Designers, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Chengsu Chen, Product Designer at Facebook

September 3, 2019

Chengsu Chen is a San Francisco-based Product Designer at Facebook working on the company’s ads space. Prior to Facebook, she was also a former design intern at Apple and Google.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

I’m currently a Product Designer at Facebook, working in the Ads space. I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Human-Computer Interaction and Business.

I’ve interned at other companies like Apple and Google, as well as startups like DoorDash.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

My day-to-day at Facebook usually starts with prioritizing my project to-do’s. I start the day planning for meetings and picking up or closing out any design task from the previous day or week, in order to meet deadlines.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

During the weekdays, I walk to my shuttle stop and get to work at around 8:45 – 9:00 AM. After getting home at around 5:00 PM, I work out on Mondays and Wednesdays; sometimes early in the morning on Tuesdays or Thursdays, depending on my meeting schedule.

At work, I have weekly meetings like 1:1’s with my manager or PM as well as recurring team meetings with my product team and design team. These meetings help scope out the work among my product team and I get to learn other projects within my design team.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Create a routine. I find that carving out time to workout, read, or run errands and do chores really helps me find balance. This will take some trial and error, and it’ll be easier on some days than others.

I find that having a dedicated day to workout or run errands helps alleviate work-related stress and it also helps me feel productive outside of work. It’s really important to find time outside of work to do things you like so you can decompress from work and begin prioritizing your own well-being.

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5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I’ve come to learn to compartmentalize my life by leaving work at work. This means that when I come home, I try to limit talking work-related topics with my roommates, my partner, or friends.

I’m guilty of being an over-thinker. Sometimes I feel like the only way to solve a problem is to ruminate on it over and over until I reach a solution. I’ve come to learn that this is not only an inefficient use of my mental space, but it also impacts the people around me.

I also make sure to reserve at least one day of the weekend for myself, whether that’s reading, doing chores, going to the farmer’s market. This helps me fully enjoy my time off and is a nice break from thinking about work, because I don’t feel pressured to be productive.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

The ability to prioritize your well-being and leaving work-related stress when you come home. I used blend my work and personal life by sharing what happened at work with my friends.

I wasn’t able to fully separate work from my personal life and without this separation, I felt like I never got a break from work. I would say really cherish your time away from work and spend it doing something with people you love, or even nothing at all.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Establishing a workout routine (e.g. cardio on certain days versus weights on others) and keeping a personal journal to jot down random thoughts, what I’m grateful for, and personal and professional goals.

I used to journal here and there but never dedicated time to just sit down with my thoughts because I was always on the go. I find that by finding time to write out my thoughts, I can really untangle my emotions. It’s sort of my own form of self-therapy.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I’m a huge fan of Becoming by Michelle Obama. This book has helped me really prioritize my personal life outside of work.

I’ve also really enjoyed The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou. Even if you don’t have plans to become a people manager any time soon, this book provides a look inside how successful leaders think. This book helped me express my thoughts more openly and candidly with my own manager.

And for fun, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg. I love this book because it breaks down the psychology behind why we’re motivated to do the things we do and how we can develop and break a habit through a simple and effective process.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Accomplishing a task, big or small, professionally or personally. Did I workout today? Did I read today? Did I solve a problem at work today? Did I water my plants today?

Being able to check off something on my to-do list gives me a sense of accomplishment, which in turn helps me feel like I had a productive day.

10) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Work-life balance is however you define it and finding balance is a dynamic and on-going process. It will take some time to find the right balance for yourself and your lifestyle.

It might not be a 50/50 split and that’s okay because our priorities change as we grow. Constantly reflect on what makes you happy and check in with yourself to understand how you feel about where you are both personally and professionally.

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