Lama Ziyadah | Product Design | Internship Experience

August 1, 2021

10 minutes read
10 minutes read

August 1, 2021

Hello 👋, my name is Lama and I’m a product design intern at Sabbar. After graduating from Monash University with a computer science degree and one existential crisis later, I have ultimately decided that coding does not fuel the kind of creativity that I was into. Therefore, I have embarked on to search for something in between the technical and the creative and that is how I ended up becoming a UX/Product designer 🌚But maybe, you’re more interested in knowing more about my journey with Sabbar. So,……

How I Started my Journey with Sabbar 👩🏾💻:

It all began with a message on LinkedIn from Mohamed, the CEO, prompting me to apply for an internship position, and, believe it or not, at first, I declined. There were many uncertainties; one being that in the case that I was accepted, I would have to pick up my life and move from Jeddah to Riyadh. However, after some (ok, maybe a lot of 🤷♀️) self convincing and persuasive yet aggressively positive arguments with family and friends, I have decided to just go for it. From the moment I started the interview process, I knew that Sabbar would be a good place to start my professional career. I did not know it at the time but I would have missed out on so many experiences, so much growth, and meeting some of the best people. That was seriously a close call 😅

Product Design & Growth, Growth, Growth 🌵:

To be truthful, I have found it to be difficult to adapt in the beginning. Mostly because I moved to a new city and had to get used to new people and new experiences. Working at a startup is also super fast paced and I was really afraid of not being able to keep up, as well as terrified of making any mistakes that could affect the momentum of work around me. I knew I wanted to learn and I wanted to grow but the many uncertainties were hindering my growth. That was where my mentor, Afnan, has helped me the most. I remember she told me that the most important thing I should do during my time at Sabbar was to learn and grow. She has also guided me through the many many (and I seriously mean many) things that made me feel uncertain. Being a raging perfectionist in an industry that has no room for perfectionism was a big challenge for me, especially since I still had to tiptoe around failure. But through the support of the Sabbar team, little by little I started becoming more and more confident in my design skills and the work I was putting out. I have also started to be more comfortable with making mistakes, taking constructive criticism, learning and adopting a learning mindset, and most importantly, I felt more comfortable and confident sharing my opinions and designs (also, felt comfortable with my work being rejected sometimes 😅).I was strictly a UX designer before starting at Sabbar. This has led to some challenges as I had to learn how to be a product designer instead (there’s a slight but major difference between the two 👀). Product design requires not only focusing on your users but also puts a spotlight on business goals which means that there are many corners that would be affected by features I ideate and design choices I make. It was also my first time working with a professional engineering team, so I had to learn how to communicate features from a technical perspective and ensure that I cover all aspects and use cases. Sometimes, I was successful, and other times I was not. Some days were more challenging than others but that is what makes being part of the product design & growth team more interesting. There is always room for improvement and there is always room for growth 🚀

Some of the Things that I’m Most Proud Of 🧡:

I’m really grateful for the creative control I was given throughout my journey with Sabbar. I always joked with Afnan about how I expected to take everyone’s coffee order at the beginning of my internship but I was surprised (in a good way) to find out that no one was willing to treat me like an intern but instead everyone in each department was supportive of me trying new things and experimenting. So, after a while I got used to saying ‘our product’ instead of ‘Sabbar’s product’.

Taking the road less traveled 🛣

I remember diving through our product backend during my first month. I was super admanent to get everyone’s feedback and figure out what works well and what doesn’t. With the help of Yusr, my partner in crime (hi Yusr 👋), I managed to get an overwhelming amount of feedback which has helped me majorly with learning the ins and outs of our product. But….I did not want to stop there, I wanted to categorize all the feedback that I got and to do so, I called upon my dear old friend, affinity mapping 📝

Note: Affinity Mapping is a practice used to organize ideas or insights by grouping similar insights together. Usually, insights are written on different coloured sticky notes and then further categorized until you can’t categorize them anymore.

