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How to have fun

I’m turning 33 in 3 days, and for a couple of days, I was contemplating if I wanted to do that thing where I try to come up with 33 ~life lessons~ and pithy quotables. Maybe I’ll still do it next week, but this week I wanted to talk about something I’ve been trying to do these days.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts on the Pushkin network, like Cautionary Tales, Bad Women; right now I want to think a little more about a specific episode on The Happiness Lab: How to have fun.

I don’t know when or how it started, but I have always felt like I’m the most boring person in the room. It’s probably a combination of: 1) not doing things literally, 2) not being appreciative of what I do, and 3) the ‘grass is always greener’ fallacy.

And then it’s sometimes because my idea of fun is trying to catalogue everything I own, on a Notion database that I’m still finding tips and tricks on using.

Or trying to rebuild this blog and my portfolio, so that it’s lightweight, accessible, and easy to maintain outside of the WordPress setup I have them on right now.

Or binging Selling Sunset’s latest season, because that is something seriously mindless that I found myself absorbed in this past weekend.

Anyway, back to the point: How can I have (more) fun? What can I do?

I feel like a hypocrite sometimes because I’m always like, “I love to learn and having new experiences!”, but then the weekend rolls about and I’m more content sitting in front of my screen (that I do for 16 hours a day on weekdays) or laying in my bed (that I do for the rest of my hours in the day).

I just got the book though, so I’m going to do my own idea of fun (reading) and seeing how I can come up with a game plan (which is also fun). Let’s see what I come up with, and how I might put it in action ✌️

#IAmRemarkable

  • Life, Work

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an #IAmRemarkable session hosted by Akua Nyame-Mensah. The hour and a half flew past like it was nothing, and filled me with the hope that one day, too, I will not be filled with dread when it comes to talking about my own achievements.

(Even typing that! “My own achievements”…)

Why I attended this

More than just for personal growth though, I definitely want the ladies and other marginalized members of my team to be able to have the confidence and competence to talk about what they have done and achieved.

I’ve never been someone who likes talking about myself, and I used to prefer sticking to the background and “doing the work” — just like a good little worker should, I thought. It served me well for a few years early in my career, because I had bosses who noticed the good work done, and I was rewarded appropriately.

When I moved to a consultancy, that changed. It was a culture shock in that area, being given the agency to chart your own career and having that be the norm. It wasn’t the greatest of workplaces though, and there were a lot of factors going into an appraisal beyond “work” done, like utilization hours… and how well you knew your leaders.

Now, though, where I work? There has been a giant shift to ‘owning’ your career, and the biggest change is having to put your own promotion package together and deciding when you’re ready to take the leap, instead of passively waiting for your manager to tell you that you’re ready. I went through that whole process earlier this year, and it was nerve-wracking and filled me up with so much imposter syndrome.

Moving from criticizing to self-love

There was definitely a lot of emphasis on shifting our mindsets, and moving yourself from one end of this spectrum to the other:

Criticizing → Constructive criticism → Self promotion → Self-love

#IAmRemarkable, because:

The workshop also included some time for us to think about our own #IAmRemarkable statements, both writing them down and speaking out loud (or typing it in the chat).

I’m not gonna lie, I had to google for some inspiration because I needed a starting point, but here are my statements just in case I come up in your search, and you needed something to guide you too 😂

  • #IAmRemarkable, because I am always looking out for my team’s well-being
  • #IAmRemarkable, because I always want to do better and be better
  • #IAmRemarkable, because I am resilient through life changes and revelations
  • #IAmRemarkable, because I pay attention to the small details
  • #IAmRemarkable, because I try to live through my core values and using them to guide my decisions

What’s in a name?

  • Work

Cheesy title, but we’ll work with it.

This topic actually comes up quite a lot with people who booked sessions with me on ADPList, and entering the job market for the first time. Should I be looking for a job with a specific title? Are there roles I should avoid? What do I do when the job description says I have to do everything?

The case against the UI/UX roles

I’ve called myself, at one point or the other, these titles: Experience Designer, UX Designer, Product Designer, Interaction Designer, Service Designer, Information Architect, CX Consultant…

But never a UX/UI designer. I’m of the school of thought that while you can be good at UX or UI, you can never do both at the same time.

Both roles are integral to the success of the product that you’re building. I see it a lot with job postings from companies that don’t have the digital/design maturity to discern between the two roles, too. That, or startups wanting a UX team of one, which isn’t a bad thing until you realize that they are never going to scale from that.

The scope of work and expertise of each UX and UI role is different, and a balanced team needs specialists who are T (or X)-shaped, rather than trying to be a shorter π or worse (and another topic altogether), the phallic-shaped designer.

The value-delivering Megazord

Right now, I’m an Experience Lead at my workplace. The visual design (look ma, beyond just the user interface!) counterpart in the team is a Design Lead.

Together, we join forces like Power Rangers and come together to become a value-delivering design team, covering everything from strategy to concepts, user flows to wireframes, design systems to individual screens. Amongst many other things, of course.

But I’m not going to sit here and pretend that all our clients (or indeed, even our own internal teams outside of the Experience team) understand what we do, and what our impact is. It’s still a struggle sometimes, even in our organization which already places some emphasis on Experience 1A real excerpt from Pubicis Sapient’s ways of working: We’re relentless about drawing the best from our SPEED capabilities: strategy, product, experience, engineering and data, in a creative way to provide our clients’ customers with leading experiences. and know how good experiences increase a plethora of things, including customer lifetime value, customer retention, satisfaction, and so on and on.

Making an impact

But beyond the actual business metrics, and beyond titles, what we do as designers impact to a great degree what people experience in their lives. It doesn’t start and end with just “translating business requirements” or “my stakeholder wants to do this so I guess we’ll do this”.

Instead, there’s a lot for us to be intentional about: the language we use, the people we include, and the (hopefully positive) impact we make on their lives. Then there are questions like, how do we make sure that accessibility is a foundation and not just an after-thought and a checklist? How do we make sure that we are not unintentionally excluding people by calling them “edge-cases”?

And even beyond the fabled “user” — what about our own employees? What about the newcomer who’s joining the team, and wants to hit the ground running but still with ample support?

I’m really interested in this intersection of how intentional design can improve processes and people’s day-to-day, and honestly? That goes beyond the title I call myself.

On nostalgia

Earlier this weekend, I decided to play Pokémon Blue on a whim. I haven’t thought about that game in well over a decade, possibly more, but I wore Psyduck socks last week, and there goes that train of thought.

My first interaction with the franchise, as with most people my age, was the animation series. I must have been 10 or 11 at that point, and I didn’t actually have a Game Boy to play the game with. Instead, I downloaded emulators and ROMs at that age and trying to get it to work on whatever that OS must have been then – 95? XP?

This next detail is a little fuzzy: I’m not sure why my memories of playing it were always just at my grandmother’s, where we would go every Sunday. I would have a solid block of four to five hours to “speed-run”, and I think the furthest I got was Vermilion City, before I had to shut it down to eat dinner and go home. The save function must not have worked on the emulator then, too, because it felt like I was trapped in that Sisyphean run every single week, and never getting to the end game.

But yes. This past weekend, I downloaded another emulator and got right to work. After the first few minutes of playing, I sped up the emulator and literally breezed through the game with mostly just Kadabra, though my starter (a Bulbasaur) did pretty well with its one-shot fights too.

It took me about a collective 12 hours to complete the game, I think — a far cry from the speed run world records, clearly! — and you know what? I’m glad I did nothing else this weekend and just dove right into the nostalgia of my childhood.

(And of course I caught Psyduck. Psy-ay-ay.)