Drinks & Designers

The other night after work I had attended an event with a few colleagues that was hosted by a design agency called Cibo that used to work with us. Besides having drinks and networking, the main topic of the night was about brand experience. So when I had arrived to check in, while I write my name down on the name tag, you had to choose a word from the provided list as to what you feel/think about a brand experience. I chose gratifying and my colleague chose genuine. As we walked further into Cibo’s office space I already felt really inspired as corny as it may sound. I’m a sucker for beautiful interior spaces and architecture. The one photo I have of their space doesn’t do its justice. The main interior elements of this space was this industrial, brick and glass along with a pop of red throughout. It was really nice.

I gradually made way to get myself a drink and continued to mingle and get my networking on. It was kinda hard to really maneuver around since there was a good amount of people clustered in a corner sipping on their drinks and chatting away. I got to meet a couple designers that had worked with my colleague prior to me joining my company. I also got to meet the CEO of Cibo, who was absolutely friendly and welcoming. At the top of the first hour of the event the CEO had gathered us around so we can get started on listening to the 3 presentations that were lined up for the night. I got to talk to one of the founders that were presenting which was the company the Vault. The Vault had also collaborated with Cibo in developing their current office space due to some mishap.

The first presenters was by founders of Kinda Fancy, Lauren and Colin. The brand is basically a swim wear line that is gearing towards any average woman that’s looking for swim wear that won’t come undone when they’re swimming, surfing or do any water activities. Also, the swim suit has a pocket where you can store your keys and money. What made them come up with their brand was comparing themselves to companies like Billabong or PacSun which advertises their swim wear towards the more athletic type of woman rather than your average everyday “I don’t know how to surf” kinda gal. It was interesting to hear how they tested their swim suit, which was obviously tested on all body types. Even Colin, one of the co-founders modeled in the swim suit as seen in the photo above lol.

The second presenter was by Meg who is the Managing Director of the Vault. The Vault is essentially a company that creates a collaborative and supportive workspace as well as a community. Not only will the layout of the office space make a difference, but even the smallest things can impact an office space. Meg had mentioned having provided snacks is important to have. They’re going to be expanding to Brooklyn, NY this summer if any East Coast folks are interested in checking them out.

The last presenter was by Ben who is the founder of Odang Udon. It is a food truck that serves fresh udon noodles in SF. Ben has an ad agency background of 8 years and produces music as well. He left the agency world and wasn’t fulfilled with only producing music. After dining out to various Japanese restaurants in SF with a friend who became his business partner, they had realized at the time that nowhere in SF serves fresh udon noodles. They had invested in an udon making machine, which could mass produce how many bowls they’re trying to serve on a daily basis. Eventually they purchased a food truck and have been around SF. They will also be making their debut nearby my office at the SoMA Streat Food Truck Park, which is awesome. After Ben felt like he accomplished a lot with this new business venture and continues to grow his company, he was inspired to push himself with his music. He had mentioned that he would have these $2K paying DJ gigs, whereas amongst his other DJ friends weren’t making anything. He wanted to really make himself different and stand out from the many predominantly male dj’s that are out there. After discussing with his girlfriend if this particular DJ name change was okay, he went worth with it. Hence, DJ Julia Lewis LOL. Best name ever lol. It was hilarious. Long story short, he was able to get a spot on the stage at Coachella 2015 and got to DJ. I thought that was just awesome.

Despite how different each company were in their own way, they were all sincere and authentic in how they believed their brand can create this community and provide a valuable experience for their customers. I had taken some notes during the presentations because there were a lot of great points that were made. If you want your brand to succeed, you have to be consistent, authentic and true to your brand. With your brand, how will you give value through experiences? What are your competencies? It all comes down to the content, brand and strategy. I thought it was really interesting that Kinda Fancy and Odang Udon uses Instagram to gain exposure and to advertise themselves on that social media platform instead of Facebook.

