Earlier this month I had the pleasure of hosting 3 amazing experience designers for an entertaining and eye-opening panel discussion. The participants focussed on the things that they have learned to do over the course of their careers to support professional health and wellbeing.
If you missed the live stream, fear not – you can watch the recording below at your leisure or read through the transcript if that is your preference.
Here is a full transcript of the session for your reading pleasure:
Hawk (host): Hello. Hello and welcome to this live panel event. My name is Hawk, and I’m really excited to be part of this session today.
Hawk (host): So one of the reasons that we’re hosting today’s session is to celebrate the upcoming launch of our latest collaborative e-book, which is called Products, Projects, and Experiences. You can’t say that too fast in a Kiwi accent. I’m joined today by three of the contributing authors – Laura Klein, Dan Szuc, and Jorge Arango. And I’m really thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with these guys. They’re really inspiring UX practitioners. And I’m excited both for my own selfish pleasure and so that I can put to them some of the questions that we’ve been collecting from our community over the recent weeks.
Hawk (host): For those of you that are watching live, please send your questions through via YouTube’s chat feature, and we’ll get through as many of those as possible in the next 60 minutes; no promises, but we’ll do what we can.
Hawk (host): Before we start, I’d like to briefly introduce today’s panel. So, Laura Klein first stumbled upon UX in 1995, and she fell in love. She’s forged a successful career in Silicon Valley, and these days she coaches product teams that want to get better at UX. Laura is the author of UX for Lean Startups and Build Better Products, and you can follow her on Twitter @LauraKlein.
Hawk (host): Dan Szuc’s been involved in the UX field in Hong Kong for over 20 years, and as well as being a published author, Dan’s co-founder of UX consultancy Apogee, of UX Hong Kong, and of his current passion, Make Meaningful Work. And you can follow Dan on Twitter @dszuc.
Hawk (host): Jorge Arango is best known for designing systems that can [inaudible 00:01:37] people with knowledge. He has been involved in the field for the past 25 years, and these days he splits his time between his design consultancy practice, lecturing, writing, and speaking. And you can find out more about Jorge and his work at jarango.com.
Hawk (host): For any more information about our speakers or the panel today, make sure you visit our blog, uxmastery.com. There’s lots of information there in really brief, so that we can get to our questions.
Hawk (host): So welcome, panel. Welcome so much, guys. Thank you for joining me today.
Jorge Arango: Thank you for having us.
Hawk (host): And for those of you watching us, the reason we’ve chosen these three guests – aside from the fact that they are featured in our book – is that they all have really well-established and enviable careers, which have brought them not only success but real satisfaction. And today we’re going to dig into some practical ways that we can begin to shape our own careers and explore our own vocations more deeply.
Hawk (host): So that’s probably enough from me. We can jump straight into the first question, and that first question I am going to put to you, Dan. Let me find my questions. My first question: So most workplaces today are still very much geared towards driving efficiency, productivity, and growth. As a result, people often feel that work is wasteful, busy, stressful, or purposeless. What would happen if we changed our mindset and allowed ourselves to choose projects that are both energizing and empowering?
Daniel Szuc: Ah, well. Thank you. Thank you for the question and thanks for having me today. So, I guess if we zoom out a little and we were to look at work as an environment, and I realize that sometimes people use culture to describe environments. So, we tend to use the term environment, where culture can be described as an instance of environment, and then we start from the point of, well what do we actually want our environment to be at work? So that’s in … It’s actually inferred in the question. Well, it’s not inferred; it’s very explicit in the question of how can we make meaningful work, where work is actually happening within an environment.
Daniel Szuc: If we were to split environment – for the sake of today – into two halves, one half is what we call the explicit half within the environment, and that’s where we often see the work at play, which tends to be our transactional; it’s things that are to do with the day-to-day delivery of the work, and that’s having an impact on people. And the language that we use in that first half of work in reference to delivery, is also having an impact on people. And it tends to be – to speak in more general terms – it tends to be driven by, still very driven by a significant amount of Industrial Age ways of working. Terms like … Some of the terms we’re even fond of – agility and speed and velocity and productivity. This is … These are happening in the first half of what we call the transactional and delivery.
Daniel Szuc: There’s actually a second half to the environment, and that’s what we call … It goes by different names, but we could call it almost the healing part, or the healthier part, perhaps, of work, which tends to be the more implicit part, and the part that’s not made explicit enough. And that part is where practices exist and practices are often hidden from view. And so, what happens in this second half of work, is we’re trying to be more explicit about what we call the learning mode, the learning or the reflection mode. Now this is different to what would be described in Agile as retrospectives. This is really creating a larger portion of time at work for explicit learning and explicit reflection to happen, whereby you can capture practices through what we call practice spotting, so that people have the time not only to be doing the day-to-day production of the work, but also equally would be doing the learning and reflection to determine, in fact, if they’re doing the first half very well as connected to the second half.
Daniel Szuc: And so I’ll finish the probing at that question with mindset, and what it actually implies in everything that I’ve said within the environment is we have to … It’s in … We encourage people to think about the attitude as related to mindset that you’re bringing to the environment. And what that means is, instead of – which happens a lot at work – instead of reacting to the environment, you’re able to hold onto specific practices to have a very specific attitude, to have more intention in the work that you’re doing. It’s not only to do with the delivery and transactional part, but equally to do with the learning and the nurturing and the healthier aspects of what we’re trying to do with Make Meaningful Work.
