For as long as I can remember I have tracked personal progress on a specific set of things I'd like to improve each calendar year. It's an ongoing process. I do this by completing a self-SWOT analysis on a quarterly basis, but I also set aside time each January to complete a list of themes and related sub-tasks. I can't stress enough that this is not a list of "New Years' Resolutions". It's done in January, but to me there must be an emphasis in completion, tracking, and breaking the goals into sub-tasks that have some sort of associated metric. As well, I take a few hours once a year—on my birthday—to journal about what the past year has meant. This is a scheduled check-in to evaluate if I've actually done the things I set out to complete. It leaves out anything I do in December, but in true project management form, if I don't have a good grip on my year by November 28th... not much will change by the end of the year.
Recently I chatted with Talent Collective about some of the less-visible, less-talked-about aspects of independent contracting. In the past I've worked with a lot of different companies and have enjoyed when people bring perspectives vastly different than my own. In this interview, we discuss values, failure, and championing fair work environments for users, clients, and team members.
A response template for freelancers and a guideline for producers, from an experienced design freelancer turned product manager.
Look familiar? Producers and project managers send emails like this every day. Freelance designers, developers, photographers, copy writers, sound designers, and animators receive emails like this every day. They’re not helpful. This is a nice-ish one that provides more information than most, but if the deadline is tight, it’s in your best interest to provide more information to freelancers. Don’t be lazy, it takes two minutes to write a bad email, and it takes ten minutes to write a good email. Those eight minutes of consideration will save billable hours once the project has started.
I was about to cross the street and a wild Zubat appeared. If you don’t know what a Zubat is, it’s not worth the pedantry of explanation. For the purpose of this story it’s a thing on a smartphone screen.
On that day, before I could acknowledge the forces at play, something slipped and both of the items in my hands were airborne; a coffee mug to my left and an iPhone to my right. A Slowbro freeze-frame soliloquy kicked in, “Which one should I catch? Gotta catch ’em all!”
Back in 2014 I pitched a local-history documentary project to TELUS Storyhive called 'The Archivists'. Though it made the initial cut, it was not selected as a finalist, but I continued working on it with my colleague and friend John Wellwood. Over the next two years we narrowed down the idea and continued to find interesting stories about local history. Late last year we began inviting people on walking tours and interviewing them one-on-one about specific locations around Vancouver. One result of the project is a podcast, but we've also launched a brand new website with visual art based on images from the City of Vancouver Archives.
For over a year my partner and I have been hosting brunches out of our tiny Vancouver home. In fall of 2015 we turned the hobby into a blog about food experiments where we try wild-and-crazy combinations in the form of waffles. We've tried a lot of things and created a few great waffles, so we decided to volunteer our time to Dinner Party YVR. In addition to the main event, we hosted three test kitchens to refine our recipes. We even talked about the menu on Foodline radio:
In the end we raised over $500 for A Loving Spoonful, a volunteer-driven organization that provides free, nutritious meals to people living with HIV/Aids throughout the greater Vancouver area.
Almost six years ago, Gagan Diesh and I started talking about renting office space together. We'd originally met back in 2006 when I was his TA for a User Experience class at Vancouver Film School's (VFS) Digital Design program. After watching each-other's careers grow in different directions for a number of years we noticed a few similar themes in our work and thought there would be a mutual benefit in sharing space. Around the same time we both met Kim Oxlund, a student in the Digital Design program, and were taken by his depth of expertise and raw talent. After many chats in coffee shops, SketchUps, swatches, and visits to IKEA we moved into our office space on March 1st, 2012.
On November 25th of this year we won our first awards together at the VancouverUX Awards. As a crew at DesignStamp we have serious "cobbler's shoes syndrome", as it goes "A cobbler spends most of their time fixing other people's shoes and pays little attention to their own". It came as a great surprise to win both of the categories we entered and a welcome relief to be acknowledged by our peers after working on both of these products for the better part of two years. We're in great company and attribute these wins to the organizations who we were able to work for/with and continue to help in extended roles.
We're not much for reflection at DesignStamp. We take great care in every project we finish, but generally, once we finish something we're on to the next challenge. As such, we have never entered our work into competitions before and frankly, would rather do other things. I'm the sentimental one of the group and feel it necessary to point out how proud I am to work with this crew. We've come a long way and have overcome some pretty spectacular obstacles together. In the early days we spent a lot of time figuring out "how" to work together and where our respective strengths and weaknesses lay. It's for that reason we've been able to find "lateral hand-offs" in projects that ensure we cover a lot more ground than some teams five times our size. We started working together as three separate companies and acknowledged the strengths in forming a team. It's for each of those individual strengths that our clients enjoy working with us. It's our collective win to have hit stride finessing projects to a balance of business requirements, user requirements, and individual moments of joy (including our own while creating the experience).
We work behind the scenes and don't often hear the words "good job", always making the call about when a thing has fully achieved its goals. It feels great to hold these awards and even better to have won them with talented individuals I respect and consider great friends.
I recently spoke at the digital project managers meetup. This was an encore presentation of my talk titled 'Without Agency' that I tweaked and revised since I first gave it back in Febraury. The response has been great so far. It's been overwhelming to hear that there are people in this industry who've observed the same work conditions and truly want to a see fair, equal, diverse industry. Brent Barrett was kind enough to record and edit the talk, you can view it on Youtube:
For those of you who missed the talk last week, I created a video of the presentation slides with my voice over. Additionally, I wrote an article explaining why/how I came up with the material for this talk on Medium, read it here.