After the great presentations, I felt so inspired and the passion that I’ve always had for design grew stronger. I was chatting with my colleagues afterwards and we all felt the same way. I literally wanted to go home and design something and just be purely creative. I had more fuel and drive to want to kick more ass in my career. It was very uplifting. I’ve always been about doing work the fulfills me, but has the work I’ve been doing made an impact on others? Yes, it has. My job is to create a better user experience not only to simply being able to navigate a website properly, but to create this experience for you to want to continue using this product. Whether or not you’re a designer, it was really good to be a part of that kinda of discussion. I wish all these companies for continuous success and growth because what they’re doing has truly impacted myself. Their story is just very powerful. I was happy to hear that this was Cibo’s first event in hosting something like this and will continue another one in the next quarter. I am definitely looking forward to their next event. 🙂

Here’s the links to Cibo and the 3 companies that presented:

Cibo SF

Kinda Fancy

The Vault

Odang Udon

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Uncertainty

I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress as if I haven’t emphasized that enough in many blog posts. Many people don’t know besides a few people. It’s not something I enjoy talking about or sharing with anyone, but I’m writing this post to vent as usual. This stress has been mainly work related. Long story short my company had gotten acquired a couple months ago. This acquisition can go either way. It can either hurt or better the company and the employees. For me it’s been hurting me. After we received the news about the acquisition there was already a bit of uneasiness lingering around the office. A month after the news arrives, there was a big layoff in the company. During that same day I received the news that I might not be working there any longer as well. I cried in front of my boss as he had to be the bearer of bad news to me. He’s a great guy and this wasn’t his decision. Although during our discussion I learned that there’s a 50/50 chance that I could probably stay. I chatted with my boss as well as with my team as to what we can do to save our team or mainly myself and another person on my team. We carried our discussion to a nearby bar and just kept the drinks coming since it was a horrible day for everyone at the company, especially for those that were let go. I legit drank for several hours straight hoping the liquor would provide some sense of comfort, but who was I kidding? I was panicking and grew even more emotional as I was sorting through my mind for various solutions. The main solution I wanted to avoid was to look for another job. I love my team genuinely and I love the work we do. It’s a big attachment I’ve grown working at this company. As I’m even typing this I’m getting a bit teary eyed because I’m still so sensitive to this entire situation.

My team was very comforting as I was still absorbing the news. It was hard to concentrate because I was so in my feelings and lost in my thoughts. I didn’t want to talk to any of my friends or especially my parents about this news. Of course I eventually shared the news with them and I dreaded every question they asked and tried to change the topic as much as possible. I confided in a close girlfriend of mines who is practically like a sister to me. She was very empathetic and understanding. I simply told her every detail and told her that I just don’t want any questions asked. She was very respectful of that and I appreciated it. There’s so many questions that are still unanswered. My boss can’t even answer them either because he doesn’t know. Plus, he’d tell me any updates and wouldn’t hide anything from me anyways. There’s just been so much lingering uncertainties these past couple of months. It’s gotten harder for me to sleep. I wake up every morning hoping for good news and I continue to not let this bullshit bog me down. I need to continue producing work, but it’s hard to stay focused without your mind drifting and wandering.

Recently as promised by my boss, he tried to save my ass by discussing with the executives. I still have no idea of how that even went. My colleague on my team that I work closely with shares with me any new updates that he’s discussed with my boss. I greatly appreciate their support and having my back regardless of what’s going to happen in the next several weeks. But as the weeks are nearing, that amount of stress and how emotional I was during the beginning is coming back to me again. It’s really hard on me and I’m continuing to stay quiet about it to my friends. This is why I’ve opted out of attending certain events in the upcoming months. I can’t enjoy myself with this uncertainty. I don’t know what’s going to happen and it freaks me out because it’s so unpredictable. Going to SoCal was fun, but I still thought about my work situation.

