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I’m feeling reflective. Earnest, even.
We just had Thanksgiving, the end of 2022 is just a few weeks away, and my anniversary with Simple Thread is basically today. I joined exactly four years ago! I was excited then and my excitement has only grown.
My expectation all those years ago was that I would build out Simple Thread’s UX & Design practice. I expected a challenge, but poking my head up now and looking around, I see it all just kind of happened. It was started by the developers that were already here and it continues to be built out and iterated on by the designers and developers that have joined the team since. I happily take full credit, though—I am “the Director,” after all.
The Makeup of Our Practice
More than our deployment of the UX process or Design Thinking™, I consider our practice to be a living thing. It’s shaped by everyone that participates in it. It’s the culmination of a bunch of stuff, like:
- The bundle of processes and tools we use
- Our collective knowledge
- Our habits and routines of collaboration
- Our culture
- The patterns of client, customer, or partner engagement
- The goals and expectations we set for ourselves
- Our principles and values
- What motivates us
This is why I’m even more excited now than when I started. I’ve watched the buckets listed above fill up with contributions from each of the folks that join our team. Everyone has added something crucial to the practice. Here’s a few of the things that my coworkers have brought to the party that I appreciate on the daily:
Effortlessness in giving and getting helpful feedback.
This is one of those things that our practice is built on. Eagerly seeking constructive feedback on your work and being able to offer up helpful insights and criticisms that are friendly and empathic is so important to the quality of our work and the quality of our experience while doing the work.
Pursuit of deep understanding.
We’ve been lucky to share this tendency across the whole group. It’s really one of those things that I think everyone at Simple Thread values. Though, a couple of folks in the design practice have really made it their obsession.
A critical eye for helpful processes and tools.
This has really supported our growth as a team. Having someone who is excited to pick apart the new Figma updates or refresh us on NNgroup’s take on cardsorting has kept us efficient and disciplined.
Gentle reminders to check our instincts with research and best practices.
Keeps us honest. Especially me. I’ve been doing this so long 🙄, I tend to give my assumptions more faith than they necessarily deserve.
I’m not sure I believe in natural talent. Aptitude maybe, but is talent anything more than (passion × practice)? Either way, coming to work everyday with folks who are great at what they do and genuinely enjoying it—well, it’s motivating.
Sometimes they can be a bit much, but every team needs a Ted Lasso or two. Or three if you can really build up a tolerance.
Patience, serenity even.
Building understanding can take time and you may have to sit in uncertainty for a long stretch.
Whole design philosophies.
Sometimes relentless advocacy. Being willing to stand up for the practices we know are critical to success, even when a client doesn’t want to hear it, is the most responsible thing to do for our clients.
The humility to temper knowledge and experience with efficiency.
There’s a lot of cumulative experience, training, expertise, and credentials across this team. All that experience and education could justify endless rounds of research and the deployment of every formal deliverable in our toolkit. Fortunately, this team is good at deploying just enough research, being nimble, and grabbing the right tool for the job. A pleasant surprise for me has been watching the most credentialled of us steer our practice towards a more lean and effective approach.
Comfort in moving forward with ambiguity.
I really love how this one counterbalances some of the others. You can never know everything and there is always a deeper understanding to be obtained. Sometimes you should be patient and just listen, but eventually the best way to move forward is to put something together and try it out.
We work on some complex stuff. Often the scope of an application can be larger than most of our clients have the bandwidth to fully understand themselves. Distilling a mass of granular interactions into a digestible set of key, high-level takeaways that a client can be confident in is truly an art.
Offering coworkers a listening ear, work reviews, and even guidance is so helpful. This has us functioning as a team rather than a bunch of individuals answering to a single person or client.
The Future of this Practice
These are the things that shape our practice the most. I see these strengths and I know our team will handle new processes, the shifting industry, and whatever situations come our way. I’m looking forward to the new contributions folks will bring and the new ways the group will find to support itself and improve the experience of doing this work.
Obviously, I’m proud of the practice I’m watching evolve. I’m also lucky that my role allows me to nudge and cultivate that evolution and that this company encourages me to be supportive rather than driving. Mostly, I’m just excited to be here, working with these people on these things.
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