Kátia Serralheiro is the UX Lead at Serial Hero, a UX Consultancy she owns, that helps companies create their own UX teams and setup a workflow around their customers. She has been a part of the Tribe for a long time, and has been aiding the THU Team with her expertise (if you’re on this website, you’re already in touch with her work)! 

Read along and get to know more about her craft!

How does a regular day look like for you? Take us through it!

In truth my days are not very similar, but my weeks are more or less consistent. 

On Mondays I usually have several meetings, so I can hardly produce much work myself. In the morning I meet with my team, review the work done on the previous week and provide feedback if I haven’t yet. We all work remotely and so this time on Monday is also for catching up about life in general, how our families are doing, and so on. I believe these moments are key for creating a sense of team - since we do not meet casually in the office, over coffee break or lunch time, as office people do, we need to buffer that into our weekly meetings. At the end of the afternoon I travel to Lisbon to teach a UI UX bootcamp, in person. Tuesdays I reserve for getting work done. It could be going through a new brief and digesting it before I distribute the work through my team, or a proposal for a new project. I may have to sketch out an approach for a new website, landing page, product or functionality. If the team is busy I will do the work from beginning to end, if not, I will be involved in the early beginning, when things are not completely clear or defined. Final UI or a very detailed flow is no longer my cup of tea, but I don’t mind overseeing it. Wednesdays are more prone to work sessions with my team and with clients teams whom we collaborate with. The work sessions can go from brainstorming and exploration to reviewing and improving a flow on the go. I’m also teaching in the evening. Thursdays may be more or less reserved for my tasks, without too many interruptions. However I try to speak with all of my team members at least every other day, to see if they need help or feedback. I try not to book too much for Fridays, since I’m also teaching on Saturdays all day. On Friday’s I like to tackle things that may be still in the future, like planning, strategizing, learning or investigating. It’s a shorter day as I need to take my kids to their sports activities. Because I work remotely, I do several beaks a day, not to smoke or have a coffee, because I don’t do either, but to do my laundry, cook, meditate and exercise. I’m fortunate to have this freedom, and I cherish it dearly. That was probably way more than you needed to know 😂

How did your UX journey begin and what drew you to this area? 

When I was studying design, the digital world was always my favorite canvas. I enjoyed making things interactive, the idea of clicking a button and something happening was fun for me. I understood I wanted something different when in the 2nd year of uni, my favorite teacher asked the class to build something that would support the 2004 world cup. I was the only one in class to make a website (in action script at that time!) that resembled a soccer field, where you could choose the players, see how much they scored, when the matches would be, etc. Now we can see all of this directly in Google search, but 20 years ago this was pretty cool. I wish I knew back then that we, UX designers, have the power to change the world. Not just because we design better products, but also because we help shape people’s behavior. There is an honorable purpose within the products we design. It is our job as UX designers to identify it and never lose sight of it. I find that this resonates with me.

Ux can be challenging because it’s rapidly evolving. How do you adapt to these changes and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and possibilities? 

I believe you should take advantage of resources out there that keep you up to date. For instance, I have a number of UX related newsletters to be informed about relevant topics. Plus, whenever I do research or benchmark, I also look for references, best practices, etc. You have to see a lot of good design, in order to do good design yourself. 
Another thing that I do now is sharing insights within my UX team. We always have people who are more inclined to whatever is new, others more inclined to perfecting what they already know. Sharing the knowledge within your team is very important - we keep one another aware of what we’ve found and complement each other’s gaps. Having a good relationship with the Development team can also help, technology-wise. They are the first to know if something new has come up that we should be leveraging. Chatting with them or being somewhat involved in their channels can be helpful to keep up with the tech trends and possibilities.

Four years ago, you founded Serial Hero. What inspired you to start it? 

I founded Serial Hero after an experience working for an agency in Singapore. The agency world there was fierce and competitive. We worked our buts off to pitch almost every week, and whenever we won a project, we would scramble to deliver. In my mind it was unfair to our designers, who would work nights and stress out, and unfair to our client who deserved top quality work. But still lots of clients externalized most of their UX work to agencies, even the ones who had most of their businesses online. I understand some clients need a helping hand when it comes to UX, but I firmly believe that for a company’s products to be successful, UX should be part of a company’s DNA. UX needs to collaborate with other departments, be reflected in the company’s workflow and be adopted as a new mindset. 

I founded Serial Hero to build my client’s UX teams (hiring and training people), establishing an internal workflow around the customer, and installing a customer-centric mindset across departments. That for me is a lot more meaningful than just building the next software or app.

Can you walk us through the challenges and the journey of becoming a Lead Ux Consultant and building your own company? 

I knew I wanted to have my own business since about 2012. I even joined an entrepreneurship bootcamp to learn more about what I needed to pull it off. Even though I did that, and read all the business books I could find, I felt far from prepared. It wasn’t until 2017 that I became more serious about it, and in 2019, after giving birth twice, I registered the company.

There is a big part of the process that is about confidence. You have to understand that in order to know what you need about running a business, you have run it. Without taking that leap of faith, you won’t get the opportunity to learn, and therefore you will never feel completely prepared for it. Looking back, I don’t think I should have waited as long as 7 years. If I could give a piece of advice to my younger self, it would be “it’s true that you don’t know shit, but you are smart enough to figure it out”.  Other challenges came along, like having to market your services while also producing the work. When your team is really small, or when you are still by yourself, this period can be very challenging. You may need to make sacrifices. The positive side is that the rewards can be so much larger, as large as your ambition is. For me that’s worth the grind for a few years (it won’t be forever).

You are also a lead teacher of Ui/Ux design at IronHack. What motivated you to become a teacher and what’s something that you always emphasize when teaching your students?

Becoming a teacher had been in my mind for a while before the first opportunity was presented to me. I used to give workshops in my early work days, and I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve always been an introvert, but when I am teaching, it is as if it’s not about me. I’m not stressing about what people think, and what to say, I feel comfortable because in my mind, I’m helping people. Teaching is also a good way to be up to date with the UX processes and new technologies. I’ve only been a teacher for a few years and the curriculum has already changed several times. I bring teaching to my work too, it’s a way to be reminded to do things in the proper way and keep an eye out for our potentially new colleagues. I wish I had better teachers.

Are there any books or other resources that you would recommend to someone looking to expand their knowledge?

I love Don Norman’s books, so I recommend reading anything from this gentleman (for us UX designers, he is our grandpa). Don Norman provides not only insights on UX, but also on the world in general and how our relationship with the products we use is changing, and where it is heading. There are many technical books that may help you get the knowledge you need to start:

  • “About Face” from Alan Cooper, a kind of encyclopedia of UX methods with helpful examples. 
  • “Don’t make me Think” from Steve Krug, it shows us how lazy our brains are and how our attention is scattered and information takes time to process. 
  • “Simple and Usable” from Giles Colborn, explains with examples what makes a good design, 
  • “Lateral Thinking” from Edward de Bono, which helps you think in a divergent way and avoid the obvious solution.
  • “Lean Startup” from Eric Ries, gives you pretty much the UX process applied to building a business

You provide a series of UX industry secrets. What’s a secret you would like to share with those looking to build their career in Ux design? 

Build good relationships. Your success as a UX designer will be enabled or impaired by all the other departments and stakeholders you interact with. Focus on building health relationships based on trust and mutual help. This is a career for collaboration, not competition.


Thank you, Katia!