The story started
My name is Yelena, and I’m a Web designer here at Pearl Lemon Group. Honestly, I was thinking for quite a while from where to start describing my journey because looking at the time when I was not at Pearl Lemon Group, it was like a whole different world. And it actually feels like it was.
Essentially, I come from a different background. Originally I’m Korean, born in Russia and raised in Kazakhstan. I hold 3 degrees in Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing & Management and MA in Fashion Communication, PR and Media. And now you might wonder, how the hell did I end up a Web designer? I must say it was the hardest, spontaneous yet the best decision in my life so far, and here is how it all happened.
It all started in February 2021, right after I got recovered from COVID-19, when the whole UK was on pause, and so was I. I was so fed up with Fashion industry at that point because of all those years that I spent on educating and analysing fashion at multiple universities from different countries, and also because of the worldwide pandemic that affected fashion industry and those who has just started looking for a career in that sphere. I was looking for a job in Fashion for more than a year and it was not as successful as I planned. I had 3 part-time jobs that were in a way connected to Art and Fashion, but I felt like something was missing or more like it was not “it”. And so I thought, what else can I actually do with all my skills that I gained throughout my education and various internships / jobs? That was how I discovered UI / UX design courses teaching Sketch, Adobe illustrator advanced and Adobe XD on Udemy. So I thought: “Why not!? Might as well become an Adobe certified professional lol.” After completing the courses, I decided to try and apply for Web designer jobs on different job seeking platforms like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed and Workinstartups, where I was one of the luckiest to find Pearl Lemon Group.
To be completely honest, I didn’t expect that I would go through at all, firstly, because when I saw Pearl Lemon Group official website I was just amazed of how beautiful it was, but secondly – some people could relate or not – I was so mad at myself that I couldn’t find a decent job for so long so that I non-intentionally stopped believing in it.
Hence, the interview process went successful, and even though it was held through WhatsApp (that is the main communication tool the whole team uses on a daily basis) I literally felt that it was the right place for me to be because of the warmest welcoming and the immediate involvement into the projects.
I also was given a caricature drawing of my face to set up as a profile picture on WhatsApp and work email, look how cool that is!
During the first month of the placement, I was still working at my 3 other part-time jobs, and right before I got a placement offer from Pearl Lemon Group I somehow got into designing a merch clothing line to one Netflix celebrity from “Too hot to handle”. Honestly, it was aaall too much to handle 😀 But here is what I did at all 5 part-time jobs of mine:
After only a short time since the placement start date, I had a one-to-one video call with Deepak, the CEO and Founder of Pearl Lemon Group, who eventually became my mentor, sensei and just the greatest boss ever with the most hard-working and reliable team that I met so far.
Thinking about it now, I spent approximately a month trying to show my professional skills at all places and to let every employer notice that I was worth every penny. Although I knew that I needed to decide and to focus on one company because it was just not possible to find time for all of them, but most importantly because I wanted to be 100% focused on my job and take responsibilities at one specific place, but here I have all 5 of them which are all so different from each other. After long discussions with my dad who is essentially my ‘therapist’, and with my partner who sees the spark in my eyes when I do my jobS, I (/we) decided to stop at Web design at this stage of my life. It’s fresh air, it’s freedom of creativity, it’s Adobe suits and it doesn’t involve numbers lol (sadly not really a math person for now).
So, I was left with two options: 1. Graphic & Web design internship @ let’s just say Furniture and Interior decoration company and 2. Web design placement @ Pearl Lemon Group.
I was torn into pieces. It was the moooost difficult decision I’ve ever done so far, because there was also a visa situation that I had to be mindful of and a super small amount of time to prove myself professionally at both places.
A month passed by and I turned 25 (ugh), so it was time to decide. I made dozens of lists of pros and cons on Interior company and Pearl Lemon Group and it was almost even, the only thing the Interior place had and Pearl Lemon Group didn’t, it was the difference in years of existence. The Interior place was what my parents were expecting me to always be at: established, well-known and aristocratically professional (if you can say It like that), well, not really my thing, I mean I am professional but I tend to sometimes be not at all aristocratic lol, BUT I knew for sure it wouldn’t cost them much to sponsor my visa.
