The Plug-In Programme and the Farfetch Culture

Rita Fontelo speaking at an event for Farfetch


Rita writes on the Design team’s culture at Farfetch and how they helped her overcome Impostor Syndrome. This made her a confident Product Designer. She also believes that the Plug-in programme led her into the unknown world of work.

I think before we enter the working world we have this illusion that companies will only hire us if we are flawless at our craft. We are made to believe a very dangerous thing: that being good isn’t enough, we have to be amazing

So there I was, fresh out of Design School and hired by this amazing company as a Product Designer Farfetch trainee… (how cool!). Which actually also meant I was now a designer with no experience of working in a fully-functioning design team and yet I was expected to collaborate with all of the senior designers, principals and managers… (Houston! send help, I’m not sure I can do this!). 

Even though I had just successfully been through school and then a recruitment process, I was still struggling with the awkward feeling that I wasn’t qualified enough to do the job I was hired to do. I felt I lacked the necessary skills and, at times, I even doubted I had the required IQ to be a designer in such a prestigious company — and it was terrifying. 

Well… it turns out that this feeling I was having is actually quite common amongst those starting a new job or role and it’s called Impostor Syndrome — the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills. (Oxford Dictionary)

After some research, I started to realise why building rational evidence-based confidence was key for achieving both the best professional version of myself and peace of mind. Farfetch’s approach to regular, constructive and objective feedback, constant support on skill development and the encouragement to question everything, crushed my Impostor Syndrome. Giving me the peace of mind that it is enough to just be good. Who knows, we might even end up being spectacular at what we’re doing but that’s not where we’ll start and even when we reach that level, we won’t be spectacular every time — and that’s okay. Working and growing into new roles and their responsibilities is in great part a learning process and the sooner we accept this the sooner we’ll stop trying to hide what we don’t yet know and start asking about it. The sooner we’ll be better at our jobs and kinder to our mental health. One of the things I’ve heard quite a lot while working at Farfetch was “there are no silly questions” — and I absolutely agree.

As a Product Designer trainee, I found in the Farfetch Design culture something crucial for my development and reassurance: I found a safe space to fail. And time to try again. People willing to give constructive feedback and willing to collaborate in a non-competitive way. And with that, I realised that that’s the only way to design truly brilliant products: space, time and collaboration… gradually making designs better by combining many brains and working towards the same goal.

Moreover, the fact that I had a mentor with whom I met weekly throughout the 6 months of my internship made everything easier. I had weekly feedback, conversations, guidance and support.

I always try to remember how this unique culture gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself as a designer, and how I want many more designers to experience starting their careers in such a vibrant and challenging environment.

The picture was taken during the Polaroid Week with the Porto Design Team, Farfetch

As someone who was new to the world of work, the Plug-In programme was so important for me to actually land on my feet in that new phase of my life. There were talks, activities, conversations and games – it was the perfect way to ease in and adjust to the company dynamics, goals and values. The fact that the two onboarding weeks were entirely guided by the same coordinators and shared with all the other Plug-In trainees, added a spark of warmth to the programme because we ended up being each others’ support system and reducing the overwhelming feeling of so much novelty, all at once. I made friends who remain so to this day and have amazing memories from those weeks. I always feel super lucky that my career kicked-off in such an exciting yet comfortable way.

As a person and not a machine. I want to mention my first annual review: I had written in my self-assessment that I needed to improve my focus and my time management skills as I couldn’t be productive all days of the week and I let tasks swing in my head for a while before actually starting work on them. Also, I do get a bit lost in conversation because I love socialising with the team — it was my biggest worry that this would have a negative impact on me getting a full time contract after the internship. Since forever I had been an always-delivers-procrastinator unlike some colleagues who scheduled to study at 17:25h and somehow their brains just shifted to Airplane Mode and nothing could distract them. But what my manager said when that specific topic came up surprised me. It was something like this: 

“You know what Rita… I think this is simply you, I think you might never change this and that’s okay if it doesn’t. I haven’t seen the quality of your work be affected by it, so you might just need to keep in mind that this is your process and adjust pace, dynamics and methods accordingly.” — Yeah, I know, I was kinda shocked too.

It was one of the most liberating things that someone’s ever said to me. From that moment on I stopped being haunted by my way of doing things and started to embrace it instead. Planning ahead for the fact that I need time to just think, and becoming more confident that I wouldn’t miss deadlines just because I hadn’t yet transcripted my ideas/solutions from the brain to the file.

This is why I love the Farfetch culture so much: I don’t have to pretend I’m a know-it-all-interface-maker-cyborg with no personality — the reality of people’s differences is respected, not forcing people to adapt to the company but rather enriching Farfetch with everyone’s uniqueness. My incredible journey as a Farfetcher started almost 2 years ago now… applying to the Plug-In programme remains to this day one the best decisions I ever made. I made such good friends, worked with so many talented people from whom I learned a great deal and had so much fun along the way. 

Farfetch employee playing the piano

You can follow Rita on LinkedIn and Medium.




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