The past two weeks has gotten even harder for me. I’ve had people reach out to my about opportunities, but I’d ignore the calls and delete the e-mails. I’ve been open and honest about not finding another job until I get a solid answer about my current job. But some impatience kicked in. I received an e-mail from a great start up and was hesitant on replying. I let that e-mail sit in my inbox for 2 days and during those 2 days I would stare at it. Eventually I replied, got asked to share some of my latest work, and had scheduled a call. My call was in 2 days and prior to the call during those 2 days, I felt like absolute shit. I felt so awful for replying to that e-mail because I felt as if I turned my back on my team and my boss. Yet at the same time I went into this survival mode where I needed to protect and prepare myself in case anything happened. After I got that call over and done with, I felt extremely relieved and that guilt disappeared. Despite it being a great opportunity, I don’t really care if I got the job or not. I still want to stay working with my current company and team.

I remember coming into the office the day before I had my call. I was really quiet and the guilt kicked into overdrive as I was surrounded by my team. I had a hard time focusing on my work. Luckily there wasn’t too much on my plate to complete, so I decided to go for a walk and plus I didn’t have my morning coffee intake. I decided to go for a walk to the flower mart nearby my office. Along the way I stopped to get a coffee. When I got to the flower mart I browsed at their selection as I enjoyed my coffee and had my headphones on. It was very relaxing and therapeutic. Of course I couldn’t leave without purchasing anything. Peonies are my favorite and the purchase cheered me up a bit. I went back to the office feeling slightly okay again. Later that evening we had some whiskey. Long story short, my boss created a whiskey lounge and if you’re a whiskey lover then come join for a tasting and share what whiskey you’ve got hidden in your desk drawer. When we sit around sipping on whiskey in this nice space in our office, it’s very Mad Men-esque. This was our second tasting and we had a lot more newcomers join us. It was fun sharing hilarious stories and just not giving a fuck. For a moment as I was sipping on my whiskey I realized how awesome a lot of people are in my company. We’re all supportive of each other and people actually give a fuck about each other here. Over the weekend I treated myself to a new book. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Haruki Murakami book since he’s one of my favorite authors. Last night I decided to watch a movie by myself and Avengers: Age of Ultron was a great choice. I’m a big Marvel fan, random factoid. But doing those little things helped provide some comfort. My mind wasn’t as fixated on my work situation anymore. I can only cover up the stress for so long, but that’s okay. This is just how strongly I feel about my career. It’s not just a paycheck and a job to me. It’s being able to work with an awesome team, having a boss that not only supports you but respects you and to cohesively work together to make great design work. That’s what it’s mainly been about and to lose that will really upset me.

I’m trying to make myself feel better. For now I’m only continuing to crank out great design work, enjoy my time with my team and to continuing hoping for the best.

Booz-ability 2015

From time to time my UX team and I host happy hour events and with these events we’re mainly targeting the business analysts, engineers, and developers, but all is always welcomed to join. It’s a much more informal and laid back setting where we can have some drinks and collaborate. So far each session we’ve had has been pretty productive despite that it’s only 30 minutes collaborating and the remaining time is just pure socializing. We’ve been itching to do some usability testing on any of our current projects and it was about time we hosted another UX happy hour since it has been awhile. My boss had me make a poster for this event, which I thought was funny because the last time I had to make a poster was for our UX holiday happy hour. If you’re wondering what the hell that character is on the poster, it’s a tardigrade. It’s pretty much an indestructible water bear. Google it if you want more info on it haha.

Anyways, as a team we were discussing what we were going to test for this usability session. We settled on testing these redesigned icons that I’ve been busting my ass on. It’s a part of a project that I’m on where one of our classic products is getting a total redesign. It’s a 19 year old product that’s never been redesigned, so it’s about time it gets a facelift. Throughout the process of designing these icons, it’s been A LOT of work and some tough ones as well. It’s not like you’re designing simple functions such as “Save” or “Print”. I had some crazy one’s named “Quick Allocate” or “Valuations”. One of my colleagues that is also on the project picked 25 icons and made multiple choice options for it. I quickly blew up the 16 pixel icons into 200 pixel icons along with their designated multiple choice options since we had to get it printed and pinned to these large black boards. After we were done setting up, the team and I were getting pretty excited especially seeing people slowly trickling in. Myself and my colleague that chose the icons weren’t allowed to participate in the event so we acted as moderators and observed the way people were engaging in this usability session.

