Meet Ioana Teleanu, Senior Product Designer, and the leader of a thriving UX community of over 220k people! She's been with UiPath for five years, and she's responsible for designing UiPath Clipboard AI™. In this blog post, we'll explore how she started her UX career, discover her UiPath experience, learn about her design process, and talk about UX Goodies, her side projects, and what it means to be a community builder. Bonus, we'll also discover key advice for aspiring designers! Ioana's inspiring journey is a must-read, so let's dive in!
"Design is both a job and a hobby", she states. When she's not spending time with her daughter, she spends almost all her time doing design in different ways. In her free time, when she's not shaping products, she's still doing something related to it: fostering communities, talking about design, or creating content.
Everything she's up to in the design space is interconnected, like a feedback loop, an ecosystem. Her job helps her grow as a content creator and community builder, and what she's doing as a content creator helps her grow on the job. "Essentially, I think there's a co-dependency between them". The things she does on the side keep her creative juices flowing and help her see new angles to the design problems she's solving.
Ioana's diverse educational background covers Communication and Public Relations, Management, and Project Management. She's always been a creative person, and she's been extremely interested in people from a very young age. "I'm very passionate about how people think, how they perceive things, how they interact with the world around them. I think it's fascinating."
I'm naturally drawn towards unpacking people's personalities, their needs, their relationships, and their life systems.
She's quite the extrovert, always surfacing conversations, asking questions, and eagerly learning more about people. At the same time, she's also very methodical, and she likes to organize things and put them where it makes sense.
She cultivated all her skills into understanding what might be a profession that taps into her passion for people. Her first job was in a call center, and at that point she didn't even know that UX Design was a thing. It took her many years of doing different roles that, in a way, had nothing to do with design, but in other ways, in retrospect, were pretty connected to it.
When she discovered that UX Design existed, she had a eureka moment. "I realized this was what I’ve been searching for and had no idea". She became determined to transition into a design role, and it happened.
If you're at least curious about design, you've likely stumbled across this debate on social media. It's everywhere. And we wanted to discover Ioana's perspective on it!
Ioana thinks that people spend too much time discussing titles, when "we should focus more on how to design better products". Although superficial, the debate can bring some clarity outside the design industry, helping other roles and business functions understand it.
Whatever we choose to name ourselves, whatever title we’re assigned by our company, what we're all doing is design, and it’s about making people’s lives better. Titles are secondary. It’s the craft we should focus on.
Even though some things are more specialized, "at the end of the day we're all participating in shaping experiences". A UI designer might spend more time on how the solution is being presented to the user, while a UX designer could spend more time doing research, understanding the problem, and unpacking the user's needs. "We're designing. And we're solving problems at the intersection of user needs and business goals."
How would she identify herself? "I feel that Product Designer is the closest to what I'm currently doing, because I think it's more encompassing."
Ioana was working at ING for about nine years when the UiPath story started emerging and fascinated everyone. She was working very close to our office, and walking by it every day, she noticed the vibe and the startup culture we had at that point. "I became drawn to this space, it felt like a tremendous opportunity for designers."
UiPath was my dream workplace for a long time! It was a foundational experience for me, helping me become who I am and find my way as a designer.
Joining a new industry comes with its perks. "There were no established standards. It felt like I could literally invent things, which I did! In the meantime, I even have design patents in the filing in the U.S., and it's an incredible feeling."
"Five years ago, when I joined, I saw the opportunity for creating something new as a designer". She felt there was a canvas where designers could invent solutions that weren't explored before. And that was a key factor that drew her into wanting to become a UiPather.
Ioana is responsible for designing Clipboard AI, which "is essentially a way to transfer data intelligently between two systems". The team is "trying to solve the problem of copying and pasting", which might sound like a simple problem, but simple problems are the most difficult ones. She finds it compelling that some users don't even know that's a problem. "We're solving problems that users don't know they have; we're surfacing unconscious needs, and this process is humbling.”
Designing Clipboard AI is an incredible mission. I'm really proud. I get to contribute again to a new space that hasn't been explored.
We talked about her design process, where the decisions were mostly data-informed. "We had to de-risk the design decisions. Since everything was new, we couldn't just use existing mental models, existing patterns and standards. We had to rely more on tackling uncertainty through research. And we did that."
