Damian Madray is a Senior Product Designer & Culture Ambassador at Neo.
Tell us about your experience at 500 Startups?
It was great. ‘500’ is an awesome program, with a great community. It makes a lot of sense if you’re looking for traction with an existing product (having achieved product-market fit). Unfortunately I was more in the idea stage, and I was also a single founder, so that carried a few disadvantages.
How did you become involved in tech?
I think it happened organically. I started out as a graphic designer, having always worked for small online businesses. It slowly escalated; from there I expanded into product design.
What was an obstacle you faced and how did you overcome it?
It wasn’t easy getting to the Valley, as I’m not from the US originally (I’m originally from Guyana). I‘ve wanted to come here for a long time and it took around five years to finally get my papers. I spent time in Toronto, Canada studying in the meantime.
Everything happens in its own time; however, the time I spent in Toronto allowed me to become a better product designer. So in general I try to not pay attention to ‘blockers’/obstacles, and focus more on solutions.
What is your experience being a POC in Tech?
I do feel it is a ‘blocker’, but I’d rather take that energy and focus it on creating value. At the end of the day, smart people recognize a person who creates value.
I think we tend to focus on this issue a little too much. I’m not saying never discuss it, but just focus on making yourself irreplaceable within your organization. Put 90% of your energy into that and things will work out. Yes we do have to work five times as hard, but the best thing you can do (aside from helping other people) is focus on creating value
What was your perception about the tech industry before entering it? What is your perception now?
I didn’t come in with any perception. I heard a lot of about startups readingTechCrunch, but I didn’t have a lot of expectations. I just wanted to create interesting things, and meet interesting people, and those are things I’ve done!
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to enter tech?
Work on your own projects. Being a creator is about creating things. So often we work for companies and work within their parameters. Doing your own thing allows you to flex your creativity and learn from your mistakes. This can be done while you’ve got a full time job too (just get good at managing your time). Sometimes you’ll have to spend money, but do it–you’ll get so much from it!
Checkout ‘TheGlint’. We design experiential salons that facilitate deeper connections through meaningful conversations, and ‘Hunie’, a community that connects designers, founders and developers for design feedback! Also, you can follow me on twitter.
This post was originally published on People of Color in Tech.