Sitting #upfront

#upfront is an incredible initiative started by Lauren Currie geared towards diversifying conference stages and amplifying self-confidence. I joined Lauren on stage at UX London 2017. This was my experience.

image from @alxchrs

Over the past year a voice has been getting louder and louder in my head: it’s the one calling me to use my talents to make a difference in the world. It’s the same voice that drew me to user-centred design in the first place and why I’m a UX designer now.

I have an unshakeable belief that designers can change the world, and it was time for me to start living that truth.

I met Lauren through a mutual friend and was instantly inspired by her. When I discovered she’d be speaking at UX London, I jumped at her offer to be #upfront. I knew this was my first small step towards making those changes I was being called to make. Working for a tech company, all too often I find I am the only woman in a meeting, and the imbalanced ratio of men to women in leadership roles is glaring. I wanted to take a stand with Lauren about diversity and women’s leadership. I wanted to be on stage and be seen to show my support for both of these initiatives.

But I have a secret too. I feel like a total imposter 90% of the time. I’ve thought about what it might be like to speak at a conference, but the idea of getting on stage to share my story, experience or advice was inconceivable to me. There is another, meaner, voice in my head telling me I’m not good or worthy enough. It’s there when I facilitate UX workshops at work, asking me what the hell I’m doing, thinking I can lead other people? It constantly fights with the voice telling me to stand up and make myself heard to make a difference.

For me, being #upfront wasn’t just about taking a stand for diversity and women’s empowerment, it was about taking a stand for myself.

I’ve been learning, slowly, over the past 2 to 3 years that real change isn’t made unless you’re willing to get uncomfortable. When I got on stage with Lauren, I confronted that voice in my head and it got a little bit quieter.

My heart was thumping in my chest at first; I was self conscious about how I looked, I wasn’t sure what to do, but as Lauren told each of our stories, I felt such overwhelming pride for all of us. We all deserved to be up there.

Afterwards, I was exhilarated. I felt such incredible support from the audience that day and wondered if I could feel like that again? Having the opportunity to be on stage without the pressure to perform but still feel the support of an audience is an experience I wish everyone could have.

image from @k2kaushik

Taking part in this has shown me the possibilities available to me and has given me a little nudge of confidence to start sharing thoughts and ideas publicly. I’m happy (and nervous) to report that I’ve accepted a speaking opportunity at the the World Usability Congress conference in Graz, Austria this October and I’ll be paying it forward and inviting others to be #upfront with me!

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. This post originally appeared on the #upfront blog in August 2017. It has since been updated.

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