What I’m celebrating 🎉, learning 🎓, and finding challenging 🚧 this month.
🎉 Something I’m celebrating:
- Reconnecting with my first love anthropology. I travelled to Berlin and spent the weekend at “Why the World Needs Anthropologists”. I was a little nervous I’d feel out of place now that I am more part of the design world. Instead I realised how much anthropology continues to shape my thinking and doing. I met lots of interesting people who work across a range of different organisations and professions (including design and innovation!). And who are applying anthropology to a range of new areas, including digital, data, and AI. The presentations and conversations left me inspired and hopeful. Anthropology, like design, has a problematic history. And this has too often followed us into the presence. But its methods, mindsets, and skills to interpret, interrogate and unpack culture remain relevant. It is up to this generation of anthropologists to turn this into a positive force in society. Getting to know people who are not afraid of moving us forward made me hopeful and full of energy. I admire the curiosity and courage to work with the complexity of our world without simplifying it — which I miss in designers. And I am delighted to count myself part of this again.
- Enjoying Opencast ‘s quarterly conference last month. I usually have mixed feelings about spending time in offices. I love working with others and I can only think and design in collaboration. But I also need alone time, especially after years of working from home. Some workplaces can feel like political shark tanks or simply unwelcoming. Well I have absolutely no mixed feelings about the Opencast conference. I loved it. And I am celebrating paying attention to my own needs and spending time alone as well as with colleagues. I feel part of something, and professional belonging is a big deal for me. Thanks to Opencast for being awesome, and thanks to myself for more confidence. Most importantly, thanks to everyone who shared in a wee dance, what a joy!
- Being accepted into the ‘Moving Ahead, Mission Include’ Mentee programme. Excited to start and curious what I’ll learn or more likely unlearn. Thank you Opencast for making this happen!
- Starting my first client project with HMRC. Was lovely to meet my team and get stuck in!
- Scottish Care launching ‘Care Technologists’. I worked on this with the wonderful Daniela Quacinella and Tara French a few years ago. Great to see ideas coming to life and making an impact. Not that I am surprised! Scottish Care consists of some of the best and most passionate people I ever worked with.
- A new round of Glasgow School of Art postgraduate students graduating from Design Innovation. Was a pleasure to browse the work of the next generation of designers starting out in this world. The creativity, thoughtfulness, and hope made me feel proud to be a graduate and a designer. Wishing everyone all the best for whatever is next.
🎓 Something I’m learning:
- One of my main sources of professional learning and insight is hiring a plumber to do up my bathroom. Didn’t expect that did you? Me neither. My interaction with tradespeople remind me so much of client/designer/developer relationships! It’s fascinating to be on the other side. Spoiler alert: I didn’t hire the cheapest or best reviewed or most qualified plumber. I hired the one I felt understood my problem and vision the most, and communicates well. Snap! So I’m working harder than ever at learning how to be this person in my own work.
- I attended an anti-racism training session in September. As an anthropologist, this is a topic I’m familiar with. Less so from an activism or lived experience perspective though. Lots of thoughts, and lots more to learn. The most surprising thing I learnt was that the common sense of urgency around this can be unhelpful. It can come from feeling guilt and not wanting to sit with this feeling. And yet there is obviously a need for action. I’d like to learn more.
- Being a designer and an anthropologist. As well as lots of other categories of professional and personal identity. I often feel like I need to provide people with a box they can put me into. Actually I’m quite difficult to box and neatly define — like the rest of us. I’m learning to stand up for this more. To allow myself and others to take up the space and time needed to be more than one thing.
🚧 Something I’m finding challenging:
- Speaking German in professional contexts and with the same confidence as in English. When I speak German — my native language — I transform back into the 18 year old I used to be when I left. It’s not a period of my life I am friends with. Growing up and being myself was difficult for me for various reasons. I only pulled it off when I left my home country. In Scotland I was no one so I could be anyone, I could own my story. But I’d like to heal my relationship with those years in Germany. And I’d like to be able to show up as myself in German, and as the badass service designer that I am.
- The state of the world. I talk a lot about hope in this post. This is partly because lots of things gave me reason to hope in September. And partly because I needed someone or something to give me hope. It’s tough looking around and feeling positive about the future of humanity. I have lots more thoughts on this. For now I to acknowledge how challenging this can be, and how grateful I am to people who inspire me.