Management Reassurance

I have to admit that I’ve been pretty worn out with work. With my recent travels to Colorado and coming back to attend networking events has been so draining on me. I guess I’m trying my hardest to keep this momentum going and to really make some kind of impactful change. While doing this it wears you down both mentally and physically. I’m constantly thinking and trying to figure out a strategy plan to help navigate both myself, my team and my new boss towards a path of success and for better collaboration.

Before my trip to Colorado, I was reading a lot of design leadership books. I wanted to figure out ways to help my team in any way that I can. I am not aspiring to be a design manager or anything in that sense. However I do aspire to be an influencer not only amongst my team, but within the design community as well. I literally read 3 design books in less than a month. I have a few more books to get through and they’ve been great reads. It’s made me feel more empowered and impactful than ever as corny as that may sound. I’m just trying to do the right thing not for myself but for others as well. It’s helped mold the way I’m seeing and thinking about things, which I am totally all for. While reading all of these books, I felt like these books understood the struggles that I was facing at my job, in my role and at the organization. I really felt alone on an island while my team and everyone else was on land elsewhere. It’s been a real struggle for me.

My trip to Colorado went well as it was my team’s first time meeting me in person and I had to opportunity to meet my new boss as there was a reorg announcement while I was in town. I was welcomed with open arms and I met with the right people that I needed to in order to help with my work. Besides attending lots of meetings and just meeting folks in general in that office, we had a great opportunity to go out to socialize after work. I got to chat with my new boss and let him know who I am as well as I where I stand in trying to help the team. He wanted to know me as a person but honestly, I’m really not that interesting haha. All I do is read a lot of books, go on photo adventures, impromptu solo travels, obsessed with RuPaul and RuPaul’s Drag Race, I’ll kick anyone’s ass in Street Fighter haha, etc. There really isn’t much to me but to some degree I hoped he had gotten a gist of who I am as a person. The same day that I was about to head to the airport to go back home, we had a final meeting with my new boss and team to discuss the recent changes. I let out a lot of my frustrations as to where my role currently is and how my previous boss had kinda left me with false promises. I literally was going to start crying because I was so angry but also speaking passionately lol. Anyways, I let them all know how I felt so unsupported for a long time and this trip had reassured me that I really do have people on my side. It was a great way to end my trip on that note.

Once returning back to Cali, I’ve been attending a few design events. They’re great networking opportunities and a great way to stay connected in the design community. I’ve connected with some cool people and hope to continue to keep the conversation going. Going to these events are reminders for me that I am not the only one facing the problems that I have, but how it’s also this ongoing battle. The stories and chatter shared by the panelists at these events has been so good. They’ve even provided more books recommendations which I’m thrilled to check out. I got to briefly chat with one of the speakers yesterday before heading home. She was the only female panelists and I thanked her for sharing her thoughts and how amazing she really is. I’m hoping to see her again soon at another event that her team will be hosting, so I definitely can’t wait.

Back to my boss and work…I do my usual routine of making breakfast and then sit down in front of my computer to go through emails. Most of them I delete but they’re just beyond pointless. However one email in particular stood out and it wasn’t because it was from my new boss. He wrote me a very reassuring email which said “Be patient and enjoy this slow time because things will start to come together quickly. You are not forgotten.”. The dust still needs to settle with all the recent organizational changes, but during this process it was just nice to hear from my own boss that I am not forgotten. I got so choked up and started crying. I’ve been on this solo charter for a long time and to have people on my side especially my boss feels good again, which what caused me to cry haha. I feel better to continue sticking around for what this ride has to offer.

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Cross Roads

Recently while having dinner with my old colleague/friend a couple weeks ago, he mentioned how he quit his job at this healthcare startup. He talked about enjoying his time off and getting the chance to relax, do nothing and pretty much reenergize from that startup life. I was so envious as he spoke of this time off and started believing that’s what I need. I asked how he’s able to even do it and of course that one keyword: savings. Granted he’s 55 and married so having money saved up over the years along with a spouse’s income helps him to take advantage of the opportunity to do this.

