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Upon reflection, 2018 was a pretty amazing year for me and I am grateful for everything I had the chance to do, experience, and learn from. Here are some highlights from my year.

Work Stuff

For the majority of 2018, I was the UX team lead at xMatters where I grew as a leader of a small but highly talented team of designers. In my last nine months there I:

  • Hired, on-boarded, and supported the growth of a UX team of 5 designers.
  • Developed several strategies for the team within the organisation to bring UX into several areas of the business, collaborate with other teams, and create a vision for UX within the company.
  • Created and led design operations to scale the UX team and define our direction for the company
  • Led continued work (started in 2016) on a substantive Style Guide for the enterprise product and created a Design System for the corporate website redesign
  • Vetted and negotiated qualitative tools and implemented analytics tools to track and measure UX and engagement in the enterprise product.

Brainstation

In October I began working at Brainstation as a Lead Instructor, teaching Design Thinking, UX and UI Design. Working for Brainstation is fantastic. They get culture and value their instructors as well as their students. All the staff have been phenomenally caring and friendly, and the other instructors I’ve met have been great as well.

It’s gratifying to lead classes in design and help shape the next generation of designers looking to level up or learn new skills. They care about the community as well, and I hope to continue working with them on future projects and possibly host some Meetups together.

They also have a nicely designed space! I give a big thumbs up to my experience with Brainstation so far.

KPMG Ignition Centre

Google Hardware Store Photos

In November I started a contract with KPMG as a Senior Product Designer and Design Thinking Facilitator for their new Ignition Centre opening up in February. The Ignition Centre will be the first in Canada. I am creating design collateral for the IC as well as acting as the lead facilitator for Design Thinking for KPMG clients, partners, and events.

This contract is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Design Thinking at the business level and to improve my presentation and facilitation skills. My first week I flew out to attend Design Thinking training at the New York Innovation Lab. The training was a fantastic introduction to their custom Design Thinking methodology. We participated in ethnography research for the future of retail by visiting several pop-up stores in the Soho area, including the very experiential Google Hardware store.

I will be designing custom Design Thinking experiences for the KPMG Innovation Lab, and I’m really looking forward to new opportunities for applying Design Thinking in digital product design.

Design Systems Meetup

Design Systems Meetup Photos

In May, I started the Design Systems Meetup out of my love for this work and a desire to create community in Vancouver that is inclusive to designers, developers and product people who want to create Design Systems to help them build better experiences.

We had our first real Meetup in late November with a full RSVP and waitlist. It was a perfectly intimate and friendly gathering at our first meetup and was hosted by HCMA Architecture and Design with three presenters from design and engineering talking about where they’re at in their Design System journey.

If you’re interested in joining the group, I plan on having another Meetup in February.

Travel

Japan Snowboarding Trip

Snowboarding Japan Photos

In January I was lucky enough to go on a snowboarding trip of a lifetime in Japan. I had wanted to go there after talking with a Japanese friend about how great the riding was years ago, but the opportunity didn’t present itself for some time after.

I travelled into the Nagano region with a snowboarding tour, which mostly meant I was able to go to several different ski hills throughout ten days and everything from transport to accommodation to lift tickets was in place. One of the two tour guides was fantastic and spoke fluent Japanese, and it made things worry free.

Japan has over 200 active ski hills and the powder there is dry and fluffy, I would say more similar to what I am used to riding in Alberta and the Powder Highway. But the most fantastic thing about skiing in Japan is how uncrowded it is and how well designed their lifts are. It is the complete opposite of the Whistler experience where there are massive crowds and congestion to get up the mountain and ride fresh lines. The other interesting observation about Japan is that most people their snowboard, rather than ski.

Even though I wouldn’t choose to go on a tour with a 20’sish crowd of Australians again (most people my age are home with their kids these days), I would most definitely love to return to Japan and spend a full season and longer there. I would say that this trip was my most enjoyable and stress-free travel experience ever, which I attribute Japan’s incredible culture and intense dedication to design in everything they do.

Portland

In early summer I took a trip to Portland and Seattle, road-trip style to visit my Precision Nutrition coach, Jessica. A Portland road trip was also something that had been on my to-do list for years but never got around to. I drove down there on my own and found the drive to be a lot longer and more stressful than I had expected.