And there was Pearl Lemon Group: fun, young, ambitious, open-minded, diverse and I would say…”Futuristic”. Deepak, the guru of SEO and tech, who got his personal and professional life together, wakes up at 4am and reads books first thing in the morning, participates in running marathons, has his different podcasts and you know what else… he’s a TedX participant as👏 well👏.
Honestly, hands up not selling my boss or the company right now, I’m just so inspired by such people especially when I’m hired by them, meaning they see something in you, as cheesy as it might sound I am honoured and grateful to once in a while have feedback from him, get life lessons and professionally grow together with all our teammates.
Anyway, in the end of July, after my 25th birthday when I was deciding on choosing the company, I was stupidly only concentrated on the visa matter and so I – as a goodalwayswell-behaved daughter who listens to her dad no matter what – decided to choose the Interior company and play safe. I set up a call with Deepak to say that I’m quitting, and as soon as he heard the start of the sentence, he said: “How much will they pay?”(🤣). I said the approximate amount and said that it doesn’t matter really, I only need to stay in the UK and those guys could potentially sponsor me, a second didn’t pass he said: “What do you mean, we can sponsor you too! As long as you can stay with us – Hell yes, let’s do it!” At that moment, I swear to God, I got tears in my eyes because I was soooo terrified to say this in front of his face as I really just didn’t want to leave my team at all, and when I heard that sentence – that was definitely the best moment of this year. People who struggle to find a job with sponsorship in the UK might understand, it’s a relief but also a fear not to f*ck up this opportunity, because also I was the first person in the company that has been granted a Working visa in London.
5 jobs, 3 sleepless months, -6 kilos but a stressed yet happy goddamn face.
I did it. I chose Pearl Lemon Group because Pearl Lemon Group chose me.
And then, the process has started. (Further story on the Visa process described later on) I quitted all 4 of my other jobs, started working full-time at Pearl Lemon Group while occasionally asking around about how the visa process works this time. Put all info together, came to Deepak, discussed the process, went to Lydia (Operations Director), started collecting all necessary documents, wrote a training plan for me with visa advisors, and there we were: in a month and a half we have received my very own Certificate of Sponsorship (the most essential document that lets you get the visa).
At that moment, I was involved in such an amazing project with the Italian company that provides private jets services.
Here are a couple sneak peaks of that project. The task was to redesign the current website and to create something innovative, interactive, rich yet easy for users to understand. Designing with full freedom and no boundaries is my favourite type of project because sometimes I have to ask Kaushal (Head of Design) if I can go crazy with some particular tasks lol. For this project I used Adobe XD, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator & Adobe InDesign.
The main priority for me when re-designing their website was to re-think the booking system itself. I had prepared 2 different versions (examples below) of the Booking system, and sent it over to the client for feedback / approval.
So, reasons why I was SO nervous after I sent over the drafts to the client were:
By the way, I have another great boss too! 😀 His name is Kaushal (Head of Design). I’ve been working with him from the very start, if any question or issue comes along, he always knows the answer and is super supportive, understandable and motivating. It was his work that made me fall in love with the Pearl Lemon Group official website – I’m so grateful I have the opportunity to learn from him and his never ending list of skills and knowledge in UI / UX design.
Back to the story.
Monday comes, I send the files, waiting for feedback (shaking, sleepy and anxious lol).
They loved the designs! (P.O.V. Phew.)
But it was only the beginning of our journey on this project. Obviously, some parts of the Booking system were edited, some needed further development and some deleted. Clients liked both versions provided by us, so we were all working synchronically in developing them and finding a way to combine both versions together. Then comes my favourite part of designing – I call it “In my zone”, meaning when the general style is established, I can speed up and provide an update faster.
So, after about 1.5 / 2 months (considering I was on leave for 2 weeks), we wrapped up the Booking system project and fully handed it over to the developers (The developing process started even before I finished the last steps completely as it takes more time than designing).
Furthermore, I assume because of the fact that the client liked my work, I was also assigned to create Business cards for all of their employees and design a 30 pages modern business brochure in a limited time as well. Not gonna lie, the fact that sometimes it happens that some projects are urgent and the deadline is for example in two days (a week in this case), I find it rather exciting and motivating than exhausting (well I do feel tired at some point, designers are humans too :D), but you know what I mean, it keeps me on track, it literally makes me prioritise my time and actually stay productive, forget about my phone, tell everybody at home that I don’t have time for anything so they don’t touch you with household issues (kidding😂). After a long long day of work, especially when the client is that happy, it is worth every second and being that proud of yourself is just the best feeling ever.
