Career Story: Onyedikachi Ibejih

14 min readMar 8, 2024
Interview with Onyedikachi Ibejih

Welcome to another episode of the career story. This time, we have Onyedikachi Ibejih, a Product designer at Heroshe. She talks to us about quitting her job during the pandemic to learn product design, her design struggles and how she moved from designing logos to designing experiences.

Hi! Please introduce yourself. How did you get into design?

My name is Onyedikachi Ibejih; my friends call me Kachi. I'm a senior product designer. I currently work at Heroshe, designing experiences for people who want to ship their products or packages they bought from the US or UK to Nigeria and Ghana. I started designing six years ago but didn't start with product design. I started with logo design in 2018, And in mid-2018, I had my first logo design client.

As time went on, I got into brand design and graphics. Then, I got my first nine-to-five job in 2019 at an advertising company called Noah's Ark. I worked primarily in the company's digital arm called Red Wolf. I mostly worked as an art director on print ads and social media designs for the brands I handled. At the time, I was handling Firstbank, Maltina, Nestle Pure Life, and Mr Chef. At some point, I also helped out on Airtel. I was at Noah's Ark for nearly two years before I decided to learn product design.

What was the transition from art directing to product design like?

I didn't fully transition until the end of 2020 and got my first internship job in December 2020. Since then, it's been a great one. I've been learning. I've also been growing from an intern to a senior product designer, working on different products across different industries. I've made mistakes and learnt from my mistakes.

Let me bring you back a bit; you said it all started with logo designs. What pushed you to learn logo design in the first place?

The first time I got into design, in general, was in 2015. I was supposed to return to school for my final year. But my family had some financial crisis. So, I couldn't go back to school that year. My parents didn't want me sitting idle. So I decided to try out graphic design, not because I even understood what graphic design was, but because I had a roommate then who was a mass communication student. She used to work on designs for our Student Union. Sometimes, I'll follow her to the printer. I guess that's where I started developing an interest in graphic design.

Also, there was this printing press near my house, where I used to go. I wasn't doing much; I mostly went there to clean the shop and wait for the people who did the main work to come. But as time passed, I learned from the people working there. My parents got me a laptop then, and I'd return home and practice all I had learned.

How did you get your first logo design client?

A friend asked if I could design a logo. I was like, yeah, I think so. How hard can it be? He needed a logo for his cab business.

How did the logo come out?

It came out bad. It just didn't work. Eventually, he abandoned the project. But that left me with a desire to get better. I never knew logo design was that hard. I started to intentionally try to create more logo designs. I had no clients, so I dedicated my Instagram page to my designs. I would come up with a logo design and post it.

This was around each year?

This was in 2016. I was not doing it like I wanted to make money. I was having fun. You know the way the Instagram algorithm works? Then, in 2016, hashtags were huge on Instagram; your post was littered with different hashtags. The Instagram algorithm kept suggesting people who design logos, and I kept following. As time went on, my feed was full of logo designs.

When I went back to school, I didn't remember design again until I had graduated. But I kept posting sometimes when I had the time. In 2018, someone reached out to me from Instagram, saying they wanted me to work on a logo for them because they had seen the design I posted.

So basically, you built in public?

Yes, I did. I was doing this for fun, to be honest, but I was not very conscious. I don't put my work out again because I have become super conscious now. Then, nobody knew me on Instagram. When I got a bit popular, I just became shy and stopped.

Would you advise someone just starting in product design or looking for a job to build in public?

Post your work. But what's the goal of posting? It gives you visibility; it's good for publicity. It is not necessarily a good avenue for getting feedback Because people are scared of publicly giving feedback on people's work. But it gives you visibility and makes it easy for you if someone wants to hire you for something; you're at the top of their mind because you're constantly posting your work. Certain people come to mind when I think about product designers on Twitter because I mostly see them post their work. I see what they can do.

You used Instagram to build. Would you recommend the same for designers now?

It depends on where the person is most active. Twitter works because it's a middle ground. It's not professional and is also not too social. You can post your work there. LinkedIn is great. Instagram is heavy on pictures, so if a product designer posts their work, it is probably just the UI. You can't go deep into long threads about strategy.
Your choice would also depend on the kind of design work you do. Instagram works perfectly for illustrators. If you have the strength and time, you can post on all social media platforms.

What would you say to someone struggling with posting their work in public?

This is very ironic coming from me because I'm quite introverted and shy, but you have to do away with shame. Try not to feel ashamed or like it's cliche or cringe; that mindset will stop you from posting your work.

Back to design now. What was the duration between learning logo design and your first internship in product design?

I left my job in August 2020 and started learning product design in September, October, and November. Then, in December, I got my first internship.

