Survival: Post-Wedding, Post-Graduation

I’m used to racing along with multiple professional and personal projects in the works, juggling many super-fun balls in the air, while working hard to breathe once in a  while. The lull between graduation/wedding month and full time employment has been an interesting experiment.

Tool profiles:

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LinkedIn:

LinkedIn has been a great connecting tool this month, and I’ve had great success contacting alumni with interesting, relevant sounding work in the Twin Cities area. This has also led to becoming more involved in the Minneapolis creative community. Sending introductory emails linking to my profile has lent some credibility.

With a 100% response rate, I must be doing something right. My InMails always include:

  • An up-front ask. “I’d love to talk with you about your experiences in this company, as well as …”
  • How I found them. “I also graduated from this college and found your profile through the alumni page.”
  • My relevant background. “I recently graduated with my MBA and have relocated to the Twin Cities, and am interested in these fields which is what your experience is in, etc.”
  • My objective. “I am currently looking to build a network of mentors while searching for the next great professional opportunity.”

Lynda.com

Although school is out, there’s no reason to stop learning! (Especially while you still get free access to services!) I’m happiest when I’m learning, so taking a few classes on Lynda.com has been useful. The best courses are in programs or topics that I know virtually nothing about, so the slow pace works well.

Some tips for getting the most out of Lynda:

  • Close all other tabs when working on a Lynda course
  • Take copious notes. (I use Evernote)
  • Stop and start the video to try things out as they talk about them
  • Make an effort to use the exercise files

Part Time Work

Following graduation, my venture partner and I got an opportunity to work with a pre-launch start-up in San Francisco doing user experience strategy. It has been invaluable to continue working on an interesting, challenging project with a great team while stretching my user experience design skills. Regular meetings and tight deadlines, even at 13-17 hours a week, are enough to keep me feeling involved.

Making a part-time, remote, contract gig work:

  • Transparently track your hours
  • Check in with the client and team members regularly
  • Share files and progress when appropriate
  • Ask for what you want

Baking

How often do you have time to make pizza with homemade ricotta, homemade pizza dough, homemade buffalo tofu, and fresh sauce? In normal life, probably never. Taking advantage of the time I have to try baking experiments and make delicious food has been a joy. Each project ends with something to show/eat for it, even if not everything turns out perfectly.

Learning Adventures

The last month has been a blur– living out of a suitcase, graduating with an MBA, and getting married in less than a month! It’s been a whirlwind, but there’s been a lot of fun, laughter, eating, and learning.

Creative Mornings: Oakland

During my last week in California, there was a Creative Mornings event at Impact HUB Oakland. Creative Mornings is an organization that puts together brief creative lecture/networking events during weekday mornings. Chapters generally have about one event a month, and I was lucky enough to catch Favianna Rodriguez, a Bay Area artist and activist.

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She covered a variety of issues, but these were some of the most memorable moments:

  • The power of art is that it can ultimately transform what you see.
  • Don’t only fight against what you don’t want, but fight for the work you want.
  • Language matters. The word homosexual vs. gay made a difference.
  • Define your own story. If you don’t, someone else will.
  • Art and culture are human rights.
  • Dichotomies are limited narratives. We need multi-dimensional narratives.

AIUX Workshop at Stanford d.school

I’ve been wanting to check out Stanford’s renowned d.school since learning about it a few years ago, and got a fantastic opportunity to do so the day before heading back home to Minnesota.

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I attended a morning workshop session around designing user experience for artificial intelligence. The format was more workshop than lecture and the group split into small teams to try out various strategic design/planning/foresight tools. The tools were the same as can be found here: Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation

We used the context map, progression curve, and paper prototyping tools. The most interesting was the progression curve. My group examined the relationship of humans and AI, and included milestones going back to punch card systems and the first computer to fictional characters like Data in Star Trek TNG. Currently, we’re looking at systems like Google Now, which is a proactive AI rather than a reactive one. It was helpful to watch the progression over time and line it up with other curves, like the development of data gathering.

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The Design Journal: Getting it Started Again

I’m a notoriously bad journaler. I love having journals, and have a collection of empty ones. Often I start a diary or journal, only to stop a few days later, and tear out the pages and shred/recycle them when I read them a few years later in mortification.

Last year one of our first assignments as first-year DMBA students was to keep a design journal. Not only would we need to keep a design journal, we needed to turn it in on occasion. Terrifying, true, but also a great opportunity to build a good habit.

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First page of my first design journal. Note the cut-out pages from a prior journaling attempt.

Most people want to be the kind of person that keeps a sketch notebook, design journal, writing journal, or diary. Keeping a written or sketch journal is purported to increase creativity, release stress, enable us to better understand our thoughts, and to explore ideas in a non-threatening way. Carrying a small journal with you enables spontaneity and encourages us to be thoughtful of our surroundings, finding inspiration unexpectedly. I found, however, that owning a blank notebook and calling it a “design journal” did not immediately confer these benefits. Journaling/sketching/keeping a diary must be cultivated, like any other habit.

At first, I stuck with word maps, process diagrams, keeping notes on readings and lectures, and occasionally forcing myself to make small sketch accompaniments. As this was an assignment, we needed to make entries at least once a week. Sometimes the entries were uninspired, and sometimes I was enthusiastic about it. Sometimes I could barely manage to make one entry a week, and sometimes it was easy and natural to make several. As time went on, I incorporated colors and visual diagrams. By the end of second semester, I graduated to a new journal.

It's not pretty, but I even started more sketch-heavy entries.

It’s not pretty, but I even started more sketch-heavy entries.

When my journal had a more defined focus– exploring ideas, not trying to be brilliant, it became very comfortable. It was helpful to think of the journal as a personal tool, not intended for public consumption and recognize that not every note made in a journal offers insight or inspiration, and that it’s okay. My journals became lighter and smaller so that I could carry them everywhere and inconspicuously get them out to make a note/observation. Unfortunately, I fell off the design journal bandwagon this summer, but am hopping right back on. Although new habits are hard to build, or even re-build, this one is worth it. Virginia Woolfe puts it well:

“I got out this diary and read, as one always does read one’s own writing, with a kind of guilty intensity. I confess that the rough and random style of it, often so ungrammatical, and crying for a word altered, afflicted me somewhat. I am trying to tell whichever self it is that reads this hereafter that I can write very much better; and take no time over this; and forbid her to let the eye of man behold it. And now I may add my little compliment to the effect that it has a slapdash and vigour and sometimes hits an unexpected bull’s eye.”

Here's to new beginnings!

Here’s to new beginnings!

For more on the benefits of journals (the articles are endless, but these are my favorites):