Hawk (host): Awesome. I’m interested, Laura … Thank you, Dan. I’m interested, Laura or Jorge, in your thoughts, especially around thinking about our audience. And I’ve spent a lot of time with Dan, talking through these things, and have a really good idea of what he’s referring to, but for beginners or for young or inexperienced UXers, how can we put ourselves in the position where we are able to get into this mindset, or even have the opportunity to be picky about the kinds of projects that we do choose. Does anyone have thoughts there?
Laura Klein: Oh, go ahead Jorge.
Jorge Arango: No, go ahead, please.
Laura Klein: Oh, I was gonna say Dan has clearly thought about this far more than I have, so this is … That was a great answer, Dan.
Laura Klein: Here’s my take on it, which I think is a little bit … maybe less well thought out. I … Look … I think, Hawk, you hit on it. When you’re new at this or when you’re maybe a more junior person just getting into it, sometimes you gotta do stuff that’s not super exciting, and sometimes that stuff’s just gotta get done, and sometimes the things that even I, who’s more senior – I’ve been doing this for a long time – I still have to do stuff that sucks, and that’s why they pay me to show up, right? It’s work. That’s why it’s work and not hobbies.
Laura Klein: That said, the times that I find myself and that I’ve seen people really get burned out, or the times that I’ve seen people really feel disconnect, were the times that people didn’t get the why of what they were doing, and they didn’t understand what the outcome was supposed to be and … or they did and they didn’t care. I, for a long time, had a rule that I won’t work any place where my coworkers seemed to hate their users. And this is a thing; I’ve definitely worked at places that were … what I would call user-hostile. And I mean, I’ve seen teams like that and they just seem to be in this antagonistic relationship with their users, and you get into this point where you don’t wanna help these people, and it becomes really, “Oh, these people. They’re always asking for stuff and I don’t want to be there.”
Laura Klein: So, if you care about the people you are helping and if you truly feel like you’re helping people and you truly understand how what you’re doing fits into the greater scheme of things, I think, hopefully, you will have a greater tolerance for maybe some of the things that you do that maybe aren’t that exciting or aren’t really learning opportunities, or maybe just there was something that had to get done and it wasn’t that great. I mean, God knows I’ve done my share of data entry because it had to get done and I was available.
Hawk (host): Yeah, very fair, very fair points. Jorge, did you have anything to add?
Jorge Arango: Yeah, I think one of the things that’s implicit in this question is that you have some degree of agency in choosing the products that you’re working on, which, for someone who is just starting out, that may not be the case. And I would say, think about what you can do to create the conditions necessary for you to be able to have a greater degree of agency over the work that you’re doing, right? So that then you can make sure that the work is aligned with your why, right? So it’s … Have a clear hierarchy of values, which I think everyone has to some degree – a clear hierarchy of values; they just don’t … perhaps they’ve acquired them accidentally and haven’t thought about them very clearly, right? And I don’t think you can expect that at the beginning of someone’s career; you’re going to be able to choose exactly the sort of work that you want to be working on. But you can set things up in such a way that you gain a little bit more agency over time over that sort of decision, so that you can have greater alignment.
Hawk (host): Yeah, awesome. And I guess coming full circle back to what Dan was saying, it’s just about that mindfulness, yeah? It’s about whether or not you can currently make those changes because of the position that you’re in. If you’re constantly mindful of it, then you will come to a place where you potentially you can put those things into place.
Jorge Arango: Yeah, and knowing what the role is for someone who is just getting started. My background is in architecture, as in the design of buildings, and that’s a field that, over the past 100 years or so, it has developed as an academic discipline that you can go to university and learn. But the traditional way of learning design disciplines like architecture was by being an apprentice to a master, right? And folks who were entering the field knew that they were coming in to work on stuff that might be more detailed or might … perhaps less grandiose than the sort of things that the masters were working on. But they were there, in part, to learn and to become masters themselves, right? And there was this understanding that that would happen over time.
Daniel Szuc: Yeah, I think it also implies that there’s … I think about when – I’m not from an architecture background, so I apologize for the crudeness of this reflection – but when I think about, I think about buildings, I think about the infrastructure of the building, the scaffolding. It’s interesting in Hong Kong. People who visit Hong Kong are always in awe that they use bamboo to create scaffolding around buildings, but bamboo is actually incredibly strong, and what the scaffolding implies is that you can stand on and feel safe in standing on it.
Daniel Szuc: So I think when you think about people coming in to any career, I like this idea of scaffolding around people in the form of other people as well, that allows for them to feel that they understand and can begin to articulate that hierarchy of values, that principles, and also think about, from a maturity standpoint, where they would like to get to over time because within UX – and I am trying to say this very respectfully – I think sometimes we have a really hyper focus on what I call the tools layer and the tools and the methods layer, but there’s not always the … and there’s a lot of conferences and books and great places you can go to learn about methods, but I think sometimes what’s lacking – even amongst the more mature of us – are places where we can connect with other practitioners to allow ourselves to feel, in safe spaces, to go even deeper. And sometimes that’s counter intuitive because what it actually implies is I might very well learn more from someone that’s come from an architecture background than I might from someone that’s within UX.
Hawk (host): Yeah, nice. I see ways that I also studied architecture, and we’ve got a comment from the community, from someone else, from [Louis 00:14:38], who also studied architecture, and says that there are lots of similar principles, especially to do with ideation.
