For years I have kept a personal list of things achieved from each year for myself.
This year I realised a truth about this approach. Reflecting on what went well or how good we are doesn’t get us anywhere. Maybe where we are right now. Truthfully, we should strive to improve continuously. To be better today, than we were yesterday. With this said, I decided to share my 2019 learnings & most significant mindset changes also publicly in a written form here.
Biggest lessons from 2019
Seeing the best in people. No matter how hectic the discussions are
As a designer, I genuinely care about the things we are making, the impact we are doing and take a very personal connection to my and our work. On one side, this can feel very positive and inspires me to take on challenges.
On the other hand, I learned, especially in robust discussions, solving complex problems, that a lot of the times I take things personally. Not only that. Sometimes, I sort of automatically build inner anger with people, because something is not fair or because they are selfish, wrong etc.
Not very positive thinking. Has hate and these negative feelings ever helped accomplish anything? I have an opportunity to work in a group of super-smart people who are pushing the innovation boundaries further. Yet I still find myself in the middle of discussions feeling very defensive having sort of maternity instinct towards our work. Feeling like, the person on the other side is some kind of evil force. This is stupid. No one is here to bankrupt the company or make the product worse. Majority of us are here to build the next big thing with great intentions.
When things get hectic, or there is a though misalignment in opinions, I started to remind myself of one important thing. Arguments are here for making the product, service, business better. All the parties involved want the best possible outcome none of the business discussions is personal.
Working many hours is not efficient
If someone from around our company is reading this, you must be laughing. Work efficiency is an ongoing topic for me and this year was eye-opening for me because of a straightforward observation. Staying late at the office just resulted in not having enough idle time for refreshing my mind. The more I stayed at the office, the less work I got done. To look at the challenges from different angles after a break helps a lot. Spending more time in the office resulted in slowing down my process and prolonging my work even more. Read “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work” from Jason Fried — Basecamp. You will get it.
Towards the end of the year, a UX researcher and one of my dearest friends decided to move to work for a different company. During his exit interview, he shared a personal observation. He expressed that he has a feeling, that people who are being promoted and valued at the company are people who look busy even though he doesn’t see real outcomes of their work. I won’t agree or deny the specifics, as this is just pure speculation. I believe our company is fair; otherwise, I wouldn’t be working here. Nevertheless, I can’t help myself but agree with him that there is this notion in society, that being busy equals doing good work. Funny.
Side note: To be completely clear this is not a rule, merely an example. Often times people are really busy and also do great work.
A couple of days after this talk, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” where she wrote about how ambitious women are perceived as less likeable. Mainly because of the stereotype thinking, that women should fore-mostly be nurturing and focusing on their personal life rather than career goals. It is very unfair, but so true.
In another example from the UX field, people who have excellent interaction design skills are a lot of the times perceived as the best designers. With the fancy dribbble accounts and 3D models, these type of candidates usually asks on average for more significant compensation than others. Design is about so much more than just fancy visuals & interactions.
What I’m trying to showcase with those examples is that our world is full of stereotypes. I realised that sometimes I might unconsciously or consciously try to fit some of them. Just to be perceived by people around me in a specific way. In a way, the stereotype is seen. This year certainly made me more proactive in the fight against stereotypes in myself as well as society.
Reading — top picks from 2019
My library grew a lot this year. The focus of my reading was mainly on leadership from different angles & the current state of the world. My top 3 picks from this year are:
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
It is an interesting feeling to read this book. Ryan Holiday confronts the human ego from 3 main perspectives — Aspiration, Success, Failure. Every person has an ego, but everyone’s ego presents itself differently. This book hits those weak spots of everyone. It makes you reflect on your behaviours, and I believe as everyone’s ego presents itself differently so that each reader will remember the most critical parts for themselves. Sometimes your ego would even push you rather not to continue reading it.
The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo
Down to earth, humble & honest view on the struggles of becoming a manager. Julie (currently the VP of Product Design at Facebook) shows the challenges and explains how she has overcome them in real stories from her journey at Facebook. It is a very hands-on guide. I keep it on my desk in the office and from time to time when faced with a managerial challenge, open my notes in particular chapters.
Factfulness by Hans Rosling
This is such a great book, and if you would have to choose one from this list, please be it this one. Hans Rosling is a master of confirming hypothesises and fighting biases. A great read for designers & researchers who want to get inspired by an amazing research process and at the same time, see what kind of biases we possess when evaluating assumptions. But this book delivers so much more than just that. It shows inspiring human progress factually.
Comparing to 2018, I spoke less publicly. There were two major events I attended as a speaker.
Leading design meetup in Zagreb
The talk was about scaling of our design team into a design organisation. What kind of processes we have established in the last years. How are we setting up our goals and how the scaling of an organisational structure works. I enjoyed talking with designers from Croatia.
UXZ Conference in Prague
One of the major conferences about UX design in the Czech Republic. The overall conference theme was “case studies”. The focus of my talk was on describing some interesting ideas from our design process and illustrating them on a real project example. I was talking about building an aeroplane seating selection.
This year was very poor in terms of my writing. I focused most of my side project time to build a new personal website (coming very soon), where I can gather all the content I have. During that, I was able to put together my most comprehensive case study yet. It will be published together with the new website, but if you read until here, you might check a draft. Feedback is very much welcomed as I’m trying to finalise it.
UX Travel Sprint 2019
We did it again. The second edition of the biggest design event we are organising happened again, This time in Bratislava. We flew designers from all around central Europe to join us for a weekend of How to make travel more inclusive. Check the after-movie:
So how was 2019?
As comrade Dyatlov or Dino Trojak (Kiwi.com’s Head of Frontend Platform Engineering) would say: “Not great, not terrible.” I had a fair share of failures, especially in interpersonal communication. Hopefully, I will remember them and pass through 2020 without repeating the same quirks. My biggest thanks go to all the people who I am privileged to work with daily. In the last two years at Kiwi.com, I learned how to be a better designer, but most importantly, how to be a better human being. If there is one thing I hope I haven’t failed in this year, it is to show around me my sincere appreciation for positively influencing me. Thanks ❤