Our Speaker Spotlight sets the stage to get to know our speakers on a more personal level and connect them with our growing community. Read the mini-interview below!

A bit about Raff

Raff Di Meo is a Product Designer based in the UK. With 10 years of experience in the digital industry and a background in business, Raff is passionate about the intersection between business and design. He strongly believes that user research plays a vital role in this intersection. He firmly believes in the power of education to change people’s lives, which is why he mentors juniors to achieve their dreams.

Raff works as the Head of Design at Doddle, a tech scale-up recently acquired by Blue Yonder. His role involves creating international logistic SaaS enterprise products used by well-known brands such as Amazon, Uniqlo, Adidas, New Balance, Nespresso, H&M, and more.

How did you start out in your career?

My career path has been quite unconventional. I have a degree in Economics, but oh dear, it was dry! I didn’t know what ‘proper’ jobs existed in the real world, so I got a one-way ticket to London even if I didn’t speak the language and hoped my grit and perseverance helped me get my life sorted. It worked.

After a year of enjoying life in hospitality, I found a job in e-learning, which opened up my interest in design. I discovered UX design and spent a few years learning independently from books, blogs, free workshops, and events. I practised everything I learned in my e-learning job, and when I felt ready, I asked everyone in the design community to review my CV and portfolio. Thanks to this network, I gained the confidence to land my first job in a social enterprise. I never stopped learning and growing from there.

What are the signs of success in your field?

Working in startups, a big part of a designer’s job is advocating for design and showing its value and importance in decision-making. When everyone in the company talks the language of design, you have succeeded. Of course, this looks different depending on your company and industry.

What is the best and worst thing about your job role?

As a player-coach, I’ll focus on the designer part of my job to answer this question, and it can be summarised by a simple word: ambiguity.

Working as a product designer in a startup, you navigate ambiguity day in and day out. You often build products from scratch and don’t have much context; you need to find it yourself.

This is both the best and worst part of my job.

I love being thrown into the deep end and discovering the answers to open questions where the business sees opportunities. I love running research and ideation sessions and working with product and engineering folks to solve problems.

At the same time, it can also be the most frustrating experience as it’s not always a smooth ride, and sometimes the work you do leads nowhere as you discover there are no opportunities or those aren’t the ones you want to pursue.

What can you advise someone just starting out in your industry to be successful?

In 2023, the state of the design industry has been challenging, to say the least, and starting out could seem impossible. It’s not, but you need to be more strategic.

My advice is to stay curious and look further than just design. Once you harness the core of visual design and user experience, pivotal to the job, look at additional skills and interests that can set you apart from others and make you stand out. This can be related to tech like AI or web3 or unrelated like fitness, beauty, or photography. Use your passions to get your foot through the door and advance your career.

How do you switch off?

I am one of those people who can’t stand still, so my idea of switching off is doing very high-energy activities. I go to the gym to unwind and play beach volleyball on the sunny shores of Brighton (UK)… yeah it’s not that sunny, but it’s still nice to be outside! I also love taking my crazy dog for long walks in the countryside.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To believe in myself more and not to be afraid to express myself.

I am queer, from a working-class background and a migrant. In the early stage of my career, they defined too much of what I could or couldn’t do.

I felt I didn’t belong to certain workplaces because I hadn’t mastered the language well or wasn’t masculine enough. I used to think someone like me wouldn’t make it into the industry or get that job. This is because 10 years ago, there was a massive lack of representation. Now, it is getting better, but there is still work to be done.

What is next for you?

I’d love to use my experience to empower new designers getting into the industry, especially those from underserved backgrounds.

If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?

I feel like I should say something work-related, but I would go travelling. I took a break years ago; it was one of the best things I have done. Exploring other countries and cultures is such a fulfilling and enriching experience. Everyone should do it at least once to see the world through a different lens.

What are your top 5 predictions in your industry for the next 5 years?

I think that all five predictions will be very much AI-related. Considering how fast it is evolving, I can’t even imagine what we might see in 5 years’ time.

I hope we can learn from the societal disruption that new technologies have created in the last 20 years to put a more ethical process in place to ensure we harness the use of AI for good.

Watch Raff’s talk on Customer-Centric Design here.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers for taking part in our panel!