Shreya Gulati is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Mumbai. She currently works at Upstox, an online trading platform. She is also a contributor to Dysco Diaries, and this is the first of her posts for the initiative. Message her on Dysco if you want to collaborate or work together, or if you want to know about what it’s like to design in a non-creative industry. Shreya has also been featured in a Dysco Curated List of Illustrators, which you can see here.
‘What have I done?’ were my first words once I started working in finance. I was used to the sensibilities of working in a fast-paced design studio. This was a different ball game altogether; this was an inherently complex institution. Two years back I decided to take the plunge, to work in an industry I didn’t know or understand, although it was no accident. The finance industry is rarely associated with aesthetics or user experience, because of its reluctance to embrace design, and also because the industry is always in a state of flux.
It was precisely this opportunity, to ‘make a difference,’ that attracted me to the position.
Right when I started, there were a lot of barriers set up to slow me down. I was suddenly in a room full of people (of course, just men – finance, duh!) who had worked in traditional financial companies, and were very set in their ancient formats and ways of working. I had to prove myself as a designer who could stand up to challenges, and design a great product for our users. These users were people who had grown accustomed to using seamless platforms in every other aspect of their lives, so naturally they’d expect the same from the finance sector. I really had to convince everyone that finance can be sexy.
Upstox worked with an external agency before I started, and they did most of the UI/UX work, leaving very little creative work for me. One of the first steps I took when I joined, was to internalise all creative activities. Everything we do now, is created by my in-house team. I’ve gone from being a lone designer fighting the fight and learning stock market lingo, to a leading a team of designers, collectively figuring out how to use design thinking practices to make our users tingle.
Doing what we’ve done in just two years – it’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s rewarding. Now we’re putting our customer first, we’re thinking about design, and we’re considering how our customers feel about the experience. Upstox’s digital transformation efforts haven’t been quick or easy, but this journey has been stimulating, demanding and well worth it. I have to give props to the top bosses though, they really swept me up in their vision, and never once ridiculed my non-existent knowledge about the stock market.
And the air in this stuffy industry is finally changing too, as more and more finance companies are recognising that their platforms need a customer-centric, personalised design strategy.
My parents still don’t fully understand what I do in a finance company, and my dad constantly agonises over this fact, but ah well 🙂
So, to summarize:
- Grunt work is part of every job. Don’t grumble, respect it.
- Brainstorm quick and hard in the beginning of any project. You can always refine later.
- Don’t always play your greatest hits. Try something new sometimes.
- Parents will never really know what you do.
- It’s strangely difficult to sell someone on good design. But don’t stop trying.