How to successfully apply to the Product Design Fellowship program

The Product Design Fellowship is a program for designers with a few years of experience and who’re looking to transition towards a Product Design role at startups.

We’re conducting the program in partnership with industry partners such as Gojek, Razorpay, and Scripbox, so that learners get mentorship from professional designers and also stand a good chance of going on to working with them. The program includes masterclasses, mentorship, and most importantly, helps fellows build a real-world project and present it on Demo Day to prospective employers.

If you identify with the intended audience and the goals of the program, this guide is specifically written for you. We wrote this guide to give you a sense of how the application process works, so you can give yourself the best chance of making it through.

Portfolio round

The application requires a link to your portfolio. In your portfolio, please make sure to include details such as:

  • Problem statement
  • Who the product or service was designed for
  • What your individual contributions were
  • Design process that was followed
  • User research conducted and insights gathered
  • Alternatives considered and why the final design choice was chosen
  • The business or social impact of the project

We sometimes receive portfolios with a few images and no explanation. In such cases, we don’t know if you designed the content in the images, what your specific role was, or what the context was in which it was designed for. Telling us on how you made an impact, will help us better assess your application.

Interview round

Project contributions and takeaways

During the interview, we’ll ask you to tell us about a project that you’ve been involved in and that you’re really proud of. Each interview lasts for about 15 minutes, so we prefer to keep the conversation highly focused on your contributions and what you learned from the experience.

On your challenges

We’ll typically ask you about a challenge you’ve faced in your career. Please make sure to mention why your challenge was particularly difficult, how you approached it, and what the impact was. It’s fine if you sought the guidance of a mentor or a friend, that’s actually a great sign that indicates a strong intent to grow.

Everyone faces challenges in their careers. What we’re looking for is evidence that you were able to overcome a particular challenge with grit and perseverance.

This is crucial since the Fellowship program will have you working on a project and will inevitably present multiple challenges in the course of 3 to 6 months. We want to ensure that you are the kind of person who isn’t going to buckle under pressure, and instead will make full use of the community and resources we’re putting together for you.

Project work

In your application, you will need to specify a project brief that you are personally excited to work on. The project is the key part of the fellowship and everything revolves around it. It’s also an opportunity to breathe life into an idea you’re excited about, and transform it into a real project.

Please be specific in terms of the project you’d like to undertake as part of the Fellowship program. For instance, here’s a brief example of a project description.

I often make and get requests to meet professionally, but I don’t think Calendly adequately solves this problem. I do sense awkwardness when people are asked to book a slot. So, I’d like to design a product for professionals (eg: consultants, managers, leaders, sales) that makes it comfortable and seamless to ask for and schedule meetings.

The purpose of the project is twofold. Firstly, it serves as a vehicle for you to develop core design skills such as product strategy and user research. For instance, the masterclasses present topics and experiences that will make a lot more sense while you’re building a project. Mentorship too is more effective as it will provide mentors with a specific context to give you their guidance and feedback.

Next, you will present your project on Demo Day to Chief Design Officers, Heads of Designs, Senior Designers, and Hiring Managers. This is an excellent opportunity for you to show how you’re ready for a role as a Product Designer.

Final notes

Make sure to read the program page carefully, as we’d like to spend time during the interview discussing your application. If you do have questions that haven’t been addressed on the program page, please feel free to write to us beforehand.

We really want to admit you. It’s in our interest, both financially and in service of our mission, to admit you to our program and help you succeed. But, you have to help us with this. And, if your application isn’t accepted, it in no way signals that you aren’t good enough. It is definitely not personal. It’s also likely we’ve made a mistake. We don’t look at ourselves as arbiters of who gets the opportunity to participate in the Fellowship program, we want to admit as many as the program can handle.

But, given the number of mentors we have on board and the number of applications we get, we end up having to prioritise based on who seems like a good fit at this time. So if your application doesn’t make it through, please take it as “now is perhaps not the best time”. More importantly, please do apply again to a future cohort by adding a project or an internship to your portfolio. As mentioned, we really want to accommodate as many designers as we can.

If you follow this guide and articulate your ideas clearly, it’s very likely you’ll be through. While this guide is specifically for written for the Product Design Fellowship program, we suspect it’s also a useful reference to keep around while interviewing for a job. Good luck!

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