Hawk (host): But another interesting comment, from [Matthew Oliphant 00:14:50], going back to having those choices about the projects that we all take, and he says ideally we’d find a way to offer that option to people that are new, rather than just say, “Hey, too bad, that’s how it is.” And yeah, I agree. Yeah, follow that by systems don’t change if we don’t allow that. Very true.
Hawk (host): So, I might throw another question out there now. Maybe this one for you, Laura. So our personal solutions are usually driven by our own strengths, weaknesses, and goals. How can we explore these aspects of our personalities and of ourselves, and make career and vocation choices that drive us towards the success that is gonna be the best fit for the person that we are?
Laura Klein: Yeah, this is … that’s a really good question. I have done a bunch of work with mid career switchers – people who are switching into UX from other things. And one of the things that’s been extremely successful for some of them, is focusing on the skills that they’re bringing into UX from other things – even not necessarily even design-related things. I worked with a woman who wanted to do research and she had been a scientist and she wanted to do more user research, and … so she ended up doing a bunch of user research for scientists, and it was incredibly helpful because she sort of knew how it worked.
Laura Klein: So, sometimes I think that part of it is just understanding that you have skills that might not be what you think of as UX skills or product skills or whatever. You have skills that you bring to this and then, also to recognize the difference between things that you’re really good at doing and maybe things that you’ve been praised for doing. That’s just kind of a … an interesting thing that like … Things that you’re actually good at, that you enjoying doing, you have to really find that Venn diagram of here is something that I actually enjoy doing all the time and that I do well, and also that people will pay me to do, and focusing on those.
Laura Klein: I find that most people have so many skills and so many things that they are good at – that they might not even know that they’re good at – , so part of it is trying to recognize what you can do and accepting that and just be like, “Yeah, now I’m a badass at that.” So, figuring those things out and putting them together and finding the right place for you to do all the things that you’re good at. I don’t worry too much about weaknesses. Just … I focus on, oh, that’s the thing that I’m good at and that I like doing; I’m going to do more of that. And I’ll get better at some of the stuff that I’m not very good at, if I have to. But that’s harder. Sometimes that’s fun, but sometimes it’s fun just to focus on the thing that you’re really good at and get really, really good at it. Other people really like the challenge of getting better at the things they have to overcome, but it seems way too hard for me. Too much work.
Hawk (host): Dan and Jorge, have you guys got an opinion?
Daniel Szuc: Well … Oh, Jorge, did you want to go first?
Jorge Arango: Well, yeah, very briefly. And another alternative is if you are clear on what your weaknesses are, surround yourself with people who are complementary to you, right? That’s one way to overcome it.
Jorge Arango: I just want to stress, again, something that is implicit in the question is self-awareness, right? And taking the time out to do the work of introspection and really kind of honestly taking a look at what you enjoy doing and don’t enjoy doing, and the things that allow you to fall into conditions of flow, right? Where you’re just kind of in the moment and lean into those somehow, right? That’s not gonna happen if you don’t take the time out to really think about … step outside of the day to day and think about what brings you joy and what is more challenging.
Daniel Szuc: Yeah, I think related, we have something in the Make Meaningful Work story, which is called a learning portfolio. Now, we’re not using the word portfolio in the UX portfolio, design portfolio sense of the word. We’re actually using the word portfolio more in reference to like an investment portfolio, where you’re investing in yourself. And so, it’s really simple. It’s got two columns. One column says “What can I learn?” And it’s got another column that says “What can I teach?” And both of those have their challenges for people, but it’s very practical and it’s saying, “I’m keeping a track on where I feel I have some gaps in my learning, and I am also keeping a track on what I can teach.” And the way we think about teaching, sometimes teaching is thought of a frame to be, well, I have to be an expert to teach it. The way we’re using it is, just try something, try and teach something, try and write an article on something, get your voice out there because when we talk about the second half that I spoke about in environment, it’s all practice anyway. It’s continuous practice.
Daniel Szuc: So that’s part of how I think about improving daily, and I also think about it in reference to where I have those deficiencies, but not in an overly negative way, rather in a more opportunistic, positive way to say, “Well, what can I continue to learn?” Because the learning never stops. It just never stops.
Hawk (host): Yeah, I love that, and I like the whole what can I teach concept, especially I’ve found that to be one of the tools that I personally use for combating impostor syndrome, which I know that some of our community has mentioned because I’ve learnt that in teaching myself, I’m going down this track about the things I specifically think I’m trying to teach, but then somebody else takes from what I’ve told them something really quite different that meant something for them, and that’s empowering and that gives me confidence and makes me go, “Hey, hang on a minute. There is something here that I have got to offer for other people.” And that’s confidence-building, and I think that’s a lot of the thing that’s missing, especially for young UXers starting out.
Hawk (host): And speaking of that impostor syndrome I’ll just read out [Nothrop’s 00:21:48] thoughts, which are about the master and apprentice relationship, and how lacking that formal structure can sometimes contribute to the prevalence of impostor syndrome. And I also note that I’m assuming [Marc 00:22:01] is from Australia or New Zealand because he spells impostor syndrome with an e, as I do; it’s actually spelled with an o, I found out yesterday.
Hawk (host): And he also says a really interesting thing, “What about the journeyman notion, the notion of traveling and learning from multiple masters and from multiple cultures?” And I think that that’s something that’s very easy to forget as well, when we’re doing our own thing in our own bubble.
Daniel Szuc: Through.