Portland is so heart-warming because it’s genuine and down to earth. The weather was beautiful while I was there, even hot. I stayed at a lovely AirBnB and went to do yoga on Mt Tabor with one of their experiences. Overall it was a fantastic trip. On the way back, I stopped in Seattle and saw the typical tourist spots. Coming from Portland, Seattle felt a bit crowded and soul-less, but their library was terrific.

Conferences, Training, Education

NNG Conference

In summer I attended the Nielsen Norman conference in Vancouver for additional UX training. I am certified with the UX Management Specialty and am looking to continue with more training to attain the Research Speciality certification as well. I think that the UX Management and Research tracks at the NNG conference are incredibly valuable, and I am thankful that xMatters sponsored my attendance.

Emily Carr Fine Arts

I began taking part-time classes at Emily Carr in the fine arts program, as a way to develop more creative skills but also as a way for me to create things that are my own. I also use it as a catalyst to get away from my digital devices, be analogue and perform a meditative practice of creating art. Emily Carr is fantastic, and I recommend it highly if you want to take part in some artistic learning. I found discussing art and artwork to feel indulgent at first, but once I stopped feeling guilty and immersed myself, it helped me with vocabulary, communication and perspective about things.

Release Your Voice Workshop

Just recently I attended public speaking training with a two-day boot camp in Vancouver. Public speaking has been a little terrifying for me, but since I am doing it fairly often now, I wanted to get much better at it. It was a small workshop with only four other attendees, so I learned a great deal and got actionable feedback on how to improve. I plan to continue speaking in 2019 and will likely try and speak at some conferences by the end of the year.

Improv Workshop

This was a small, fun and liberating 2-hour workshop I took with a group of KPMG folks. It will be one of my goals to spend more time doing Improv throughout the next year. If you feel scared of the idea of being ‘impromptu’ like me, maybe we could take a class together? They have workshops every Saturday.

Other good stuff

Workspace Photo

  • Connected with a coach in the design community which has been helpful for getting some career advice and feedback.
  • I redesigned my home office
  • Focused on my finances and budgeting using YNAB (highly recommend!)
  • Started volunteering for a fantastic organisation called Dogwood
  • Started writing Morning Pages almost every morning
  • Continued into my second year of Precision Nutrition coaching which has helped me regain my relationship with exercise and fitness, which has led to a small amount of weight loss and more enjoyable hikes in the North Shore mountains. My greatest achievement with Precision Nutrition is that I have managed to exercise regularly without injuring myself – a big deal after spending years with a chronic injury.
  • Made a couple of friends by getting out and doing things that interest me. Once I started to prioritise this in my life and push outside my comfort zone of just going home to Netflix and chill, I found others who are looking to make real-life connections in Vancouver too.

What didn’t go so well

  • Investing too much energy into the wrong things and living out of balance led to feeling overly stressed, anxious and burnt out. This is something that I need to work on so I can deal with challenges in a more positive way and so it’s a key area of focus for me in 2019.
  • I bought a mountain bike with the intention of meeting new people over the summer, but with the fires, I didn’t see many opportunities to get out and didn’t do it when the weather improved either. The bike was a bit of an investment not to ride at all. Because there’s a great mountain bike community out here on the North Shore, I hope to start riding and meet some new people come springtime.
  • I didn’t spend much time outdoors in summer in general and didn’t take advantage of the beautiful fall we had, which is a travesty considering where I live.
  • Trying to create a portfolio narrative of work that represented what I wanted to do as a designer after being a manager in enterprise the past few years was extremely challenging. Ultimately, I’ve come to the realization that I am still a creative wanting to design things and the way for me to have a voice in my work is to create things that are completely my own. There is a blog post coming around this in the future.

The most helpful books I’ve read this year:

UX Strategy
The Design Thinking Playbook
The Artist’s Way
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook
Why Me Want Eat

I am currently planning my goals and my strategy for 2019 which will be in another post or video. All in all, despite some pretty major setbacks I think 2018 has been one of the best years of my life, and I am giddy with excitement with everything this fresh start will bring.