This week, we spoke to Derin, fondly known as Atarah, the Figmama, who is a product designer at Eden. She talks to us about her love for reading as a child, doing photography for a while, falling in love with product design and how she wants to afford a soft life. Read her story.
Hi, Derin. Can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Aderinsola Oluwafemi, and I’m a product designer currently working at Eden Life. I live in Lagos for now, before I Japa.
What was childhood like for you?
Well, my childhood was calm. I was mostly indoors as a child. I was very shy and timid compared to how I am now. I also loved reading books because my parents loved to read and had books all around the house. There were literally books on the floor and the tables because the bookshelves couldn’t contain them all. My parents eventually opened a bookshop, so even some of the books for the bookshop were in the house. I read most kinds of books as a child. I used to spend time on devices like my computer or phone, reading books on Wattpad.
Now that I think about it, I used to do many things as a child, like writing. There was a time when I wanted to be an author. My dad was excited about the idea and was even ready to help me get my writings published. I could’ve published some children’s novels if I had been very serious about it. I also took piano lessons as a child and learned how to bake, amongst many other things.
You had a pretty interesting childhood.
I wouldn’t have said so at the time, but I guess.
Did that in any way shape what you do today?
Yeah, it did, in different aspects of my life, in good and bad ways. Let me start with the bad before I move to the good. For the bad, as I said earlier, I was a timid child. One thing my dad used to tell me a lot was how when I was quite young, I used to be this super confident child. I was apparently a people person, from what I remember him saying. He used to say that on the first day he dropped me at creche, I held the teacher by the hand and walked him around the class, just pointing at everyone and asking for their names. To date, I still don’t believe that was something I could have done.
Wow. How did you go from that confident child to timid?
Well, fast forward to a couple of years later, when life started to happen at primary school, everybody became so mean for no reason; I lost all of that confidence, and I became a very self-conscious person with extremely low self-esteem. It wasn’t that bad in primary school, but it got worse when I got to secondary school. I’m extremely slim, and you know how most Nigerians are and their ideal body type. It wasn’t very pleasant. Till now, I’m still trying to get my confidence back, although I’m a lot better than I was before. But then, I can’t deny that it did a number on me, and I have had to make an active effort to learn to love myself again and not see myself the way people used to say I was. That’s one aspect of my childhood that I think shaped me.
That’s quite sad.
It was. So another thing I think I’d say has shaped me into who I am today is computer class in secondary school. It was one of my favourite subjects, and we had a teacher who tried to teach us web development with Dreamweaver. I was one of the fastest learners in my class because it was something I was interested in. However, it didn’t last more than one academic session because the teacher had to leave, and we didn’t continue. I also used to like designing things. We did design classes a bit in computer class, and I was good at that. Thinking about it now, it’s funny how I ended up becoming a product designer.
We see you love photography. Is this something you learned?
I picked up photography while I was in secondary school as it was one of the options for a trade subject that seemed interesting to me. I joined the photography class, “borrowed” my uncle’s professional camera, and started taking pictures with it. He eventually bought me mine. I loved taking pictures of people and nature especially. When I got out of secondary school, I started doing event photography, mostly for my family. I’d cover family events like birthdays and naming ceremonies. However, I quit (event photography) after a while because I got tired of it. I prefer to take nice pictures of my friends or people I meet.
How then did your journey in design begin?
Sometime in 2019, I met someone who was a designer. I already knew how to design a bit before, but I wanted to be more intentional about learning and growing in design. When I started that, I learned about UI/UX and decided to try it. I loved it, especially because it was the first thing I had tried since photography that gave me a sense of fulfilment. Photography was the longest hobby I had ever kept because I never tend to last a few months when learning something new. I knew that for design, if I didn’t put a structure in place or probably get a job, I’d not last in it. It’d become something I’d get tired of and stop doing. So I started looking for a full-time job where I could learn more and develop my skills. It was tough to find one, especially because I didn’t have a university degree and had never worked before. Most places were looking for people with years of experience, usually with a degree in a specific field. However, I didn’t have any of these. I didn’t even have a CV. After I applied to a company and didn’t hear back from them, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to find actual roles, so I decided to start with internships that offered little to no pay instead of full-time UI/UX designer roles.
Tell us about your first job
I had already built this network of people who were also interested in seeing my progress as a designer. Two people reached out to me when I said I was looking for product design roles. One of them, a mentor at the time, told me he had a friend who had just started a design studio in Ikeja and was looking for a product design intern, and he could refer me. He referred me, and I applied, did the interviews, and got the job. But the funny thing was that even though it was supposed to be an internship position, when I went for the interview, they told me they would hire me as a full-time product designer, not an intern. I loved my time there. I learnt a lot from my design lead who I’m still friends with.
How did Eden happen?
Eight months after I started working at the first place, I got the job at Eden, and it’s been super amazing here. Interestingly, I was also referred by someone who barely knew me for the job at Eden. By December, I will have been two years old at Eden as a full-time product designer because I joined in December 2020.
What is design to you?
Generally, design is a means of communication or expression. And then focusing on product design since that’s what I do, I’d say it’s a chance to improve people’s lives. That’s why I love it, and that’s why I do what I do because the things that I work on, the designs that I do help people one way or the other. It’s like with Eden; we are making people’s lives easier. We are giving them access to services they would typically have to stress about themselves, and they can handle all this via a digital device. So, design or product design is a way to make people’s lives better and create things that people love.
Do you face any challenges as a designer?
