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The importance of understanding people: Gaia, Senior UX Designer in Amsterdam

[email protected]

About Gaia

Hi! I'm Gaia, I do UX and other unicorn stuff. Originally Italian, I moved abroad in 2011 and since then I moved 17 times and lived across 3 continents in 12 cities, including Beijing, Dubai, Budapest, London, and Hamburg. 

My career actually started as creative and strategist for advertising. Since I didn’t find it brought much value to the end-customers, I moved to service design and UX. My first service design project ever was as a co-designer/mentor for a prison rehabilitation project in London, which gave me a passion for sustainability and design as a tool to improve and give back to the community.


Since when I was a child, I’ve believed knowledge is freedom. Hence, my main passion is understanding people, deeply and completely, exploring every facade there is and every possible experience (positive and negative), and repurposing those learnings for others and for their self-acceptance and self-improvement. It might be a bit of a heavy concept 🙂 but it truly helped me in interacting with clients from different cultures and in designing for users I wouldn't necessarily be able to relate to.

Besides this, I also enjoy photography, traveling, cooking and exploring new things through various sources (books, documentaries, etc.).

Tell us about your job. What do you do at Backbase?

My role is Senior UX designer in our Product Implementation team. So far, my main responsibilities have been dealing with clients during Intakes, Inceptions, workshops and a bit of design work. I'm definitely proud of my extended team - working with such talents is a privilege day after day and I wouldn't be able to do my job without them. The excitement comes from each day being different, there are always new challenges and new learnings.

What brought you to Backbase?

Andreas, a Principal UX Designer in Amsterdam Product Implementation team, was the reason why I joined. I read so many negative online reviews about Backbase that I was very skeptical. But after our first interview, I knew I wanted to learn from him - and I was right, he's a wonderful person and an amazing talent 🙂

Moreover, the design culture at Backbase has shifted massively. You can feel it’s THE momentum for the design team and it’s exciting.

What do your parents think you do?

My mom thinks I travel too much and don't eat enough 😂#ItalianMom

What is unique about Backbase's desing culture?


I think the best example is the recent event, Backbase Design Week. This year was the first year when it was a week, usually, it’s a Design Day. During this week all UX Teams came together to share product insights as well as address challenges and road blockers. We have several teams and people from all the different hubs coming in to learn about design and how we can all improve together. This sharing culture is definitely something I haven't found elsewhere.

In general, here at Backbase, I feel a culture of acceptance. It’s not about how you look like, what is your religion or beliefs - it’s about what you bring to the table. Your uniqueness is what is valued. We have a culture where people can freely express their opinion, learn from others and grow.

How does your work/your team's work contribute to Backbase's mission to power the digital banking revolution?

Daily, we're dealing with clients who don’t have a clear understanding of how to jump on this digital transformation journey. Our role is to help them level up and making them independent, turning them into ambassadors for the digital banking revolution. We help them to adopt new methodologies and new mentality in their way of working.

Which project are you most proud of? 

A project in Angola 🙂 I only run Intake and Inception with that client, but they are so honest, receptive and open it was a pleasure working with them and providing some knowledge about UX and how to stand on their own legs.

What is the most challenging about your work?

The hardest part of my job is managing the expectations Sales creates with the clients. It is difficult to explain to a client why the delivery process that was presented during the Sales cycle is longer once the project actually starts and every step in the process (from UX research to agile development)  is there for a reason. But we are working together towards a more consistent message that showcases the value of our ways of working. Baby steps 🙂

Everything else is manageable. You need to be okay with coming into a room with a client not knowing what’s going to happen and how the meeting will go. So a good share of assertiveness always helps me to manage any unexpected situation.

What have you learned since joining? How are you developing your skills at Backbase?

The main learning has been to be patient with me and give myself time to learn in and out products, methodologies, etc, and that's okay not knowing everything right away. I have the tendency to say yes to whatever comes on my table because they're exciting opportunities, but at times it can be overwhelming and the work suffers from that.

Oh, and I truly learned to stick and be consistent with morning and night-time rituals, to take those moments for myself while traveling and not, and to go back to them after skipping a few days.

What advice would you give to someone who's interested in joining Backbase's design team? 

Depends which design team they're joining 🙂

For the Product Implementation team, the main advice is to expect the unexpected at any given point and to enjoy the opportunities that come from it. And for sure you need to know how to engage with people and do a lot of networking within the company, so communication skills are key. 

For the Product Development team, it'd be to let "your design babies" go. Every designer is proud of their work but sometimes it's limiting thinking one's design is the best option without research that supports it.

You also need to have an entrepreneurial mindset, have a ‘let’s fix it attitude’ rather than complain and don’t take steps to change something. This is universal across Backbase for any team you join.

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