Whenever someone new came in, I just told them to grab a drink and start going through the boards with a marker and decide which icon matches what label is correct. Throughout the event we had people coming in to either engage with the usability testing or to drink and sing some karaoke. It was a good time. After moderating and mingling, I decided to join in on some karaoke action with my colleagues. At this point they’ve sang a bunch of songs already except for YMCA haha. One of my other colleagues gathered my team and we sang YMCA together. It was hilarious. That moment was captured on video and I’m still waiting for it to be sent to me. After drinking, karaoke and a bit of ping pong playing, I heard some loud discussions happening where we were testing so I went to check it out.

Basically went through each board with a few other people from my company as they were debating what each icon meant or what the icon should look like to fit it’s title. We received some tremendously helpful feedback. For me being the sole designer of the iconography that I’ve created and redesigned for this product made me so proud. There was lots of positive along with negative feedback, but those negatives created great debates and I just see it as constructive criticism. I felt really happy not only for myself, but for my team. We did an awesome job hosting the event, received great data from the usability session and of course socializing and having a great time with other folks within the company. There’s definitely some things we could’ve improved during this usability testing, but not too bad for throwing it together so quickly. It’s moments like this where I feel like despite being so consumed by my work, it truly paid off to get that positive recognition. I got home so late last night from work and was exhausted from driving, but I went to bed extremely happy. It’s truly a very rewarding feeling.

Random Thoughts

Today I’ve been in a total funk. Not sure if this ever occurs to anyone, but does anyone else ever get the vibe that something bad is going to happen? Well nothing serious happened, but my mom told me some really last minute news that the upcoming weekend will be my dad’s 60th birthday. I’ve been thinking about it for months to fly him out to Cali for his birthday, but we’ve all been so busy and I lost track of things. I felt really sad because I won’t be there for his 60th. As I’m laying here in bed, I was browsing at flights to visit home and treat him out for a belated birthday. The thing is the time that I want to go might not work out and it’s going to be really stressful for me in the next upcoming weeks with work. Do I stay behind and continue fulfilling my responsibilities here or do I just say fuck it and return home for my dad? I feel really mad at myself if I don’t come home for him. My dad is my best friend and I can imagine how he feels already knowing that’s it another birthday without his only daughter around. I feel absolutely horrible. These are one of the moments where I wish I wasn’t as heads down as I am with my work and really took notice. I’m being very hard on myself because I’ve chosen to be so consumed by my work and to get ahead in my career that I haven’t really taken the second to acknowledge my loved ones as much. He’s my dad and I know if I don’t come home, he’ll understand but I don’t want him to settle with that reason. I’ve already had to bail on a couple of events for close friends back home, but this is my dad and that’s the difference. I don’t want to make any quick decisions in booking a flight right at this moment just because I’m deep in my feelings. I’ll figure something out.

Ever since my SoCal trip I’ve been kinda hit with some homesickness. It tends to happen after I hang out with close friends when they visit here and then they leave. Whenever they leave I get so sad and a bit scared because I feel so lonely and unprotected again. I don’t know why that moment of when I first moved here and when my “friend’s” shitty friends were so horrible and nasty me comes to mind. I get so scared that something like that will happen to me again. I’ve dealt with shitty people before and I can hold my own, but just that level of nastiness by that group has left a big scar on me. I tend to usually cry when I hug my friends goodbye because I’m scared of ever being in that type of situation again. It gives me a little anxiety when I think about it. I know it’ll hit me hard again since I have two close friends visiting back to back pretty soon. I’m excited to see them, but I hate saying goodbye.

