My role as a UX Leader

Having spent the past year helping to build an in-house Design team I have evolved my thinking about its role within the organization. I have also thought about the role that each person has in making the team a success. Lastly, and arguably the most important, my responsibilities as a senior-level Designer in the team. One of my strengths is the ability to collaborate with both project management and engineering organizations. In the triad of PM, Engineering and UX, it is often the role UX to help pull these cross-functional teams together. To help identify and bring focus to the people that will interact/engage and, in some cases, depend on the experience that is being built. My best moments often involve standing in front of a whiteboard as I find it a great tool for helping facilitate a discussion. Getting a small group of people with different perspectives to arrive at a mutual understanding of a concept leading to a clear set of objectives/goals gives me a great sense of accomplishment. How the next steps are translated into actions for bringing the new concept to life is when I rely most on my team members.

In our team, we have chosen a model that partners a senior member with a junior member. In previous organizations, I have usually been a UX “team of one” so the transition of having a person focused on “production” was a bit of a challenge for me. I quickly realized the advantage of partnering with a person capable of turning my whiteboard sketches, user flows and wireframe into deliverables. One advantage being more opportunity to lead the “discovery” process to identify and enable new scenarios. Second, it also provides more opportunity to have deeper engagement in both technical and business related discussions. Understanding how the business makes decisions helps provide focus and set priority for the team.

The biggest shift for me over the past year has been the realization that as a senior-level Designer, it is my responsibility to help those around me be successful and achieve their goals. I read a lot of books and articles related to UX management, leadership, team building, lean and design thinking, entrepreneurship and start-ups. What I have learned from all the reading is that there is a different between being a MANAGER and being a LEADER. I now see my responsiblity as a senior-level Designer to empower and provide opportunities for growth. Providing opportunities to a junior-level Designer that pull them out of their comfort zone and by including them in discussions forces them to be better team members. Ironically, this shift has made me a better Designer by improving the way I communicate, my approach to projects and a greater understanding of how to capitalize on an opportunity. As a UX leader and mentor, it is not my job to manage another persons career, but it is my responsibility to help them to be successful in it.

A sampling of the articles that have helped shift my thinking:
:: Building a design-driven culture
:: Just What is a UX Manager?
:: Attention is the Currency of Leadership
:: Don’t let team politics get in the way of shipping great design

Skate to where the puck will be…

My weekly curated list of articles on cloud technologies and the importance of Design.

“I’m a believer that the cloud industry we have today is going to look very different in the future as the enterprise really starts adopting cloud technologies – and then all cloud vendors will shape their strategies to fit what enterprises want. So we’re trying to skate to where the puck will be and start to invent some of those new models.”  – Bill Hilf

Three important announcements from AWS re:Invent
http://bit.ly/1xTK0Bi
AWS has not taken its foot off the accelerator. The news from re:Invent was powerful, as expected. Here are the three most important things you should know from that conference

HP talks cloud delivery options, the importance of OpenStack, how it competes on price
http://bit.ly/1ycHipd
An in-depth conversation with Bill Hilf, Senior Vice President of Product and Service Management for HP Cloud, about where Helion fits in, cloud consumption models and coming change.

The Netflix cloud team loves OSS — and would love to stop building it
http://bit.ly/11vn9PD
…they’d really like to see AWS create more tools that live up to Netflix’s needs, but in the meantime will keep on building new open source tools and trying to make them easy for other companies to use.

How to adopt a successful DevOps enterprise
http://bit.ly/1yZ0C8S
No two DevOps shops are alike, but there are common threads that run throughout. So what does it take for an IT shop to successfully implement the DevOps culture?

Autoscaling, Destroying Your Enemies and Quadcopters

In mid-September, I joined the Helion team at HP as a Sr. Experience Architect collaborating with a team that is hyper-focused on building a portfolio of open sourced cloud solutions and development platforms. It has been one of the biggest challenges of my career and has forced me out of my comfort zone. I am happy for the opportunity. I have been spending a lot of time learning about open source projects, specifically OpenStack. In addition, I am getting up to speed on everything related to cloud-based technologies, companies and influential people in the space, as well as, enterprise-level IT Management practices.

As a result, I have been reading multiple articles a day and recently started a weekly curated mail containing articles covering cloud-technology, OpenStack and user experience best practices. The mail is sent to team members I personally engage with. It is my intention to publish the weekly list here.

I am also maintaining a cloud-focused twitter list which can be followed at https://twitter.com/dshadle/lists/cloud

 

Docker at Shopify: How we built containers that power over 100,000 online shops
http://www.shopify.com/technology/15934308-docker-at-shopify-how-we-built-containers-that-power-over-100-000-online-shops
The second in a series of blog posts describing our evolution of Shopify toward a Docker-powered, containerized data center.

