where I was a telecommunications engineer, the career for which I was educated. It’s a very old-fashioned industry, and I didn’t like it. So then I became a fashion journalist because I liked writing and was interested in fashion. But then after half a year, I realized it was too superficial. I had to dress up everyday, and be very beautiful from the outside, but not from the inside and it wasn’t really a fit. So then I became a barista.
Eventually, I pursued a Master’s program in France: a multimedia program. The program was made up of many different disciplines. It was related to UX design and computer science, but I wasn’t really trained specifically for any profession.
After my program, I moved to Frankfurt to work as a developer. It was a big organization but my team was quite small, almost like a startup within the company.
In this team, I started to collaborate with Product Owners and Designers, and they were very helpful in teaching me about their roles. Then after a while, I got the chance to work as a Product Owner. But I was always really passionate about art, so when one designer left, I did an online course and became the designer. Later, I moved to Booking.com to work with more designers and to see how a designer really works.
What first interested you in the travel industry?
Actually, I didn’t find the travel industry by myself, it was just an accident. My first job in Europe was a travel company. And then, for some reason, I stayed in the industry.
Why do you like working in the travel industry?
I like that it is the future. When you think about IT stuff and how things changed from offline to online, the first things that changed were office tools, so you could use the computer to work, but then eventually you used it to connect your personal life. Then e-commerce came around and you could buy everything online. Then the e-commerce industry spread and you could buy hotels and flights, and now, it’s still changing and you can even buy activities and experiences.
For my age, I’m very lucky to have experienced all of these changes in some way, but a lot of this happened when I was quite young. So, with activities within the travel space, it’s still getting there. I can fully experience how I can help human society change from something very traditional to something very new.
What is your top destination that you have visited and the destination at the top of your “must-go” list?
Well, I’m very patriotic. I am well-educated to appreciate the Chinese culture, Chinese music, Chinese art. Every time I go to a small village or a mountain area or remote place, I feel very connected. In some ways, I feel like the world doesn’t know much about China. China is not only about politics and economic growth; there’s a lot of culture-related topics and purely beautiful things. I want to travel more there, see more, and introduce my friends to more.
Where are you from in China?
What’s your favorite place in China?
So far I would say the Anhui area. They have villages that were built 1,800 years ago and the villages are still the same. All of the people still have this one family name. The government helped them build tourism up instead of just agriculture, so they could survive on their own. Through tourism, they are able to earn money and sustain the culture there. It’s also the birthplace of paper, calligraphy, and ink.
What is the place on the top of your must-go list?
Brazil and Iceland. I like very beautiful and different natural destinations. And Mars, if it is possible.
Having just moved from Amsterdam, what are your impressions of Berlin so far?
I live in Friedrichshain. I really like the area. Before I moved to Berlin, I had visited a lot, and I was always a fan of Eastern Berlin, it’s more me. Amsterdam is very beautiful, very delegated, very polished. Everything you see is well-made and thought-out, but Berlin is still in its original state.
There is a Japanese concept called Wabi-sabi which says you can show the true beauty of something in this original state, you don’t need to decorate it, you don’t need to change it. What it looks like is how beautiful it is. That’s how I feel about Berlin.
How did GetYourGuide help you with the relocation process?
The visa support was really helpful. I still have a Chinese passport so everywhere I go in Europe, it’s a huge hassle. It took me 3 months to get a visa from the Netherlands to Germany. I have to get my birth certificate translated, my diplomas from China and France translated. If I had to do it on my own, it would have been too much, but GYG helped me.
You left a rather large, well-established travel company to join our smaller start-up. What inspired you to make this change?
I learned a lot at my previous company. I was a very junior designer when I joined. I learned everything by myself; I wasn’t confident. I didn’t know if I was doing things correctly. There, I developed my craftsmanship. I learned a lot of things from website to mobile design. I think I changed teams more than 7 times: I was doing upsell to loyalty, partner-facing to guest-facing. And in all of these teams, I was involved in a lot of tasks: creating style guides, components, also working on projects, and helping other designers as well.
I came to GYG because I was ready to go for something new. I got the basic knowledge I wanted as a designer, I got a lot of practice and built up my confidence, but I was looking for a place where I could really use all of my skills, not only the interaction and visual design part, but also the strategic thinking/data analyzing skills which could help shape the direction of a product.
I was working on a very mature product, mainly focusing on smaller improvements. So, it sometimes took a long time to see something through from almost nothing to reality.
At GetYourGuide you have a small team, you move fast. This fast speed means you have ownership from vision to implementation.
You’ve been here for a month; how’s it going so far?
I was really surprised, I didn’t think it could go as well as what I had wanted.
I like the people I work with. Everyone is friendly, open-minded, and really smart. I’m someone who is a very logical and structured thinker. A lot of people I’ve met before were very creative, but not really thinking the same way that I think, so our communication wasn’t always very efficient. But here, everyone uses the same methodology. It’s a good match.
What are you working on right now?
Now I’m working on loyalty. Basically, when I got there I found out I would work on something with loyalty. This is a very wide word, there’s no concrete definition here at GetYourGuide, so you can really explore. 50% of my time is spent focusing more on strategy and long-term planning and 50% is down-to-earth design: designing an inspirational email, building a style guide, components, etc.
When you think about your own skills as a designer, do you consider yourself stronger in visual or in UX?
I would say it is pretty well-balanced. Basically, on the visual side, it’s more for myself. Art is very different than design.
Design is communication; you need to make people understand the product and help them finish the task, but art is something I do to express myself.
As a product designer at GYG, I believe that we need to focus on both visual and interaction, and at the same time think strategically for the future. I need to use both quantitative and qualitative data to help envision a future and then build it together with the team step by step.
Why is now an exciting time to join the design team at GetYourGuide?
The first thing that comes to mind is that design thinking is not new to the company. People understand the importance of design. We have great designers here and we have Marlene as a very inspirational and supportive design lead. She helps us move into the future. You don’t need to worry about educating people or convincing people to look at the value of design. Here you can really use your skill.
Furthermore, the product is still at an early stage. There’s a lot of space to build stuff, to change things, to make the foundation. And, at least for me, this is what excites me a designer. I’m excited that I can create something that is very useful and lasts long. I don’t care about making something you can only use today and tomorrow. I want our customers to follow our company journey over the next 10 years and still be using our product.
Are you also interested in putting the customer first, designing for the future, and seeing your ideas come to reality? Then join our Product & Design Team!
For more of Camellia's travel tips, check out her blog.