Charting my path to designing diversity

photo-1472772049637-f128df70697dA Creative at Heart

I am not your traditional designer. I do push pixels but I came to it later in life. I was always creative with words and pictures. It was my way of expressing myself. But, when I entered the world of technology as a project manager I was led to believe that my role and main contribution lie solely in creation of schedules and budgets. The minutia of the project. Important for sure, but certainly not as important as the work itself -- or so I was led to believe. A PM was never invited to comment on creative. There was a Creative Director for that. Just make sure the shit is done on time and on budget and if we're being honest... preferably under budget.

Later, I moved into product management which, ironically, held a small modicum of creativity for me. I unearthed it like a possible from tedious documentation but, ultimately shaping a product was creative for me. I knew, however that I had more you offer. I knew I was creative at heart but could never find the way to express this within the heavily silo'd world of agency life. It was time to move on.

Putting it all together

It wasn't until I started my own company that things began to gel. I was able to infuse my own creativity into every project that came through the door. As CEO, I focused on business development and day to day operations. But, as owner and founder, I was involved in every aspect of the business. I was largely responsible for the culture of the organization. I set the tone for how we ran the business, ran projects and solved our clients' unique challenges. I set the company culture. And it was creative. I started out by thinking that I would manage projects as I had at prior agencies but I quickly found out that this wouldn’t work. A small company, in many ways, moves faster that a larger agency. The faster pace meant that a cohesive approach to issues was important. Everyone needed to move as a team -- and quickly.  This is where design and creativity became even more important.

When hiring new help I looked for engineers with a creative flair, who didn’t mind getting their hands dirty in PhotoShop. In fact, every engineer at KM sliced their own PSDs for the first few years of business.  I never hired an engineer that never wanted to push pixels, too. Development was a collaborative event with every team member getting multiple iterations of every build to provide feedback at every stage of development. Later, when I transitioned to Sketch for designs, the agency transitioned along with me. So, my team members all got copies of my book and we are now a Sketch dev shop.

I was able to see first hand, how design can influence an organization for the better. It brought out latent creativity across the entire company. Everyone’s comments were valid and encouraged -- even if they weren't designers per se. This is why I firmly believe that design and creativity has a huge role to play within every startup and can ultimately affect and influence diversity and inclusion across the entire organization. I've seen it happen in my own company. In the coming weeks, I'll expand more on this as it is the foundation for my next book: "Designing Diversity"


4 Networking tips for Introverts

screenshot-2016-10-05-08-38-37In the Bay Area, it often feels like a slog to see and been. In a conversation this past weekend, I mentioned that to my colleague Wayne Sutton, that it was my goal to attend more events. To be seen more. But, I also acknowledged that I  struggle with engaging people in groups, sometimes. We were talking about my upcoming book Designing Diversity and how this is a need to share your ideas with your peers.  I explained to Wayne how I saw diversity as a design problem that could be solved  in much the same way that designers approached issues and he asked about my thesis and its formation. As we discussed the struggle as introverts to get out and interact; to and share ideas, conversations and interactions. As someone who identifies as an introvert, I do much better in 1:1 interactions. In fact, I can seem pretty talkative when just speaking with one person. Groups are where I fail and my interaction is not as energetic.

As I thought about all the way that we introverts fall short as we socially engage, I realized that all wasn't lost and came up with a short list to make things better as we interact with others.

  1. Play to your strengths

If you, like me, prefer 1:1 interactions, seek them out and engage others. Chances are, you will find other introverts who prefer to engage this way. It’s a great opportunity to get to know someone outside of a large group and share your ideas. Introverts tend to be great listeners so it might be a win-win to find another introvert that you can build with.

  1. Push your limits a bit

As introverts, we don’t thrive when we take huge leaps beyond our comfort zones, but, it’s a good idea to push those boundaries every now and then. If you hate large groups, its ok to avoid them. But, what about trying to scale down to a group of 2-3 people or even 3-4? You might find it easier to interact this way and get some points across as opposed to trying to interject your voice in the midst of a large group of big personalities.

  1. Think before you speak

Sometimes, our nerves get the best of us in a situation where we feel uncomfortable and we blurt things out without really thinking. If you’re in a situation and you feel a sense of anxiety, never say the first thing that comes to mind. Take a deep breath, think about what’s being said and how your comment could contribute in moving the discussion forward. Then speak your piece. You’ll feel better about what it is you’re trying to say if you’ve had the opportunity to think it through.

  1. Rehearse if necessary

Meeting up with someone or attending an event but not sure how to engage? Nothing wrong with writing down some quick notes. Try to jot down talking points  and or questions to ask before you meet up.  That could go a long way towards make you feel more confident during a conversation.

Have any tips not covered here that worked for you? Share with me below.