Weeknote #022

— 18 minute read

Intense but rewarding week. I am tired, so I wrote these notes in automatic mode. Jotting down things that are on top of my mind and publishing without overthinking.

My selected blog/weeknote this week is from a Babylon colleague. He is an engineer with a quirk sense of humour. He wrote about his experiences working remotely in different countries and companies.

Good things permalink

1 year of DNA permalink

Approximately one year ago, DNA, our design system was created. Defining what is or what is not a design system is always a challenge. There were a few design systems initiatives in Babylon when I joined. A dozen component libraries, lots of design documentation and confluence pages.

Understanding what we had in place took me a few days. I am still grateful to everyone who helped me with conversations and documentation. I was able to understand the challenges very fast. After two weeks, I was presenting the roadmap, vision and investment proposal to the CEO, and it was approved almost instantly.

My first slide to present the idea had a citation to an old adage I still use: Standing on the shoulders of giants. I believe that the most critical part of working with design systems is community. And nothing creates community and drives adoption faster than acknowledging contributions.

One person that shares this way of thinking with me and plays a pivotal role in our Design System team is Jack Roles. He was my first hire at Babylon, referred by Chris Clarke, one of our design leaders. They worked together building the Design System team at Tesco, which is a great in terms of accessibility.

Jack is completing one year in this journey next month. Jack is a rare breed of designer. One of his qualities that I admire is that he knows how to achieve balance. He is passionate about UI aesthetics but cares about accessibility a lot. He is exceptionally talented but really, really humble. You can learn more about Jack’s work and the initial months of Babylon DNA in this blog post. Edited by Amy Hupe - and probably peer-reviewed by Linsey and Elliot - the article shows the challenges we faced when formalising NVL, our design language. You will find cool details about using Figma libraries to create consistent components and improve design documentation.

My favourite wizard permalink

Daniel Harvey just completed 3 months with us this week. Dan is our Global Creative Director and a force of nature. His laid back and soft manners are just incredible. But don’t confuse good manners with omission: Dan is always stepping in difficult conversations that can make or break good design. He writes a weekly newsletter, 20 minutes into the Future. It's a critical look at how technology is shaping our lives. Go read Dan the Wizard, you gonna love it. PS: The wizard nickname was coined by Sophy Hu, our own Phoebe Waller-Bridge, after we had another meeting with a goat.

Learned things permalink

Not doing, just talking permalink

I shared a reflection with Jane Austin this week about the time we spend talking and thinking about design. Design as a discipline, the philosophical aspects of it. An interesting topic I want to explore is the distinction between design and science. I found this gem, Philosophy of Design: An Introduction by Per Galle. He made a good point:

‘Does your “insights about design” help us improve our products, increase our share of the market, or boost the productivity of industry?’ such people might ask. If you are one of them, don’t expect me to answer ‘yes, they do’. No-one can seriously make such promises on behalf of an emerging field of research. Try instead to consider the negation of my claim: Would you be prepared to tell professional designers working for you, that understanding how to do their job is all they need while understanding what they are doing is a waste of time?

More on this next week. If you have any book or article recommendation, ping me.

Arrogant prick permalink

In my latest weeknote, I shared some bits about the results of my 360 feedback. I had some reflection and observation time in my week, so here is some oversharing.

There were consistent comments about the things I am doing well. The community aspect of my work was the winner. Psychological safety was not cited directly, but a lot of the comments were related to this, including creating space for people to share their concerns and ideas. And enabling people to do better work through coaching and support. It was important to hear people valued these things as it connects with my values.

This feedback relates to Peakon surveys. Peakon is a tool that helps managers to understand culture and engagement. In Peakon we have criteria called “Freedom of Opinion”. One of the questions we ask to check this is: “At work, my opinions seem to count”. My current score is a perfect 10.

On the improvement areas, there was one new thing that stood out for me. A comment that sometimes “I can get dogmatic”. I confess I panicked when I read this. I did some detective work and talked with a few more people to understand.

One person that I had a follow-up was Amy Hupe. She is someone I trust a lot, and we worked together for about four months. She left the company recently; thus, her perspective was unique. Amy’s ability to clarify things is remarkable.

One lesson that I learned talking with her: I need to create more space for people to learn by themselves.

Reflecting on this has been great. There is a conflict in the feedback, and it’s okay. I do think my belief that things can be better all the time needs some fine-tuning. But I also aware of the costs of code-switching and my communication challenges. I can’t ignore that after almost 4 years, I am still learning how to work in the UK. Dealing with the subtleties and lack of directness is new for me, I am sometimes confused. It feels sometimes like I am living in a WH1 episode.

Accepting constructive criticism is an art. The beautiful thing about it is that over time this learning becomes a treasure. Some of the things I always keep in mind in each feedback round.

  1. How to digest feedback without running my confidence
  2. How to use the feedback to help me focus on my growth areas - the things that matter to me, beyond my current job.
  3. How to own my progress, building up my intrinsic motivation

This reflection led me to a refreshing conversation with Leili that was life-changing. With her radical candour, she said: “Sometimes you can sound a bit arrogant”. It was the first time someone calls out my arrogance.

Her choice of words made a lot of sense for me. It gave me a new context to frame things. My communication style can affect people as well, and I can improve this. Finding more flexibility, being more balanced. I am grateful for all the lovely people who inspire me to be a better person. Onward.

Things that bring me joy permalink

Celebrating Gilberto Gil birthday permalink

Gilberto Gil is an inspiring musician, artist and thinker. This week, people around the globe celebrated his birthday. Artists around the world met online to record a song that I love: Andar com Fé.

Gil is so relevant that even international artists joined the celebration. Stevie Wonder, David Byrne, Almodovar and Sting are just a few.

At home, we listened to his songs. And we danced forró in our living room. Long live to Gil, the culture hacker who transformed Brazilian culture. My song of the week is his version of Bob Marley's epic Three Little Birds. The 3D animation, by the talented Seagull Fly folks is a piece of art.

Getting cool swag on the mail permalink

Purple package with stickers

Last March, I attended training in remote working practices, with a focus on async methods and distributed teams. The Officeless team is just awesome. This morning, I received a sweet package of stickers and a cure notebook. Beautiful, huh? I love purple.

Healthcheck permalink

Just 20 minutes of meditation this week and about one hour of exercise.

Weight: 98.9 kg Food: Lot’s of healthy and delicious food this week. Drinks: One gin Smoking: 8 Juul pods. 4 CBD

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Jimmy Johnson