Lessons Learned from Week 1 at IDEO

As of three days ago, I officially completed my first week working as an Interaction Design Intern at IDEO, and I’ve already learned so much! I took the first week (albeit a short week due to Memorial Day) and challenged myself to do a daily reflection and blog post, looking back on each individual day’s experiences and thinking about what I learned from them. While I will continue to reflect and post throughout the rest of my time as an intern at IDEO, from now on I’ve decided to post on a weekly basis as opposed to writing every single day—because I mean, let’s be honest, who here would actually read 90+ articles about my internship? Okay fine, Dad….but you don’t really count 😛

Lesson #1: Just Go Home

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

It’s so incredibly easy as a student or young professional to feel like you have to do everything you possibly can to put yourself out there and get a step ahead on your career path. Add living in the competitive culture of Silicon Valley into the mix and the pressure’s on. There seems to be a certain expectation for people to be “busy” all the time—and not just at work. It’s as if there’s two separate subsets of productivity expectations: Professional Productivity and Social Productivity. Sure, you go to work, do your job, then you pack up your stuff and leave at 5 o’clock. But that’s not where it ends.

People talk about “burning out,” meaning they work so much that eventually they can’t mentally or physically handle it anymore and either quit or have to take a hiatus. It’s rampant among college students where the pressure is high to perform well and stave off student debt. But it’s also something I’ve heard is not uncommon with working professionals, especially in the tech industry.

Work aside, there’s all sorts of other things calling for your attention now. Everything from going to Happy Hours, to meeting up with friends for dinner, to attending networking events rush in to fill the invisible quota for your Social Productivity. It’s exhausting and can lead to detriment.

This past week I learned the hard and fast way that, honestly, sometimes the best thing for you to do after work is to just go home. Which is, ironically, the exact opposite of what I did. 4/4 days this past week I managed to have something (planned or unplanned) to do after work and rarely got home before 9PM. Not once did I take the time to properly relax and unwind after the day, which is a problem made even worse by the fact that I’m an introvert and therefore rely on having “alone time” to recharge. Sure, I enjoy being social and hanging out with people from time to time, but if it’s too much too often, that’s a recipe for burnout. And if you’re burnt out from trying too hard to be Socially Productive, your Professional Productivity is bound to suffer in the long run as well. Maintaining both “Productivities” is a real balancing act.

So, from now on I’m going to be much more careful about when and how often I agree to social engagements, not only for my own benefit but for the benefit of all my friends, family, and colleagues :)

Lesson #2: Women Rock & Rule

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Maybe I’m biased because I’m female, but one thing that instantly stood out to me when I first arrived at IDEO was just how many women there are! I’m not sure about the exact numbers, but from my own observations, IDEO has done a real good job of hitting the mark on gender equality in the workplace.

Many of the women I’ve met so far have authoritative titles like “Lead ______” or “Senior _______” or “________ Director.” And every single woman I’ve met so far, regardless of title, is the absolute epitome of a #GIRLBOSS.

There is seemingly no taboo about women taking time off (up to 6 months) for maternity leave. In fact, I learned on my first day that there are so many new and/or expecting mothers in the IDEO SF office that they’ve had to rearrange things just to make space for a bigger Mother’s Room!

Lesson #3: Nested Symbols Will Save You

I won’t get into all the details here, partly because it would bore you, but mostly because several other people have already written entire articles on the subject (linked below) and so I wouldn’t really being doing it any justice.

However, towards the end of my first at IDEO I was put on my first project doing some UI design work. I’ll admit, I was a bit disenchanted at first because I don’t typically like designing for screens, but as I looked through some of the process files from other designers on the team, I realized I’d been approaching UI design from the wrong perspective all along! It was actually far more straight forward and fun than any of the stuff I’d ever done in school. And a lot of that had to do with my discovery of how to properly nest UI elements.

Also, naming things is VERY important!

I work pretty much exclusively in Sketch for my design work, but regardless of what program you use, you’ll most likely have some version of layers, which will each end up with some version of a name. Typically the software will just auto-generate a name for any new layer you make: “Oval,” “Rectangle,” “Rectangle Copy,” “Rectangle Copy 1,” etc. But these are absolutely useless. Especially once you get into using nested elements and overrides, because suddenly you have dozens of different layers and input fields, all with slight variations and appendages to essentially the same name.

PRO TIP: When working in Sketch, use forward slashes “ / ” and consistent keywords when naming your symbols to have them organized into folders.

EXAMPLE: naming a symbol Input/Field/Dropdown-Menuwill allow it to show up as the symbol “Dropdown-Menu” within the subfolder of “Field” symbols contained within the larger folder of all “Input” symbols 🙃

FUN FACT: if you are on a Mac and press “Command” + “Ctrl” + “SPACE” you’ll get instant access to the entire emoji keyboard on your desktop 🙌 🍭 🦄

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