Apliteni Elena

Women of Apliteni: Story of our Designer Elena, From Freelance to Freedom

Today, we take a behind-the-scenes look at the creative team of Apliteni with Elena, our talented designer. In our interview, we discuss her journey from a novice freelancer to a key member of the Keitaro Tracker team.

How did you start your career path?

I started getting involved in design back in school. At that time, finding freelance gigs to create simple designs was quite easy. There weren’t as many specialists, the market wasn’t as saturated. Even without experience, finding a project was possible. I enjoyed it and went on to study graphic design at university. I worked part-time jobs, creating everything from t-shirts to interior designs. Later, I worked in several design studios and as a freelancer. 

What were some of your most interesting projects?

Working on the design of sports projects. Websites and applications like Simple Run (a marathon preparation app), Saint Tri (for Iron Man training), and Fitstars (online workouts).

How did you join Apliteni?

It all started about four years ago when I was hired to draw illustrations for blog articles on a freelance basis. Someone in the company liked my portfolio on Behance. 

We clicked well, and after a while, they offered me a full-time position. At Apliteni, they required someone versatile at the time, a jack-of-all-trades. By then, I’d already had experience in various areas of design: marketing, UI/UX, and web development. Then there was the interview, which I thought I had flunked. I was very nervous, and they didn’t respond for a long time. But then they called me and said: Let’s get to work!

Back then, Apliteni was still a small company. Step by step, I grew professionally and personally with it.

How did you realize Apliteni was the company for you?

After some time, we began to work on some complex and deep concepts. There were moments when my opinions differed from the management’s, and I stood by my views. Initially, I was worried, expecting to hear something like: You’re foolish, redo everything. Instead, they listened to me, and we genuinely looked for solutions and discussed them. Everyone understood that we all wanted the best outcome. It was real teamwork. And I thought: Wow! This is cool! This discussion principle still works now, even with more designers on board.

What are you currently working on?

My favorite area is UI/UX; I work in the tracker team and am responsible for the design system. Our design team doesn’t have a lead. We, as a company, recently abandoned that concept. Everyone is approximately at the same level among designers. We have meetings where we discuss new trends and ideas, things we come up with ourselves. We have three main directions, three zones of responsibility, and everyone constantly finds something new. We’re always learning.

How have you grown over these years?

I think I’ve grown a lot. I was given access to the company library as soon as I joined, and I attended a lot of courses at the company’s expense. They even invited a special consultant to work with me one-on-one on our case and see how to improve the product for a whole month this summer. And our CEO sometimes suggests a book for a specific task. He’s always reading and motivating everyone to do so as well. At Apliteni, they even gift Kindles to all employees.

Besides professional skills, I’ve learned self-organization and prioritization, largely thanks to one of the books recommended in our separate book thread on Slack.

It helped me adequately assess my time and plans and bring some of my dreams to life. For example, this New Year, we sent gifts to all employees and friends of the company. Among them were pins with the logo of our main product, Keitaro Tracker. Few people know that I initially made these pins just for fun, to surprise my colleagues. They were made with some other pins for a small pin shop I run with my husband.

What three important things have changed for you since you joined Apliteni?

First is travel. When you’re freelancing, it’s impossible to take proper time off, and essentially, you don’t even have weekends. The level of freedom in a five-day workweek is surprisingly higher. In freelancing, you always have a pile of projects, so you need to ask each client for time off. But at our company, it’s very relaxed when you need an additional day off, and there’s no need to beg anyone for it. You have to let everyone know, of course, and ensure you’re not blocking anyone with your absence. But planning trips became very easy.

Last year, I visited 3 countries and 6 cities and went to festivals. I’m constantly traveling, and it’s amazing.

The second is mental health. I go to a psychologist and attend groups – I have time for that. Overall, compared to the time when I was freelancing, I’m much calmer. There’s no constant stress about whether you’ll earn today or what will happen tomorrow. In my case, stability is more comfortable.

The third is also about health. I started practicing yoga regularly. Apliteni covers the cost of my training. I feel incredible, both mentally and physically.

Elena’s path at Apliteni and her role in shaping the company and its culture show how important it is to stay true to yourself and your values. Belief in oneself can transform a hobby or part-time job into a profession through continuous learning. These are probably the key factors to success in any field.

Keitaro Team

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