Weeknotes #38

— 23 minute read

Life was so challenging that writing was a nuisance. My latest update was four months ago, and so much happened. After recovering from long-covid symptoms, I had the two vaccines. The first shot was hard: the adverse effects annoyed me for weeks. The second one was easier, and I am considering myself fully recovered. I have a new job and completed another lap completed around the sun: 43 years! In this blog post I am bringing some good news and valuable learnings. If it's your first time here, here is how I structure my writing. I hope you enjoy it.

This week pop 3 links

An NDA Was Designed to Keep Me Quiet George Aye's piece about his time at IDEO was quite shocking. I am sure thousands have had similar experiences but are silent. This piece by Ifeoma Ozoma on non-disclosure agreements is powerful. She shines a light on the gap in our legal systems to protect victims of abuse in the workplace.

Sci-Fi & Me Stay Curious Café Jeremy Keith's love letter to science fiction is beautiful. I am a sci-fi enthusiast, but it was the first time I could understand the different categories. My book backlog is now complete for the next decade.

The Nexialist approach Cleu Oliver, a friend from Brazil, introduced me to the concept of Nexialism. If you struggled before with the binary discussions about specialist versus generalists you gonna love this article.

Nexialism is the science of joining in an orderly fashion the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields.

Good things permalink

Starting a new job permalink

I started in my new role about three weeks ago. I will be leading the Design & Research Operations practice at Farfetch. I received offers from tech companies and design studios. But the decision to join Farfetch was based on two things: the culture and my manager, Justin Stach.

Because it is a Portuguese-British company, there is a fascinating mix of people and cultures. What I noticed during my first few days is that people seem to take the values seriously. The one I like most is Todos Juntos.

Act for the greater good of all teams, even when it's beyond your area of expertise. Foster positive actions in those around you, and celebrate our shared achievements.

I first met Justin for the first time in 2018. We had coffee at Ozone, a hipster place in the Old Street area. We kept chatting on Twitter, and since that first catch-up, we had sporadic calls on Google Meet. Justin curiosity is infinite, which is a characteristic I appreciate in managers. I love this post he wrote a few years ago about accessibility at Tesco. With a great manager, you will normally find an amazing team. My first weeks have been smooth. The onboarding experience was reasonable, considering it was fully remote. I've met 60% of the team in 1-1's already. I am confident, energized and already trying to make things better. One small minimal viable improvement at time.

The ones that you don't forget permalink

A positive lens of leaving a job is that you always keep some of the people you met as friends for life. I feel so privileged to have worked with so many talented people in my previous employments. Naming a few would be unfair.

Yet, two of them made extra efforts for my growth in my last tenure. They also supported me when things weren't easy: Jane Austin and Fred Warburton.

Jane was one of the best managers I ever had. Working with Jane is like attending an MBA in resilience, positivity and team culture. One of the things I learned with Jane that changed me is the concept of trusting people upfront.

The other unforgettable one: Fred Warburton. We joined together, and we became friends in the first week. He is a beacon of work ethics and competence. We worked together one year and a half, and I learned loads with him. He made me fall in love with accessibility and inclusive design.

Learned things permalink

The lost art of good feedback permalink

Mindaugas Petrutis is Program Director at OnDeck Design, a revolutionary co-hort based education program for design leaders. He asked me to share my learnings about feedback with a community of design leaders. Inappropriate and biased feedback derailed my career twice. The invitation was an opportunity to deep dive into the subject. Teaching always forces me to learn with more focus and depth.

Part of my research was reading Radical Candor by Kim Scott for the second time. Another source of inspiration was Lauren Currie's work on Stride. The result was a 90-minute workshop: Feedback Dojo.

A group of brave designers joined me in a Miro board to discuss and practice feedback. During one of the activities, we discussed times where they experienced destructive feedback. I was in shock as I didn't know it was so common, particularly for women. My plan now is to run a new version of this activity with other design teams. For now, here is my curation of simple tips for effective feedback.

