Now first things first: it’s hard to write about a day in the life of a UX design grad because each day is always different. Here’s what I thought each day was going to look like at REA Group:
For the most part, this sounds about right for the first month at REA this year. Little did I know that I’d be cooped up in my teeny-weeny apartment with my two housemates for the rest of 2020. Time to write off the social morning vibes I had in mind, and goodbye pub lunch.
The novelty of working from home wore off pretty quickly. It took me a while to adjust to the situation. I’d spent several months travelling before settling into my first full-time job, the first month in the office felt like a party, and then suddenly my small bedroom became the place where I spent almost all my time for the next several months.
Once I found my rhythm, my days at REA online started to look a bit like this:
~6:00 - 7:30 AM – Wake up
My alarm is set for 7:30 am, but I usually wake up earlier from a housemate making a smoothie. Thereafter, I’ll obsessively smash through ABC articles about COVID-19 and general global turmoil. Once I’ve had my fix of despair, the rest of the time is usually spent either stretching or chatting with my housemates.
8:00 AM – Podcast and walk
I started getting into a pretty serious groove of walking throughout the day while listening to podcasts relating to product design. Walk times vary between 20 minutes to 1 hour.
9:00 AM – Jump online
Now this time slot varies most days, but it is usually one of the following things:
9:30 AM – daily stand up
Stand-ups in the business are generally in the morning so we’re set for the day. My current rotation stand up in the Flatmates part of the business is at 9.30 am and involves a fun banter/catch up for the first five minutes. Then we get into it and run through a board detailing larger pieces of work and breaking the work down into tasks for the day. People allocated to the task update the rest of the team on their progression on the task since the last stand up.
After we make our way through the board of tasks, the team lead tends to say ‘Gooooo team!’ like an American football coach dispersing his team from a huddle. Stand up tends to finish early, so I’ll usually spend the gap in my calendar making a coffee.
10 AM – product and design discussions
Rather than working on the problem in isolation and coming back to the group with a solution, I’d rather work through the problem with others to get to the solution quicker. I tend to spend this time with a few members of the squad (usually the product manager and senior designer) establishing, refining and discussing current and upcoming design work and problem spaces.
If there isn’t a meeting to be had, then this time is usually spent getting into the flow of visual design and UI design work until lunch.
12 PM – lunch and walks
Lunchtime during COVID-19 has largely been successful thanks to Uber Eats. After some food, I head outside once more for another walk while listening to another work-related podcast. I found this really helps me deepen my understanding of the craft and best practice from outside the problems we’re solving for at REA.
1 PM – No zoom time
REA has an initiative during this time of no zoom calls between 12 pm - 2 pm to avoid zoom fatigue. From 1 pm - 2 pm, my calendar is blocked so this time can be spent on tasks that need to be done. The tasks vary each day, but it’s usually spent as thinking or designing time to improve the usability of current or future digital experiences.
2 PM – Design pairing with a senior designer
At this time of the day, some design work and challenges are iterated on my own and then to emulate the office environment, my design mentor and I will work through my proposed design changes together.
This helps us co-design and solve UI and UX problems faster. For me, it’s a great opportunity for feedback from the design mentor to ensure I’m thinking pragmatically about design solutions. It’s important to align the design solutions with the needs of the business and consider technical constraints.
3:30 PM – Skills building
I don’t come from a visual design background. To help ensure I’m building on my visual design and user interface design skills, the next half hour is spent working on more ‘blue sky thinking’ design work. This approach to UI design work allows for designs to be unconstrained by business needs or technical constraints.
The exercise usually involves designs outside of day-to-day squad work and will instead relate to other products under the REA Group umbrella. A senior UI design specialist external to my squad goes through my designs to provide feedback, which allows me to refine my visual design and UI design competencies.
4 PM – Catch ups or reflections
Once a week, the final hour of the day is spent in a one-on-one with my Rotation Lead (RL). My RL is a product design leader that checks in with me for the hour to go over anything I may be struggling with, discuss career planning, establish areas of experience I ought to be exposed to in my rotation, or just general chit chat. Either way, the RL there is to ensure that I’m set up for success in my rotation.
Other days, this final hour is spent writing reflections, or, it’s a grad catch up where we play games or just chat until it’s time to jump off. With lockdowns and consideration of screen time, by 5 pm - 5:30 pm, I’ve found it pretty important to get away from the screen and tune out.