With how discouraged I’ve been with work, maybe taking a break from work or this job in general will be a good idea…IF I WAS BALLIN’! I have my finances straight, debt gradually disappearing, and money saved, but I’m not going to waste my savings to shoot the shit. It’s the “adult” in me telling me to be responsible. Ugh. Anyways, this job is still relatively new since I haven’t been there for a full year yet. I’ve faced bad but also good challenges at this job and I am at a wonderful opportunity where I am the lead designer. This is my shining moment and that last project really fucked me up. I’m currently transitioning onto a new project and here’s my chance to move on and redeem myself.

I wish I could take sabbatical leave or just easily quit my job and figure out what I want out of this job. I think somewhere down the line I forgot about my goals and lost a bit of my confidence as a designer. With any job there will be struggles, but that project really destroyed me. I’ve dealt with difficult projects and clients in the past especially during the early stages in my career, but damn not like this. In the meantime, I’m diving back into the design community and taking advantage of the resources that’s out there to get me inspired and motivated again.

The Little Things

I’m going through this weird down moment and it’s been a bit of a struggle for me to snap myself out of it. I just don’t feel like myself and all I want to do is sleep all day in bed. BLAH!!! I remember Thursday night I was really down and had a hard time going to sleep. With the little hours of sleep that I managed to get, I already felt so frustrated with myself because I knew I wouldn’t be as productive since I was really tired. Before I got out of bed, I did my usual routine in bed of checking my emails and browsing through Twitter.

I had checked Instagram since I saw a notification and noticed that my friend sent me a message. I had met B a couple years ago when I had first moved here. Really friendly and talented guy. This guy has a really awesome voice and can play multiple instruments. I remember he had invited me to this open mic night and this guy was legit a one man band with singing, playing the trumpet, keyboard, and I forget what else. It was really impressive, plus he teaches at a music school. So, there was this one time where he had asked to borrow my DSLR and I was cringing so bad to even consider letting him borrow it for a video shoot. The video shoot had featured the students that he was teaching and they have a band and waned to shoot a music video.

After all of his begging and pleading, I gave in. Plus, I kinda felt like a jerk if I was the person preventing the kids from shooting a music video. He was very careful with it and returned it in a timely manner. I got to see the final product and even got mentioned in the video which was pretty cool. Since then I hardly ever see him and we tend to run into each other randomly especially at coffee shops when I’m doing work or reading. I had woken up to this message from him and honestly, it really made the start of my day really good:

bsmsg

For as long as I’ve been a designer, one of my goals is to try my best to inspire and motivate others. I share design related articles about collaboration or whatever is happening in the design scene, handy assets that other designers can use in their work, etc. I know how hard it was for me to get that drive much earlier on in my career and I was hungry to connect with other designers. I’ve always been very humble since I had struggled and worked so hard to get myself to where I am at now.

This message just really meant a lot to me especially during this design funk that I’m in right now. I’m glad that I was able to help B out and to have made an impact. That is just one of the most rewarding things in life and it just reassures me that I am doing something right as a designer and person. During my days like today where I feel like “I suck”, I just read this message to cheer myself up. Sometimes we just need to be told that we’re awesome.

Unfulfilled with Work

The title of this post is pretty self-explanatory. For quite some time I’ve felt this way about my current job. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it. I’m just bored. I’m eager to want to learn more, to contribute more and to simply be valued. I’m just not really getting any of that. This job is still a huge transition for me. To work even more independently than I ever have as well as adapting to a team and boss that is practically 100% remote. I knew what I was getting myself into when I came on board and this was a challenge that I was ready to take on. I am definitely grateful to have a supportive boss that has so much trust in me and to work with a team filled with really smart and talented people. Sometimes we all feel a bit greedy and selfish and just crave for more.

