Redesign In Action: A Conversation with Anton Chandra

How Anton Chandra went from pursuing programming to running Gojek's DesignOps division.

Redesign In Action: A Conversation with Anton Chandra

By Pamela Chan

It’s hard to believe that Anton Chandra from our DesignOps team fell into design by accident. Born and raised in Bandung, Indonesia, Anton grew up playing video games and became fascinated with how they were built as he matured. By the time university came around, he decided to study Informatics Engineering to make a career out of this interest.

But, in his words, “Things didn’t go quite as planned.” The algorithmic, data-based nature of the field proved to be fairly elusive for Anton’s more creative mind. Nevertheless, he forged on with the degree, finding solace in his involvement with campus activities. Tasked with creating the marketing and promotional assets for these events, he found his real passion: design.

Four years later, with his degree in tow, Anton was presented with two choices: put his degree in programming to use or pursue a career in design. “I still struggled with [programming] and wasn’t passionate about it, so I ended up choosing the latter,” he discloses.

So, for his first project as a newly-appointed mobile app designer, Anton was asked to create an icon and user interface (UI) for a dictionary exploration application. It was through this project that he found a particular interest in UI and user experience (UX).

Coupled with honing his skills in the UI/UX domain, Anton spent the next five years building up his portfolio on Dribble — a platform where designers showcase and interact with each other’s work. Preoccupied with climbing the site's daily ranks, he only notice a Gojek recruiter’s Linkedin message a month after it was sent.

“I wasn’t trying to find a new job opportunity when I opened the message,” he recounts, “And I was initially hesitant: Do I have the skills? Should I make the move?”

Several factors tipped the scale in favor of the move. He details, “Not only is Gojek one of the most impactful companies in the region, I appreciate how the company cares about resolving user problems. Together with great people, the social impact we make on our users is huge.” After speaking to a friend at Gojek who told him that this would be the very space where he could cultivate his design skills even further, the choice became an easy one.

Anton joined Gojek in 2017, working in interaction design for two years, and an additional few months in graphic design for the company’s rebranding project. But it was his work on redesigning the Gojek app’s entire user interface that he looks back on with the most pride.

Taking over nine months to complete and released to all users, Anton and his team tackled several visual inconsistencies and layout hurdles across the app. “For instance, a lot of people still use phones with small screens,” he describes, “The previous version of our app had a lot of information on a single page, so we had to figure out how to merge these needs and challenges together.”

In addition to designing a more dynamic, visually cohesive interface, they also developed a UI card — the first Indonesian app to adopt such a feature. The feedback was positive, with users describing the new design as “fresh,” “innovative,” and “inspiring.” He admits, “This was the first project I worked on here where I saw its impact firsthand. I’m very satisfied with what my team and I came up with.”

Just two years later, Anton was entrusted with another major project: revamping the design team’s hiring process, which entailed reworking their hiring guidelines, case studies, and interview questions. “This is how I ended up leading the team’s DesignOps division,” he adds, which is the “central nervous system” of the design team. They manage the effectiveness and quality of Gojek’s designs by accelerating the team’s people, culture, practices, and tools.

The evolution of Anton’s job scope illustrates the fast-evolving nature of the company, bringing with it ample growth opportunities. Mentorship programs, workshops, showcases, guest speaker events, and retrospectives are just some of the many avenues the Design team provides to ensure continued learning for its members. Relatedly, out of the team’s seven specializations, it’s not uncommon for designers to dabble in each one. “We aren’t limited to just our area of expertise here,” Anton points out.

And the sheer size of the company means exploring more problem spaces with colleagues from all walks of life. Anton expresses, “I love that whenever I have a DesignOps problem, I can invite people from the HR, Product Management, and Engineering teams to collaborate with me and our design managers in solving organizational issues. People here are very willing to help, and this helps me produce more nuanced solutions while gaining an understanding of what other teams do.”

In retrospect, Anton believes that Gojek has trained him to take ownership of his work and push his problem-solving skills to their limits. “When you’re given a problem to solve, you’ll of course have guidance from your manager," he explains, "but all the steps and solutions are up to you to decide. This has really taught me how to think for myself — a big change I’ve seen since joining Gojek.”

Finally, when asked what designers can expect to gain from joining the team, he reveals, “It’s simple. If you’re someone who loves working within an unending stream of problem spaces, who’s never satisfied when you reach the top, who wants to grow both personally and professionally, Gojek is the place for you. Through pushing the envelope on what constitutes great design, we also get to help solve real-life problems that improve millions of lives.”

It’s safe to say that the past Anton standing at the crossroads of pursuing programming or design ultimately made the right choice.

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