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Thank you Adeolu Eletu for this business photo you posted on Unsplash.

Full disclosure: this is a job posting disguised as an article… but you already knew that, so…

Brain Plasticity, you heard of it?

For the past few years, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of brain plasticity. If you aren’t familiar, give it a quick Google search. The tl;dr is that your brain has an ability to change as a result of learning, experience, and memory formation, or even damage.

I have recently experienced plasticity myself. …

People management, just like design, is something you can get better at by actually doing it. With that being said, there are still incredible resources that can aid that learning process.

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Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

Like my foray into design, I became a manager without much prior, formal, training. I’d like to think that’s not entirely unusual within the design industry. Not many of us opened Photoshop expecting it to one day turn into a bunch of humans you were now responsible for. But alas, here we are, making the best of it and using spreadsheets more than Adobe Creative Cloud.

I want to share a few resources that were helpful to me in my transition into Design Management. These will be especially helpful for anyone who finds themselves in the same position I was several years ago: lacking actual management experience, but eager to learn and grow. …

Last week was a tough one. I said goodbye to some of the best people I have ever had the chance to work with. Hands down, it was the best design team I have ever been a part of.

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Photo by Zachary Staines on Unsplash

When the wave ends…

When I started at Treehouse I always felt like I had some how caught this great wave. Every time I thought it might suddenly crash down, every time I thought it might be over, it just got bigger and bigger and better. Sadly, the wave finally ended for me. And that’s something I am ok with.

When I look back I see a lot of work to be proud of. We overhauled our visual system, rolled out mobile apps, launched Workspaces, shipped the Techdegree certification program, built up our B2B product, built a front-end framework, got design systems rolling, said goodbye to friends, made new friends. And I’m sure I’m forgetting things. Regardless, it’s been worth it. Seeing the success that Treehouse students experience in their lives by learning how to code (and not going into debt to do it!) meant that every PR, every pixel, every project was absolutely worth it. …

Why at times, even our best behaviors can run counter to what we ultimately want to accomplish.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

One of the folks who reports to me asked a fairly straight-forward question the other day:

of all these items on my to-do list, what should I do now, and what should I do later?

Pretty simple ask. Providing the answer was an easy thing to do compared to the other responsibilities I have as a manager. So I quickly responded, telling them specifically what items could wait and what items could not.

But shortly after giving my answer, I began to second guess myself. It wasn’t that I told them to work on the wrong tasks. It felt like a missed opportunity. …

Why it’s worse to not make decisions, than it is make the wrong decision in the first place.

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Photo by Philipp Lublasser via Unsplash

Sitting in the DFW airport on the way home from a very inspiring conference, I opened up Twitter (as one does when they have a 7 hour layover) and I saw these tweets come through from Josh Williams.

It reminded me of a conversation I had the week prior about how to make decisions as a leader. Specifically, how to make the right decision. It’s something that nearly every leader feels the weight and responsibility of, and — at times — struggles with.

There are a lot of really fascinating examples of how great leaders empower themselves with the ability to make quick decisions with excellence. Whether that’s Mark Zuckerburg’s uniform or President Obama’s gray and blue closet. Simply ensuring you have the mental stamina to make a decision is a great place to start. …

One-thousand words on cats, desire, change, and being prepared.

Just going to get this out in the open first thing. I am a cat person. Not like crazy, cat person. I currently own zero cats ok? But I did grow up with all kinds of animals (read dogs and cats). For me, cats are the superior pet.

Ok, now on to how that has anything to do with wanting. A story…

When my wife and I bought our first house we thought it would be a good idea to get some pets. Cats — of course — were what I wanted. She agreed, despite being allergic — you were and still are the best Amber 😘. We did some research, found a vet school near us that put their cats up for adoption at the end of each semester. …

Earlier in the year I sat down and wrote out a few lessons learned in the first 90 days of my role as Director of Design at Treehouse. …

A few months back I partnered up with a few friends and random acquaintances to take on my first side project since having kids. Inspired — like so many others — by a TED talk from Roman Mars. The project started out as an attempt to design a flag for where I live: Joplin, MO. One that would better tell the story of Joplin and adhere to the five principles of good flag design outlined by Ted Kaye of NAVA.

It is probably best if I come right out and say it: I have been in Joplin for more than a decade and I still can’t fully say that I chose to live here. I went to college in this town. When I graduated in 2007 it was the cheapest option to get me on my feet. Nearly ten years later I am still here; with a house, a wife, 2 kids. Every few months I wake up and think to myself, “Is this really where I want to be? Is this the place I want to grow my family and put down roots? …

Yesterday was a hard one for anyone who’s been a part of the journey at Treehouse. We let go of some amazing individuals. People I care deeply about.

These were folks who consistently gave immeasurable amounts of energy and passion to the mission. To helping students achieve their dreams through affordable technology education.

Not going to go in to details about what led up to this, nor will I attempt to long-form-think-piece about startup life. Instead I’d rather focus on helping the people who found themselves on the other side of the table yesterday.

So, if you find yourself being a remote-friendly company in need of proven individuals who show up every day, do amazing work, are tremendously committed, and have a passion for their respective disciplines… get at me. My DMs are open on twitter. ✌️

When the designers at Treehouse started the mini-critique concept a few months back, I first asked each team to sit down and draft a set of working agreements. This was a simple google doc that listed 5–10 principles and behaviors they wanted to exhibit and hold one another accountable to. These would be the rules for the team and their culture.

It’s been just shy of 3 months since we kicked off. I wanted to sit down and get a feel for what impact the mini critiques were having on the teams. …


Matt Spiel

Multi-disciplinary designer-turned-manager-turned-designer. Listen… It’s complicated, I’m a leader that breaks the mold.

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