Cheers, Kimberly Nguyen-Don

CX happy hour
7 min readDec 3, 2021

We’re stoked to be catching up with Kimberly Nguyen-Don, Kim is a product designer at Australian Life Tech working on 28 by Sam Wood. Hailing from Canada, Kim is an experience design unicorn, with the SD, UX, UI trifecta. When she’s not busy in Figma, you’ll find Kim exploring new trails across Melbourne, or doing dance work-outs with friends to the latest K-pop!

Welcome to CX happy hour! Can I get you a drink?

For brunch, you would find me sipping on an oat latte or matcha latte. With you, most likely a glass of sangria or G&T! Cheers to that!

Our fave first question, what is your design superpower?

Spotting typos and misaligned artwork within seconds. Transforming ugly designs into beautiful assets. Making presentations look pretty slick. Having an open mind to learn and be taught new things every day!

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what my design superpower is but having a range of experiences and working with multiple teams across the globe has helped me see the world from different perspectives.

I’ve learned to design for diversity and inclusion and think about how digital experiences would be different for diverse user types, including teenagers, people who are non-tech savvy, people who speak English as their second language, and many others!

What was your pathway into design and to the role you have today?

Before getting into UX design/product design, I worked as a marketing coordinator at a tech accelerator. Imagine a huge co-working space full of tech start-ups with our team hosting Dragon Den-esque events every month or so. Working in the tech industry was very exciting as I was able to meet a lot of amazing people who worked on innovative products and impactful solutions. I knew that working at a product company could be a fun experience, so that was a goal I began to strive for.

In 2016, I bought a one-way ticket to Australia from Canada without a job lined up. I started freelancing for multiple clients and after participating in a hackathon, secured a full-time gig at Telstra. Initially I joined as a cloud services creation analyst, but due to company changes and restructures, I reached out to connect with a team full of incredible service designers,
UX-ers, and content creators. With my background in marketing and product I took on the ‘creative hustler’ role (yes, that was my real job title!) and started getting into experience design. I still remember my first opportunity to run a customer journey mapping session. I felt a bit nervous but stepped up and gave it a shot, knowing I had a great team who had my back.

Fast forward to now, I could say that I’m a much more confident designer with a lot more experience under my belt! I’ve worked with a range of clients at Deloitte Digital, including Officeworks, NAB, VicRoads, and the Department of Transport.

I mentioned my initial goal to join a product company… well, now I’m living the dream and doing exactly that! I’m the product designer at 28 by Sam Wood, a fitness technology start-up helping people live healthier lives.

What is the most important lesson you have learnt as a designer?

You must learn to be adaptable! Requirements may change, new scenarios may be introduced, multiple teams may have different types of feedback, user testing participants may not show up, the list goes on!

As a designer, it’s hard to predict every single scenario that may occur during your project and estimate how long it may take to finalise designs, but that’s part of the fun of the design process.

Being able to work with multiple stakeholders and teams and having the ability to collaborate, to create a great product experience becomes extremely rewarding.

What motivates you to keep doing what you do every day?

Working closely with a driven team and knowing that our product has changed the lives of many people! When I first started in my role, I pointed out an insane amount of experience issues and highlighted reasons why I wouldn’t use the app. As I spent more time learning about the culture and community and playing around with the various features of the app, I could see why people were loving the program and how it helped transformed their lives. My goal is to continue to create an engaging product experience, to change even more peoples lives for the better.

What do you do to inspire creative thinking or get ‘un-stuck’?

Whenever I need creative inspo, I head to Dribbble and drool over all the amazing designs. I also have my favourite mobile apps and websites that I refer to whenever I need to understand different digital experiences.

I tell myself that my designs don’t need to look ‘perfect’ from the beginning. As long as I’ve thought about the different flows and pathways and have mocked up some initial screens, then that’s a good starting point to showcase to my stakeholders and receive feedback from them. I know there will be continuous change, so it’s better to get feedback early on and iterate as needed.

What are you most proud of as a designer?

Overcoming imposter syndrome! I had many friends from university that studied interaction design and UX/UI, so their skills were top-notch and their online portfolios were insanely wicked. Because I didn’t formally study UX/UI design, I found it hard to call myself a true “designer” for quite some time. Eventually, the more experience I got and the more clients I worked with, I became more confident as a designer and recognised the importance of my ability to create seamless experiences for customers.

What are you aspiring to in the future?

As cheesy as it may sound, at this stage in my life, my current job is actually my dream job! I get to spend my day creating amazing experiences, designing for iOS and Android mobile apps, working with a driven group of people. I work in an industry I’m really passionate about, and love knowing that I’m helping create a positive impact on people’s lives.

However, the real dream would be to own a business where I could make passive income while I’m exploring the world. I have yet to figure out that last bit. ;)

What do you do to disconnect and unwind?

As a Vancouverite, I absolutely love hiking and surrounding myself in nature. During the multiple Melbourne lockdowns, my partner and I made it our mission to explore all of the local reserves within 5 kilometres of our place, we are blessed with nearby lakes and forests to explore! During the weekdays, you can find me binge-watching reality TV shows, trying out new TikTok recipes, or dancing to K-pop music with friends via Zoom.

How do you make ‘flexible work’ work for you?

I love working from home because my daily commute is reduced from 1 hour to 5 mins and I can eat as many snacks as I want to. I do miss working with my team face-to-face and being able to enjoy simple coffee walks with them! Fortunately, we have tools and resources that allow us to stay connected and work cohesively as a team with frequent virtual team catch-ups.

Something I love about our organisation is that we let each other know if we are away or busy via our Slack status. You could go for a run, munch on some grub, take a stroll out in the sun, and not have to be glued to your desk from 9 to 5. It’s a great way to show that we are all humans and need to take breaks throughout the day. Also, as a health and fitness company, we are definitely encouraged to get in a yoga session throughout the day or practice mindfulness activities!

How do you get into the flow of work?

It depends on the day! If I need to concentrate and focus on completing a task that requires critical thinking, I can happily do so without music. The less distractions, the better. If I have a large design task and have the freedom to be creative, the first song I would blast would be ‘Faded’ and then end up listening to the rest of Alan Walker’s songs. Other fun songs to hype me up would be ‘God’s Menu’ or ‘Back Door’ by Stray Kids if you’re into K-pop! ;)

What are your go to design tools?

Figma for all the things! To mock-up my designs, develop prototypes, document existing experiences and flows, and create pretty presentations. I even created my portfolio and presented case studies on it when I was interviewing at different companies earlier this year. The Figma Community section is a gold mine of reusable components, icons, templates, and resources. They have some pretty great assets that can make your life as a designer much easier!

Any recommendations for our reading, viewing, listening lists?

Watching someone create masterpieces from pure passion is extremely amazing and inspiring to me! I love watching any competition-based series on Netflix such as Glow Up, Next in Fashion, or the Final Table. I appreciate that these shows are highlighting the blood, sweat, and tears required to master such great skill.

If you’ve enjoyed our chat with Kim as much as we have, you can continue the conversation in the comments section or connect online!

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