Yes, I struggle with time management. I struggle with juggling time between the work that I have to do, personal development, having time for friends and family, and having time for myself. I’m trying my best to balance it, and I’m doing a better job than I was when I first started. When I first started, I was so excited about the job. I would close work by 5 pm, come home and work till about 4 am, and then wake up by 6 am to go to the office. I was doing oversabi, but after I got sick a couple of times, I decided to start slowing down. So I know I’m doing better in balancing personal and work life, to an extent. I mean, it merges sometimes, but then there is that boundary. However, I still struggle with just making time for everything.
At what point did you realise that your life had changed since you joined tech and started design?
I don’t think there has been a point where it was like, “oh wow, my life has changed.” I didn’t transition from anything to tech. Although I did photography for a bit, it wasn’t a proper job. Working in tech is my first real career experience. Though, I can say that it has made a whole lot of difference. I used to depend on my family for money and food and the likes, but now, I can afford to get things myself. I can afford to do things that I couldn’t do before. Again, I can’t speak from an “Oh, tech changed my life.” POV. Yeah, it did change my life, but I don’t have any other field to compare it to. Nonetheless, it’s been amazing. I love the fact that I’m independent now and that I can help my family when necessary instead of being helped by them.
Tell us about some of your favourite design projects.
Two things come to mind. I’ll start with this website I recently designed for an agency in Seattle. The reason why I like it is nothing other than the fact that it is very unusual from my typical design style, which tends to be very simple and basic. Or at least, that’s what it was when I started design. I haven’t designed a lot of websites. I mostly just work on actual products. I do want to become a good web experience designer though. But, as I said, my typical designs are always simple, clean, and basic. However, for this project, I decided that I wanted to try something different. I wanted to design something that didn’t look like my usual design style. One you would see and wouldn’t think Derin designed. And I think I achieved that with the website. Although it’s still under development, when I look at it, I feel proud of myself because it’s proof that if I want to learn something new, I can do it. It just requires effort to achieve.
Then I’d say that my favourite product-based project I’ve worked on is most of the things I worked on at Eden. I don’t even know how to pick a specific project. Most people know us for our mobile app as it is what people interface with, but we also have a couple of internal products that control everything and basically hold Eden together. It’s so important that if it ever went down for a day, the entire company could catch fire because it contains everything we need to deliver services to our customers. It’s basically the backbone of Eden and I’m proud to say that I am a major contributor to that product.
We see you’re a soft babe, so let’s talk about your relationship with money.
I see money as a means to an end. I wouldn’t say I love money, but I love the things that money can get me. I’m all for the easy life because I don’t like stress. I want to afford a life of comfort and ease, and I’m glad I’m intentionally building that life for myself. My goal is to have enough money so that when I’m stressed out and need a break, I can take it because I can afford it. I want to be able to travel with my friends whenever I want to. Travelling was one of my goals for this year, and I’m glad I have at least travelled out of the country twice. And I plan to do much more in the coming years, when I can afford it. So yeah, I want to be able to do things like travelling, exploring new foods and restaurants, and helping people. That’s how I see money: just being able to give me a soft life.
What are your thoughts on investing, saving and budgeting?
Investing is something that I’m still trying to learn. I’m trying to be more financially literate. I don’t invest much; I tried to get into stocks, but then I don’t understand enough about it to confidently do it yet, even though I have some money there. This is why I love Risevest because it is simple enough, even for people who may not know that much about investing. So it’s a good starting place for me while I still learn more about investing in general.
How long have you been on Rise and how has the journey been?
I can’t remember exactly. It’s either late 2020 or early 2021. While I had the app for that long, I started using it diligently this year, but the journey has been incredible. Aside from my banking applications, it is my most used fintech app because it helps me with my financial goals. I just put my money there and know that it’s safe.
What are some of your favourite things about using Rise?
I love that I can create different plans for different things. I also like that the investments are in dollars, so while Nigeria is doing what it does best, my money is making more for me. It’s also the fact that I can have all of these in one place. Before Rise, I used to try and maintain all of these in different places, but now I can put all my goal-based savings together in one app. I have my travel savings, money for rent, and emergency savings. I used to have my emergency savings somewhere else, but I moved everything to Rise. And I’m glad I did that because the former app’s charges were just crazy, and the money was not growing. But in Rise, my money is safe, growing, and free of outrageous charges. I honestly love opening the app and putting my money in there.
What are some of the plans you have on Rise?
It’s mostly the goal-based plans. I also have the Build Wealth Plan, the first plan the app suggests to you when you first join it. I use the goal-based plans because I can withdraw at any time. Most of the things I create plans for are not for a specific day. I do not need to worry about touching my money for something because the process to withdraw is long enough to prevent me from doing that unless I need it. And when I decide to take it out, I like that it doesn’t come with crazy withdrawal charges. For example, if I’m travelling and I’m saving for the trip, but I don’t know when that trip is, I don’t need to worry about the fact that I’ve set a date that is way ahead of when the trip is, and I’ll not be able to withdraw the money, till then. I can withdraw the money anytime I need it.
Do you have any advice for young people looking to start a career in design?
I think the advice I give anyone any time I’m asked this question is that it’s a process, so take it one day at a time. Don’t try and rush your process. Don’t compare yourself to others. It is easy to do that, especially as we’re all on the same internet and you don’t know who has been in it for five years or who just started. So comparing yourself leaves you open to feeling inadequate. Instead, let people be a source of motivation. Be patient with yourself and also acknowledge your growth. Finally, trust the process, invest in your personal development, and pat yourself on the back whenever you achieve anything.