December 13, 2021

Inside Scoop- Jerry Cheung

Inside Scoop- Jerry Cheung

A self taught designer, Jerry has straddled the intersections of design and product management throughout his career. Now as a product designer for Earnest, he designs with the philosophy that design should help people determine the best decisions for themselves. Outside of design, he continues to expand his creative realm through cooking to appreciate new cultures, histories, techniques and visual design.

  1. Hi Jerry, care to share a little bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m Jerry, I’m a product designer at Earnest. I help imagine how we might provide new resources and products for students as they embark on their financial journeys. In my spare time, I like to cook and make delicious cocktails if I’m at home; and if I’m outside, I like to fish, play soccer and basketball, and relax in some nice hot springs. 

On the journey of being a Self-taught Designer

Becoming a self taught designer truly takes a village. Without the support of mentors, loved ones, and myself, I wouldn’t have made it. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of mentors ask me challenging questions that pushed me to make my designs better and better. My friends and family supported me when I didn’t have it all figured out. The support of mentors and loved ones made it all the more easier to think about design all the time. With a solid foundation in support, resilience, and passion, it became a matter of putting myself out there until the powers that be rolled something in my favor. 

  1. What new discovery or hobby did you pick up during the pandemic?

I’m really into cooking and a huge part of that comes from sitting at home during the pandemic. If I had it my way, I’d be a world class chef and designer.

  1. Tell me something that won’t come up in a conversation.

Let's see, recently, While enjoying the scenery at a local beach, I noticed that there were mussels attached to the rocks. We looked it up and there weren’t really too many ethical and legal concerns behind picking a few up for dinner. We ended up taking them home and made a really, really awesome seafood pasta with some of the mussels from the ocean. This experience was an awesome way for me to get closer to how I source my own food!

Jerry’s Go-To Book

  1. In what way do you think design impacts the world, and how do you contribute to it?

Design has various levels of impact across different institutions and organizations, depending on how it's implemented, and how much of it is implemented. Good design helps people quickly and efficiently accomplish what they want to accomplish, which is especially true in fintech. In my role, I always consider whether the design I’m proposing could result in some costly user errors. My job means that I’m often working with people's money, so it's really imperative to make sure that users are informed about the types of decisions they can and should make. A lot of what I think about these days is how design can support users in making well informed decisions

  1. Tell me about a time you struggled and didn’t know how to overcome it but you did. 

I once worked for a company where there wasn't a product manager in place for a few months. This was a challenge I had not expected. I took on the role of the product manager and the product designer at the same time, doing the exploratory work, the coordination work and then also the design work as well. Luckily for me, my education and my previous consulting experiences had prepared me with similar situations before.

I leveraged research to create a  vision that balanced the needs of the business, our engineering counterparts, and our users. After that, I sold the vision to our stakeholders and then designed it and saw it through to implementation. The project ended up doing really well and I got recognized for my work!

Balancing Two Roles 

Balancing being a PM and a designer depends on the goals of the project. In the story above, my goals were to maximize user value and accommodate technical constraints in our machine learning models alongside our backend & front-end development. In the exploratory phase, I tried to do as much research as possible, whether that meant talking to users, scavenging existing user research, looking at competitors, referencing the Nielsen group – whatever it takes. From there, I sketched prototypes and worked closely with our machine learning and full stack engineers to understand opportunities and constraints. I also worked closely with stakeholders and other product folks to draw upon their ideas and make sure we’re delivering business value. Once a direction was set, I started working with the engineering team to start implementing what we may need on the backend as I work on the front-end designs. We then circled back, developed the project, and I along with the QA team reviewed and combed through the designs before and after it went to production. From there, it was a matter of tracking the metrics we were trying to hit and making iterations to move the needle!

Jerry’s movie of the year

  1. What kind of mentorship do you wish to provide and why?

I would love to be a thought partner to other designers in terms of the design problems that they face. We can talk craft about your design process, a specific project you’re working on, or whatever they’re interested in as of late.

  1. What are the most common questions you get as a mentor and how do you usually answer them?

It's been a bit different every time. I advised my first mentee on his research direction for some mid-stage exploratory work. I’ve also helped with visual design, drawing upon what my mentee knew about his users and then highlighting how we can calibrate his visual hierarchy and styling accordingly. Another session was centered around navigating situations where designers have to advocate for design & research – so the conversations range across the spectrum.

  1. If there’s one thing you could tell to every single mentee you meet, what would that one piece of advice be?

Given that ADPList focuses on those early in their career, I’ll direct this to people breaking into the industry. I urge you to think of your portfolio as a product that should undergo the full rigor of your process (research, prototyping, iterations, etc). My limited scope suggests this: initially speaking, visuals are king. When you think about the persona of a recruiter, they're going through a ton of portfolios, and they have a lot of other responsibilities at hand, the best way you can grab their attention is to effectively tell stories visually. Oftentimes, recruiters look at the portfolio for a few seconds, and then decide if they want to take the time to read about your UX decisions. If you have a lot of text on your portfolio, my suggestion would be to think about how you might alleviate some of that cognitive load for recruiters.

Jerry’s Most Listened Song