My 2017 year in review ✈️

Do what you love & never quit on a hard day.

2017 was an amazing year. Far more exciting than the years before. And I feel like repeating myself with this every year. A good thing — right?

My one-sentence summary for 2017 is: Do what you love and never quit on a hard day. 
 
Goal accomplished! ✅💪

This is a long post, so here’s a table of content in case there’s something you want to jump to:

2017 year in review

The year started of with an amazing opportunity and a big challenge. In the beginning of January I got the chance to show my design skills as a User Experience Designer in a design challenge at the IBM Design Studio Boeblingen. Where I applied as a UX Designer short before Christmas. This turned out to become my first full-time job as a User Experience Designer — one of my goals from last years post.

But there was more. I finished my master thesis in strategic design between the end of that month and the beginning of February. Finishing my thesis was one hell of an intense emotional ride. I think I never was more engaged and exhausted after finishing some piece of work. But I did it! I graduated in the mid of February with a masters degree of arts from the HfG Schwaebisch Gmuend.

Stage set for new adventures. Two weeks vacation and than they began. At March, 1st I began working for IBM in Boeblingen. I moved to Stuttgart and began living with two co-workers I just got to know. Together we lived in a shared flat in the beautiful west part of the city. It turned out, they quickly became friends I never will miss in my life again.

The first few month at IBM were great. I immediately managed to bring value to the project I was deployed on. I learned about IBM Design Thinking and the role of User Experience Design at IBM. At the same time me and my team at thangs also started working on a new idea. As remote workers we struggled with having these casual water cooler discussions, we would have if we were together in one office. This is why we began building Lito. It’s like your virtual office with different rooms, called channels. You can try it here, it’s free. I will write about the release later.

In June a big change and step forward in life happened. After three month of searching for an apartment in the Stuttgart area, I finally got a rental contract for an apartment in a small village right in the middle — between Stuttgart and IBM in Boeblingen. This move meant that I canceled my apartment near Heidelberg that I was living in for 6 years.

But there was no time to settle. After my move the next endeavor began. On July, 21st I boarded a plan in Frankfurt to start a three month journey in Austin, Texas. I was sent from IBM to their Design Bootcamp, together with two co-workers . Bootcamp is a three month trainee program for new hires to learn all about IBM’s Design Thinking at scale. In this three month I had a blast of a time. I got to know amazing smart people from all of the US and abroad (Hi Dina and Abdullah 👋). All young hungry professionally trained designers looking to bring more human centered experiences to business software. At the beginning of Bootcamp we made a hopes and fear exercise. One of my hopes was making friends for a life-time. Guess what I did!

Together in different week long sprints we tackled complex business problems in various industries (like the trucking industry or chemical industry) with human centered design thinking methods. Which lead to astonishing outcomes that make a difference for our users and our business. As one of our external stakeholders said:

“This is a lot more than I anticipated or expected and the process through which you put me through, your approach, this IBM Design Thinking is amazing. You are the true experienced designers. Not only for the experience of the application, but the experience for me — the stakeholder. Thank you very much. […] Before I do forget, where do I sign up […]? Because I’m sold!”
— Main Project Stakeholder

At this point I want to give a shout-out to the awesome people I worked with in this project. Thank you Pat, Cody, Nathalie, Claire, Abdullah and Andy! You are one of the smartest and greatest people I’ve ever worked and hang out with. I’ll forever remember the time we had together and the great outcome we were able to deliver.

You can read all about the project here.

Bootcampers playing back an empathy map

Besides Bootcamp in Austin, I managed to pump up my surfing skills. Together with my co-worker Andy I went surfing every Sunday at an artificial surf park right outside of Austin. This, the beautiful nature around Austin and the active nightlife were the perfect compensation to the effort we put into our work at Bootcamp every day. Bootcamp was indeed one of the biggest opportunities I ever got in my life. Thanks IBM!

After graduating from bootcamp at the end of October. It was finally about time to go on vacation. I saved all my vacation days up to this point. First stop, Hawaii 🌺🏄🏻‍♂️! Two co-workers and I stayed there for two weeks, on the beautiful island Oahu, in Haleiwa at the famous north shore. We did some beautiful hikes, did snorkeling and went surfing almost every day (12/14 🙈). I tell you it is paradise.

Me looking down from the top of the Crouching Lion hike on Oahu, Hawaii.

But even in paradise you can’t stay forever. So my journey let me back to the main land and the beautiful state of California, where I stayed for four days at Venice in Los Angeles. At the co-work-living house I stayed I hat the chance to meet some interesting people from all around the globe. Even a young woman from Germany, my home country. I liked the quietness of this place which gave me the ability to focus and get some work done for Lito.

My mac at Outsite Venice

The following weekend I visited friends from bootcamp in Raleigh, NC. We had a great time and enjoyed the nature and some classic american food. Then the last week of my trip and last stop began — New York 🗽!

