I found a community of colleagues I deeply admired and looked up to as mentors

Alex Popescu is one of the leading figures in the realm of UI/UX design at Centric IT Solutions. As a UI/UX Design Technical Lead, Alex balances hands-on design responsibilities with leadership roles, steering the design strategy for significant projects like the Omnichannel Retail Suite. Beyond design, Alex dedicates himself to mentoring a vibrant team of twenty designers, fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Find out more about the opportunities he seizes everyday at Centric in the following interview.

Can you provide an overview of your role at Centric IT Solutions and your responsibilities within project / teams?

As a UI/UX design technical lead at Centric IT Solutions, I have a dual role that involves both hands-on design work and leadership responsibilities within projects and teams.

I contribute to the overall design strategy for the Omnichannel Retail Suite project, ensuring that the user interface and experience of the software platforms we provide align with the needs and goals of our retail clients. Through wireframing and prototyping, I visualize and refine design concepts, facilitating constructive discussions with stakeholders and providing clear direction for development teams. While guiding the visual design and user experience, I prioritize consistency, usability and accessibility across all interfaces. By collaborating closely with product managers, developers and other stakeholders, I ensure the alignment with project objectives and technical feasibility.

Now, regarding my leadership responsibilities within the broader UI/UX design discipline, I provide guidance and support to a team of approximately 20 designers, facilitating their professional growth and success by offering mentorship and assistance in navigating challenges. I also strive to optimize efficiency, quality and collaboration across teams, by refining our design processes and methodologies and by fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Last but not least, I am also acting as a bridge between the design discipline and other departments, I communicate design decisions, gather feedback, and advocate for the importance of user-centered design principles, thus ensuring alignment with business objectives and stakeholder needs.

What do you see as the biggest career opportunity?

As a technical lead, I have the chance to further develop my leadership skills by mentoring and guiding a team of designers and I take a lot of energy from gathering them around me. This includes fostering a collaborative environment, providing constructive feedback, and empowering team members to excel in their roles.

With the retail sector constantly evolving, with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality reshaping the way consumers shop and interact with brands, there's a significant opportunity for UI/UX designers like myself to drive innovation in retail technology. By exploring how these advancements can be leveraged to enhance the customer experience in POS(Point of sale) and Self checkout systems, we can design intuitive interfaces for AI-powered recommendation engines, incorporate AR features for virtual try-on experiences, or optimize checkout processes through machine learning algorithms.

Why did you choose Centric?

In 2016, when I joined Centric first time as a front-end & design intern, I was drawn to the promise of professional development and the opportunity to explore my passion for UI/UX design, with a mentor by my side.

In 2019, despite briefly leaving for another company in Iasi, I ultimately returned to Centric. I vividly recall the reasons behind my decision to return to Centric. During my time away, I reflected on what truly mattered to me in a workplace.

At Centric, I found a community of individuals I deeply admired and looked up to as mentors. Their wealth of knowledge and willingness to share their expertise created an environment where I felt I could learn and grow with pleasure. Moreover, Centric's commitment to prioritizing the well-being of its employees, coupled with its dedication to continuous learning and education, stood out to me as values that resonated deeply. It was clear to me that returning to Centric would not only offer professional advancement but also provide the supportive and nurturing environment I sought in a workplace.

How do you and colleagues make each other better?

Well, we have several practices that I am always proud to talk about. Let me describe some of them to you:

  • Our weekly design review sessions provide a platform for designers to gather, share their work, and seek feedback, fostering a culture of transparency and constructive critique.
  • The bi-weekly knowledge-sharing sessions offer opportunities to delve into design insights, share experiences from our projects, and stay updated on industry trends through inspiring webinars from industry leaders.
  • Additionally, the “design challenges” initiative, with new topics proposed every 3 months, encourages creativity and skill development by allowing designers to explore new ideas outside of project work.
  • Regular design workshops and discussions within the UX club further enrich our collective knowledge and promote cross-team collaboration.
  • By actively participating in Centric initiatives like Centric Express or Summer Practice and supporting each other in public speaking engagements and content creation, we not only contribute to the growth of new talent but also reinforce our commitment to sharing expertise and insights with the broader community.