Yesterday I went to Oakland to visit my former colleague, D’s new home. She was actually my neighbor here in SJ and we’ve kept in touch. We haven’t hung out as much ever since she left my company and bought a house. Her new home and job has kept her busy and I’ve been busy with work as well. When I got to her house I slowly realized she was drunk lol. This chick was drinking straight up tequila. She was doing quite a bit of drinking since another friend came to visit her new home right before I got there. We were chatting a lot about my company, my team and my boss. D asked me for updates about my team and things about the company. I reported back with semi good news. Then she started talking about my boss. He’s an amazing guy and awesome boss. There aren’t enough words to describe how great he is not only as a boss but as an overall person. My boss had tried to help D a lot when she was still working at my current company. He’s a very supportive guy and will do anything to help you out. At a point D just felt like she had to leave the company and she did. She was drunk and pouring out her feelings about how she feels horrible for leaving my company after all the help my boss had offered. Of course I tried to comfort her so she wouldn’t get bogged down in the drunken yet sober guilt that’s been weighing on her. She spilled some more tea and told me how my boss really has my back. Despite her drunkenness, I sometimes believe that drunken words are sober thoughts. She gave me an even bigger insight of how respectful and loyal my boss is towards me. I felt very flattered and as I’ve even said to him, forever grateful.

On another note, D (not my former colleague/friend that I was just mentioned) has been on my mind a lot and I don’t know why. It’s weird. Like today when I was out at my usual Sunday spot, I swear I thought I saw him but I disregarded it and had to focus on my work. I do wonder how he is quite often and hoping he is okay. I feel for him and the issues that he’s dealing with. It sucks that as much as you want to try to comfort and really be there for someone, I don’t feel like I’m physically able to do that since he hasn’t opened that door for me. Well the door is slightly cracked since he shares tidbits about his issues and that’s totally fine with me. I’m not one to pry information from anyone and I’m glad he can share some things than nothing with me. I care about him and I just want him to be okay. It does however make me sad knowing how much has changed between us, but it was bound to happen with having all that time past us. I remember how sweet things were when we first met and how we were always talking to each other. It’s all those little things. The last time we had seen and spent time together always replays in my mind. I guess a big part of me wants that moment to happen again. A few weeks ago I had 3 dreams about him in one night. The next day he had texted me and I decided to share with him the dreams I had about him because it felt so real. I woke up feeling confused because I felt as if I relived that last time I had seen him. It was so strange. I know I was the last girl he talked to and isn’t ready for a relationship right now, but that’s okay and I don’t mind starting over again as friends. It kinda sucks and I really wish I can turn back time to where things used to be. Perhaps he crosses my mind so often since we click so well and there’s something about him that I find so comforting. Who knows?

Anyways, I have a ton of work to cater to in the morning and need to sleep. My mind is overfilled with many thoughts. Some personal, but the rest is work related. Good night.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Smitten

It’s been awhile since I’ve even flirted with a guy or anything. I’m so consumed by my work that that’s all I know…for now haha. As mentioned in previous posts, I haven’t been actively dating in awhile. My career and other priorities in my life has pretty much taken over a lot ….or more like I don’t care enough to try. No one’s really caught my eye or I’m just not interested. The last guy that caught my attention was D and I do think about him quite often. It would be nice to see him again, but for now text messages will do. Anyways, I was out at my usual Sunday spot doing some work and reading. I was minding my own business doing my work and I had this feeling that someone kept staring at me lol. I looked up and it was this Asian guy sitting across from me. He was staring at me HARD and I made eye contact with him a couple of times. How could you not especially if someone continuously keeps staring at you?! Haha. He eventually came over to where I was sitting, which was by myself at this long table. He asked if he could join me and I said sure. As he sat down he noticed the book that I was planning on finishing up reading, which was ‘the Outliers’. We made small talk about the book and I went back to doing my work. I took a quick break from staring at my computer and noticed he was reading this HUGE comic book haha. In my mind I thought, “damnnn…” due to the size of that comic, but then again I thought it was cute. I’m a sucker for the nerds. I noticed again that he kept staring at me, but paid him no attention. In the end neither one of us exchanged each other’s contact info. Why? Because I wasn’t entirely attracted to him and once again I drowned myself in my work. Decent looking guy, too skinny for my liking, but spent his Sundays like how I did. Cute, but not for me. It was just refreshing to get that kind of attention from a guy. I think most girls appreciate that attention every now and then. Plus I’m glad I had chosen not to dress like a bum in gym wear like I usually would on the weekends haha.