Autoscaling, welcome to Google Compute Engine
http://googlecloudplatform.blogspot.com/2014/11/autoscaling-welcome-to-google-compute.html
The Compute Engine Autoscaler is able to intelligently and dynamically scale the number of instances in response to different load conditions by defining the ideal utilization level of a group of Compute Engine instances.

Destroying Your Enemies Through the Magic of Design
http://alistapart.com/blog/post/destroying-your-enemies-through-the-magic-of-design
The single most important thing you can understand about navigating the gauntlet of organizational politics is the relative risks of saying no versus yes.

Why you should build an Immutable Infrastructure
http://blog.codeship.com/immutable-infrastructure/
Immutable components as part of your infrastructure are a way to reduce inconsistency in your infrastructure and improve the trust into your deployment process.

The astounding athletic power of quadcopters
http://www.ted.com/talks/raffaello_d_andrea_the_astounding_athletic_power_of_quadcopters
In a robot lab at TEDGlobal, Raffaello D’Andrea demos his flying quadcopters: robots that think like athletes, solving physical problems with algorithms that help them learn. {very cool video!}

The Irony Of An Online Portfolio

I am of the opinion that being your own client has to be one of the hardest roles as a creative professional. While I understand the importance of having an online portfolio, getting mine completed has been an overwhelming task. You would think that knowing this would be enough motivation to keep my portfolio up-to-date. We will see how it goes. The projects that have been chosen highlight the type of projects I find most satisfaction in provide solutions for.

The projects have been grouped into three categories. Strategic Design: examples of User Experience, Interaction, Information architecture and wireframes. Creative Designs:  examples of user interface for both browser-based and mobile projects. Illustrations & Branding highlights a few examples of  logos, labels, and a few favorites. The most challenging part of putting this portfolio together has been the selection of work to include. What you see posted is a small sample representing a wide variety of projects. While never completed, I look forward to refreshing this portfolio with new projects and appreciate you taking the time to review it.

What can I do to help you?

 

Hitting the reset button

At the end of May, I made the decision to resign from my job. It was simply not the right fit for me professionally. The fact that I was one of 5 senior level designers to leave the company in a little over a one month period of time, seemed to validate my departure. At the time, I had a lot of thoughts running through my head that needed to be sorted out. What had I learned? What could I have done differently? What was I going to do next?

For nearly 20 years, I have held a title which included the word “designer” in it. I love being a designer and the opportunity to provide solutions that have a direct impact on those who engage with them provides a true feeling of satisfaction. In my career the design industry has completely shifted. Technology has advanced, platforms have exploded, devices have become smaller (then strangely bigger again). The practice of design has fragmented into a set of specializations which require a scorecard just you keep up with all the titles. Methodologies have evolved to reflect new ways that people engage with experiences. The amount of information published grows exponentially making it impossible to stay on top of the latest thoughts, trends and strategies.

Out of a desire to be on par with the people I had admired professionally, I fell into the virtuous cycle of always looking for greener grass. My intention was to use movement as a catalyst for upward progression. A majority of my career was primarily spent in a large company surrounded by people who were much better at office politics then me. The yearly exercise of writing a review for a manager who was more concerned with their own career advancement turned the idea of team collaboration into peer competition. For me, getting involved in projects that provided the ability to grow as a designer was more important even at the expense of watching those around me climb. More recently, I remember sitting with a designer who was early in her career to give her “if I knew then what I know now” advice. Ironically, it was at that point that I (finally) realized the value of having/being a mentor. After a failed attempt to launch my own application, I spent a couple of years consulting with early stage start-ups and assisting established companies think holistically about their experience strategy. In each engagement important lessons were learned, yet strangely not applied when making decisions related to next steps in my career. I continued to jump from one situation to another all with the purpose of getting another rung higher. The day after I resigned, the second decision I made was to get off the ladder.

Hit the reset button.

For the first time in my career, I have completely changed my approach and am actively involved in the rebranding of myself. While consulting with a few select clients to cover expenses, my current focus is on:
1. Strengthening my understanding of design methodologies, specifically: experience mapping/customer journey’s, creative problem solving (“how might we”), LeanUX principles and concept modeling.
2. Virtual participation in the YouinUX online career summit. Researching, reading and watching a lot of design related videos from past conferences.
3. Reconnecting with/Extending my professional network. The most enjoyable and beneficial activity. I attempt to physically meet with at least 2 new contacts a week and have attended networking events across a variety of topics, specifically: technology in healthcare, mobile ux camp and a PechaKucha event in support of “Modern Nordic Furniture Design
4. Organizational exploration: How different organizations work with a focus on team dynamics and culture. Specifically how design as a practice is incorporated into a companies culture.
5. Being patient. This was advice given to me from one of my early “new contacts” and one that I continue to remind myself of daily.

Jokingly, I have referred to this period of time as a “sabbatical”. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to reflect, recalibrate, recharge and reevaluate. Whatever success comes next will be a direct result of having taken this time.