Hawk (host): Go.
Daniel Szuc: Through … Was that from [Marc 00:22:31]? About the journeyman?
Hawk (host): Yes, indeed.
Daniel Szuc: Yeah, I think that is a really, very astute – and by the way, hi, [Marc 00:22:39], and hi, [Matthew 00:22:40] – that’s a very astute reflection. I have lived really two lives. One, I grew up in Australia. I grew up within a Aussie community within Australia and a Jewish community within Australia. I grew up with a whole range of nationalities at university and at school.
Daniel Szuc: But when I came to Hong Kong, for the last 21 years, naturally I am immersed in completely different cultures and predominantly Asian cultures, and my wife and business partner, Josephine, is Chinese, and she was born in mainland China and she moved to Hong Kong when she was little. I listen to Cantonese most of my days, and so I think what [Marc’s 00:23:27] touching on there is very important in reference to multiple perspectives. I think it’s really easy, especially as we get older, to be locked in to these really fixed views about things. And we get sucked into our local vortex, where we sometimes can’t put our head above water to breathe and see other perspectives.
Daniel Szuc: So, in reference to learning – junior, mid, or senior – being able to have people around you who can give you multiple perspectives and challenge you to think in different ways, it’s a very, very astute reflection and one that I fully support and embody.
Hawk (host): Right, should we move on to the next question? I’m going to put this one to you, Jorge. It can be difficult to translate important philosophical decisions and beliefs into practical outcomes. How can we ensure that our career is moving in a direction that satisfies both our emotional, spiritual, as well as professional needs?
Jorge Arango: So I think that we’ve already touched on this to a degree, right? Like this idea that you have to be clear on your why. And I was part of a team a couple of years ago where we would periodically take time out from our work to kind of work on the work itself, like work on our ability to do the work. And that included asking the question, “What are we in service to here?” And I think that that is an incredibly powerful question to ask, right?
Jorge Arango: I think that the word philosophy is a word that makes people anxious because they associate it perhaps with academic philosophy. They think, “Oh my gosh. Are we gonna be talking Nietzsche or Heidegger or any of these things?” But really, I think of philosophy as living a considered life, right? What is the life that you want to live? And if you have not thought about that and you haven’t consciously set out to align the life you’re actually living with the life that you would like to be living, you’re going to live a life that is not guided by you, but somehow kind of riding along by … on circumstances, right?
Jorge Arango: So, again, I think that this notion of taking time out from the day-to-day, the daily grind, and doing the work of really sitting with these questions and clarifying what your values are. I actually – pardon me – I have a book I pulled out from my library that was actually really helpful to me, called The Highest Goal by Michael Ray; I think he teaches at Stanford, or he used to teach at Stanford. And it’s a book about … He offers a process for you to sit with your values and just clarify what they’re about, and I think that that’s something that everyone – not just in UX design but everyone – should do.
Hawk (host): Yeah, I agree, and I think that we need to be encouraging our team members and other people that come in to the industry to take that time and to stop worrying too much about overperforming and making sure that everything that they do is visible and everything they do is contributing to … every second of their day is contributing to the project at the detriment of mental health and of satisfaction and of general well-being of your organization.
Jorge Arango: Yeah, just add to that. So, the exercise is the following, and I think that this came up in Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech, right? Do the mental exercise of imagining yourself in your deathbed – as morbid as that sounds, right? And think it’s like, “Am I … Did I live a life that I’m satisfied with?” And folks who work in palliative care and who work with folks who are kind of at the end of their life, report that that’s like the number one thing that comes up for those people. It’s like the ones that have regrets are … they’re not regrets about not making enough money or whatever; it’s regrets about not having lived the life that you really wanted to live. And you can’t do it at the end; you have to do it while it’s happening.
Hawk (host): Yeah, I agree. Laura, Dan, do you have a comment? No?
Laura Klein: That was great. I agree with Jorge.
Hawk (host): Well, a question has come through along these lines, so I’ll jump into that before we move on, and it’s how do we encourage sitting with these uncomfortable or challenging notions, especially in environments – sorry, [Louis 00:28:35], [Louis 00:28:35] is replying to me as I read – especially in environments when we’re having to explain the basic value of our work, let alone the nuances? So I guess a little bit of what I literally just said: that we do need to encourage this kind of thinking and stopping to take a breath, but how do you think we can encourage that? How can we make that part of our daily routine for our team members or for our colleagues?
Daniel Szuc: Well, we have a tool – we’ve only got one tool currently – but it’s a tool that we’ve put a lot of years of thought into and arrived at it, called practice spotting. And [Jo 00:29:17] and myself are predominantly researchers at heart, so it’s very much a tool that you can imagine it like a key. It’s a key that you insert into really any environment, and you can also use it on yourself and with other people. And what it’s there to do is to help you observe and listen with intent about the environment to determine if that environment is indeed a fit for you.
Daniel Szuc: And so I think that is something that everybody can continue to practice because not all environments are right for us and it’s not a matter of being overly negative about the environments that are not right for us, it’s knowing which environments are conducive to us growing in healthy ways and which are not. But being explicit with the practice spotting tool to insert that in and to be able to arrive at those practices within the environment, people within the environment, conditions within that environment, values as Jorge has been talking about that are right or not right for you, also begins to … perhaps with intention begin to define or design your own philosophy. And I agree with Jorge: I don’t think we should steer away from philosophy as he said because it’s seen as academic, it doesn’t need to be seen that way; it can actually be an incredibly practical driver in the way that we work and we live.
