In Conversation with Teija Bean, Creative Director.
In close-knit communities, there are certain people who form the connective tissue that keep us together. These people demonstrate kindness, positivity, diplomacy, and above all, empathy to ensure everyone feels valued. Within our community here at You X Ventures, Teija is the one we rely on to keep us supported, positive and united.
So ... it comes as no surprise that after a year of working as a UX/UI Designer and Studio Lead at You X Ventures, she's been promoted as our first Creative Director! Like a Swiss army knife, Teija’s expertise span so many domains within our field they seem to know no bound! Whether she's establishing a new brand, solving complex product challenges or leading a team to launch our efforts - she's always put our team and our clients first.
Let’s dive in!
Maryam: Where does your interest in the field of UX & Product Design come from?
Teija: When I did my undergrad at Ryerson's RTA School of Media, I originally majored in Television Studio for 2 years. Although I really enjoyed my studio classes, I had a background in visual arts, and now that I wasn't using those skills, I realized how much I missed it. Luckily, my program also offered a Digital Media specialization and I began taking courses that allowed me to incorporate more elements of design into my projects. At the time, I had a friend that was working as a UI/UX designer for a local startup. I loved how his work seemed to fuse art with logic when it came to branding, UI and making informed UX decisions.Watching how those 3 things came together, not only to tell a story, but improve how the user interacts with the product, is what made me fall in love. I finally saw how I could use design in a different way; to guide and elevate the users experience.
I started hanging out at his startup's office after hours to learn as much as I could through his projects. That's when I really started to dive-in to the world of design in Tech.
Maryam: How did you end up landing your first role in Design?
Teija: In my final year at Ryerson, I was bartending at a local music venue in Toronto that showcased artists of all different genres. One of the DJ's was a friend of the people I worked with, and after getting to knowing him for a while, I ended up shooting a music video for one of their songs. During that time, I found out that they were working on developing technology that originally started as a way to find out how many people were coming to their shows within the venue, and had begun turning in to the beginnings of full blown company. Their goal was to empower businesses (like other venues, retail spaces - you name it) with analytics on their visiting customers using wifi, along with a marketing platform that allowed those businesses to offer mobile promotions.
The owner of the music venue I'd been working at had become one of the primary investors in this new tech startup, so I could really see their momentum building and they had just moved in to their first office space when my internship term at Ryerson was coming up. I really liked the problem they were solving and wanted to learn more from them and the team they were building. I proactively reached out to the founder and asked if they would be willing to take me on as an intern. They weren't looking for interns, or even thought they needed one, but I was fortunate that they decided to allow me onboard, initially as a Marketing Designer and then gradually progressed into more product design. That's really how it all started. Ultimately, Turnstyle Solutions got acquired by Yelp Wifi. By that time, I'd gone on to a new UX/UI opportunity to work on projects for Telus, Rogers and BMO Capital Markets, but it was that initial startup experience that really helped me understand how product design, development, and marketing can all come together successfully in a real life scenario.
Maryam: Was there anything you’ve felt like you’ve learned the hard way?
Teija: I really enjoyed my time in undergrad, but I ended up feeling like I lacked skills that couldn't be taught in a classroom. In any industry, it helps to be business savvy, and to understand the process of taking an idea from conceptualization, to research, pitch and into production. In my experience, school taught me how to think, refine my solutions, and effectively communicate ideas; but there were a lot of things about the real-life process I only had a chance to fully understand when I was living it.
I also found that I learned the most about my role when I had the opportunity to contribute in a variety of areas. To understand product design, I had to speak the language of a product and project manager, a UI/UX Designer, a business analyst (the list goes on!) I learned the most by doing once I started working in the industry, watching my mentors, and developing my skills in these areas.
Maryam: Fast forward to today - how did you end up at You X Ventures!
Teija: After having an opportunity to work with corporate clients for a few years, I wanted the opportunity to lead projects under a brand with a more creative-edge. I ended up creating Dezign Flo, where I curated talent to work on a variety of projects from, apps - to websites, brand identity and product launches. In the midst of managing Dezign Flo for 2 years, and the trials and tribulations that go along with running a small business without a partner, I felt that my growth as a creative had stagnated with the growing number of hats I was needing to wear. I wanted to be part of a team that was inspired to do their best work and push industry boundaries. To learn and grow in my career from my mentors and a team.
I made a decision to start looking around to join a design firm. After applying for months, I was on AngelList, and our Founder, Jason, reached out to me. I immediately got the impression that the You X Ventures team fostered a determined and empathetic culture. I never felt like it was 'the team' versus 'the founder' - everyone had the autonomy and the opportunity to share their insights to make the work better, even if it’s outside of their role. I feel really fortunate to be able to work in a company that cultivates great energy and great people.
Maryam: Wow! Sounds like you're able to wear a lot of hats in your role here as well.
Teija: I’ve definitely been fortunate. I haven’t necessarily been typecast as one role, but I’ve given them my all. I love trying new things, and I’m grateful that You X Ventures encourages us to champion what the role means to us.
It’s one of the greatest things about working with close-knit teams; we get to decide together how the company evolves to meet the needs of others. In the early stages of any company, it almost requires you to wear a lot of hats.
That initiative definitely bleeds across all areas of our team, and we continue to learn something new from each other every day.
Maryam: What's something you've done outside of your work that you feel has helped contribute towards it?
Teija: I’m really thankful that at a young age, my parents enrolled me in theatre and acting. It helped me learn how to communicate and grow into my own skin. Being on stage for the first time, or presenting your work to a room full of new people can be an uncomfortable situation. Truthfully, it never really gets easier. I just manage it better by arming myself with the experience of trying.
Maryam: Beyond station, or title, how do you hope to see yourself grow in this new role as Creative Director!
Teija: I really enjoy the artistic direction of projects; the overall visual style, and how it translates across platforms. When we develop a brand, I start envisioning what it might look like when translated through multiple mediums. Some places I often go for inspiration are Dribbble, and some really talented Creative Directors in brand design, interior design, photography, and fashion. I'm really looking forward to bringing this inspiration to our client brands and products as a whole, and encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zone when it comes to the traditional ways of telling their story.
Showcase your unique value and get creative with how you do it.
Being Creative Director at You X Ventures is unique because I still get to work closely with clients, and our Design team on the UI and product side, as well as facilitating the larger experience around the brand and the other spaces it touches.
In my role as Creative Director, I'm looking forward to expanding our offerings into new horizons like brand content creation, photography and videography to support more industries in the creative space.
Maryam: What's the best piece of advice someone has given you?
Teija: My Dad has given me a lot of good advice over the years. It’s helped me in making decisions for so many parts of my life and career. He started his own business at a young age, and he had to figure out so much on his own. So something he’s said, which stuck with me, is:
Don’t feel persuaded by the majority all of the time, it's okay to move against the grain. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to try what interests you - don’t limit yourself.