Going to New York was on of those things on my very long bucket list. Again I stayed at a co-work-living accommodation from Outsite in Brooklyn. Met smart people and explored the city. I really liked the color of these yellow cabs.

While being in New York we finally launched Lito. It was a small launch without a lot of traction and marketing effort. But as I already told last year, there is no more valuable feedback than the feedback from people that use your product while you are not there. From our first 20 users we already got the most valuable insight on our product. Their feedback will be our gudiance for the first iteration we are currently working on.

If you are a remote worker yourself or work with remote co-workers, give Lito a shot. It let’s you have those casual water cooler discussions without scheduling meetings. Visit https://getlito.co.

On October 18th I boarded my plan back to Germany — the end of a four month journey in the US. Arriving in Germany, I was greeted and picked up by some good friends and my dad at the airport — home!

But again no time to really settle. After three weeks back in Germany, I was on my way back to the US. New York again for a week. This time project related an internal Meeting from IBM. New York in the time before Christmas — a blast!

This trip was the perfect closing for an awesome year full of meeting smart people, finding new friends and enormous personal growth. I’m excited for 2018 and can’t wait.


Happy New Year everyone!
 
Let’s make 2018 an awesome year.

Three things I’ve learned past year 🙃

  • 🚪 Never quit on a hard day: Writing my master degree thesis while having a hard time finding a path to go with a too broad topic made me realize, you never should quit on a hard day. And believe me I had many of hard days on this journey. On a lot of these days I was about to quit, but I never did. I told myself, no matter how worse a day or period in my life is I’ll never quit while the feelings lasts. The chances are high that you are overwhelmed by your feelings and the pain you are experiencing. This puts you in a bad position to make a reasonable decision. Therefore, try to make the decision on the next day or in a week. Never make an important decision on a day you experiencing what will probably make you quit. On the day after you are more likely to make a more rational decision which probably is the better decision for your life. At the end finishing and going through the process of writing my master degree thesis was hundred percent worth the effort.
  • 😓 Everything has a reason you may not see at first sight: Experiencing a lot of situations this year (especially in the first half of it) which gave me a hard time, I always tried to remind myself of a sentence I wrote down in my diary in 2015. “Everything has it’s reason, but you may not be able to see the reason at first sight.” Since then this became a mantra for my life. No matter how worse something is, it’s serving a greater purpose. You may can’t make the connection right now, but later in life you can. So stay calm and you will see.
  • 👩‍💻 Put the stuff you make in front of people: Going through the process of building and releasing our third product at thangs, we had to remind ourselves again to put the stuff we make in front of people as early as possible. No matter how good you do your research and build empathy with your users and the problem you are solving, chances are high you still working with a lot of assumptions. And working with too much assumptions for too long is toxic. I do not say you can’t go with assumptions. Without embracing the uncertainty you are probably paralyzed and not making any progress. But be aware, too many assumptions and you have no idea which to tackle first if they are invalidated by user feedback.

Places I’ve traveled to past year

  • 🇩🇪 Germany: Stuttgart, Hannover, Braunschweig, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Schwäbisch Gmünd
  • 🇺🇸 USA: Austin, Houston, Oahu Hawaii, Los Angeles (Venice), Raleigh, New York (twice)

Things I’ve done past year ✅

  • 💻📱 Launched one new product: Lito — Stop texting & start talking with your remote co-workers 🌎
  • 🛠 Planed and facilitated a 1,5 hour workshop at the THINK Forum in Stuttgart on the topic of Sharing Economy.
  • ✈️ Traveled one month and worked remote: My Laptop and I in November, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Raleigh, New York.
  • 📚 Read some books: Remote from 37signals, Behind the Cloud, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Leadership & Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, How to Be Everything, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation
  • 🔊 Listened to a lot of podcasts: High Resolution, Design Details, At your service, User Defenders: Inspiring Interviews with UX Superheroes, Seeking Wisdom, Mega Maker and Product People Club
  • 📝 Written on Article on Medium: The true difference between remote workers & digital nomads

Things I will do this year❗️

  • 🎓 Release my master thesis “Personalized User Experience” as a book. Yep, I’m wiring a book. If you want to be kept in the loop sign up here: signup.sammyschuckert.de
  • 📚 Read more books: On my shelf (unfinished): One Hour Content Plan, Blackout by Narc Elsberg, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, LeanUX, When Coffee and Kale Compete, Atomic Design by Brad Frost, Meaningful products,
  • 🤖 Try new methods and tools: Learn Framer, Using the HEART Framework in a project to measure UX. Trying out methods like Lean UX Canvas and Lean Canvas.
  • 🗺 Travel to Asia.
  • 🚀 Iterating on Lito and finding Product Market Fit.
  • ✍️ Stick to writing diary more frequent.
  • ⌨️ Write more, maybe one blog post every third month.

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You can find me on Twitter: @sammyschuckert

My website: sammyschuckert.de

Current projects: thangsapp.com & getlito.co