Hawk (host): Yeah. Awesome. Agreed. Okay, I’m going to rein it back from the philosophical and to something significantly more practical. I’m gonna throw it at … Who am I gonna throw it at? I’m gonna throw at you, Laura. Did you ever have a time in your career, which we know you did because you told us before, when you became bored or disillusioned with your work? And when it happened, what did you do to rekindle your excitement?
Laura Klein: Oh my god. So, you have to understand that when I say that I started with UX back in the mid 90s, what I mean is I started doing some research back then. Since then I have been an engineer, I have taught UX, I have written books, I’ve given talks, I’ve taken time off to work on my own stuff. I get bored I would say every couple of years. It’s not so much like, “Do you get bored?” It’s like, “Do you … Are you ever not distracted by something shiny?” The answer is yeah. I mean … I very … I know that I am the kind of person who needs to be in an environment, where there is a lot of stuff going on and there are many different things that I can do and be involved with, even like day-to-day, I do much better if I’ve got a … Yes, it’s great if I can get them to flow to work on a specific design, but even at this point, where I actually am the head of product at a company, I still occasionally will just do design work for four or five hours because I love that, and also sometimes I’ll do prototyping, and also I’m teaching a class in May, and I just really have to do a kind of a whole bunch of things, or I get very distracted.
Laura Klein: So here’s the thing: that’s not gonna work for everybody – in fact, it’s not gonna work for most people who have what we like to call an attention span. So, if you are that kind of person, you need to figure out what keeps your interest. I think part of it, though, for me, was realizing that not beating myself up over it because I would do this thing where I would kind of skip around and, I mean, if you … I am the very traditional sort of job hopper when you look at my customer; it’s kind of all over the place. And you know what? Honestly, it’s weird. I think I might have done better had I actually been able to focus on any one given thing, but I don’t think I would have lived the life I wanted to.
Laura Klein: So, figure out what you’re like. Live the life you want to live. Don’t beat yourself up over it if you’re not doing this sort of … Oh, and then I went and I did this, and then I went and I got my MBA, and then I went I … Whatever. Or if that is the kind of person you are, great. Do that. But recognize what it is that you love, and when you get distracted and be okay with switching to something else.
Hawk (host): Awesome. Yeah. [inaudible 00:34:11] I just want to jump in. I’ll ask you others as well the same question, but I just wanted to mention – I should have, before I asked the second question – Dan, the tool that you were talking about before, if anyone wants more information on that, I’ll make sure that’s included in the transcript, which we’ll post up of this session afterwards.
Hawk (host): So yeah … So Jorge or Dan, do you have a response? How do you manage disillusionment or boredom in your career? How do you kind of convert into something that’s stimulating?
Jorge Arango: Yeah. So I can’t say that I am ever really bored or disillusioned, which I guess would make this a good answer for the question, which it … because I think I’ve discovered a way of beating that demon, [crosstalk 00:34:57] and it has to do … Yeah, I gotta boast about something, right? And the approach is – I think this is gonna sound a little Yoda of me, but – be open to serendipity, right? And what I mean by that is especially people whose job it is to design, which is to make the future tangible, we can have a tendency to overspecify our own future, and I think that if you are open to accidents, intrusions into your perfect little plan, you might be led down paths that might be very interesting.
Jorge Arango: I’ll give you a small example: Just today I finished reading a very long book on the history of the Reformation in Europe; that is something that is kind of way outside my professional area of concern. I spent way more time reading this book than I should have, given how busy I am and how many other things I have to read. But I am coming out of that experience full of interesting, I think, ideas of how our time kind of mirrors that time and how some of the changes that those folks were going through can inform our own time. And I feel a little reenergized after that, right? So … And that came to me completely accidentally; I wasn’t looking to read a book on that subject. So just being open to serendipity, I think can be helpful in this regard.
Hawk (host): Awesome. Mr Szuc, have you got anything to add? Have you ever been bored or disillusioned in your life?
Daniel Szuc: I was just thinking that bored and disillusioned would be a great name for a stand-up comedy team. Good evening, I’m bored and I’m disillusioned, and thanks for joining tonight. I … Living in … Having lived in two … what might appear to be two very different cultures – and I’m oversimplifying like a sort of a Western way of thinking and an Eastern way of thinking. Wwhat I’ve learned in working and living in Asia is, I find, especially amongst Chinese, I find they tend to, at times, think in what I call multiples. And so the idea of multiples is, they don’t necessarily always think of a linear way of this or it’s that, or it’s a or it’s b, or it’s black or it’s white. So boredom feels like one extreme, but I very rarely hear people say that they’re bored. I hear kids say that they’re bored sometimes. I hear adults say more – and I think sadly – that they’re busy. And I think we’ve all been caught up with busyness and distraction.
Daniel Szuc: So, I remember growing up in the 70s in Australia, before gaming machines and mobile phones, and I remember lying on my bed and spending hours just staring at the ceiling, thinking about stuff, and that was fine. So I think my practical answer would be, find the moments to not be thinking deliberately, not be thinking about anything, as a practice and use those moments, the … use the serendipity to be able to help you determine what is it that energizes you.
