Ideal Situation

I have been working with a fantastic leadership coach and was recently asked to describe my “ideal situation”.  After some careful consideration, I came up with the following:

 

Fast-paced, collaborative environment
Collaboration and facilitation of ideas across organization

I thrive in environments where people come together to support and challenge each other with the intention of gaining inspiration and greater knowledge in an attempt to create something amazing that is guided by a reasonable set of milestones and deadlines. To “dive-deeper” into a project, I look for opportunities to gain different perspectives by facilitating discussions and getting people involved to collectively understand the potential.

 

Clear and shared goals of success

When people come into a project with different expectations and understandings of what makes it successful it can lead to frustration, conflict and missed opportunities. I aim to get everyone on the same page by drawing attention to the desired end state and providing an environment where each member can express concerns and/or suggestions for collectively achieving success.

 

Multiple projects/opportunities to explore vs. a monolithic product

It is my belief that ideas generate ideas. I have always looked for situations that enable me to work on multiple ideas at any given time and find that a rehashing of the same idea over and over is creatively crippling. Having projects of varying lengths that overlap each other give me the ability to keep pushing for new solutions to hard problems.

 

Ability to push full lifecycle of a product: Concept to launch

I have a passion for turning ideas into reality. My approach to solving problems is to think holistically about the experience, from end-to-end. How a person arrives at, interacts with and ultimately finishes the engagement is what will determine their next move. Understanding the intention of the interaction increases the ability to arrive at a successful outcome. Validation from the end user at appropriate steps of the process ensures the solution evolves to meet needs and achieve the desired goals.

 

Opportunity to manage teams and engagement with clients/customers

Successful projects are not created in a vacuum. Getting the right people in the room to expand, explore and establish the key objectives is when an initial concept begins to take shape. I love this phase of the project, when everyone is feeding off of the energy that fills the room. My role is to help harness, provide direction and maintain a level of excitement that keeps both the team and client engaged.

 

Opportunity for long-term growth, to make an impact and to affect change

I have enjoyed being involved in a variety of projects as it has resulted in a greater understanding and appreciation for a wide range of topics. Unfortunately, the ability to gain focus and a feeling that I have made a deep impact in any one thing is missing. I desire the opportunity to “make a difference” in the projects I am involved with and to grow (with/within an organization) to truly affect change through the solutions delivered.

 

Focus on customer by providing solutions that have clear and measurable objectives

I have engaged with a wide variety of customers who all feel that their project is the most important. To ensure agreement of a projects potential, it is my goal to establish clear objectives each validated by measurable key results. Establishing appropriate milestones with tangible results serves to keep the team on track and the customer aware of the process. The objectives provide a balance between the abilities of the team to deliver and the expectations of the customer.

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

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.