That's three months. You must have put in quite a lot of work within that period.

Oh, I put in everything. I told myself that if I didn't learn this thing, hunger would finish me.

So, sapa motivated career growth?

Yes o! I told myself, "It's better we learn these things. Because once your savings goal is gone."
I put in everything. I had a timetable.

Timetable as how?

It was that serious. I had a school timetable where I'd take my class from 10 to 12, take an hour's break, and then come back. I had to be very serious. Because it was during the pandemic period, people were losing their jobs, and I was saying I wanted to transition into something else. I needed that discipline, and I'm grateful it worked out because hunger would have finished me.

You quit your job in the middle of a pandemic? What was your confidence? What was your motivation?

Yes. It sounds silly, and I don't think I would do it again if given another chance. But then I was trying to learn while working. If you've worked in advertising, you know advertising is very tight and time-consuming. Once you're doing it, you can't do anything else. So, I was struggling to learn, and at some point, I knew I needed to put something on the line.

I saved my salary for three months, as well as some savings from the freelance work that I was doing. I told myself that if these savings were to finish, that would be the end. I needed to put something on the line so I could take myself seriously.

What challenges did you face in your early learning years? How did you overcome them to reach where you are today?

My first challenge was how wide product design is. It felt like there was so much to learn, and it was overwhelming. For design, especially here in Nigeria, we don't have many specialised roles; you have a product designer who does almost everything. You can't say I want to be just a UX designer or researcher. We have some roles for that, but there are not so many.

For you to have an advantage, you want to learn everything. After some time with my learning, I found a way to break it down. I told myself, Oh, product design comprises three major buckets. The first is UI design. The second is UX design. The third one is UX research. Learning as soon as I could break it down was easier for me. I could say I'm learning UI today. I'm learning UX tomorrow.

Another problem I had was a result of the first problem. I was confused and stuck as to how to move from research. I've conducted my research, gathered all the data, and analysed it. How do I now move from all my findings to the actual design? It was a big problem for me: how do I translate all those findings into actual screens? I overcame that by talking to some friends who were already product designers. I would go to them with my questions and eventually find a way around it.

After gathering all the data, I need to remember the problem I'm trying to solve. Now, based on the data I have gotten, I may develop multiple ideas. How do I know which of the ideas to go with? That's when I started to learn how to assess my ideas. Some ideas are high reward, high effort; others are high effort, low reward.

You want to look for ideas with low effort and high reward. Also, if you have a technical team you're working with, you want to consider which one will stretch the team or take a lot of time to implement. So, even if you're going with an idea with high technicality, it has to be a decision that the engineering or product teams are willing to follow through with.

You put a lot of structure in place while learning. Do you think someone who is also learning has to be that rigid?

No. They don't have to be. I'm a structured person. I don't do well in chaos and like to put order in everything I do. For example, if I want to read a book this month, I take how many pages are in the book and divide it by how many days in a month. I have an estimate of how many pages I need to finish in a day for me to finish that book in a month. So, I like to put those kinds of structures in place because procrastination has me in a chokehold.

What matters is that we find systems that keep us accountable and consistent so they don't have to follow my method. Everybody can look at their learning style and struggles and build systems to help them get through those hoops.

How did you land your role at Heroshe?

I told everybody who cared to listen to me that I was looking for a job. One of my friends sent me the job opening. I looked through it, and I applied. They got back to me. I went through the interview stages, everything went well, and I got the job.

You mentioned reaching out to friends. Do you think that plays an important role in tech success?

Tech, especially in Nigeria, relies heavily on relationships. Sometimes, some companies might be hiring, but you will not even know. They do not put out any ads; they just tell the people within the company they are looking to fill a particular position. If you have a friend in that kind of company, you will have access to that information faster than someone who doesn't know anybody.

Relationships matter. Build relationships. I'm not referring to fake relationships or what some people masquerade as networking. I mean genuine relationships with friends and acquaintances. Join communities; sometimes, communities have access to this kind of information.

Aside from job opportunities, when you work on projects and want to collaborate with others, it's those people within your network that you can collaborate with. Whenever I get stuck on some designs, I reach out to some of my friends.

Tell us about a day in your life as a product designer at Heroshe.

I am a late-night person. I always wake up late. Most of the time, I start work by nine. I say hi to everybody in our design channel. I get a sense of what we're working on this week and the tasks assigned to me. Then, I go through the product requirement documents. If I have questions, I ask either my design lead or the product manager in charge of the product and make notes of things I need to work on.