Daniel Szuc: Busyness to me – when people say busyness – busyness sounds like they sometimes haven’t necessarily found the thing that energizes them. It’s just that they’re trying to find things to keep them busy because they’re not necessarily confronting the things that they need to. And boredom, as another extreme, sounds almost of a similar nature, where they’re just kind of motoring along. So there, again, there’s something – to use Jorge’s language – is something inherent in that that’s troubling to me.
Daniel Szuc: I think seek more diversity in your practices, and it’s okay to be busy at times and it’s okay to be bored at times, and look in the spirit of multiples, look for every nuance in between those two states.
Hawk (host): Nice. Alright, I’m going to put a bit of a downer on this – not quite as much of a downer as Jorge-
Jorge Arango: Can I add something real quick there?
Hawk (host): Yeah, you may.
Jorge Arango: If you find yourself being bored, that’s good, right? Because there is awareness there of your state, right? That’s tell … Your body’s telling you something.
Hawk (host): Yip. Yip, that’s coming back to that mindfulness that’s not necessarily seeing boredom as a negative thing, but as a cue to make a change.
Jorge Arango: Right.
Hawk (host): Alright. So yeah, back to the downer – and not quite as much of a downer as the deathbed conversation of previous questions – but I want to put this question out there because it was asked by a member of our community on Twitter during the weekend. It’s something that I actually get asked a lot, especially in our forums, and I’m gonna put it to you, Laura. When do you know that it’s time to leave a company? When is it time to go, “Actually, I’ve gotta be brave.”
Laura Klein: So this is [crosstalk 00:40:13]. Yeah, this is a good one for me because I have left a lot of companies ’cause, like I said, I hop around. I realized many, many years ago – and this is a hundred percent consistent – that when I am driving into work, sometimes if things get to a point where they’re bad enough, I will – I swear to God – start fantasizing about getting into a small car accident that is just bad enough-
Hawk (host): Good lord, that’s pretty grim [crosstalk 00:40:45].
Laura Klein: Not actually injured, but just bad enough that I don’t have to go to work that day.
Jorge Arango: Wow.
Laura Klein: But when that happens, I will just go in and quit because that’s telling me is, now my body is saying, “I would rather suffer physical damage. Don’t go and deal with these people any longer.” And I … This is a hundred percent true, it happens every single time, I, in some ways, credit the fact that I have been at my current job for three years, to the fact that I work remotely and don’t have a commute anymore, so I really have just no idea how to know when to quit.
Laura Klein: But there is … I get an actual physical reaction. I’m not any … I mean, I say it like it’s a funny thing; it’s not funny, it’s horrible at the time when I’m just like, “Mm [inaudible 00:41:31] this.” And it’s a physical reaction, where I’m just, “I’m not happy.” And I don’t … I mean, I’m not the kind of person who’s happy all the time, God knows. I’m happy some of the time. So it’s not just a little thing; it’s I’m so unhappy that I don’t think this is fixable. I’m not optimistic, it’s not a thing. It’s just a … We’re done here. And I just … and … Since I’ve been doing it for so long, I sort of figured out what that feels like to me again. And the funny thing is, I’m saying a lot of things about, “Oh, it’s just a feeling.” I’m not really that touchy-feely of a person. I’m not that in touch with my emotions, which is probably why I have to imagine getting hit by the bus. But I’m telling you, it really does get to that point.
Laura Klein: And here’s the thing, I actually … I’ve talked to folks, I know a lot of people who, I swear, they have gotten past that point. They are so beaten down and they are so unhappy at their jobs, but they are staying because they feel like they have to or because they … I mean, I a hundred percent get that some people have to because they literally have to; they need the money and I have so much sympathy for them. I am not there anymore and I am so happy not to be there anymore, and I hope everybody gets past the point where they are.
Laura Klein: But if you are in UX right now, there is a good chance that you don’t have to. And so, don’t stay because … If you’re feeling that sort of thing – it doesn’t have to be the bus – but if you’re feeling that sort of thing, you don’t have to stay because you’re worried about your company or your product or your coworkers. I mean, those are nice, it’s great that you worry about that stuff, but worry about you. Worry about the fact that you’re honestly just so deeply unhappy that you gotta go.
Laura Klein: Also, there are all sorts of other good reasons to leave a company, like you get a better offer, but I’ve never quit a job with another job lined up. I honestly let it get to the point where I fantasize of being hit by a bus – and then I just leave.
Hawk (host): Alright, there was [crosstalk 00:43:45]. I’m not necessarily going to post to my community that you all [inaudible 00:43:52] car accidents. I understand what you’re saying.
Hawk (host): Yeah, [inaudible 00:43:58], I was gonna try and avoid jumping in with my own opinions here. My answer to that question is, when you actually start to have that thought, when you start to think, “Should I be staying in this job?” Not necessarily jump straight out, but just start to talk to your peers and start to talk to your network and start to kind of examine those feelings a little bit for two reasons. One is because it does help you get some clarity about the things you love about your job and the things that you don’t, and it helps you get some realistic feedback about maybe ways, practical ways that you can solve whatever it is that’s causing the problem. And worst case scenario: Everybody goes, “Hell, you’ve gotta leave.” Then everyone knows that you’re looking for another job and that’s an important next step. People aren’t gonna offer you something if nobody knows you’re looking, so it’s kind of win-win. I’d try that before any car accidents, especially involving buses.
