Riga TechGirls (RTG) Alumni Spotlight — meet Alumni club lead Liga Strautniece
RTG program: Discover Tech (2021), Mentorship program (2022)
Hobbies: Volleyball, hiking & adventures, RTG
Interesting fact: Liga was a part of the Latvian volleyball junior national team, leading to a scholarship opportunity in America where she resided for almost 10 years.
We are delighted to release the first RTG Alumni Spotlight interview. And who could be a better fit for the opening interview than Riga TechGirls Alumni Club Lead Liga Strautniece?
Liga is a Product Designer at Printify and Riga TechGirls Alumni Club Lead. In this interview, Liga reveals how hard work, the pursuit of a goal and the courage to ask for what you want can contribute to achieving your goals.
Apart from being a Product Designer at Printify (we will talk about that later), you are also the Riga TechGirls Alumni Club Lead. How did you get involved with RTG?
Back in 2021,I was having a coffee chat with Diana Butina who was my coworker at Tilde at that time. I told her that I didn’t enjoy marketing anymore, I wanted to requalify and to transition into IT, but I was unsure where to begin, or what steps to take. Diana, who was actively involved in RTG, suggested that I explore the programs offered by RTG. That’s when my journey started in 2021 with Discover Tech. Intrigued by User Experience (UX) Design, I enrolled in courses and bootcamps, eventually participating in the Mentorship program in 2022.
I felt so energized, happy, and uplifted by the RTG events.
After completing the Mentorship program, I missed the community and events. For six months I was heavily involved in the RTG community, and then after graduating from the program it was all gone.
A few months later, I saw a post about the Alumni Club Lead position. Seeing it as an opportunity to get back to the community, I decided to apply.
Although the idea of such a Club has been there for a couple of years, we finally launched the Alumni Club in September 2023. Our approach is to start slow, see what is the engagement and what the alumni community wants and then go from there. We have many awesome ideas and plans for 2024.
Let’s look back a little. You worked in marketing for 6 years, moreover, you held the position of Marketing Manager. What aspects of your job led to your dissatisfaction?
At the start of my career, I had a deep passion for marketing. I thrived in the creative world, handling various tasks like running campaigns, crafting advertisements, managing communications, and producing content such as press releases, articles, blog posts, and even international expositions. However, after a few years in the industry, I noticed a decline in my sense of fulfilment and passion. I was trying to imagine myself in marketing in 10 years and I just could not see myself there.
While I did enjoy it, in 2021, I began to question whether a long-term commitment to marketing was the right path for me.
And then, during one campaign, I collaborated with an agency and worked closely with User Experience / User Interface (UX/UI) designers on a few landing pages. The experience fascinated me, igniting my interest in the user experience design field. This pivotal moment prompted me to begin exploring a career switch in the IT industry.
I realised that I don’t have to stick with the same career my whole life. Instead, I can use the knowledge and skills acquired in marketing to transition into something new. Not throw it in the trash but use it in the next thing I do.
What led you to choose UX?
The Discover Tech program was amazing — it’s not just reading about the profession; you get insights from professionals who share their daily tasks and experiences. Before attending Discover Tech, I strongly believed I wanted to be a developer because, you know, ‘’they are cool’’, and ‘’they make a lot of money’’. However, in this program I learned that developers receive ready designs from UX designers, sometimes limiting their freedom to come up with innovative solutions.
I remember a lecture about UX design led by Jelena from Tet and Liga from Printify like it was yesterday. As I listened to Jelena and Liga talk about their daily life as User Experience Designers, I found myself nodding all the time — ‘’yes, yes’’, it was interesting; I liked the diversity of the job because no two days were alike. UX designers engage with users, design, collaborate, solve problems, conduct interviews, and conduct research. They serve as a bridge between users and the business, aiming to provide value for the users and meet some business goals at the same time.
From the moment I learned about the UX profession, I knew it was the right fit for me, at least for a couple of years because who knows what the future holds.
How did your experience in marketing help you to retrain?
Lots of things have been valuable. In product design, the focus is on solving problems in a user-centric manner, addressing the question of how we can provide a seamless user experience. In marketing, I was also thinking about personas — who are we targeting, who will be reading these campaigns, so it is also very user-centric.
I was very data-driven in marketing, looking at metrics and analyzing the results, and that is something that helped me and compensated in some areas for my limited design experience.
The business part as well — collaborating with different stakeholders from leadership, marketing, business, etc. As a product designer, I work with a very cross-functional team. Managing stakeholder relationships, collaborating with various teams, and effective communication, including presentation skills, have been crucial aspects. No matter what kind of transition you make between your careers, you can always bring a lot from your previous experience.
Tell us more about your journey to becoming a UX designer at your previous workplace, Tilde. There was no existing position for it. How did you convince the management of the necessity of such a role, and how did your colleagues view it?
In Tilde we had a marketing team, a graphic designer, who was doing banners, advertisements etc. but we did not have a product designer or UX designer. We had a very experienced outsourced consultant, so whenever we needed something we reached out to him, but we lacked this competency in-house. Nevertheless, Tilde is a language technology company with more than 10 different digital language products.
