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A few years after Leah Sass got her first UX/UI job as the Lead Product Designer, the market was in flux, and the company started to consider laying off their key staff. The excitement of the job quickly wore off as Leah felt the pressure to perform. She would need to fight for her leadership position and expertise. As far as the title, Leah thought it was just another title. She led nothing. And there was no design team.  

Steadying herself into her role, she began to question everything she had known as a designer and a creative. How could she go beyond just pushing pixels and start to make a real impact? She wanted more data-driven designs. 

When all was out of her reach, Leah embraced a familiar pattern: the imposter syndrome. 

First, she looked at the tasks she worked on and how they seemed to have appeared out of thin air with no rhyme or reason. There is no data to back them up and no roadmap to direct where they would go. She began to flail: clicked the mouse, designed something, deleted, redesigned, swung arms and stared long at the screen, wishing she had a better thing to do.  


That’s when Leah saw a post on LinkedIn by a college friend, Matt Johnson. Matt announced that he would be leading a workshop during Echos inaugural 12-Week Design Leadership Course. Curious, she followed the link to Echos’ website to learn more about the course. She questioned the word “leadership.” Despite her title, she hesitated and thought she would be over in her head. “Leadership is not what I am,” she reasoned. Reluctantly, she signed up for the course even though she had no idea what it would mean to her career.

During the workshop’s first session, Leah listened to Andy Polaine talk about how all design leaders experience a “dip” as they transition from doer to leader. That dip in emotions and enthusiasm. That “am I good enough?” feeling.  


(Watch a sample of Andy Polaine talk here)

This was a lightbulb moment for Leah. “Oh my god!” she thought, “this is exactly how I feel!” She knew at that moment that she had made the right decision signing up for the course. 

It turns out Leah is not the only one who feels this way. A recent survey dives (explicitly focussing on the ad industry) into the overall sentiment of creatives throughout the pandemic. Here are the findings:

  • 61% of creatives say they have felt less creative in their work throughout the pandemic.
  • 42% of creatives say they feel burnout every so often, while 27% say they consistently and currently feel it. Only 10% of respondents answered that they don’t experience burnout at all.
  • Of those creatives that feel burnout, over 50% place the blame on the number of hours worked and lack of motivation in their work.
  • Almost 60% of creatives say they feel fairly compensated for their work, while over 50% of creatives are still considering switching career paths.

Source of data: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210908005379/en/


Have you ever experienced a dip in your design career, and how did you overcome it? (A Poll)

Another subject that resonated with Leah was Workflow Management. Even though she was a “team of one”, she didn’t know how to create the most productive and collaborative process cross-functionally with her developers and product managers. In the Echos’ Design Leadership Workshop with Matt Johnson, Leah learned how to lead products and teams in areas that need maintenance and how one doesn’t need to try to do everything simultaneously. 

Workshop by workshop, masterclass by masterclass, Leah began to see the missing pieces of her creative leadership experience. How she had struggled to articulate the values of design. And how she could influence the business as a whole by aligning with the company goals as a designer. 

And just as she eased into her visionary self, she was laid off from the job that brought her to the journey of design leadership. 

It all happened so swiftly and, actually, pretty perfectly. Swiftly because Leah didn’t see it coming. Perfectly, because it was the pause she needed to reset.  

In the middle of the chaos of being let go, a B2B SaaS fintech startup invited Leah for a job interview. She knew what she was going to do. This time around, Leah didn’t question if the job was above her capabilities. Before she even finished her 30-days’ severance period, she signed the contract with the startup.

When asked what has changed in her new position as the Lead Product Designer of a very complicated SaaS fintech product, she mentions a few things

  1. She no longer feels like an imposter
  2. She feels she is deserving of her title, although it’s the same.
  3. She is feeling more confident to seek knowledge and practice.
  4. She now sets quarterly goals using some of the workstreams taught during the workshop. 


Watch Leah’s ONE MINUTE Video story here.


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Kehinde Bademosi

Kehinde Bademosi is a storytelling strategist who created and managed the Baltimore City Health Department’s social innovation department through Johns Hopkins University. Before working in the public sector, Kehinde was the Executive Creative Director of DraftFCB, Lagos, where he managed diverse talents and creatives for clients across many countries.

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