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inside the mind of design leaders - featuring felix lee, design lead at gotrade

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Creative, UX / UI Design, Kristie-Craft...

Kristie sits down with Design Leaders across the industry to get their insight into their successes, challenges and advice. This week, Kristie speaks to Felix Lee, Design Lead at GoTrade and Co-Founder of the ADP List

Kristie: Felix, tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into Design?

Felix: I'm a Product Design Leader and Tech Entrepreneur. I deeply believe in constantly reinventing the way we experience the world around us and beyond, through design.

I started my journey back in 2016, when I was in an Engineering school. That might come off as a surprise for a lot of people because I was pretty much an Engineering whizz kid. I fell in love with Engineering, but I'm very curious and driven to make a difference. I felt like Engineering wasn't really my cup of tea in that sense. I wasn't really able to be creative with Engineering. So there wasn't any room for expression.

That was when I found Product Design (UI/UX). I fell in love and dived deeper, I started working on a couple of startups including Packdat which was acquired in 2018. Recently, I started the Amazing Design People List with the mission to inspire creative conversations worldwide and today is one of the world’s largest community platform for design mentorships. It has been an incredible journey.

Currently, I’m a Design Lead at Gotrade, a mobile brokerage that allows people to invest in the US stock market, starting from $1. Think of it like Robinhood, but for South East Asia.


Kristie Craft: Was the transition for engineering to design easy?

Felix: As engineers, we usually look from a point of possibilities. And a designer, a point of making impossible a reality. Being a student in Engineering school, you work with the same components and you work with things that are already existing.

I wanted to do a lot more than just working within a constraint, I wanted to explore the world and see what we can create. If we could do better, or do something differently, why not?

Engineering is calculated, whereas design is expressive. I think one of the best things about engineering I adopted is the ‘first principles’ approach which means that whatever problem that you solve, you have to break it down into the simplest form and solve it from the foundation.


Kristie Craft: And ADPList, how did that start?

Felix: ADPList happened almost accidentally, it was COVID-19, people were losing jobs and it was a crazy period. I remember that it was in mid April; when I was still in the army and I felt like there was more that I could do to help people as a Designer. So what happened was that I looked around on multiple websites for COVID-19 projects to help.

However, everyone was asking for engineering help but no one was asking for designers to help. I felt like there is a misconception that Design is just about beautifying things, or Design is just a “good to have.” In fact, Design is so much more than just about the looks, it is in fact even much more than the experience; it's about the way people think about your product, and interact with it at every point (see, hear, feel, etc).

As designers, we pride ourselves on problem solving. Come a situation like this pandemic, we have to do something. It’s a global issue and you’ve got to think of ways to help better the world.

In mid-April, many companies were announcing layoffs and so I created a public excel sheet where Designers that were laid off can input their details so hiring managers can reach out. That grew within the Linkedin Design Committee and then that spread. My team and I continued asking, what can we do for these people?

Then came the idea of mentorships. People that are looking for jobs have to prepare their portfolio for the next interview. That was when we started mentorship. I was one of the earliest mentors alongside my good friends internationally. Today, we have over 640 mentors, and we are growing closer to 1000 right now.

That was how the idea came about. It came from a place of sincerity to lift designers up and create belonging for this community.


Kristie Craft: It's definitely incredible and has brought a sense of community to the design world. There are so many talented designers globally, so bringing them all together is amazing. I absolutely love it and sometimes wish I was a Designer again, just so I can use it a lot more!

What were some of the top challenges you faced when creating both your startups and throughout your design journey, too?

Felix: One of the greatest challenges that I face is finding great talents and team to work with.

I’m a believer in working with an amazing team. Regardless of your role, you want to work with a team of people that not just talk great ideas but are incredible at execution.

At Gotrade, I’m leading design and at ADPList, I'm running the community and strategy. With a leadership position at two amazing teams, I feel grateful because these are great talents working together to change the world.

Kristie Craft: I think for anyone within any industry, working with people that you love to work with on a daily basis, who have that drive, is incredibly powerful in terms of what you can achieve.

Do you have a design philosophy that you live by?

Felix: The first one is to be purposeful with the things that you do.

I do my work knowing the intentions of why I do it. When I execute, I ensure that there is a purpose and good intention behind the steps and actions that I’m taking. Great design understands the very deep, innate purpose, then craft your experience around that purpose.

The other one is avoiding mediocrity. You don't have to be like everyone else, you don't have to fit in the mold. That's something that you don't want to do because you want to stand out, you want to be yourself, and I think everyone should do that and take a stand for themselves.

Kristie Craft: Yeah, that's really powerful. I think, especially in design, challenging yourself, because you can end up working or designing something that isn't purpose-led or challenging. I think a lot of designers need to hear that. I'm glad you actually shared that.

What is one thing that is currently happening, that’s got you excited about the future of design?

Felix: Prince William recently launched this entire project called Earthshot Prize. It’s basically a set of goals for us to achieve every single year. It is a very ambitious set of goals that are sponsored by influential names, to help the earth become more sustainable.

I believe design will play a very important role in helping the world drive towards a more sustainable future for future generations. I've been very excited about that. I’ve started speaking to researchers and government officials in Singapore to understand the landscape. Whether or not, you’re a designer; I think everyone should be driving towards a sustainable future.

Design for me, it's just a means to an end. It could come in the form of Engineering, but in this case, it is Design. I'm just so excited and committed to be able to be a part of this defining part of human history.


Kristie Craft: That is so true, from a design perspective, you have to start thinking about how can we make people's lives easier, but more sustainable.

Are there any blogs, books, or podcasts, or any resources that are either helping you now in your current role or that have helped you in the past to become who you are today?

Felix: I read Medium regularly on people's thoughts about design globally. It is a very good way for me to get into people's insights and thoughts on a day-day basis. I read about five every day, they're really amazing.

The other place where I get inspiration from is by reading books. I am currently reading the psychology of money. It talks about money not being just a way of life, but also towards a sense of behaviour and psychology. I enjoy reading books out of the realm of design. It really inspires me by opening up to a completely new world.

Lastly, I am inspired by the mentors on the ADPList. Personally, I connect with every one of them and as seniors in the industry, I’d go to them for advice in/out of work.

Kristie Craft: Thanks so much, Felix. It's good to get your insights and just to hear about your journey. I mean, you are inspiring a lot of people around the world. So a massive congrats to you.


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