A short month note for a short month. Here is what I’m 🎉 celebrating, 🎓 learning, or 🚧 finding challenging in February.
6 months with Opencast
🎉 I’m celebrating 6 months with Opencast! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join Opencast. There are lots of reasons for this, but two stand out to me. Number one, Opencast’s UCD community. Being part of our supportive community online and offline has been one of the best things ever. They help me learn, feel connected, and inspire me to grow and develop. Number two, there is space at Opencast. To grow, to learn, to build, to try, to lead, to change. These two things have made a world of difference to my work wellbeing. Thank you.
Behind the curtains
- 🎉 I loved getting more involved with the business side of Opencast this month. By that I mean thinking about the experience of our clients and getting involved in bid strategy. And considering recruiting and how we want to grow our Opencast service design team. 🎓 Lots more to learn and explore here.
I’m a good designer. Fullstop.
🎉 Coming to design from anthropology was a challenge. I used to think it’s my research and social imagination skills that keep me afloat as a designer. Then I moved into more applied roles in the health and care space. So I told myself, it’s my interest and understanding in health that keep me afloat in my design role. Making the switch to HMRC for my first project with Opencast scared me. This was far outside of my comfort zone. I switched context, industry, role, and country all at once. And jumping headlong from a cliff into unfamiliar water is not something that comes easy to me. I wrote about learning lots from Giulia Fiorista on this here. But I’m still more of a gardener than a swimmer. But I’m happy to report, I floated! I have enjoyed being in the deep end of delivery with HMRC as well as taking on leadership. And this experience has been a valuable lesson that boosted my confidence as a designer. It wasn’t the research side or health and care that made me good at my job. I’m a good designer. Fullstop.
All roads lead to visibility
🎉 After taking part in the Upfront course last year, visibility continues to be a key word. It pops up in conversations about my role at HMRC and Opencast. It comes up frequently when I talk to less experienced designers. And in all things feminism and women in tech. This has taken me by surprise, as I never thought about visibility much before Upfront. Now it feels like something I’m starting to feel comfortable with, make sense of, and practice. This is a professional win, as well as a massive personal one. I spent much of my childhood practicing how to best disappear and become very small. 🎓 I’m still unlearning some of this. But it’s having a huge effect on my wellbeing and mental health at work and beyond.
Diversifying how I think about impact
🎓 I am learning to diversify how I think about impact. I noticed this in talking to less experienced designers and user researchers. So many of us feel motivated by impact. By the difference we are making to people and their lives. This is why we come into design, and especially design in public sector. However, this is not always easy to measure, directly visible, or quickly achievable. And it can leave people feeling disappointed, frustrated, and useless. This tweet describes this perfectly:
I can relate to this, and to the urge to throw in the towel or give in to a sense of boredom and hopelessness. And sometimes it is simply time to make a big change and shake things up! Other times, we know we are in the right place and want to continue being there. This work is needed. We are needed. It’s less about thrilling jumps off cliffs (although that’s a skill that can come in handy!), and more about gardening. Gradual, deliberate, sowing of seeds and watering of seedlings. Creating opportunities for the next generation. Building on the existing good things, and chipping away at the bad ones. Moving slowly and healing things. How do you keep motivated though? How do you keep going? Well, I’m not yet an expert in this. But what helps me is celebrating all the wins, even the small ones. Connecting to people who do similar work and feeling a sense of allyship. Making work and impact visible as much as you can. And my most recent method, diversifying how I define impact. Yes, delivering joined-up end-to-end services that work for people is what we’re all here for. But there’s also impact in helping a colleague. Mentoring someone more junior. Contributing to a community. Sharing learning. Supporting someone’s progression. Making a space, any space, more inclusive. Bringing joy or laughter into someone else’s day. Connecting someone to an opportunity or person. The list goes on and will look a little different for everyone. These things count. And you can seek out and practice noticing all the small and big things where you are making an impact each week. Impact and meaning can be found outside the often slow and deliberate work of a designer.