I am, at heart, a designer and I bring a design mindset to everything I do, including management, leadership and relationship building. There’s very little I can’t apply the double diamond or design thinking methodology to. I will always seek to empathise, start from first principles, avoid assumptions, prototype and test and seek feedback.
I am a visual thinker and find diagrams, wireframes, drawings and post-it notes help simply complex concepts and draw out insights. I use facilitation and workshops to navigate conversations and bring people into alignment (or seek out areas of divergence).
I am much more a first-diamond designer than a second, specifically because my strengths are concentrated around discovery and concepting, with refinement into the high fidelity UI layer less and less my jam over time. There are many amazing Figma geniuses who I think do a better job than me.
When I use the word product here I am using it to means products (as opposed to agencies) and product management as a specific discipline, as well as product thinking more broadly.
I have spent almost all of my career working on products. The product mindset is one that I find compelling because it promotes a custodianship view and allows for long-term thinking, which in turn allows teams to make smarter, more sustainable decisions.
Projects are great and I think any good product organisation has a great project delivery machine that drives it forward, but the holistic product thinking model is still critical.
Part of why I have found myself as a person in product leadership roles is that I ask a lot of questions, but also because I find strategy compelling. I’m also a very effective facilitator and translator, allowing me to empathise with the diverse groups (from executives to developers and everyone in between) who collaborate in product teams.
In the past perhaps I was drawn to where the decisions are being made — now I care less for this but find that product still sits in the nexus of the areas I have worked in, namely design, research, development and business. With my diverse background, product (management) feels like a good way to use my skills.
In many regards I find research a little difficult to disentangle from design and product above, but as a discipline it is something I am passionate about. If I had to choose between design, product and research I would say research is the area I think I find most engaging.
In particular, I find my background in journalism has given me the ability to actively listen and take in a lot of information. Crucially, I’m able to resist drawing conclusions until the second diamond and find the practice of expansive, generative data gathering incredibly exciting and satisfying. I love empowering decisions with evidence from research, whether it’s exploratory, evaluative, moderated, unmoderated, quant or qual. Over the years my toolkit has expanded and diversified, which allows me to consistently design research studies that select the right tool for the job.
I have worked across development (PHP, React, Clojure, Ruby, Typescript, Xamarin, AWS, etc), design, research, product and leadership — all in the technology space. I am a technologist at heart, although I would say my approach is not to fetishise tech for tech’s sake, but to figure out how to leverage its power to improve the world.
Over time, my confidence has grown and my humility has deepened, giving me the strength to defend myself when I know I’m right and the ability to comfortably admit when I don’t know. Once my impostor syndrome died down — and I had my anxiety treated — I unlocked a sense of direction towards leadership. I am someone who can reduce complexity and ambiguity for others, and who is emotionally intelligent enough to manage the psychological substrate as well as the practical delivery. In particular I am to support those who the system doesn’t include by default by creating inclusive environments that value the perspectives of a diverse group.
Having had the immense pleasure of working with Plucky Frank — and reading the work of Jennifer Garvey Berger and Michael Bungay Stanier — I find the coaching mindset a perfect way to support and grow talent. I believe wholeheartedly that everyone has room to grow and change is not only possible but inevitable. With a coaching mindset I trust others to receive feedback, improve themselves and develop well into adulthood with the right learning environment. I’m hoping to deepen my skills further in this discipline over the coming years.
My background, prior to tech, was in writing and editing, and my academic background is in English literature and art history. Before I got my first full time job I wrote fiction, for which I have been awarded various prizes and published in various publications. As a technologist, I have found speaking and teaching to be effective communication modes and have built a deep practice around facilitation and workshop design. Most importantly, I believe in using plain language and explaining things effectively in order to build healthy cross-functional collaborative relationships.
My brain is good at drawing insights out of complexity. Admittedly it took a while to learn how to use this skill effectively, but I believe it’s the ability to switch from left brain to right brain processing that allows me to extract meaning. I enjoy being able to sit in complexity and absorb a lot of data, then process it (sometimes in oblique ways, like going for a run or having a shower) and then letting the epiphany land. I love using this skill in workshops, research, conversation and coaching. It’s a niche superpower.
Getting shit done
Highly conscientious, I pride myself on finishing tasks. I am not much of a procrastinator and once I set my mind to something, I get it done as efficiently — and to the highest standard — as possible. I only ever set out to achieve three things each day, try to leave things better than when I found them, and hold myself accountable to any commitments I make to others. The result is that I can be a bit of a getting shit done machine, with the ability to push through discomfort in pursuit of the intrinsic satisfaction of achievement.