Hence, the monstrous amount of sticky notes you see stuck to the glass wall in the picture above 😅

After affinity mapping, and the insights we have gotten from our user interviews, I sat down with the team and we figured out our issues and prioritized them based on which were more critical. This helped keep us busy for the next few weeks as we rolled out an enhancement after enhancement.

My first knowledge-sharing session 👾

For training, I decided to take a course about gamification and its impact on motivation and engagement. Gamification and psychology are two strong interests of mine and this course has given me valuable knowledge, not only in regards to how I could improve our products, but also on how to motivate myself through tasks and feel engaged.

Conducting the knowledge sharing session was a big step for me especially since I consider presenting as something I always need to improve on. However, I did realize that I really do love researching and creating slides and that these skills might be some of my strengths 👀

What does it mean to be helpful valuable? 🏆

To give a little context, at Sabbar we have three types of target users:

  • Giggers → Sabbar app users that use the app to apply for shifts
  • Partners → Businesses that request giggers to work for shifts
  • Operations team → users of our backend platform that has been mentioned earlier

Our product helps connect giggers to shifts and partners to suitable giggers.

One of my main goals during my internship at Sabbar was to help make tasks a little easier for our users. A way I could have achieved this goal was by designing a system that would automatically select giggers if the assigned gigger has canceled a shift last minute.

Seems very simple on paper, but when I tell you it was a challenge to cover all corner cases, you better believe me. After around more than a month of meetings with the operations team (who I have respected before but now respect x100000000…) and about a hundred back and forths with Afnan, we have finally finished designing the logical flow, writing use cases and user stories for the emergency fulfillment system.

This is the kind of file that you would save as final_final_version_3_FINAL.drawio

The story does not end there. We had to also communicate and demo our logical design with the engineering team to make sure everything is clear and to answer any questions they had (they had a lot of questions 🥴), they also helped us find corner cases that we did not think about (If anyone from engineering is reading this, you guys are the best <3)

The best part of this project was that I got to learn how to be better at analysis. Each feature could be connected to and would affect many other features. I felt like this part of design was the closest to my previous experiences in computer science and I was glad to find something seemingly technical that I really enjoyed 🧠 As a person that enjoys puzzles (like a grandma 👵), I appreciated how much it felt like one big puzzle that I had to solve 🧩

I recall telling Afnan that my goal was to be helpful. She corrected me and told me that my goal shouldn’t be to be helpful but instead to be valuable and with this project, I started feeling like a valuable part of the team.

Calculating.… 🧮

It all started on one peaceful day when I received an email from Mohamed. He has entrusted me with working on a very secret but also not so secret project. I had to design a calculator that would help businesses calculate savings when it comes to hiring full time or part time employees vs. hiring hourly workers.

At first I was like,

All jokes aside though, I got to learn so many things from this task. Building a calculator was the last thing I expected myself to do but I found it interesting as I learned more about hiring and costs behind things like social insurance, recruitment etc.

I improved design wise, as this is something that I had to design from scratch and working with Mohamed has taught me so many things, such as paying attention to details and thinking about all angles.

What was particularly challenging was the fact that this task involved the business side of things. Throughout my time at Sabbar and until that point, I was mainly working on our back office platform and the Sabbar app. So, it was definitely very interesting to work on something new.

In conclusion…

Sabbar is a great place for growth with so many people you can learn from and if you ever find yourself in a position to apply as an intern… first, join the product design team, solely because we are the best team at Sabbar (and we have the snacks basket). Being part of the product design team has really helped my development as a product designer and working with Afnan, Fatima and Yusr has helped tremendously during my journey with Sabbar and as a product designer, whether it was by giving feedback or by helping with solution ideation 🧡


Truthfully, I have learned so much from the people that make Sabbar into what it is. Thank you for showing me what it means to be hardworking and resilient and thank you for making Sabbar such a positive learning environment 💪

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