Storytelling at work

The “new” job is less new every day — Friday marked seven months since I joined Blackbaud. (It is still awesome.)

Friday was also the first ever UX Day event at Blackbaud. It was a day filled with great talks about various aspects of user experience, and how everyone — not just practitioners — can benefit from learning more about UX principles. I was happy (and a little bit freaked out, in a good way) to be asked to give the keynote. As I was putting together my talk, here’s what I told the organizers I’d be talking about:

What can:

A Venetian boatman’s web-footed daughter,
talking animals,
Jesuits in space,
a storyteller with questionable ethics,
and a tiny red leaf

teach you about user experience?

Trust me, I’m telling you stories.

Fortunately, this worked for them and that’s the talk I got to give. I work with some really fantastic people.

If you are curious, you can grab this PDF version of my talk.

We’re all responsible for the awesome

I recently read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. Among other things, it offers a manifesto and advice for creative types. The big message is get off your ass and make stuff.

You Will Need checklist from Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist

I liked this list, because I think it applies equally well to starting a new job. Which I am. A few weeks ago I joined Blackbaud, in a new role on the Products Ops team — Innovation Catalyst. As one of my friends put it, “so you make awesome?”

After laughing, I corrected her: no, I will help other people make awesome :) When you think about it, that is really the job we should all have, to help make awesome. Awesome products and experiences for customers, awesome places to work with each other, with an awesome sense of purpose that helps us get out of bed in the morning.

A few weeks after I started my last job (back in September 2005) I wrote a post that for years was a top Google result for smartass people, and as of this writing, is still the first hit for anyone looking for smartass people at work. (It isn’t what it sounds like, except of course saying that kinda means it is.) I am surprised that old post still shows up so highly, it isn’t as if there is a shortage of smartass bloggers, even in this new school twitter/facebook/pinterest no one blogs anymore age.

I like the idea that now I’ll come up when people search for “responsible for the awesome” because seven years later I’m less snarky, and possibly a bit less of a smartass.

The freedom of non-obvious connections

I was reading an article on Jonathan Ives orange iMac (How did a British polytechnic graduate become the design genius behind £200billion Apple?) which mentioned he went to Japan to see one of the leading makers of samurai swords and spent hours in a sweets factory for inspiration.

For some reason, this reminded me of Paul Isakson‘s presentation How to Wander With Purpose:


Viewing the presentation again, the connection wasn’t as immediately clear as it initially felt in my head. So I decided I should write this post, in hopes of finding clarification (and having what I’m learning stick).

I think it has to do with the freedom to make non-obvious connections. The time and space and openness to learn from outside your immediate sphere is not something many employers provide, and it can be hard to find the energy to do completely on your own. That doesn’t make it less vital. I’m lucky in that I have a job where I’m expected/provoked/encouraged to open my mind and see where things may go. That means I can do a lot of this “for work” and that gives me the energy to do it not for work. Another thing I’m realizing yet again is that for work/not work isn’t a distinction that always makes sense for me.

That’s ok. I’m wandering.