Design Leader Insights - Koji Pereira chats UX design in the social media space

January 16, 2023


Alex Smith: Hey Koji. Thanks so much for joining the show today. 

Koji Pereira: Thank you, Alex. Very happy to be here. 

Alex Smith:: Yeah. And to get started, can you give the audience a little bit of background and context on your history in design?

Koji Pereira: Yeah. All right. So let's start by saying that  I moved to the US seven years ago and I'm originally from Brazil. I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Brazil. It was the first in my family to go to college. So I had this feeling of like, hey, I need to get things right. Then I was already working as a graphic designer demo and I had a band that used to do posters and whatnot. And then at some point, I joined a startup, which that was the year 2000. So we really didn't have a term startup in Brazil. The business model wasn’t  that strong and maybe like too ahead of time. But I got to work with product very early in my career, which I was very grateful for. And then I joined Google to work on Orchid in 2008. Orchid again, this is a kind of announcing how old I am. It was like a social network that was the most popular social network in Brazil and India owned by Google and the third in the U.S. So just after Myspace, I believe and Friendser at some point. I was there for pretty much 10 years and I worked in a couple of products from zero to one. And a couple of social network ideas. And I joined Lyft as a Head of Design for Lyft. And there I was able to be Head of Design for Lyft business. So there, I was able to work with B2B. Work with something that was related to service design, somewhat connected to even industrial design and I had a blast. It was an awesome, an awesome experience. Then the pandemic hit, then I decided to move on and I joined Twitter and I've been meeting three teams there.  So it's search, explore and transit events. 

Alex Smith: Yeah, how have you seen design progressing in SF?

Koji Pereira: Yeah, that's a good question. I think back in time, I mean, it's been seven years, but my feeling is that in Brazil, we have so many issues, like so many problems to solve and the very, very basic ones. So when, I think like when people started to build companies there, they started to think about like all of these very basic problems that were around us. Right? Like you didn't even including like identity or how do you actually make money transactions or how do you you know, make sure that things in your house are working. You have electricity, you know, like very basic stuff and moving to here I was actually faced with another type of problem in another series of things that people are actually around and trying to solve. And it's not that the problems here are not important, but I just feel that especially as we're moving towards a more global sphere and people are really trying, especially companies like Google, try to solve problems for the whole world. It's actually very easy to forget that people maybe don't have running water or electricity in their daily lives. So coming here, I was trying to reconnect with that and make sure that the problems that are so, so big in emerging countries like Brazil and India are not forgotten by me when I, when I'm here. So I was very excited when I joined NBU because of that and I think we're able to think about that very you know, unique problem of, you know, your 300 books, phone, Android phone doesn't work anymore. How do, how do we solve for that?

Alex Smith: Yeah, no, I think that's a great point. And I see some of the new web three or metaverse talk and I feel like there's so many problems some of these companies should be solving today that haven't been solved and they're already trying to think 20 years ahead. So I totally agree. So Koji, obviously you work in social media. How do you see designers utilizing that platform? 

Koji Pereira: So I actually see, I think there's a couple of things, right? Like there's a lot of exchange. There's a lot of people kind of like helping each other and supporting each other to grow. I see that a lot on Twitter. So I think Twitter has this very strong community on the design side and people are very open to just like help each other, talk about issues and talk about how to navigate those issues, how to design better products and so on and so forth. The other side of it is just avocation. Like there is a couple of creators who are actually doing a very good job, just like interviewing people like you're doing right now with me, which I appreciate a lot.  Sharing their, you know, pots. And I see that happening a lot for instance, on Twitter, but also TikTok. On Instagram. And I appreciate that a lot because I think one of the best ways for you to get better at something it's actually, you know, asking questions and, and just like, you know, I think actually teaching is another way to learn. So it's a very fruitful way to just like learn from other people and from their different perspectives and experiences, how something could be applied in different situations. I think for designers, it's actually a very good idea to think about how you design things, how you do at work, but also how you build your own brand.  And how do you actually, you know, differentiate from each other.

Alex Smith: Yeah, I think this transitions nicely into our next question is, which is what type of advice do you have for new designers entering the field today?   

Koji Pereira: Yeah, I think coming to the field you're going to see a lot of people with tons of experience. You're gonna see people who came from, you know, Ivy league and very strong schools. You know, don't be intimidated because design fortunately is not necessarily about only experience. It's also about problem solving. It's also about, you know, visual design. It's also about taste and it's also about, you know, how you can build a process that works. So in all of that, yes, you can learn and yes, schools and experience will help you a lot. But also the fact that you can just like learn about it yourself, just like do your own research. So don't be intimidated and make sure that you have people around you that will support you. And I'm pretty sure just seeing like how generous the community is. There is a lot of designers who are very experienced that will be very, very happy to provide you with support and to just like provide you with opportunities and free mentorship actually.

Alex Smith: Koji, obviously you've been a designer for a long time, and now you're managing multiple teams. Well, what are some important learnings that have stayed with you from that transition from maybe independent contributor or UX designer to actually leading multiple projects and teams?

Koji Pereira: Well, first of all, what I would say is it's a totally different type of job, right? Knowing design well, and being a good designer helps on that job, but helps you maybe 20%. The other 80%, you have to learn again. And I think to me leadership and just like working with people there are many aspects of it. One is just like, how do you actually translate some of your personal learnings into other people, how you actually not necessarily teach, but how do you actually mentor and coach other people to do a good job? Another thing that it's really hard to me is the fact that people are not just the persona you see at work, right?  People have their own  backgrounds. People have their own issues. People have their own traumas. People go through  a lot of stuff that you don't know. And as a manager, you have to be sensitive and understand what this person is going through and just building that empathy that I think it's very easy to forget when you're in a very high performance environment. So just making sure that you take a step back. Build that connection very tightly and really try to understand what's going on. Why are the things that this person is going through? We're just being amidst of a pandemic, which hasn't been easy at all. Right? Like how do you put everything in context and try to view that with empathy?

Alex Smith: Is there anything else where people can find you and maybe should check out some of the work you've done? 

Koji Pereira:Yeah. So what I would say is please check out my podcast and it's I also am hiring and I'm hiring at Twitter. I'm hiring pretty much everywhere I am. So please reach me out. I think the easiest ways to look up for a Koji Pereira on LinkedIn, or you can follow me on Twitter at Kojieumesmo.  That's my handle. It's Portuguese so sorry for that, but please follow me and stay in touch. I'm happy to, you know, connect with people, even if it's just a chat or as much as, as possible, I'll try to, you know, come back to you and have a  you and have a chat.

Alex Smith: That's awesome, Koji. Thanks so much for being open to that and yeah, for the audience out there, obviously Koji's looking for awesome designers to work with and also advice to impart. So I've learned a lot today and I definitely suggest you reach out to Koji. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Koji Pereira: Alex, thank you so much. I really appreciate the time and the thoughtful questions.