I saw an opportunity, so I created a very convincing presentation outlining what I have done at Tilde, my accomplishments, highlighting why we need a product designer, and why I would be a great fit and even provided a timeline. I even showed specific first projects that I could take on as a user experience designer. I had no idea how this meeting would go — either it is gonna be very good and they would support it or it is gonna go very bad because they would know that I did not enjoy marketing anymore. It was pretty tricky. But I was surprised by how smoothly it went. The next day HR was already working on signing me up for the bootcamp and I started my requalifying journey. I will always be very thankful to Arturs Vasilevskis, my manager at Tilde, who supported me through this transition.
What were the main challenges during your transition?
Amount of studying. Especially doing that while still working a full-time job. I knew I wanted to be a designer and I wanted to do that as quickly as I could. But we each have limits and we are not ChatGPT that can take in enormous amounts of information in a short time.I believe that in the first months, I almost burnt out. I was working all day, came home, studied until late night, and the next day I woke up and worked again. The biggest challenge was the amount of information and I did not plan it too well.
After a couple of months, I realized that the profession was not going anywhere and the company wouldn’t go anywhere, I needed to pace myself because otherwise, I could burn out before even starting the career.
The journey was like a rollercoaster.
At one point I felt like ‘’Yes I know everything!’’ and at the next moment I felt like I was just drowning in the sea, I knew nothing. Then I started having self-doubts, like ‘’How am I gonna compete with people who have worked for so many years in the industry?”. “What if I fail?”
It was quite a journey. There were lots of challenges, but looking back you forget about all the hard parts. Once you reach the goal, you remember that there were some struggles along the way but it is all part of the process. You can’t just go upwards, it has to go like that.
The biggest thing is not to give up when you get down but to get up and continue your journey.
Were there people who supported your decisions and encouraged you throughout your transition journey?
One of the main support systems was Riga TechGirls. One of the things I enjoyed the most during the Mentorship program was coffee breaks where every week you were put together with somebody who is also taking their first steps in IT. I could just talk to that person and it was such a big support because these people were going pretty much through the same things. I had support at home, my boyfriend, my friends and family — there were lots of times I had to say ‘’No, I’m gonna stay at home, I am gonna study’’.
Those people who are not part of the transition journey, they support you but they don’t understand the struggles. Having other mentees going through the same challenges was very encouraging. I had this feeling that I was not alone. And of course, my mentor, my name sister, Liga Letina played a huge role in my career transition.
You need a very good support team at home but you also need to find people who are going through similar things.
Tell me about your current job. What are your daily tasks and challenges?
Printify is a print-on-demand (POD) platform that lets you put your designs on everything from t-shirts and hoodies to car mats and pillow covers. I am a product designer for Printify Pop-up Store, which is an online store that people can launch with just a few clicks and start selling with no upfront cost. It is very interesting because I have to design for two very different user groups.
The first is buyers or end consumers who are going to Pop-up stores to buy POD products — similar to any typical e-commerce store. I am designing that experience — how buyers go to the store, how they find products, add to cart and go through check out and eventually buy them.
The second user group is business people — merchants who are creating these stores. That happens on the Printify platform where I work together with 8 other product designers. Each of us has our parts of the product that we are responsible for.
As a product designer, my work includes problem definition and validation, research, solution design, testing prototypes and doing user interviews, learning from data and user feedback and iterating and improving designs.
Very important part of the job is to validate the designs, test them with users before launching anything. Sometimes only minor things have to be changed but other times you realize that the design isn’t working so you go back to the drawing board. After we launch anything, we always track the data and usability to see how it has helped the users or vice versa. I also watch session recordings of real users interacting with the product. It’s great to see when your designs are helping users reach their goals seamlessly, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes I notice some usability issues after the release, so I go back and improve the designs. We don’t always know the right solution right away, so we analyze and iterate which is part of the product development process. It is an ongoing circle.
What is your current challenge or goal?
My goal is to become an expert designer. I am still a fairly new designer since I have only less than 2 years of experience. My goal is to soak all the knowledge learned as fast as I can.
Would you like to share some memories from Riga TechGirls?
Every interaction with RTG community was special. I have two very special memories.
One was meeting with my Mentorship program team in real life. For 6 months we were working on a project and we met every two weeks. It was still a bit of Covid time, so we met online. After the project, we met up in real life, and it was amazing. You meet these people and you feel like you have known them for your whole life. The bond you make is so strong. And we still keep in touch. The other two girls have not transitioned to the UX, but they are using what they learned in their daily jobs — one is a doctor and the other one is a marketing manager.
The other memory was these coffee dates I mentioned before. Every week I was able to meet new people, get to know their stories and expand the network. I could see how my LinkedIn just grew every week and increased in number.
What is your advice to others trying to figure out their career paths?
I encourage everyone to be brave and bold, to ask questions, to reach out to people on Linkedin. If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘’No’’. People want to help others.
Even if they cannot help you, they often will transfer to someone else. Story from my experience — I applied for a position in a company I liked, and I received a rejection, but there was no explanation for why I did not get the job. I emailed three different recruiters from the company to get the feedback. Finally, they provided very valuable feedback and I knew what I needed to improve.
Don't get shut down after first no. Keep trying.
Thank you for the interview! Is there something else you would like to share?
Riga TechGirls is amazing. It is a special community. And it is great to see the journey it has been through. They started just a couple of ladies with similar mindsets and now have grown into a very recognizable organization that is helping so many people transition their careers. Spread a word about Riga TechGirls.