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.