In the beginning, her focus was on understanding the people who'd use these systems. "Who are they? What are their needs? What are the most common scenarios for using the product? How can we optimize for those scenarios?". Research was at the core of every decision. "We've talked to almost 500 people in our research studies, and there’s still so much to learn about this problem space."
Ioana cares a lot about working in a collaborative environment. To her, the most important element in any design process, but especially in her own, is having conversations with the team. "I'm working very closely with my Product Manager every day, trying to unpack these problems, describe and define them, understand them deeply, and then exploring potential solutions, searching for the best one, and so on". She even emphasizes that this is the DNA of UiPath: conversation, debate, and collaboration.
Ioana has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, and she often speaks at various UX conferences. Her platform, @uxgoodies, serves as a hub where both experienced designers and those aspiring to enter the field come together.
UX Goodies is something that's 100% me. It's not a company. It's not a logo. It's just me.
UX Goodies started as a very personal, absolutely non-public, fun project, according to Ioana. "I would basically research design topics and then synthesize them as a learning exercise. And then I figured: what if someone else might find my summaries useful as well? It turned out I was able to help thousands of people, which is still unbelievable to me."
When she started, she didn't have the goal of building a following in mind. She was just putting some structure into her own learning efforts, and people seemed to enjoy it, draw some inspiration from it, and learn something interesting. That's why it started growing.
"It challenged me in a lot of ways. It's pretty intense emotionally, because I put my heart into it. It's a very personal project. The efforts I put into learning and giving back to the community, into the conversations and building relationships, continue to generate a lot of growth", she shares.
Having such a big community comes with a huge responsibility, and that's the not-so-fun part. "Of course, it triggered the infamous imposter syndrome, and sometimes I feel that maybe I'm not living up to it. Who am I to deserve such a following? Am I giving any value to these people?"
Most of the time, however, this experience proved extremely rewarding. "It's opened the world up to me. Thanks to UX Goodies, I ended up speaking at conferences and doing design courses with big institutions. Thanks to UX Goodies, I started having a lot of brand deals and collaborating with huge brands, like Adobe, Notion, Wix, and so on. It's an incredible journey, and I'm very grateful for it", Ioana adds.
It's not a numbers thing, though, and she phrases it best: "at the end of the day, all these numbers amount to nothing if you're not building relationships on the way". If she had to choose between having 10 followers, while having a strong relationship with them, and having 100,000 followers, while knowing none of them, then the first option would be superior.
You might wonder how she finds the time to do it all. Ioana's learned that "it's a very fine balancing act, and it's one that I'm not very good at pulling off". "For the past five years I've been pretty tired, but always very, very inspired, very motivated, and driven to do more, to learn more, to help more", she adds.
Moreover, her side work was very seasonal and always connected to her personal life. In the beginning, when she didn't have a child, she had only one job, not many projects on the side, so she could dedicate a lot of time to content creation. Now she has a child, lots of consulting gigs, conferences, projects, and a lot of extra workloads altogether. "Now I'm not as active in the design community and on UX Goodies as I used to be", she states.
Ioana's following reflects the reality of the market. "Imagine a pyramid where, as you move towards the top of it, people become more experienced. Most people who follow me are juniors, because people in the design industry are juniors. The percentages tend to mirror the market situation. While there are also senior designers in my community, I think they're not getting as much value as junior designers, as I'm tailoring my messages to help them make their first steps."
She thinks mentorship is key. "The best advice I've been giving out for a long time is to find a mentor as fast as possible!", she adds, because they "can give some structure to the process" and "give you the proper guidance on how to find a problem".
Take it one step at a time, but start somewhere! Just start! Start experimenting with understanding problems and start designing! Immerse yourself in the space!
Ioana also recommends reading a lot of theory, including books and all the articles you can find. But keep in mind that you shouldn't spend too much time on gathering abstract information. Instead, "you really need to start playing with tools and problems".
She noticed that "juniors often postpone solving real problems because they're afraid and they don't know where to start". The starting point would be finding a mentor and real problems to solve. "Spot the problems around you, observe them, talk to people about them, and start doing the design work", she says. "Even if you feel like you don't have a clear direction, or a clear structure, just start playing around. Then more questions will emerge, and then more answers will be brought up as well".
That's definitely very thoughtful advice for people beginning their careers, regardless of the areas they're interested in. Don't let the overwhelming stop you, just start somewhere and build your foundation step by step. And if you're an aspiring designer, don't be shy, reach out to Ioana!