2019: The Year of Experimentation and Intentionality
At least, that’s what I told myself my focus was at the close of 2018. 2019 was the first year of running my independent service design business in earnest, and it all felt quite interesting and experimental. As someone who quite likes structure and planning, it was unusual for me to go into the year with a relative sense of openness. Here’s how things panned out.
- 6 service design projects of varying sizes, pretty evenly split between private and public sector.
- An interesting emergent focus is very much on coaching and capability building around service design, and supporting teams to level up their skills in the face of organizational change.
- I also sought out work that had an ‘implementation’ focus - looking for projects where we would be ‘making things real’ and shipping.
- In 2019 I worked on a major part time UX curriculum overhaul which I’ll be teaching in 2020.
- I volunteered as an instructor for Bridge School, and guest facilitated/instructed in a few other places.
I did more personal writing online in 2019 than any other year, including posts on the one weird baking book all Swedish households have, confidence, and learning to take up space. In terms of design writing:
- I interviewed two graphic designers on how they added UX skills to their mix, for Adobe.
- For Adobe, I also explored how UX can be more effective in organizations through a healthy dose of humility.
- I finally got around to capturing some tips on Challenging Behaviours in Your Facilitation Flow… and What to Do About Them - kudos to Spencer Beacock for the original framing and thoughts on the characters you might meet.
- I also worked on a pretty substantial series of posts that will be coming out in early 2020, doing lots of original research and interviewing awesome folks from lots of great orgs. Watch this space ;)
- Was featured on the inimitable Lauren Currie’s blog, in my most candid and personal reflections yet.
- Spencer Beacock and I ran our one day intro to service design (Getting Started with Service Design in Your Organization) twice, once in February and once in October, with 32 folks in total joining us.
- In March at the Service Design in Government Conference, I co-presented a workshop session on ‘Hacks for Setting the Conditions for Service Design.’ This was based on original work and research done in collaboration with Spencer Beacock and Marie Serrano. You can check out the publicly available materials.
- In May, I gave my talk ‘The Material of Outcomes’ at Oslo IxDA.
- I was back in Oslo in September to give the same talk at a corporate design team offsite.
- In October, Ben Kim and I gave our workshop on ‘Designing with Diversity: Adapting Design Methods for Inclusion” at the Service Design Network Global Conference. (You can check out a great recap video from Say Yeah, including some thoughts from yours truly).
- In December, Ben and I were invited to give the same workshop for an internal design team at Kira Systems.
Conferences and Events Attended (outside of speaking engagements)
- Strive UX Research Conference
- FITC Toronto
- FITC Spotlight UX/UI
- Design+AI (22) - Artificial Emotional Intelligence with Pamela Pavliscak
- World Interaction Design Day in Toronto
Feeling a bit burnt out by all of the ‘pick your brains’ coffees, I wanted to find more scalable and effective ways to give back this year. Bridge School is an amazing organization (check out their values) that is incredibly aligned to my own values around intersectional feminism, and I was honoured to be invited to be part of their instructor team for Product Design Cohort 2.
- Taking on one of the lead instructor roles for the Cohort was my big volunteering effort this year, and it was incredibly rewarding. Shoutout to the incredible Bridge team, my fellow instructors, and the wonderful students I met along the way. Hearing the students’ reflections at the end of the Cohort made it all worth it. (I cried).
- I also did some ad-hoc volunteering like helping to facilitate during a Women’s Entrepreneurship Hub event aimed at supporting low-income women entrepreneurs (thank you Judy for the opportunity).
- I’m gonna put organizing Service Design TO under volunteering. We ran an event in May on Practical Frameworks for Ethical Design (thank you Mazi and Majid) and one in August on Talking Effectively to Executives About Design (thank you Everton, Andrea and Patrick). Thank you to all the folks who make these events possible - venue hosts, volunteers, attendees.
- I still averaged 1-2 coffees/calls per month with folks who wanted advice, are curious about service design/trying to get into UX etc.
Personal and Professional Development
I wanted to make a conscious effort to continue my professional and personal development in 2019, despite being self-employed and not having the support of an organization's infrastructure in place.
- In March I attended Raw Signal Group’s ‘Work in Progress’ session, in an attempt to reflect on my path and direction.
- Bridge school offered an amazing workshop on ‘Teaching Technology’ with Greg Wilson, super helpful to level up my pedagogical approach.
- Becoming Mental Health First Aid certified was an intense and worthwhile process. I feel it’s a huge responsibility to work with people - students, clients, team members, and I think everyone should have basic mental health literacy. Shoutout to the amazing Melissa and Jonathan for hosting the course at Raw Signal Group.
- I took a ceramics course. I obsessively tried to create perfect cylinders and had a bit of a rough time with it!
Some Personal Highlights (fit for the internet)
- Competed in my first Powerlifting competition and generally got STRONG. My deadlift is up to ~250lbs//113kg, and I can bust out 15 chin ups in a reasonable time frame.
- Attended a lot of weddings. After a lull, it seems there’s another glut of marriages in my social circles.
- Got rid of my last baby tooth and got the implant crown just in time for Christmas! Woo!!
What Worked (Pretty Well)
- Despite not knowing what the year would hold, I had an incredibly fun, fulfilling and successful year work wise. I supported myself financially as an independent.
- My clients. It’s totally corny and I won’t go into too much detail, but I’m so overjoyed by the amazing people I get to work with. Thank you! <3
- Better balance overall - after some pretty bad burnout, I found a much better groove, and prioritized moving (the gym, yoga, dancing to a lesser extent), good food, and sleep. There were still stressful periods, but far less than in the past.
- Having Spencer Beacock as a collaborator, support, inspiration and all around amazing friend in my life. Having someone in a similar boat to check in with, collaborate with and as a sounding board quite honestly made the year. Thank you <3
What Didn’t Work (So Well)
- I seem to continually struggle with finding the right balance in terms of social connection and spending time with friends. In general, I tend too much towards working…
- Environmental impact - there have been some ups and downs with moving to a more plant based diet, and air travel is certainly something I know I do too much of. I did choose other modes of transport at times (trains) and do some carbon offsetting, but I feel it’s insufficient.
- Saying no - still learning how to set good boundaries and say no/turn things down. I did a bit of it, but the people pleaser in me struggles with this.
- I always have an absolutely massive pile of books I’m meaning to read, that often get returned to the library unread!
What I’m Dreaming of in 2020
- Better boundaries around not working on evenings and weekends.
- More quality social time with friends.
- Continuing to get shredded.
- Making a Galaxy Cake.
- Looking forward to teaching the revamped part-time UX curriculum at Juno College that I worked on.
- Have some fun speaking engagements I can’t announce just yet.
- Hoping to ramp up my efforts to write, reflect and document my work.
- Potentially experimenting with ‘office hours’ style slots to batch the brain pickings.
Here’s to 2020!