If I'm working on a dashboard, I like to research it and see other dashboards. I go on nicely done, and I sign up for other random products to see how the dashboard looks and the experience. What are some things I can steal from here? What are some things I can mix from here? All these things led to me creating a mood board; sometimes, it's a mental one. Sometimes, I take screenshots and create a mood board on Figma.

Once I have some inspiration, I start to think of ideas. I do a lot of paper-pen collaboration. I'm so old school. I note down all those things and begin to make sketches. Eventually, I might have three or four sketches I feel confident about. Then I jump on Figma. When I'm done, I will present it to the design team. I walk through each idea and tell its story, what I thought when I designed these, which works best, and their pros and cons.

This makes designing richer for me. I'm not just presenting screens but telling stories behind those designs, and it's also more collaborative. It invites people to give their opinions. Once that is done, if it's the same day, I move my tickets on Jira to done. Then, I hand off the work to the engineers.

How do you deal with deadlines?

Even if I am not physically working on a task, I'm mentally working on it. When I need to design a screen, if I'm not creating it, on Figma. Mentally, I have an idea of where each element will be, so when I sit down to work on it, my work is faster.

I don't like to drag deadlines. Some projects require me to exceed my deadlines. I try to communicate early with my team and ask for an extension. It helps other people's work, which depends on mine, to make the adjustments. That's just me being an accountable and responsible person.

What's your favourite part about product design?

I enjoy the thinking. The parts where you're asking multiple questions, questions that nobody has answers to. But the mere fact that we can think of those questions that's all that matters; we'll find answers later. For example, questions like what happens when someone's package goes missing? How do we deal with that? Or in a situation where someone puts the wrong address? Most of us on the team might never have the answers upfront. But the fact that we're thinking of all the use cases and edge cases and ensuring that the experience is not broken at any point is the part I have enjoyed the most. It makes us all think hard, ask questions, and have hard conversations.

To the elephant in the room now. Rejections! How have you handled rejections in your career?

Rejections are always there. There'll always be rejections if you want to make progress and grow. Some of these rejections hurt, but I think like this: when I apply for something, once I hit that send, I am like, if it works great, if it doesn't work, we move. That serves as a cushion for me if it doesn't work.

Don't let rejections stop you. All it takes is one yes. I've had my fair share of rejections. But imagine if I allowed those rejections to cripple me, and I don't apply for jobs anymore because of the fear of rejection. Sometimes, rejection is not even about you.

It's giving suitationship…

You get! I don't like to overthink it. If I'm deeply pained, I can cry, but once I am done crying, I wipe my tears, and we move!

Moving on to the next question, what resources would you recommend for a junior product designer?

I would recommend Interaction Design Foundation. They have many courses covering UI design, UX design, and UX research. The good news is that you can access all their courses once you pay a yearly subscription. I would also recommend that the person start practising.

Practice what you learn. If you learned about information architecture, try to work on something that will prompt you to think about information architecture because often, we think we've learned something. We haven't until you do it.

Where possible, go through a design school or design boot camp. They have a streamlined curriculum, which adds structure to your learning. But if you want to learn on your own, that also works. I did that. But then, you must be more intentional about giving yourself that structure. You don't want a situation where you'd be learning product design for three months, and all you'd be learning is UI design.

If you cannot afford design boot camps, try to get a curriculum. Stephanie, Dada Designer, once created a curriculum for people who want to learn product design. If you can afford it, buy books; sometimes, courses don't do justice to some topics, and there's no way a 30-minute course will give you the same rich content as a 200-page book.

What other actionable tips would you give someone trying to learn product design?

What I would reemphasise is Practice! Practice!! Practice!!! Start working on projects as you learn. If you learn about design thinking, work on projects related to design thinking. As you grow in your learning, it gets more complex, and the quality of projects you work on should also become more complex; as time goes on, you may have gathered enough knowledge to work on an end-to-end project.

So it's not just you doing only research. Now, you can do research; you can come up with a UX strategy. You can think of ideas around your problem, translate those ideas into user stories, and then take those user stories and translate them into user flows. You can now run the end-to-end spectrum because you've been learning bits and bits of each of those things.

Also, try to shadow a senior designer; when I say senior, I don't mean someone whose title is a senior designer; someone who is six months ahead of you is a senior designer to you. They can give you insights that you may not have. I shadowed a lot of senior designers when I was learning. They would have their gig, and I'll work with them and assist them. You want them to be able to look at your work, critique it, and give you constructive feedback. So have people that you can go to with your questions. That's why I love ADPlist. It's free. You can talk to any designer there. Just book a session on their calendar.

So it's not enough to just design. Find people who can give constructive feedback on your designs.

You can connect with Kachi on LinkedIn or book a mentorship session on ADPlist.

See you in the next episode.





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