now (feb 2019)
I've spent the last few months diving headfirst into the world of podcasting, hosting The Future of Living by UKO in collaboration with David Fitzpatrick. We've interviewed four interesting people so far. You can listen to the early releases here.
It's been interesting to investigate the differences between running a user interview and interviewing someone for a podcast. My conclusion is that it's absolutely a transferrable skill. I've been focusing on inserting just a little more opinion and personality into the bits where I talk, rather than just straight up asking questions.
Having the full attention of an incredibly smart person, and being able to quiz them in depth on what they care about is an unbelievable privilege. I would do podcasts every week, if I could. This project is ending now, but if anyone would like to collab on an interview podcast with me, my emails are wide open.
Clients and startups
I'm working a lot lately with Qualie, a market research platform, playing a hybrid product designer/product manager role. I'm working with my friends Onur and Jack on a micro-startup. I have a few other projects floating around the edges, and clients I pop in and out of. The raw emotion, risk, and requirement to be so many different things will always keep me coming back to startup life.
Atlassian no more
I spent November to February as part of the Research and Insights team at Atlassian. It all came about thanks to a DM from Leisa... officially marking the first time I've got a client through Twitter.
I researched GDPR and privacy, and thought a lot about the differences between "work you" and "other you" and how that translates to an online identity. I also thought long and hard about what kind of work environments are created by work tools, and how those digital environments can propagate company culture as a whole. To build the environment people work in is a great responsibility. I had conversations with many smart people about psychological safety and the unexpected long-term impacts of design choices in technology. Which, of course, is topic du jour in 2019.
Technically, I haven't had a home since april 2018. I drove ten thousand miles and solo camped across the USA, spent a month learning Spanish in Havana, spoke at WebCraftConf Jamaica, fell in love with banyan trees in Hawaii, stayed with my dad for his 70th, celebrated with my grandma for her 80th, and I've been in Sydney since October. One city, five months, seven homes: Surry Hills, Dulwich Hill, Summer Hill, St Leonard's, back to Summer Hill, Annandale and Stanmore. I avoided a lease: the whole reason I came back to Sydney was because the owners of my last rental decided to sell and I had to come back and move out.
Doing life in many different environments has meant a chance to really see how my habits change depending on the ecosystem I'm in. We really are just animals. There's something so freeing to know that all we really have is our time and our body, and we don't need too much more than that. Everything I own fits in my car.
Finally I've done my time in Sydney, though, and I'm flying to Madrid on March 25. I'm not exactly sure when I'll be back.
Who on earth would have thought that I'd find myself with a tentatively budding side gig as a public speaker? I failed training camp when I was an army cadet, literally failed, because I was so incredibly scared of speaking in front of 12 other teenage girls. One day I'll finish writing about the intense public speaking self-run-bootcamp I punished myself through over the last few years. Anyway, it's paid off.
I spoke at UXResearch Sydney in February, which was validating. In addition to UX Australia's Design Research 2019 I'm also going to speak at Agile On The Beach in Cornwall, England in July! I'm thrilled, and dreaming of an Enid Blyton summer by the beach. I'll wear stripes and eat Bognor Regis rock. And maybe hunt down a smuggler's cave or two in the coffee break.
Making the most of life
In a cemetary in New Orleans last year, I told myself: this is the moment that I accept my nomadic self. I quit pathologising it. I quit wondering whether there's something wrong with me for wanting to wander. I quit gnashing my teeth about not fitting into the standard Life path.
I got a tattoo that says "silence" in 2012. I meant it as a reminder to myself to force a space of silence around me, to shut everything out for a minute sometimes, take the mental distance and assess if life was really working.
It's taken me a few years since then to work out what that actually looks like, but now every year or so, I do some UX-y, post-it note-heavy exercises with myself to do just that - ask myself what I want, and what I should be doing to get there. I think every day about how little time we have on this earth - how fleeting and unsure it is - and how we might be burning up by the time I'm old. With urgency, I rush to make every month count.
Freelancing is really working out for that. I love knowing I can choose exactly how to spend my precious time on this earth. There is little more frustrating to me than a business asking me to give them my precious days and then not using those days of mine fully. Absolute cheek.
I've created a ranker, inspired by my dear friend, the wildly inspiring Bappy Golder. I wrote down all the big, exciting things I want to do, and ranked them against a series of criteria . It made it easy to prioritise.
A note on money: 2018 has been really positive for me looking at exactly how much I need per week to run my business, pay my own salary, and tick everything off. I have a clear number of exactly how much I need to earn per month to do everything I want to, and that's how much I freelance. It's surprising how much cheaper it is to be on the road than to be living and renting in Sydney.
My overall learning theme of this year is community and connection. From co-living to creative workplaces to religion and ritual - I'm investigating what it is to be human, and what solutions have been tried already to solve the pains inherent in being one. I think we might be trying to reinvent the wheel sometimes.
I'm spending 27 Feb - 10 March in complete silence, participating in Vipassana meditation. As with most things like this, I've intentionally held off on doing too much research in order to allow myself to be fully there for the experience. Expectations cloud reality. I do my best not to build them.
Being braver and more open creatively
In my most recent post-it-note-heavy life-assessing activity, I asked myself what would become priority if I found out I had deadly cancer at 30 and had six months to live. (I'm a fan of risk-based thinking prompts. There's nothing like a little fear to put things into perspective.)
One thing I didn't expect that came up was the idea of a creative legacy. Or maybe better stated as the fear that all the tens of thousands of words I've written over the years and left hidden in my laptop would all just stay silent, never read by a soul. It always felt like a "one day" thing. But why not today?
So my intention for 2019 is to be braver and more open creatively, to better understand the human condition, and to throw myself into the experience of connection, whatever that may mean.
The great thing is, I think all of this makes me a better designer, in the end. Designers are just people solving human problems for humans. The better we understand the human experience, the better we can try.