Five questions with Paolo Ertreo, Product Designer at Dropbox

About Paolo Ertreo

Paolo is currently a product designer focusing on Growth at Dropbox. In this role, Paolo focuses on creating experiences that are user-centered, performance-driven, and business-oriented. ‍

Before Dropbox, Paolo was leading design on the Growth team at Strava, the #1 fitness app for runners and cyclists. He previously founded Paylance, designed web and mobile products in the field of adtech, and started his career designing video games. Paolo learned illustration & animation at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC and the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, Italy. 

In his spare time, he enjoys being a mentor and bringing others closer to the world of design.

Five questions with Paolo

Q1: How did you get to where you are today?

I received formal training in visual arts and upon graduating, I joined a European video game company where I worked first on web games and then as the app store grew more, on mobile ones. I left Italy when I realized I didn’t see much of anything ahead of me (professionally speaking) and moved to the US in search of creative work. Once in the US, I worked in mobile ad tech, founded my own startup to help freelancers to get paid and designed in the fitness and productivity spaces.

Q2: What advice for someone getting into your space? Alternatively, what advice should they ignore? 

Early on self-initiated side projects (especially those relevant to software design) are great ways to stretch and demonstrate the full breadth of your technical and craft skills while also showing a strong entrepreneurial spirit. These can boost your portfolio, raise your profile and if you’re early on in your career, show skills you may not have had a way to demonstrate yet.
Ignore those that say you cannot break into (product) design if you don’t have formal design training.

Q3: What excites you about the future of technology? 

While I am saddened by the many environmental challenges our future holds, I’m also excited that technology will help us solve those challenges and ensure that future generations will develop more sustainable habits. I get excited at the thought that we might be able to reduce our waste to be near zero and be able to consume sustainable foods that closely resemble their less sustainable counterparts.

Q4: What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? 

Intentionality and long term vision matter more than your past when it comes to designing the life (and career) you want.

Q5: What have you learned about building great company culture? 

Being vulnerable and open tends to lead those closeby to do the same over time. This results in forming genuine connections with those nearby and greatly reducing the fear associated with sharing early stage ideas, feedback or even asking for help.


Extra question: One important truth that few people agree with you on?

Merit alone does not lead to a deserved rise to prominence if not paired with vocalness and outwardness.