At Cogs, we appreciate the challenges that our candidates overcome to get the right role at a top global company. Relocating is one of the major hurdles, and while moving from London to Berlin might be difficult, moving across the world to South East Asia brings a whole other meaning to the word “challenging”.
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam with a population of around 8 million, and is roughly a 12-hour flight from London/ 4-hour flight from Singapore. It’s also the home to world-leading e-commerce companies like Lazada which is currently in competition with Amazon which is about to launch in the territory this year, starting in Singapore and gradually moving onto the rest of South East Asia. It’s a fast-moving, burgeoning territory ripe with opportunity for those willing to relocate.
We spoke with our candidate, Alexander Clark, passionate UX designer and Creative Lead at Lazada, to see how his experience has been so far, and how it contrasts with his previous experiences in London and Berlin.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where do you come from?
I was working as a freelance designer in London for about 12 years overall. I enjoyed it and achieved probably as much as I could in that capacity. Also a while back, I spent a brief amount of time at AKQA Berlin for six months. It was a fantastic experience that taught me a lot about how to live abroad, and demonstrated that a whole new world of opportunity was out there. It was in Berlin that I met with Jan from Cogs Berlin.
More recently I began to become disillusioned with London, after being there for so long I felt I’d hit a ceiling freelance-wise and I needed to way to progress my career further and keep challenging myself creatively.
So, I decided to throw myself into a part-time Digital Media Management MA course with Hyper Island last year – to sharpen my leadership skills and think about my next move once the course had finished.
Once I completed an MA this January (you can read my thesis here) I was looking to switch back into full-time and I noticed that a senior lead role was available at Lazada in Vietnam, so I applied for the job through Cogs, and I was successful. I finally made the trip out at the beginning of March.
What attracted you to the role in Ho Chi Minh City?
There were really a few reasons. The first was that I had completed my MA and I really wanted to develop these skills in a full-time position. This role seemed to have all the right characteristics, challenges and opportunities to really make a difference in such a developing market. So far we’ve been building on our UX processes, project management, design confidence, speed and design culture across the wider team. It’s still early days, but we’re making great progress.
Next is the destination itself. Vietnam is such a changing landscape and a whole new world of opportunity. I’ve only been here for three months but it feels like a fantastic place for any designer that’s curious, ambitious and eager to travel – we’re just now building up our community and developing a scene. Many new approaches and popular processes, like design thinking, aren’t matured here yet and I am trying to now help to put that in place. Ultimately, it’s an opportunity to make change and make a difference, if you’re hungry for it.
And having spent a long time working in Europe, I knew that I wanted to explore SE Asia and the Southern Hemisphere, and when the chance comes along you have to take it. Moving here has been really easy; companies usually cover all expenses and help with a smooth transition, and once you’re here it’s really cheap, and oh, 34+ degrees every day.
What are the challenges?
The big thing, as I alluded to above, is that many companies in Vietnam aren’t as matured in terms of their design UX culture. Our goal is to develop these processes, raise design standards, improve speed and efficiency, and organically build a design culture in collaboration with the business.
To gain awareness in the UX community we’re working on a series of UX talks including one at Lazada Vietnam, and hopefully one in collaboration with Hyper Island in Singapore. So, there are plenty of things in the works, but ultimately, it’s about getting stuck into the job at hand and really creating meaningful and helpful experiences for our users.
At Lazada our immediate challenge for the design UX team is improving the overall look/feel and experience of the platform, while working on strategic business initiatives. Ultimately, we want to stay as the leaders in the SE Asia e-commerce market. And if we’re going to remain competitive, another big challenge is finding the right talent.
Cogs has been a great help here.
Finally, what advice would you have for somebody else making a similar move?
Just do it. If you think too much about it you’ll probably be talked out of it.
So, I’d suggest three things: Use a top recruiter who has a long-term commitment to their candidates, and who has a refreshing, global approach to recruitment. I worked with Cogs for 10 years and I can easily recommend them.
Second, find the right accommodation. Don’t compromise, find yourself a good home.
Third, plan lots of short trips – there’s so much to explore. Yes, you might be work hungry, but you’ve also travelled half-way around the world for your career. You might as well make the most of it.
If you want a challenge and are considering a move to South East Asia, then explore our live opportunities.
To keep up with Alex, check out his LinkedIn profile here.