Overall, these practices play a crucial role in how we collaborate and support each other, ultimately making us better designers and professionals.

What is your favorite project/part of the job?

As a UI/UX Design Technical Lead, my favorite part of the job is the opportunity to lead and collaborate on projects that have a tangible impact on improving the user experience for both customers and businesses. I enjoy the process of tackling complex design challenges and finding creative solutions that address the needs and pain points of users. Whether it's optimizing the checkout experience for a retail POS system or designing intuitive navigation for a self-checkout kiosk, I find immense satisfaction in devising solutions that enhance usability. Also, one of the most rewarding aspects of my role is collaborating with cross-functional teams to bring designs to life. I enjoy working closely with product managers, developers, testers, consultants and other stakeholders to align on project goals, iterate on design concepts, and ultimately deliver products that exceed expectations.

What is your favorite project or part of working at Centric?

At Centric, my favorite aspect are the people and the company vibe. The collaborative and supportive culture cultivated within the organization makes every project enjoyable and rewarding. Here's why:

  • The people I work with at Centric are not just colleagues but also friends and mentors. The diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skillsets within the team create a dynamic where we learn from each other, support one another, and celebrate each other's successes. Whether it's brainstorming ideas for a new project or grabbing lunch together, the camaraderie among team members makes every day at work enjoyable.
  • I think Centric recognizes the importance of investing in the growth and development of its employees. Whether it's through internal training programs, attending conferences and workshops, or providing opportunities for mentorship and leadership development, Centric is committed to helping employees expand their skills, advance their careers, and reach their full potential. This emphasis on continuous learning and personal development creates an environment where I feel I can thrive and excel in my role.

What achievements or milestones are you particularly proud of?

I take pride in collaborating with my fellow designers in the beginning of this year to develop a roadmap for our discipline. Together, we address key areas such as enhancing educational opportunities, refining UX research processes, raising company-wide awareness of UI/UX importance, and standardizing methodologies and tools for improved efficiency. We're dedicated to clarifying career paths for our colleagues and actively engage with the wider software development community, including students, universities, and fellow designers, through various initiatives and collaborations.
I also take pride in the positive impact we’ve brought as UI/UX designers to retailers, our company's customers, and the positive feedback we’ve got from them, following our design reviews with them and involving them in the design process to find tailored solutions for their needs. We’ve received encouraging remarks from retailers after presenting proposals for UI improvements during a demo. They expressed gratitude for having insight into future development and the roadmap, stating that they were pleased to engage in them and that they felt more connected with the product itself and development process of the product.

What opportunities do you still hope to seize at Centric?

I aim to continue advocating for the importance of user research and testing in informing design decisions and improving the overall user experience. This involves educating stakeholders across the organization about the value of user-centric design practices and the tangible benefits they bring to product development. By highlighting success stories and demonstrating the impact of user research and testing on key metrics such as user satisfaction, retention, and conversion rates, I hope to garner greater support and understanding for these practices.

I also aspire to drive user-centric innovation within our organization by fostering a culture of experimentation, iteration, and user feedback. This involves encouraging designers to explore bold ideas, test hypotheses with users, and iterate based on feedback to drive continuous improvement and innovation in our products. By embracing a mindset of curiosity and experimentation, we can push the boundaries of what's possible and deliver truly transformative experiences for our users.

Last but not least, I am keen to explore emerging technologies and trends in the field of UI/UX design, seeking opportunities to incorporate cutting-edge solutions into our projects. Ultimately, I am open to embracing new challenges that come my way, where I can continue to learn and grow alongside my colleagues, contributing to our collective success and advancement.