I created a user guide to me
Inspired by the idea of “Manager.README” documents, I created my own.
Manager.README documents — created by leaders in engineering and product teams — provide a compelling look into what it will be like to work with someone, while also revealing a lot about each person on a personal level.
I have a hearing problem, and I’ve been kicking around ideas about how I might share my hearing and explain how it works in a way that results in a positive reception by new people I meet and work with.
It felt like a README for myself would be the perfect medium for communicating not only my own values and way of working, but also my hearing and how it fits into our day-to-day.
I created a user guide for me.
This is a user guide on me and how I work. It captures my guiding values, how I work as a human, and will hopefully help you understand me better and help us work together.
North Star Principles
People matter. I believe that people are at the heart of everything we do. Great products, services, and experiences are built for, and by, humans, all of whom have their own context, values, and perspectives. Use empathy to understand and connect with people.
Do good. Good comes in many forms. Good could mean positive social impact; it could mean quality; or it could mean personally fulfilling. Be intentional. Do good. In whatever form good takes.
Grow. It’s important to me to grow in some way, no matter how large or small, every day. Growth calls for self-reflection, critical thinking, and a willingness to make (and learn from) mistakes.
I like to use people as a sounding board. Sometimes, I’m not actually looking for an answer or solution. Talking to another person forces me to organize and articulate my thoughts. I prefer humans to rubber ducks, because a human can tell me when I’m not making sense (and need to re-organize my thoughts).
If I’m not making sense, I want to know. You should ask me for clarification. It might be that I assumed a different level of shared context, or I might need to re-organize my thoughts.
I am an introvert. This means it’s exhausting to be around lots of people. I do best in groups of one to three people. Four to six is okay. I tend to be quiet in groups larger than this. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested or not engaged in what’s going on.
I like doing work that puts me in a flow state. To get into a flow state, I need clear goals and processes, a mechanism for feedback, and a good balance between the perceived challenge and my perception of my own ability. I will do my best to create this environment for myself and for others.
I think in systems and in the context of a bigger picture. I love thinking about how people and data flow and relate and how things fit together. I will always try and understand the bigger picture.
I bias towards action. I love discussing ideas and possibilities, but I believe the best way to get things done is to get started. Trying things and making mistakes along the way is the best way to learn and get better.
I assume positive intent. I assume people have positive intentions in everything they do.
I have a hearing problem. More specifically, I’m deaf as a post. I believe in being transparent and candid with you about my hearing. I find that it’s easiest to work together when you know exactly what to expect.
How My Hearing Works
I have sensorineural hearing loss. This means that the small hair cells in my cochlea are broken down, and don’t respond to sound waves as strongly as they should.
I wear hearing aids. They help, but they don’t cure hearing loss. More on this in a moment.
My hearing wasn’t that bad at first, and got worse over time. When I was much younger, I could hear somewhat well enough without my hearing aids. Over time, my hearing degraded to the point where I can’t hear sounds without my hearing aids.
My issue isn’t volume, it’s clarity. With my hearing aids in, I can hear your voice (including your pitch, tone, and inflection), music, and sounds in general without any issue. However, while I can hear your voice, I can’t draw words out of it. Hearing speech doesn’t involve just hearing the sounds, it involves clarity of sound.
I speak normally, and I read lips. Because my hearing loss got worse over time, I grew up with normal speech and learned to read lips. Most of the time, you won’t notice that I have a hearing problem.
I don’t know sign language. I never had any need for it. I’m also not part of the Deaf community.
How to Make Things Easy for Both of Us
I need you to face me. If you’re looking away from me, I can’t lip read you. I’ll do my best to put myself in a position where I can see you, like across from you in a meeting.
Talk normally. I learned to lip read by lip reading people talking normally. If you raise your voice, talk more slowly, exaggerate your words, or really anything that isn’t how you normally talk, it’s harder for me to understand you.
Lip reading works best when you’re talking in sentences. I understand speech by understanding sentences or words in context. If you say “chrysanthemum” on its own, I can’t possibly understand it. But if you tell me you “spent the weekend planting chrysanthemums in your back garden,” it’ll be crystal clear.
I don’t need to be looking at you 100% of the time to understand you. If I glance away while you’re talking, I won’t miss what you’re saying. If it happens that I do, I’ll tell you.
I can’t do phone or video calls. There’s something about a 2D screen and inconsistent video quality that makes it really, really hard to lip read over video. If we have a video call, I’ll ask you to type out your messages. (I’m happy to respond verbally, if you prefer!)
If I didn’t understand you, tell me. Sometimes I’ll think I understood what you said, but you’ll know that I didn’t.
If you have any questions about my hearing, please ask! It’s fun to talk about and makes it easier to work together.
How My Hearing Affects My Work as a UX Designer
It doesn’t affect my work as a UX designer. We live in an amazing world full of amazing people and amazing technology. Slack and emails replace phone calls. Video conferencing has text messaging. And if I just can’t lip read something you said, there’s probably a device around that would let you type it out.
Okay, it does affect remote user interviews. I can’t personally moderate a remote user interview or study. But I do plan, design, and help conduct the research. After all, we’re a team. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses: my hearing is just a little more black and white.
How My Hearing Affects Work and Life in General
Lip reading in larger groups is exhausting. I’ll be very tuckered out at the end of the day.
I will be quieter in larger meetings where I’m an attendee, not the facilitator. This doesn’t mean I’m not engaged: it just means I’m focusing on understanding what’s being said and avoiding the embarrassment of responding to something I didn’t hear properly.
I don’t have patience for rudderless meetings. I prefer meetings with a clear desired outcome, even if that outcome is shooting the shit. I make sure all of my meetings have a structure and purpose that I share well in advance.
Sometimes I miss things. If something is mentioned in passing, there’s a good chance I might not pick up on it. If that something was a must-know, it’s a good idea to write it down somewhere.
I value getting to know people one-on-one. It’s much easier for me (and you) to build a close friendship or working relationship if we’re talking one-on-one. I think this applies for almost everyone of any level of hearing.
What do you think?
This is a living document that will be updated on my website.