Laura Klein: I will say this: I think I feel like you have to have some optimism. There has to be some optimism left that whatever’s broken can be fixed because like I said, that stuff’s, sometimes you have to do stuff you don’t like – it’s work. Sometimes not everything’s gonna be great. That’s fine. You have to have some optimism that the thing that is upsetting you, is going to get better and that it realistically could get better in that there’s something you can do to make it better, and that it is gonna get better on some timeline that doesn’t involve you just giving up entirely before that.
Laura Klein: So that’s important, and I think the times that I’m feeling that way are times when I’m just kind of, it’s not … It’s that moment when your body just goes, “This isn’t getting better, is it? This is never gonna … This is just how it is now. I need to go.”
Hawk (host): Jorge, have you got an opinion?
Jorge Arango: Well, I’m just thinking that this is where it’s helpful to read about things like sixteenth century Europe, right? Because-
Laura Klein: Sure!
Jorge Arango: Because you have choice [crosstalk 00:46:00]. Folks back then, if you were born a serf, basically, you did not have a choice as to what you were going to do with your life. And these questions about does it align with my values? Do I like my coworkers? Hand-to-mouth living basically, right?
Jorge Arango: So we, you, my friends, who are watching this, are incredibly privileged to live in a time when we don’t have to do things for reasons other than this is the thing that I want to do with my life. And you have the privilege to be able to reach old age, feeling satisfied with the way that you’ve spent your time here. Make use of that.
Hawk (host): Nice. Dan, are you going to keep things positive?
Jorge Arango: I didn’t mention death.
Hawk (host): [inaudible 00:46:57] Should we go into another question? Alright. This is at no one in particular. I’m keen to see who feels the need to jump in, but one of the questions from the community is, what are some key things that you guys believe that you’ve done to get you where you are today? And I think by where you are today, they mean in a place that you are confident and comfortable and enjoying your job enough that you can be philosophical about it and you can give guidance. So yeah, what was a key aspect of your career that’s kind of helped you to get to this place?
Daniel Szuc: I’ll mention three, I think quick ones. One is read. I think more people I know don’t read than read. I was never an avid reader as a kid. I’ve had to practice and teach myself to read. I read every day. Every day. And so I’m trying to diversify what I read. I don’t just … I very actually, very rarely read UX-related materials now. So read.
Daniel Szuc: Two is, surround yourself with great people. This is this call; the community that’s listening in. Where UX is really lucky, it’s predominantly made up of really fantastic people. You get a couple of exceptions there sometimes, but mostly it’s made up of really lovely people, and we’re really lucky in that respect.
Daniel Szuc: And I would say the final one is, I’d like to think that within user experience, there’s one, this idea of care. It implies that there’s a people aspect still within user experience, although I, perhaps another discussion, I feel like it’s being degraded over time, but it implies people. It implies care, so seek people out who give you the opportunity to try things out, and seek feedback in that, and again, I come back to the spirit of continuous learning.
Hawk (host): Awesome.
Laura Klein: I have … So, there is a single thing that I did that I actually can trace, I think, sort of all of my later success to, and that is I started writing about stuff I knew about – and that’s it. And what I had to do to do that, is I had to realize that I had something that I knew that nobody else knew – and I actually had to be told that by somebody; I was, “Everybody knows this.” “No, no. Very few people know that.” “Oh, okay.” So then I started writing about stuff and I was, “Oh, I know things and I can share them with other people.”
Laura Klein: And then that has over time turned into, again, the podcast and the teaching and mentoring and all of these things where I just, “Oh yeah, no, I do know things.” And putting it out there … It has created for me – I think hopefully, I always, I’m afraid to jinx it when I say this – but it has created for me … Somebody told me once that there was a difference between job security and career security. Job security is when you feel like you’re at a job and that job is safe and they’re not going to fire you. And career security is where you’re like, “Well, if they did fire me, I’d be fine.” And I feel like I’ve sort of moved to more of that career security, where I do know things, I am good at things, I put them out there. People see that. They know who I am and they sometimes want to work with me based on what I put out there.
Laura Klein: The other great thing is that if you write like I do, some people read it and go, “Oh, no. We don’t want to work with her.” And it’s a great filtering … it’s a fantastic filtering mechanism. So be yourself and the people who really like you will want to hire you and work with you, and the people who don’t, you’ll never hear from and it will be great.
Laura Klein: But really, it is huge just having that recognition that there’s a thing that I could teach somebody, so I’m gonna do that and I’m gonna put myself out there and I’m gonna get feedback on it and put more of it out there.
Jorge Arango: Yes, I love that distinction, Laura.
Laura Klein: It wasn’t mine, by the way. It’s just something I was told.
Jorge Arango: Career security and … Well, wherever it came from, right? But I will add to that that job security does not exist. You have to work on career security, right? If for no other reason for the reason that Dan brought up at the beginning of the call, which is that the construct that we know as job security is something that comes from a different era, and it’s an era that is going away. And you have to work on career security first and foremost. And working on career security is going to make you better at your job, so that falls from that, right?
Daniel Szuc: And putting yourself out there’s also a lovely point. I think the UX community, again, generally is a nice, supportive, and caring place to be able to do that. Putting yourself out there comes in different forms – articles, presentations, workshops, podcasts. It’s a way of when you move it from outside your head on to another medium, something changes in that it’s … you’re able to … if you can reflect on that moment that it shifts from your mind to your head and then be able to talk about it with other people, it’s a very useful thing.
Daniel Szuc: And I have to say, as I’m made perhaps handing back to Hawk, that UX Mastery is indeed one great place to do that. So how’s that for a segue, Hawk? Back to you.
