We concentrate everyday on carrying out our duties in the most efficient way. There is no time to waste. Being wasting a terribly subjective concept. Rather, playing tricks to extend and squeeze every possible minute to the limit. A must-do in the hustle-bustle of Madrid. I have spent fifteen years just like this, working in some marketing departments and two of the most important creative agencies.

But suddenly the rut stops, and you make the most of it, getting out and taking a look around. There is no need to tighten your hat and dash straight to the next meeting. You can, therefore, wander off and retrace your steps back to the locker where you kept a bunch of good resolutions, waiting for some precious time.

The most unimaginable things can be found there — from an ID card renewal to a long-awaited theater workshop. Even classics that seem to never go out of fashion, like traveling, working out, visiting exhibitions, learning languages…

After trying for a long time to succeed in finishing just another day, there wafts a musty smell. One wishes to wear, for a difference, something fresh. Sometimes you feel tempted to close the locker and find yet another rut to get into, as soon as possible.

For it is weird to become this rich so fast, and guilt ensues. You find yourself in an oasis of time, and you don’t want to feel like a once-great King, belittled by coin-wasting.

Once you process this, though, your body starts craving for something new, some time to stimulate your brain, to be with different people, to learn, and amass some good experiences.

Thus, I started considering a mentally expansive period, from the learning point of view. Some academic programs can be a good way to air out most of the trousseau. They allow you to lay the groundwork for a great life experience.

Given the large number of options available, both length and format-wise, you can live in a big city and still get to know other people, get acquainted with other cultures, and acquire certain kind of skills that can help you grow personally and professionally.

It’s easy to go crazy during the search and analysis process. Having a mentor, or someone that can guide you, is highly recommended. But prior to this, it’s important to probe into those areas that are close to your current field of expertise and can complement it.

In a nutshell, I myself chose a Design Thinking Bootcamp in Amsterdam and a Digital Marketing Program in London. The former because it’s a very versatile method for problem-fixing and change management, focused on people. The latter because, nowadays, there are so many areas in our lives that can be affected by digital technology, that new paths to walk down are constantly opened up.

Some experiences

#1. Staying home on your first night in Amsterdam is very sad. Instead, set up a Tinder profile, and compulsively swipe right until you find a nice plan with a local. The tool is there, use it as you please.

#2. Doing things for the first time is always rewarding. New place, new faces, new tasks.

#3. Digital platforms are very useful. This center allows students to contact one another before the program’s even started. This way, you can know who they are, what they do, what they like doing, and even meet up.

#4. When listening to someone from another country, it is good to strip oneself of convictions, beliefs and traditions, to better understand the person speaking. Oftentimes, our mindsets do tint situations inadvertently.

#5. We frequently let prejudices sink in and easily jump to our own conclusions… and then, SURPRISE! You find yourself in front of a blond, long-haired, slender, two-meter-tall, Legolas-looking, dutch guy saying “Tú de dónde eres, mi chico”, in a perfect Ecuadorian Spanish. That’s utterly mind-blowing. It’s like coming across a five-year-old kid with the voice of a grandpa.

#6. A myriad of apps and maps has invaded your devices: airline companies, apartment-rental agencies, communication platforms for teachers and/or students, data consumption, distances and itineraries, mobility solutions (Uber and the like)…

#7. You realize that losing comfort is more than possible.

#8. Your social media profiles start featuring exotic names from different nations.

#9. You feel as though a little part of that place and its people pertained to your heart.

Some learnings

Trying not to get lost in details, I will share some basic knowledge that can be useful for anyone in the industry:

  • Targets & strategies come always first.
  • People should be the focus. The world is made for and by people. What they feel, what they look for, what their journey turns out to be, what they experiment along the way, both physically and digitally. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
  • Identify problems and areas that need improving. Set forth a bunch of ideas, however crazy they may sound. Filter, choose & sharpen them.
  • Exchange opinions to get the bigger picture. Always turn to goals and strategies.
  • Create a prototype, design or model — test it and show it to the people it was designed for. Get their feedback, and work together towards getting a better version of it.
  • Conceptualize, pack, and translate into time and resources. These are all-time basics.
  • Implement and test. Even if it isn’t perfect, if it works, then it’s ok. Since everything’s subject to improvement, it’s very easy to get bogged down in never-ending updates. Don’t let this happen to you — there’ll be time for version 2.0 down the road.
  • The process should go along these lines: develop, implement, test, correct, improve, develop again, implement all over again… and so on and so forth.
  • This is amazingly versatile — it can be used for a new product, a startup, a big company, a team, even yourself… The scope’s pretty much infinite.
  • Don’t feel overwhelmed by technical terms — important things are always easy.
  • And the tools, however specific and complex they might seem, are mastered through practice. If you’re big on that, then go for it — if not, good news is having a general idea of how they work and what their benefits are is more than enough. Remember as well that a tool can be used in many different ways — unexpected uses yield unexpected, and even surprising results.

Teaching staff feedback

I’d like to share the feedback from the teachers I had the pleasure to be with in the past few months. Their opinions come to show the impact the course has had on me and how this kind of activities are interesting and rewarding to everyone that works in this sector.

Tim Schuurman, Design Thinkers Academy, Amsterdam.

The Bootcamp has provided Miguel, and other participants — some of them, coming from the same professional background — , with a lot of different values. Chiefly, they’re inspired to collaborate together in a different way.

Participants plunge into the customary Design Thinking flow of activities to understand the importance of each part of that flow. An open and fun atmosphere is created. Also the attendance of people from all over the world helps in creating this atmosphere. This also shows the importance of this atmosphere to collaborate in a creative way.

Creative agencies and marketing departments could benefit especially from it by using Design Thinking to take a step back and look at the broader context of things to be better able to determine where an idea could fit in and prioritize efforts.

Also the idea of taking small steps and the use of prototyping could be helpful for organizations that contemplate new ways of working and that are interested in creating open and safe spaces where Design Thinking can be a collaboration method.

Katerina Pospisilova, General Assembly, London.

Miguel enrolled in the GA course this year with a solid background in marketing. It was obvious that he was ambitious and wanted to develop also his digital skills, which would take him further in his already successful career.

From the very beginning, he assimilated the main concepts and developed a strong strategy for his company, based on a deep analysis of specific data and key performance indicators in the business. As a result, he was able to develop a wide spectrum of well-focused ideas, which fitted the real scenario.

Absolutely, people working in creative agencies or marketing departments have to constantly collaborate with their colleagues. Having an understanding of what their colleague is doing and what challenges they are facing would make their collaboration smoother.

In conclusion

Truth is once you start moving you regret not having done so before.

It’s true, there’s always time — you just need to take the plunge and find a plan tailored to your own personal needs and resources.

Find the right time for you.