I believe in starting a conversation with fellow UX professionals and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading the message about the importance of UX. That’s why I have started a project of #UXFika – lightweight conversations with inspiring UX leaders over a cup of coffee (or two!).
This week’s special UXFika guest is Tem Aguerre – Head of UX at Tele2.
I first met Tem after his talk at Adobe Creative Jam in Stockholm, where he shared his thoughts on design and creating memorable user experiences.
What I really liked about him is his strong sense of vision. It sparked my interest to talk to Tem more. Here’s what he had to share about his inspiring journey across all corners of the design and UX world, from advertising to telecom.
Hope you enjoy the ride!
What’s your background?
I grew up in an artist family. My parents were always working on art projects together with other artists. Collaboration was important to them, questioning the norm and creating things, together. The creative process was always one of the constants at home.
I’ve never really thought about it during my career, but looking back I realize how much my childhood really shaped me.
After I left home I studied to become a web designer. When my course ended I was lucky enough to get a temporary job at the place where I did my first internship. Shortly after that, I started as a junior web designer at a web agency. My first real web-job! I was super happy just to be doing web stuff and I had no idea that this tiny web agency was actually owned by one of Stockholm’s larger ad-agencies. So I was thrown into the world of advertising where I got to work with really big brands like Samsung, Chevrolet and HP. It was a great school on how to approach creativity in a strategic way, how to build the magic around a brand.
How did you get into the world of UX?
Even though I loved working in the advertising industry I often found myself questioning the way creative decisions were taken; Do we really know that’s what these customers want? Wouldn’t this solution carry bigger emotional value? Are we sure this is right? Shouldn’t we test it? There was always a big “why” coming from my side. So even if I was good at what I did, I still felt like a pain in the ass for my colleagues.
That feeling of frustration stayed with me until I moved to California, six or seven years into my career. I took a “user experience and user interface” night class at UCSD in San Diego. This was ten years ago, completely on a whim and I had no idea about UX at all, I was mostly interested in the UI part.
So I take the class and it turns out that this UX stuff was all about the “why”. A methodical approach to design, questioning and figuring things out. It was like coming home. And that’s when I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
What’s your creative process?
It’s sort of an organized chaos, but with a method to the madness.
It usually starts with some form of immersion. Getting really into the subject and try to frame the problem. Then when I feel just a little bit overwhelmed I move on to a sort of synthesis phase, clustering and reducing. This is where things start making sense.
After enough insights and discussion, it’s usually time for some form of artifact work to test and validate. After that the whole process repeats, continuously reframing and reducing.
You are currently the head of UX at Tele2 – can you tell me about your daily work?
Part of my days are about sitting in strategic discussions with business developers, product managers, and other stakeholders. Evangelizing design within the organization. Work smarter, not harder, that sort of stuff.
The other part is about steering UX in the right direction, coaching and empowering my team. I try to protect them from bullshit and I try to create a positive creative atmosphere where designers feel safe enough to open up and actively invite feedback and opinions.
It’s both strategic and operational work. I’ve always moved pretty naturally between the two so for me this setup is highly rewarding.
How do you evangelize UX within Tele2?
Collaboration. I try to bring everyone in, especially in the early stages. I’ve created a design studio at Tele2 – a physical space where we can put things up on the walls and discuss.
One of the things about working in telecom is that we work with some really long and complex flows. You don’t get a sense of the actual scale by just looking at it on a screen, but if you print it out and put the whole thing up on the wall – suddenly there is a click: people understand better. So I try to visualize complexity in the physical space.
What does a UX strategy mean to you?
Strategy is about ambition and direction.
For my team, that means psychological safety and to do our homework as designers. To know why we designed it this way and what our design decisions mean in the bigger picture. Being strategic as a designer is understanding the context of the business and the driving forces behind it.
If you can show how UX is helping move business KPI’s in the right direction, you are showing the value of your work.
How do you build “happy moments” for your customers?
Before you can start focusing on any kind of “happy moments”, the technology needs to work and it needs to be reliable. This has nothing to do with design or UX, it is about the basic functionality. Only after that can you think about usability, and then focus on creating happy, delightful moments. If you do not have basic functionality, delight actually works against you. The user will start thinking: “Why did you spend all that time making it look good if it doesn’t even work?”
Delight does have its place though. These “happy moments” as you call it, is what differentiates us from the competition. Delight is the tie-breaker.
What is the biggest learning throughout your career?
It was learning to feel comfortable in the space of ambiguity and the overwhelming feeling of not knowing. Understanding that that’s the space I live in. The ambiguous and the unknown is our domain and our job is to make sense of it – one step at a time. That insight really helped me.
What key trends do you see emerging in UX?
I don’t know if we’ll actually be there in five years, but my dream is the business value of design being an established fact. A higher design maturity within organizations so we don’t have to keep explaining what UX actually is and why it’s important.
I try to do my part by opening up, being transparent and inclusive. It’s all about being generous with your knowledge.
Your favorite books to recommend:
- Less but better by Dieter Rams
- Supernormal: sensations of the ordinary by Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison
Special rituals/habits that help you work better:
Daydreaming. I found that a little bit of boredom activates my brain. When I travel by myself I put music on and put my phone away and just stare out the window. It can be really inspiring when your mind starts going places.
What motivates you?
A love for design and a healthy dose of imposter syndrome.
About the UX Fika Series
In UX Fika series of blog posts, I talk with people that inspire me and whom I look up to as my role-models. The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had a chance of learning from.
For my international friends, FIKA is a Swedish concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea). With no rush, full immersion and being present in the moment. That’s why I thought “UXFika” is a perfect name for meaningful conversation with UX leaders I look up to.