Golden Rules of Feedback

  • Ask for permission and respect the personal context.
  • Vet your feedback - fair, humble, unbiased
  • Be factual (Situation, Behaviour, Implication)
  • Be timely – provide feedback as close as possible to the time of the exhibited behaviour.
  • Use descriptive language over evaluative. Avoid generalizations
  • Isolate feedback from advice
  • Focus on the future

Things I've learned permalink

Not a Sprint, but a marathon permalink

Absorbing tons of information to make sense of things is part of my praxis. Perhaps it is because of years of experience as an Information Architect. I was often surprised in the final stage of the project with a pack of new content or a new department.

But there is a considerable mental cost in collecting complex information. Listening to different perspectives for long periods can be draining. I felt overwhelmed at the end of my first week—a sign that I need to be more mindful about my pace and slow down.

The first 90 days permalink

Justin Stach recommended the book The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter before joining. It's a classic that helps people to accelerate their learning in their first months at work.

There are many obvious things in the book, but I am surprised by how many times I forgot about the basics. An important reminder in the book is to be mindful of your learning strategies. The risk assessment tool is beneficial.

Perception and Psychological safety permalink

Alla Weinberg interview with Jorge Arango at The Informed Life was quite revealing for me. She talks about work culture and explained many new concepts. Neuroception, for instance, is the subconscious system for detecting threats. I knew how our brain triggers fight and flight reactions. But I never thought cognitive costs of feeling unsafe. A bit of Alla's talk in the podcast:

"I found in research that our operating IQ — so our ability to think, to analyze, to be creative, to form, you know, rational thoughts — drops by half. So, if my normal operating IQ is, let's say, at a hundred points, when I don't feel safe in an environment, it drops to 50. And this is, again, a very human biological thing because our body and our brain will take resources away from our frontal cortex, which is where we think, and it will redistribute it to other parts to keep us alive, to keep us safe."

Things that bring me joy permalink

New office, pub visits and beating social anxiety permalink

If we worked together, you know that I am an advocate of asynchronous and distributed teams. But that doesn't mean that I reject access to a suitable office space sometimes. And when you have railroad maintenance and a construction site near your flat, it's good to know that you have a space to go. I spent the day in the office, and it was not bad. The office is beautiful, the commute is only 25 minutes, and it was good to meet some of my new colleagues.

Later on that week I had the opportunity to meet 3/4 of my team for a beer. Such a great time. We talked about many things: food, language, annoying football fans. It felt like creating a good memory.

I am now more open to getting out and meeting people in real life. Some friends are still not ready, which I understand completely. But I've met Rahel Bailie, Gabi Stripoli, Emily Sappington, Mariana Menezes and Daniel Burka recently. Social distancing and some awkward moments could not diminish the pleasure of catching up with friends.

Picture from the Office

Holidays at Pepys Street permalink

Before starting to work again, I had some incredible days with Leili at home. We decided not to travel, and in hindsight, it was a great decision. We are trying new things together (like swimming), and it was good to have some time to rethink our routine. She is working on her book, and I am trying to help her. A few weeks ago, she prepared some Palestinian food for a new client, and the photo was so beautiful.

Leili is my safe harbour and my lighthouse. You get to known someone with depth when life isn't easy. This shitty year has been transformative for our relationship. A lesson learned recently is creating space and time for solitude. Sharing the same physical space for long periods isn't easy.

Healthcheck permalink

I am investing a lot more time and effort in my health. I can say I am now 90% recovered from the COVID nightmares. Since March, I am managing my diabetes better. The NHS system helps but isn't enough. Next month I am testing a new service that promises diabetes reversal in 60% of the cases. A big challenge for me as it is all about dietary changes and behaviour change. I am using continuous monitoring for three months now, and it's been revealing.

Weight: 98kg Blood pressure: 14/8 Food: A good balance of delivery and homemade food. Drinks: a few pints due to meeting friends - recently rediscovered low alcohol beers. Smoking: I am trying to stop, but not ready yet.

"We only understand something relative to something we already understand." Richard Saul Wurman