I’ve felt a bit uninspired and unmotivated due to all of those things so I’m really trying to pick up my own weight and get it together. I’ve been searching for design events to go to, which there’s an abundance of in the Bay Area. Searching and signing up to go is one thing, but to actually show up is another. I’m making it a much more conscious effort to show up and to stop being so antisocial when it comes to these things. As I’ve gotten “older” now, I really don’t care to mingle with others like I used to back in Boston. I used to be a social butterfly and I enjoyed it. Now I feel like that cranky old lady that just wants everyone to fuck off haha.

Last week I went to a design event that was hosted right across the street from my office, so I really couldn’t skip out on that one. But that day I worked from home and wasn’t in the mood. I cringed at the thought of getting ready to go, but did so anyways. Got myself together, grabbed my business cards and just sucked it up. When I got there, it was 5 minutes before the presentation started. I immediately went to the bar and had myself a couple glasses of wine just to put myself at ease. I started chatting with the girl next to me, chatted with a couple people that were standing around waiting to chat with the UX director and to exchange business cards, and I unexpectedly ran into this guy that I went to college with whom I had design classes with. It was an interesting and productive night. I was proud of myself for going and expanding my network.

I think in the back of my mind I’m scared that this won’t last long. Oddly in the first time in my career, I’m lacking a bit of confidence in myself as a designer. I have doubts that I can’t hold my own or to excel to my best potential. Most creatives (and non-creatives) run into this “creative block” and I like to refer to it as a design funk. My goals this year was to attend design events, carry my Fujifilm x100t around more,  and find new cafes to work remotely/read. They’re pretty straight forward goals. For now, I’m trying my best to keep myself as inspired and motivated as I can.

Happy Friday

I’ve been aggressively applying to jobs ever since last month when I had completed updating my portfolio and resume. I’ve yet again overworked myself from applying to jobs and trying to make shit happen. It’s been so hard for me to continue biting my tongue at my current job and I’m just very lucky that I’ve had a lot of great and quick turn arounds and feedback from potential employers. I had at least 3-6 calls every week. Last Thursday I had 4 phone interviews. I remember going crazy trying to figure out my availability while looking at my calendar.

Meet Company A. I first spoke with the recruiter from there, then the hiring manager and then a designer. After having a great interviews with them, they had me complete a design challenge. I was kinda nervous since I wasn’t sure what to expect and I’ve never had to do one before. It’s essentially a way for the employer to see how you solve problems. My options was to figure out how to design an ATM for kids or design a texting app for a car dashboard. I opted for the latter. I was essentially up against some other girl and was told that we were similar, but after hearing that I knew how badly I wanted to stand out.

I worked all day last weekend and even up until 4AM. There went my weekend, but I wanted the job badly and plus I wanted to kick this other candidate’s ass with my skills haha. I did a shit ton of research, lots of prototyping, wireframes, visual designs, iconography, created a color palette, typeface selections, etc. I was gonna go crazy from all of the browser tabs that I had opened during my research. I had used InVision to organize this “project” and had things laid out nicely. I was hoping to get feedback from my friend/colleague who I worked very closely with and looked up to him as a mentor during my time at the company, but I was anxious and impatient since he failed to get back to my ASAP. It was due that following Monday and I really needed to send it out. So I just said fuck it and was really nervous and stressed out after I hit send. I had shared it with my team of what my design challenge looked like and they were impressed with how much I managed to churn out in 2 days. I was only suppose to spend 6 hours on this, but nope haha. I got great feedback from them and said that I definitely over delivered, whereas I felt like I didn’t provide enough. I remember panicking and throwing in more sketches to make it look/feel more complete.

After a couple days went by the recruiter finally gave me an update to tell me that the hiring manager and the designer were both impressed by my work. She was gonna give me more updates after meeting with them. While I was playing this waiting game, company B came along and reached out to me. The recruiter from there told me that the hiring manager really liked my portfolio and wanted to speak with me. I had a phone interview set up and it went really well. The next steps would be a 3-4 hour on site interview to meet the team and whatnot. After that they would make their decision. I found out pretty quickly that they really wanted to meet with me so I was in the works of scheduling something with them. As I was trying to schedule something with them I felt guilty in an odd way as I was still waiting for a response from company A. It got super nerve wracking.

