Day One

It’s been nine months since I last posted something on heydesignthinker.com.

That time count would be accurate if you would take me at my word – that I did write and post something on this blog one, fateful day in September 2018, about a ‘coffee meeting’ that turned ‘awry’ (that is, a coffee chat turned sales pitch). 

The reality is, that blog post was written a year ago and the events surrounding it going even prior to that. 

…which makes me really absent in this blog for, I guess, more than a year. 

It’s shocking how I, a self-confessed ‘expressive’ person, could abandon this cherished blog for a very long time. But whenever I think about how my life really went these past twelve months, that absence ceases to be a mystery and realize that it was probably better that my blog took the back seat. Considering the ups and downs that my life has really gone this past year, it was sensible to keep “HDT” on hold without letting it fold.

Wrestling with Rejection

A scan on my (few) posts reveal a fascination with job rejection. I was in the middle of a huge career pivot, at that time, and I really didn’t know if I would make it out alive. Days of selling yourself for that next UX role turned into months, and I was close to believing that my value to the industry has hit absolute zero. Luckily, my experience and online portfolio helped counter the narrative that was looming in my mind. But, man, I really needed to work hard to shut that nasty voice up in my head.

A job search is hard on the spirit. There is only so much you could take when “thanks, but no thanks” becomes the parting line. But whether it is your first rejection or your 100th rejection, the only thing you can really do is to get up and keep going – keeping the faith for a dream you really do not want to abandon even if, at times, it is so, so painful already. You would normally think that an ‘in-demand’ industry such as UX and Product Design will not be marked by such a trying path towards your next role. Turns out, it wasn’t the case. I was so, so mistaken.

This period in my life has finally come to pass. I recently joined a highly-esteemed global charity as their second UX Research and Design Specialist to help build and articulate the UX research practice within the organization. Not only does this role put me squarely within UX research – a dream come true – but also in an exciting position to evangelize UX throughout the charity. This currently comes through intermittent lunch-and-learns; but we’re setting our sights on creating and leading UX workshops to build charitable initiatives at are user-centred and impact-driven.  

“Floored” doesn’t capture that thrill of the task ahead.

Love Me Again

Despite the excitement that I truly have for this new role, it’s hard to deny the painful effects of the twelve months when I was on the hunt. Sure, I had projects here and there that flexed my UX muscles. But I soon realized that my tolerance for variable income wasn’t that high, and that a solid foundation on building a credible design business was absolutely crucial. If I was to consider becoming an independent UX practitioner again, I’d need to double down on a business model that would take me through the leaner days while positioning myself as “10x better” than the leading product consultancy or that high-profile UX freelancer/consultant. This is something that would take time!

More importantly, I have to heal from the hurt of the past. It is easy to write off professional rejection as a necessary passage to adult life. Psychologists are convinced, however, that the effects of repeated rejection can linger beyond its resolution and hamper moving forward. So I now have that formidable task of picking up the pieces of my self-esteem and gluing them back together in gold. This doesn’t make the scars a thing of the past, but a feature that has since been reclaimed and turned into a thing of beauty.

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Think Humpty Dumpty re-assembled in gold.

I really hope to start blogging very soon and slowly resume the usual “UX-y things” that I deprioritized during my transition. How else do UX practitioners signify “I’m active!” than through a well-timed #DesignTwitter retweet! 😉

Jokes aside, I sincerely wish to slowly start my way back to the UX world the way I’ve done it before. I’ve always said that our industry is only as good as the people in it. And with Toronto’s tech and design ecosystem being profoundly relationship-driven, there is something to be said about being an abiding, friendly presence to a community that’s seeking to thrive.

Who knows where this journey will take me? Only time can tell. What I’m sure, however, is that I’m sent on a mission to share my skills to an organization that needs it right now – and I’m determined to make it happen in my own unique way.

Published by Jem

Jem is a UX practitioner who builds insightful, creative and usable digital experiences. A journalist by trade, he transitioned to digital media upon discovering its power to create compelling (longform) stories that captivate and motivate. Today, he combines both UX research and strategy to design digital experiences that people love.