I was choosing precisely on that one project to tell about, because all the other projects that I worked on since the start were all as successful as this one, but somehow I chose this Booking system one, not even having in mind the reason why. But now I know, I subconsciously was so sensitive about this project because I was also handling all the Visa preparation steps at that time and this was the final work I’d accomplish before I leave the UK for applying for a working visa.
Thankfully, Deepak was open to all the necessary AND unnecessary help and procedures in regards to my visa. He gave me full freedom (which you already know I cannot live/work/survive without) in analysing the Visa process, contacting different agencies, lawyers etc. Working closely with Lydia (Operations Director), Varun (Accountant) and Akhila (Head of HR), we have collected all needed documentation to apply for COS (Certificate of Sponsorship) issued by a London-based agency called Tier 5 Intern.
Right after I received that long-waited piece of paper (without which nothing would have happened successfully), my departure back to Kazakhstan was right on time (my old BRP was expiring a couple of days after that too). I applied on the second day of my arrival back to my home country, on the first day I was obliged by UK law to take a Tuberculosis test for UK entry. Got the test result on the day of application and successfully handed in the application. And then there were the most stressful 5 days of my life lol. Actually the last day was the worst because on Monday the following week, at 6pm (!!!!!) So at the end of the working day I receive an email from application centre saying this:
A decision has been made. “AND THAT’S IT?!” – I thought. Was it successful? No idea. 5 days passed and only 3 of them were business days… If it took so little time, was it rejected? Debatable. So yeah, I was tooooorn into pieces there once again. Didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, it was just an emotional roller roaster. Couldn’t go out or focus on anything rather than this, so I was just silently manifesting my thoughts and was peacefully waiting for morning so I could just take my passport back with whatever result they give. I made it to morning (lol), and I remember how I looked at my mom when I was about to leave the car to go inside the visa centre for the final time. My face was like this – “🙂“ literally 😀 (And yes, I’m 25 years old and my mom drives me at 8am to pick up my passport hehe.)
I open my passport, I see the visa stamp, and I just didn’t have a face at that moment. I was shocked, speechless and SO happy at the same time, my mom thought it wasn’t successful because of my face expression. We got it. I got my Tier 5 GAE working visa. I really am the first girl in the company who has been granted a working visa, and now I’m back in London, sitting in my kitchen and writing this. Damn.
Looking back to where I started the programme in May and now, it has only been 6 months but I have gained and improved not only the technical skills (thanks to Kaushal – Head of Design), but also time management and extreme productivity in both work and personal life (thanks to Lydia – Operations Director, and Deepak – CEO & Founder), got to experience what “multitasking” actually is, being able to deliver and complete various tasks within a short period of time, working closely with clients and communicate with the team on a 100% remote structure which was completely new to me (thank you Akhila, Head of HR, for all your help from start until now).
I am now a full time UI & UX Designer here at Pearl Lemon Group and I wouldn’t want to be in a different place rather than here, working with professionals and just amazing people AND holding my fresh Tier 5 GAE Visa. I am more than grateful for the amount of opportunities of learning and self-improvement that the company gives me constantly as a Web designer but more importantly as an individual.
People motivate me to do greater things, and my team do that on a daily basis, which is why I can now proudly say that I LOVE diving into the ocean and that I am no longer terrified of exploring new learnings and experiences meanwhile trying to become a better version of myself from any perspective. I even hated writing, but look at me now lol :D.
Last but not least, I am so excited to expand my knowledge in Web design, and so, me and Kaushal decided that I am going to start HTML / CSS training as soon as we finish up with our current ongoing projects. There’s going to be so many interesting, long and diverse projects ahead and I must say I am so curious of how I can contribute to the company for it to expand and grow even more. It’s Diwali season there in India, so all of our India based co-workers are going to be on leave this week including Kaushal, I’m jumping on a call with him right now to discuss all the deadlines and my responsibilities for this upcoming week and I cannot wait to hear it all so that I can step up my game as a Designer and continue my always-learning lifestyle.
Thank you, Deepak and Pearl Lemon Group team, for having me, and thank you all for taking your time reading this.
Hope it was not too bad, I promise I design better 😀