Jorge Arango: Well done.
Hawk (host): [crosstalk 00:53:07] But I agree with you. And what I’m hearing from all of you is read, is write, is put yourself out there, is network, is make your voice heard, is build your reputation. And all of those things incrementally help you get to a place where you have the confidence to be able to make choices that you might not have had the confidence or other resources to make before [inaudible 00:53:35], and I love that.
Hawk (host): And you’re right, Dan. At UX Mastery, so much of the reason that we do what we do is to kind of help the community and help new UXers not just find their way into UX but to start to have a place to make their voice good, and so yeah, for anyone listening, if you’ve got something to write about or you’ve got something to share, head us up. Send us an email or go to our website because yeah, we’re always keen to hear new voices, and if we can do something to help you, then yeah, let’s have a chat.
Hawk (host): But enough marketing. I am going to read out a couple of book recommendations from [Louis 00:54:19], who says, “Read Mitch Horowitz’s The Miracle Club, which segues into the previous conversation about finding who you are, and Hero’s Journey.” So maybe give those a go.
Hawk (host): Alright, another question. We’ve got six minutes to go, and I’m aware that we need to end at the top of the hour, so I like this one: How do you consistently stay aware of what brings out the best in other people? How do you create a space to bring out the best in the people that are around you and to help bolster them into this place that we’re talking about trying to get to? What can we do to help the people that we work besides to support them in their journey? Any of you. I’m gonna go for Jorge.
Jorge Arango: Well, the first thing that comes to my mind here is teaching, right? That’s something that is very big for me, and teaching requires you to be very conscious of how you respond to the things that are being presented to you by folks, and how their perception of who they are and what their level of ability is either reflects or doesn’t reflect on the work that they’re showing you, right? So, it … that calls for knowing how to create the space to give feedback in a way that is constructive and that allows folks to grow in positive directions, right? And I can tell you that it’s for, at least for me, not easy; it’s something that I have to work on, but it’s, I think, very important. And being in a teaching context, where I’m formally teaching students, is a way of exercising that particular muscle, which I appreciate tremendously.
Hawk (host): Awesome. Laura?
Laura Klein: Oh, I’m terrible at this. I mean, we’ve been talking about being self-aware; I am not good at this. I just am not … The one thing that I have gotten feedback from students of mine that, the one thing that I do right – and this is I think useful – is that I … In … For many people, not for all of them, they can tell that I care deeply about them as a person, so even if … and that I will often try to figure out what their superpower is and how … what they’re good at and just feel like, “Great, you’re doing that.” So I very much let people kind of run with stuff.
Laura Klein: But in general it’s a really hard thing to do. I tend to limit myself to working on small teams of people who are really good at certain things that I am not necessarily good at, so I can kind of go like, “Great, you’re in charge of that and I’m in charge of this, and let’s work together on this thing.” Because I know that that’s important, and I do care deeply about the people. Well, when I do care deeply about the people, they can tell. And for sure they can also sometimes tell if that’s not true, but … so, if you get feedback or if you give any kind of negative feedback, as long as they know that you love them, they will take it better.
Hawk (host): Yeah. [inaudible 00:57:57] and honesty, right? It’s just about having the courage to put ourselves out there and go, “Hey, I’m not very good at this,” or “Shit, I’m … [inaudible 00:58:08] struggling,” which kind of gives other people – I just swore – which gives other people the opportunities … I’m a Kiwi.
Laura Klein: [inaudible 00:58:18] bad influence.
Hawk (host): [inaudible 00:58:18] if she said that she doesn’t feel good about that, then, can you maybe, maybe it’s normal, and to give people the opportunity to go, “Hell, no one feels good all the time,” and making it a safe place to talk about those feelings, I think, is often a good way to support.
Hawk (host): Dan, do you want to add something? You’ve got two minutes. Can you do it?
Daniel Szuc: Sure, yes I can. There’s the me and the we within an – let’s do full circle, we’re back to the environment. There’s the me and the we. We’re on a call right now. We’re on a call that’s an environment in itself. There’s Laura, there’s Jorge, there’s Hawk, there’s Dan, and there’s someone behind the scenes, and there’s the people listening in, so it’s not just about you. It’s about the we. So I have found I have a habit of reading articles and sending articles to people to read; some of the people listening on the call know that I do this. Whether they read it or they don’t read it, I’m not entirely sure, but the act is to give, so it’s about them in the way, it’s about giving, it’s about creating a security and a trustworthiness within community, and I would say, to hand back to you, Hawk, I’d come back to the notion of UX Mastery is one place where – of a number places globally, in reference to UX – that is explicit and intentional in community-building, and that’s a great thing.
Hawk (host): I want to say thank you, again, for your kind words. [inaudible 00:59:55] that is the top of the hour, which means we’ve got to go. But thank you all so much. I really enjoyed today. It was good fun and I’ve [inaudible 01:00:04] learnt a lot. And thank you to those of you that were out there and listening and sharing your questions and your thoughts.
Hawk (host): So, we will compile this transcripts and post it on our blog next week, and also keep an eye out for the book because if you guys thought that these guys were good today, wait till you read all the other stuff they have yet to say.
Daniel Szuc: Cool.
Hawk (host): Thanks. Thank you.
Laura Klein: Thank you.
Jorge Arango: Thank you.
Daniel Szuc: Thanks a lot. Bye.
Jorge Arango: Bye.