SoCal Weekend Getaway

Last weekend I had a weekend getaway down in SoCal, specifically Orange County. My close girlfriend C had extended the invite since she was visiting our mutual friend L in Garden Grove. I was a bit hesitant on going since I was really busy with work and it was semi bad timing to go anywhere. But then again I was pretty stressed out and tired that I kinda just said “fuck it” and booked my flight the same night C asked me. I was pretty excited to see friends from home again, but work was just constantly on my mind. Before my trip my work computer had some minor issues, which was probably a sign that I needed to get away from my computer. I really tried my hardest to relax and to not think about my projects since this was my first time actually getting out of the Bay Area. I really needed to enjoy this time with my friends.

Since my friends are total foodies like myself, all we did was just chill and eat. First stop was Brodard for lunch. I was pretty excited to try their infamous spring rolls and I must say it lived up to the hype. It was the most bomb spring rolls I’ve ever had. I still crave for it ever since I’ve returned from my trip. I also ordered Hieu Tieu Thai, which is like a seafood noodle soup. It’s one of my favorites that I haven’t had in so long. So bomb too! After our yummy yet very fulfilling lunch, L took C and I to RVCA’s warehouse sale. I’m not too familiar with the brand, but I suppose it’s a SoCal thing. Got myself some new bathing suits, cropped tank tops and a beanie. Definitely got my money’s worth. I’m generally not much of a shopper, but it was about time that I treated myself to some new additions to my closet. Afterwards, we went to Newport Beach. It was really nice and even more perfect to go on a Friday afternoon where everyone is still at work or school. We explored the area a bit and I took some photos with my DSLR. We took a $1 ferry ride to Balboa Island, which didn’t have much. The homes there were beautiful though. Our next stop was to get some poki at this place that L’s coworker had suggested. We got the salmon poki and it was sooo good. Such a good snack after walking around. Later that night we went to Anaheim Packaging District to try PopBar. It was so good! I ordered the green tea Kit Kat. If I wasn’t such an old lady and can handle dairy more I would’ve gotten another one since my friends got a “Ferrero Rocher” PopBar. APD kind of reminded me of San Pedro Square Market in downtown San Jose, but A LOT bigger and better haha. It was a cute place.

The next day we had a girls day and ventured off to downtown LA for brunch at Perch. It was nice getting dressed up and being girly again. We all wore black dresses, which was unintentional. Too bad the weather in LA that day sucked. It was oddly cloudy and rainy. After brunch we made a quick trip to Bottega Louie for some macarons. I wish I got more of the Earl Gray macarons. Highly suggest that! Next stop was Griffith Observatory. The rain was starting to really come down as we had hopes of it passing by. Nope! We walked out in the rain in our dresses towards the observatory. Took a few photos outside. Such a bummer it was crap weather, but that’s okay. It was nice to finally check it out. Then it was back to Garden Grove to relax before dinner. Went to Wild Crab which is a crawfish joint. Pretty much had a mini Boston reunion since another mutual friend J who now lives in San Diego drove up to join us for dinner. Our last night was a good time of eating good food, playing Taboo and overall being surrounded by good people. I really needed that. I was reminded of my lifestyle back in Boston with my friends. I missed having group dinners and just being goofy with my friends. I was a bit bummed out to return to SJ. I was returning back to a place where I lack a social life and was in constant work mode. As soon as I got back, my stress level kicked back into overdrive. It’s a really overwhelming feeling for me. I wish it was easier to do more trips with friends again. Ever since I’ve been back a bit of homesickness has kinda kicked in. All it has to take is a couple days with close friends for me to feel this way. In a few weeks one of my close guy friends will be visiting. I can already imagine how much of a great time we’ll have yet I can already feel how sad I’ll be.

Anyways, I enjoyed the fun while it lasted. I’m glad I got to explore a bit of SoCal with close friends. 🙂