Thoughts | Growth Over Comfort

Like everyone’s been saying, I can’t believe it’s November already—so close to the end of the year! October was a busy month for me, with a lot of new experiences, which has been making me think about growth and the struggles of pushing out of your comfort zone.

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Margie Warrell at Wrike Collaborate

At the beginning of October I was able to attend the Wrike Collaborate conference in Nashville, TN. It was a really great conference, but what stuck with me most was the opening keynote by Margie Warrell, and it was about choosing growth over comfort. She talked about how to be brave in every day instances, not just the big moments in life. As an introvert, being at a conference by myself was ‘brave’ for me, and definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone—but I surprised myself, and not only learned a lot but even made some new connections.

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The most appropriate quote for a session on change management.

It was nice to be amongst a new group of people—fellow project management nerds! I came back with so much energy and so many new ideas that I don’t think I would’ve had if I hadn’t gone to that conference and outside of my comfort zone. I also discovered that change management is a ‘thing’ and it’s much more complicated than I anticipated—and the idea of it makes me uncomfortable and creates tension, but that’s how you grow. I think that’s why ‘digital transformation’ has become such a big buzzword in the past few years—it’s change management in new words that sound more exciting and way less scary.

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In continuing my month of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I attended the AIGA DC/Women Talk Design ‘Design Your Talk Topic’ event. I didn’t know anyone else attending, it was a two hour workshop at the end of a work day, and it was raining—if I’d been following what was comfortable, I wouldn’t have gone. But I told myself I needed to, and I was so glad I did. I learned a lot and met some great fellow designers who have some great experiences to share. I was very rewarded for pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and it made me realize that the things I want to speak about are valuable to people, and valid.

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This was nicely followed up by a speaking opportunity! At the end of the month I spoke on a panel at my alma mater, Marymount University in Arlington, about transitioning from student to professional designer. Part of me was thinking, what useful information could I possibly share? I was one panelist of five, and there were many years of experience between the five of us. But if I was invited to speak, I must have had something interesting to share, right? I’m not terribly inexperienced with public speaking (on a small scale), but this was a different environment. I decided this was good practice to be brave and get outside of my comfort zone. I had a great time with my fellow panelists, and somehow filled up all my speaking time! (Thank you again to my former advisor and chair of the Design department, Bridget Murphy, for the invitation!)

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Kyle Bogucki, Jennifer Wong, Raksa Yin, myself, and Beth Singer.

I’m looking forward to continuing to choose growth over comfort in different ways. And as I said at the end of my panel time, thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Event Recap | Dot Gov Design Conference

At the beginning of May, I was able to attend AIGA DC’s Dot Gov Design Conference at the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. I didn’t really know what to expect, but since my day job at an advocacy tech company is tangentially related, I figured there could be some transferable insights.

The day started out with an opening keynote by Hana Schank of We Are Commons on “getting the work done.” I really enjoyed some of her key points, especially this one:

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“No one has it figured out.”

This is something I think all designers and creatives need to remind themselves of—there’s always someone who seems to have everything figured out, but in reality, we’re all learning as we go.

Hana also said technology is the easy part—the hard part is everything else, especially people and process. This theme came about later in the day as well.

Rica Rosario’s session on “Quiet Leadership” had some great tactical tips on how to be an introvert in an extroverted world, and talked about how introverts have a longer process because we have a longer neural pathway, which was something I hadn’t thought about before.

I wasn’t originally planning on attending Elizabeth Hira’s session on Legislative Policy, but it turned out to be perfectly aligned with my day to day work, especially when she highlighted the importance of advocacy work.

IMG_8182Elizabeth had some great tactical tips for those in advocacy who are trying to create change.

A few key insights that work for design, in addition to advocacy:

  • Do your homework—back up your stance with validators
  • There’s power in numbers
  • Timing is important when advocating for change

 

The day concluded with a talk titled “Under the Guise of Technology,” presented by Kavi Harshawat from USDS/New America, which discussed instances where technology can be a help or a burden.

The biggest takeaway was that there are always two sides to the technology coin, and even technology has its limits.

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Event Recap | Personal Branding

This past week I attended “Standing Out: Branding That’s Personal,” a panel discussion presented by AIGA DC, which I was really looking forward to. The panel was diverse in terms of background and experience, so I was expecting a lot of different insights on how to stand out in the design market, which is currently much more competitive and saturated than ever before. I ended up most enjoying the insights from the moderator, Victor Nguyen-Long, but the conversation itself focused mostly on the importance of authenticity, honesty, and how to take advantage of the social media platform algorithms.

Anyone with experience in branding and brand strategy knows that authenticity and honesty are things that must be kept in mind when designing and building a brand, so that was not surprising. There were a good amount of cliches thrown around on this topic, such as “If you stand for nothing you’ll fall for anything,” rather than tips for how to stand out when everyone is striving for the same thing. The panelists emphasized the importance of sharing on social media—some said that sharing should be curated, while others said that even the most mundane parts of every day life should be shared to better connect with your audience. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives, but it just made me think about how everyone is shouting into the void that is the Internet, trying to get noticed. There are still other ways to build your brand besides social media, which I feel was left out from the discussion.

Brandon Groce, a brand strategist, provided some interesting tidbits on taking advantage of certain social media algorithms (and focusing on one platform and doing it really well)—but does trying to game the algorithm system mean that the more interesting small or new brands (who may not be as socially savvy) may not bubble up to the top? I guess the key takeaway is that after you’ve designed your brand, you have to maximize social media in order to continue building it.

I think this event was a good first step in terms of discussions around branding, but it only scratched the surface.

Disclaimer: these are my personal opinions and do not reflect the opinions of my current or former employers.