Personal review: 2013 highlights & lessons learned

No doubt 2013 worked out to be another incredible year of inspiring conversations, insightful engagements, and cool opportunities! For that I’m extremely grateful to my friends & colleagues at work and within the broader UX/Design community. It is only through such relationships I’ve actually made it this far :-)

So, I want to briefly highlight my top personal accomplishments and valuable lessons learned for 2013, to hopefully serve as inspiration for others. 


Top Accomplishments

What did I do this year? A few items of note:

* Participated with top execs at annual Citrix Think Tank, to deliver a beautiful next-gen concept for a intelligent, contextual “agent” that enables work-life balance, cheekily codenamed “Gini” (combo of Siri + Google Now ;-) 

* Delivered innovation with Citrix Labs on multiple fronts (and with multiple trips to Sydney ;-) including a concept for multi-device, multi-touch communication codenamed “Crystal Palace”, resulting in some patent filings too! True design + tech collaboration via Lean UX model of experimentation and customer feedback, in a big way.

* Continued partnerships in design education, via General Assembly (lectures and hosted studio tours) & CCA’s DMBA Design Strategy programs. This fall I helped lead Citrix’s sponsorship of Nathan Shedroff’s Experience Design studio, with some inspiring results! Great stuff.

* Got involved with startups! This was a big year for me, via Citrix Startup Accelerator (running design sessions, scorecard reviews, office hours), Kleiner Perkins Design Council, and others too. Fascinating world of design opportunity!

* Mentored interns — yay :-) It’s always an honor–and a pure delight–to support our annual Citrix Design internship program via mentoring and networking events. Met some truly wonderful, emerging design stars! 

<<  Big thanks to my peers & leaders at Citrix for enabling such great stuff this year! Truly a team effort. >>


Valuable Lessons 

So, what did I learn from all that (and more)? Just a few things:

* Be adaptive to unexpected change–it’s essential: This is particularly true with constant organizational changes, departures, team evolutions, role changes, etc. It’s never personal but purely transactional, business-driven motive, what’s best for the Company. This can be hard to understand when emotional attachments to projects and teams form; just remember there’s an underlying strategy and being adaptive keeps you flexible– and optimistic! Plus, new opportunities almost always appear when you least expect it, from such changes. Which leads to…

* Be selfish–for your career: When great opportunities present themselves, go grab them! Don’t feel guilty about it. Sounds cut throat, but it’s not–it’s simply business! Nobody cares more about your career than you. And if you’re that fire-starter, provocative type of designer (umm, ahem, like me ;-) you kinda have to promote yourself through self-directed actions and relationships, so take advantage accordingly. However, always remember to…

* Be generous–for your team: The flip side is being truly generous with the opportunities you partake, sharing all benefits/results/takeaways with your teams, both peers and superiors alike! The karmic cycle of virtuous giving prevails, always. Pay it forward! This suggests a symbiotic relationship with your peers & superiors, for a productive healthy dynamic at work. 

* Everything is political–gotta learn “quiet influence”:  It’s simply human nature! This is true at the highest levels of leadership, where egos, domains, structures, and roles clash… along with typical conflicts over resources. Not fun! However, the ability to subtly detect various weak & strong political ties (see Dave Gray’s “The Connected Company”)  with influence patterns is vital, while persuasively (and persistently) pushing the “quiet influence” of your ideas. Not easy at all. But through confidence, conviction, and respectful “crucial conversations” you can thrive.

* Scaling is really hard–it’s OK to ask for help!: Scaling from a team of 10 to a team of 175+ worldwide creates a variety of challenges (with 200+ “catalysts” too), including how to share/communicate/learn and keep everyone inspired with new ideas. I’ve learned to focus on local areas of impact, support small activities (weekly sharing sessions and such) and how to delegate, grooming others to be your rep in other Geos (“site primes”). 

* Virtual teams are great, but innovation needs presence: Having worked on a long-term innovation project with a team based in Sydney, I’ve got firsthand experience with this :-) Every trip to Sydney proved to be a catalytic event, accelerating understanding, creating novel ideas, and overcoming engineering issues. There’s something about “being there” that can’t be replicated (yet) with today’s comm tools. Design matters, but presence really matters a lot, to get designs delivered.


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