When I had submitted my availability to company B, the recruiter from company A called me right afterwards. I thought to myself “FUCK!!!!!!” lol. She asked me if I was meeting with any other companies and whatnot. I was very straight forward and told her how company B is trying to pursue me and it would happen early next week. Instantly she wanted to figure out how to persuade me from meeting with company B.I  mentioned to her how both companies are great and I had felt so conflicted as to which direction to go. I told her how I thought a lot about the pros and cons to each company, but there were too many pros from both companies which made it harder on me. From there we started talking numbers. I gave her a good range and told her what I wanted in order to get me fully onboard. I ended the call with telling her that speaking with her made me feel better and it’ll give me some more time to think about things.

Company B emailed me this morning to reschedule our in person meeting and what’s another available date/time. I ignored the email since Company A said that they will call me in the morning. I think in that moment I realized I need to move forward with Company A if they gave me an offer. After I had dropped off my car to be serviced and getting home this morning, Company A finally called. She went straight into telling me they had an offer for me and I took down notes of what it all entailed. I immediately accepted. I would’ve been the world’s biggest dumbass if I passed up on the offer. I definitely got a bit more than what I asked for, which I really cannot complain. I told her I would gladly accept and how I ignored Company B’s email to reschedule with me. She was really happy and relieved to hear that. She told me how happy the hiring manager would be about the news. She mentioned how even though that other candidate was good, the hiring manager reallyyy wanted me instead. He not only loved my work, but my personality as well and granted I haven’t met any of these people in person lol.

While Company A was telling me the details of my offer, I started tearing up. I was so happy that after all of that hard work I fucking finally made it. No more bullshit, no more micromanaging, no more emotional abuse at work anymore. I felt a huge amount of weight lifted off of my shoulders and it felt awesome. As soon as I got off of the phone I called my mom to share the news. I had spoken to her 30 minutes before Company A called me to wish her a happy birthday and asked if she had received the flowers that I had sent. Calling her back with news about my new job made her extra happy on her special day. That made me tear up even more just because I’ve proven to my parents that I can handle it and there was nothing to worry about. I really kept my word on that one. After speaking with my parents I shared the news with my team since they’ve known about my interview process and job search. I continued passing along the good news to my close friends. They were all happy for me and I am forever grateful for their kindness and support for the hell that I’ve been through the past 5 months at my job.

I immediately thought about when my last day should be and scheduled a meeting with my POS manager’s new boss that she reports to. She pretty much got passed along to another manager that I know who is neutral with me. I immediately emailed her asking to schedule a meeting since I had some “important” things to discuss with her. I plan on sharing the things that my POS manager has said and done to me for the past 5 months. I’ve documented and took down notes of everything. There’s a legit timeline of what this fucking asshole has done to me EVERY WEEK. I don’t care if she gets fired or whatever the fuck happens to her, but I just need to get all of it off of my chest before I leave.

I am still overwhelmed with so much happiness and happy tears, too. It truly has been a struggle in this industry over the years and I’m finally making it. One of my close friends AC that I spoke with today said she admired my dedication that I put into my work and that made me tear up. I am very passionate about what I do. I am at the peak of my career and it really can’t get any better than this. I’m still in shock that I’m going to be making six figures. I can’t wrap my mind around that still. I am grateful for the hiring manager to give me this awesome opportunity. I remember during my phone interview with him I had told him he reminded me a lot of my previous manager that had hired me at my current company. How similar their personalities, values and sense of humor were felt so comforting. I remember that morning was bad because my POS manager said some shitty things to me before my phone interview. After that interview, I felt like this guy gave me hope that there is a great opportunity out there for me and someone is willing to give me the time of day yet alone a chance to prove to them that I can do the job. It all feels so surreal that I am gonna be going off to another great position. I was getting stressed out for how long it could potentially take me to find another job.

Anyways, it really feels so good especially to feel this genuinely happy again. It was a very happy Friday.

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

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.