See concept video
Sealadder is a self-education accreditation platform that helps people advance their career, by providing goals driven guidance, tracking all learning and providing credibility when applying for a job or promotion.
This was a personal project that I did outside of university and work hours, where I spent a large amount of my spare time and weekends working closely with the founder and a small team of engineers to build the vision.
Product Designer, Marketer
Product Strategy, User Research, Interaction, Visual design, Prototyping & Testing, Information Architecture, Marketing, Pitching, Events
Jan 2017 - April 2019
Joining any startup is never a step that is taken lightly, especially when it requires weekends and working out of hours to bootstrap things together, and demonstrates genuine leadership.
The most essential element of leadership is having a vision for how to make a difference, to make a change for the better or decide where to go. Gloria should be commended for her passion and drive to try and make an improvement in the world, in an area that so desperately needs it.
— Adam Pond, Founder of Sealadder
(former Head of Engineering at Medical Director)
With the growth of Massive Online Open Courses, coding bootcamps, and startup incubator programs; it has become more apparent that the democratisation of education is providing individuals with the autonomy to create their own career paths.
I was the sole product designer of the founding team.
I joined Sealadder as a product designer when it was just a small team of the founder, 1 engineer and myself. I led the product, marketing, UX and UI strategy for the team. I've been extremely fortunate to have part of this journey and have grown tremendously during my time at Sealadder, some key achievements of which I have listed below:
- Turned an idea into a product. The ability to transform an idea into something much more tangible is a process that is both exhilarating and rewarding. I worked closely with the founder and team to shape the product vision and strategy of Sealadder. While the product is still in development and has not yet been released to the public, being able to see how much we have grown as a team and startup is truly sensational.
- Juggled many different hats. Working in an early-stage startup is not easy. I dedicated hours of my spare time and weekends conducting research, sketching, testing and designing the product alongside coordinating events, writing video scripts, creating pitch deck presentations and filling out grant applications for the business and marketing side of the business.
- Pitched to investors and crowds. I developed skills in not only designing our pitches but also presenting them to investors and large crowds at events such as Startcon, Slingshot Accelerator programs and Academy Xi (landing 3rd Place in the PitchX competition in 2017).
Understanding the problem
As a university student, I understood the pains of not being able to land a job due to lack of experience. I wanted to validate these problems with peers so I took the initiative to run focus group sessions at WeWork with 13 random university students and graduates who were equally frustrated.
We decided to focus on the software industry - specifically students interested in software engineering as it is a relatively fast-growing industry where information can become quickly outdated and constant learning is required to keep up to date with emerging trends.
After listening to these students, we discovered the top frustrations:
- Unrealistic expectations set by employers. Students feel demotivated when applying for entry-level jobs that prescribe unrealistic criteria e.g. X number of years of experience. This leaves students in a vicious cycle of chicken and egg where they are unable to gain experience due to lack of experience.
- Knowledge and industry gap. There is a gap that exists between what is taught at university vs. what is expected from employers that make students feel unprepared for the workforce. This gap is only partially bridged by online courses, bootcamps and self-education providers.
- Attitude of recruiters and employers. Some recruiters in the technical space lack the technical knowledge and ability to assess a candidate on their skills. A lot of the times, recruiters are performing keyword searches and the hiring process essentially becomes a keyword game.
- Lack of streamlined recruitment process. There are no streamlined job application processes in the industry which makes it a tedious process of applying to different software companies which have different assessment processes and criteria.
- Culture fit and gender bias. Some students who were not native speakers felt they were being discriminated against based on their cultural fit and language barrier. Additionally, there was a general consensus that employers would select females to meet a gender quote, particularly in the software industry.
Defining the problem statement
After gathering the findings from the research, I worked with the team to define the problem statement.
Career-oriented professionals are frustrated with getting ahead of their career because they have little visibility over the skills that they lack, what they need to do to get there and how well they are tracking towards their goal.
The product vision
As a product, we wanted to position ourselves as the leading career management platform with 3 key focus areas:
- Career goal management. We want to help individuals achieve their potential of fulfilling their career goal by providing them with the ability to track their learning and development over time.
- Career development advice. We want to provide individuals with advice on what they need to do in order to achieve their goal in the form of learning recommendations such as courses, books, events, podcasts, blogs, internships etc.
