This spring, I’m working as a part-time UX design intern at Pegasystem’s Digital Team.
A month has passed since my start day. So I wanted to take some time to share Pega’s digital team structure, what I did, learned, and what to improve.
This is my first time working as a UX design intern in the US, so some of the thoughts may be limited to my own experience.
I plan to do a self-evaluation every month during my internship. And I hope this will help anyone interested!
If you’re interested in my journey to Pega, check out my previous article.
As the UX design intern on the design system team, I’m working on recreating Pega’s Bolt design system from scratch in Figma.
In the past, the team used Sketch and Abstract.
But, over time, the files became outdated. And now the team no longer references the design files.
Thus, the team wants to create a brand new design source of truth in Figma.
Pega’s Digital Team consists of
As a design intern, I have a mentor (Mike Mai) and a manager (Colby Cook). Every week, I’ll have a 1 on 1 call with each of them.
With my mentor (Principal UI designer), we go over weekly progress and any questions I have. We recently started another weekly 1 on 1 to review foundational front-end skills (Semantic HTML).
And with my manager (Senior Development Manager), there’s no agenda. In our first 1 on 1, he literally said:
The point of this 1 on 1 is to make sure you’re mentally healthy.
So, we talk about anything we want (how Alaska is a wonderful place, being an introvert, career aspirations, and a lot more).
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the team hosts dev huddles.
In these huddles, developers will hop on a Zoom call and go over any development updates.
As a design intern, it was hard to understand what they were saying at first. So I definitely had to do my research and ask questions.
This is like a dev huddle except it’s for designers, and it’s bi-weekly.
In these huddles, designers from the digital team and brand team will go over any design updates.
The team’s main communication tool is Slack, with Outlook as the main email tool.
And for project management, the team uses Jira, with the help of a scrum master, to keep track of all the tasks.
Looking back, the first month was a period of change.
This was my first part-time intern experience, so I didn’t know what to expect.
Anyways, let’s dive into what I did for the first month at Pega.
In the first few days, I completed intern orientations and many mandatory trainings.
It was a lot.
The number of trainings and videos I had to watch was quite overwhelming. It ranged from sales methodology and agile software to cybersecurity and WFH policies.
But, I had to do them anyway, so no complaints.
Afterward, my mentor assigned me two courses to take:
Each of them took around 7.5-8 hours to complete. But I learned a lot, especially from the Web Accessibility (Front End) course.
After I completed both courses, my mentor conducted a 1-hour information check on what I learned. All the questions revolved around HTML semantics and best practices, such as:
And for the coding questions, I live-coded on CodePen.
I was pretty stressed out about the information check, so I did my best to prepare. And I think the assessment turned out well.
In my third week at Pega, I gave a presentation to the design team comparing Figma and Adobe XD.
Before, the team was debating whether they should switch to Figma since they had Adobe team subscription.
For context, back in November 2021, the team gave me a technical exercise for the interview:
Create a design system from scratch.
In the end, I created Pega’s Bolt design system in Figma (not everything).
Thus, for the presentation, I familiarized myself with Adobe XD and tried to transfer the design system I made in Figma to XD.
And after countless hours, I realized:
Adobe XD is SO frustrating to use...
I’m definitely biased as a long-term Figma user.
But for building design systems, I don’t see a reason why anyone will use Adobe XD over Figma.
Having done my research, I compiled and shared my learnings with the design team.
In the end, the team ended up choosing Figma as their next design tool of choice.
Currently, here is what I’ve done for the design system:
For now, I have added the main states (default, hover, disabled, and focus) to primary buttons on Figma. There’s still a lot to be done, but I’m quite happy with how they turned out.
After looking at different design systems, I’ve decided to organize the file into:
This is inspired by Shopify’s Polaris design system. Since Figma will be Pega’s design source of truth, the “Get Started” page can help onboard new designers.
On this page, I will create all the foundations:
For components, I will create an individual page for each. Some of the components I have begun to work on are:
There’s still a lot to be done, but I’m excited to continue building in Figma!
The first month was quite a roller coaster ride.
I was trying to balance out an internship, school work, and life in general.
It was a lot.
Still, I want to share what I learned and observed along the way.
Having a list of what you want to learn during an internship can help you grow tremendously.
In the first call with my mentor, he asked me what my internships goals were. And I said:
Because I told him my goals, he assigned me courses to take.
Write down your goals, so your mentor/manager can guide you in the right direction.
In the beginning, I was afraid to ask questions because I thought:
If I ask questions I’ll be slowing down the team.
Hmm... this sounds like a stupid question... Maybe I shouldn’t ask it.
Trust me: It can be overwhelming to join a team as an intern.
The team’s natural conversation can sometimes feel like a string of jargon.
But, this all changed after a 1 on 1 meeting with my manager. He told me:
Don’t think that your questions are stupid. You asking questions won’t slow down the team. I know exactly what you’re thinking. If you have a question, we will all do our best to answer it.
Of course, my imposter syndrome didn’t just disappear after that. But I did feel better about asking questions.
I genuinely want to understand the conversations, and I want to be part of the team.
So, if you’re an intern, one of the best things you can do is to ask thoughtful questions. Be a sponge. Absorb everything you can.
If you’re an introvert, this is for you.
During one of my 1 on 1 with my manager, he told me:
Guo, if I had to say one thing about you, it’s that you’re very soft-spoken. I was like that when I first started. But don’t be afraid to speak up and try to project your voice in calls.
That’s not the first time I’ve heard that.
I value what my manager said. And after reading this article by Tiffany Eaton (Google designer), I’ve concluded:
I don’t have to change my introverted personality. But, I need to be assertive and confident.
As Tiffany mentioned, you can be assertive while introverted.
Assertiveness is about having effective communication and being confident with giving it as well as receiving it.
There are quite a few perks interning at Pega:
Remember, this is my first time interning in the states. So everything is new to me.
At this point, if you haven’t realized, the Pega digital team is amazing.
And, of course, my mentor and manager as well.
During team calls, aside from project discussions, it’s hard not to hear any laughter and jokes for the entire hour. The atmosphere is completely different from my experience working at a bank.
What I love is that the team embraces both professionalism and fun.
And a bit of humor too.
This has been a struggle for me in the past month.
Last week, I had a 15-page paper, two midterms, and several homework assignments due.
It was brutal.
Thankfully, my mentor was understanding of the situation. And I still tried my best to work on the design system.
But for the next few months, I plan to spend a lot more time on Pega’s design system (3+ hours every day).
It all comes down to two questions.
The first revolves around the team:
What can I do to help the team? Or what can I do to make the team member’s life easier?
As a design intern, I want to do whatever I can to help the team. Some potential ideas can be:
The second is about personal growth:
What do I want to learn? How can I maximize this internship? How can I bring what I do to the next level?
For now, I want to improve my front-end development skills. Thus, I need to be more proactive and reach out to my mentor about this.
It’s crazy how fast 1 month went by.
Looking back, I’m happy with how the internship is going so far.
I love building design systems. And I love getting into the nitty-gritty of Figma (variants / constraints / auto-layout).
For my first US internship, I'm extremely lucky to be on a great team and learn under the guidance of a mentor and a manager.
Now, at this moment, it may seem a bit chaotic for me with everything going on (school, internship, life).
That’s why I wanted to sit down, collect my thoughts, and write this self-evaluation.
And I hope you got something useful out of this.
Thank you for being awesome and reading this far! :)
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or by email. Will love to set up a casual call and chat!