- Career experience validation. We want to be the leading provider of accreditation for all forms of learning and ultimately replace the traditional one-page resume that fails to showcase the depth of skills, potential and ambitions of the individual.
In addition to being a Product designer, I was also responsible for the marketing side where I created pitch decks and videos to illustrate the concept of our product and the value that it provides to our users. I created the designs, put together the prototypes, the script, recorded and edited the videos to demonstrate our product vision to investors and target users at pitch events and at investor meetings.
Defining the MVP
I conducted workshops and sketching sessions with the team to map out the user flow and come up with a storyboard to capture the MVP.
We identified the following key features:
- Goal definition. Allow users to set a career goal and specify the level that they want to get to in that profession.
- List of recommendations. Receive a plan of courses, events, blogs, podcasts etc. that you can do to work towards addressing any skill gaps in your knowledge.
- Connecting with providers. Curate or import a list of your activity history from existing providers such as Codecademy, Coursera, Khanacademy, Github, Stack Overflow etc. This allows your activities to be synchronised automatically, reducing the need to remember tracking everything that you've done.
- Tracking of development. View your progress over time to see how you are tracking towards your goal.
It is also worth noting that there were technical constraints that had to be taken into consideration as a learning machine algorithm was not an easy feat for the recommendations page. The proposed short term solution was to provide a manual list of activities mapped based on the profession, specialisation and level.
User testing was an iterative process that was conducted at every milestone of the project to identify the biggest pain points in the current version. Once feedback was gathered, I would revisit the prototypes and test again.
For the brand, I wanted to create a refreshing, minimalist and clean UI that conveyed trustworthiness and progression for future-oriented individuals.
I wanted a landing page that had a simple call-to-action (CTA) that conveyed our purpose and value to our target users.
Sign up page
A simple sign up page that allow users to either log in or create a new account using email, Linkedin and Google.
We ask users to select their career profession, specialisations and the next level that they want to progress to.
Once users have established a goal, we show them a list of courses, events, blogs, podcasts and other learning activities that they can do to fill in the gaps of their knowledge. Content is not generated by Sealadder; rather it is aggregated from various course providers and sites.
As a user completes activities, they can view their progress towards their goal and see a breakdown of their skills improving over time. They have the ability to connect into existing accounts with course providers such as Github, Stack Overflow, Udacity etc. to import their activity history.
Ultimately the goal of Sealadder is to provide jobseekers and employers with an interactive profile that goes beyond a resume. The idea to show a resume that is forward looking, rather than just a snapshot of their history, which illustrates the goals and development of the individual over time.
Working with developers
I worked closely with a team of 5 engineers to develop the designs for MVP. I scoped out tickets for the front-end engineers with user stories and product requirements. I also encouraged the team to look into using a third-party component library (ng-zorro) to quicken the implementation process and spend less time worrying about the component interactions.
As part of the future vision, I created a site map of the platform to help engineers understand how the overall site architecture worked. The main areas were segmented as follows:
- Stage 0 - Onboarding. Set a goal and define the level in your career that you want to progress to.
- Stage 1 - Profile and Account setup. Set up your basic account and view a profile of your skills and progress.
- Stage 2 - Discover. Receive a plan of recommendations (e.g. courses, books, events, podcasts etc.) to work towards your goal.
- Stage 3 - Networks. Build communities and connect with other like-minded individuals working towards the same goal as you.
- Stage 4 - Home. See an overview of your learning, recommendations, upcoming events and job notifications.
- Stage 5 - Jobs. Get matched to jobs from companies based on your skills and goals.
Results and takeaways
Working in an early-stage startup was an extremely steep learning curve. It was an eye-opening experience that taught me a lot about being lean and knowing when and where to focus your energy and efforts.
Some key takeaways from this project are:
- Focus on building an MVP. In a startup, there is only so much time and effort that you can invest (especially when you're working full time!) so it's important to focus on the features that can deliver the highest value for your users.
- Don't worry too much about the detail. Earlier in my journey, I made the mistake of worrying about the look of the UI. Taking a step back and reassessing the user flows helped me to reprioritise the UX.
- Focus on the problem. At the end of the day, it is your users pains that you will be solving for so keeping that front of mind is important as it's easy to lose sight of this when you're bogged down in the day to day.