Adjusting to the next role in a content design journey
I recently started a new role and lots about it — some expected and some unexpected — is different than what I’m used to. I’m grateful for an amazing team who is thoughtful and patient as we fall into our rhythm.
If there’s one umbrella takeaway for everything I’m experiencing, it’s that patience, listening (to others and yourself), open mindedness, and creativity are the keys to success.
New beginnings are scary and exciting and I’m finding that with patience, listening, opne mindedness, and creativity, we’re optimizing smoothly and quickly.
About 90% of my colleagues have been Israelis for over 15 years. Yes, I’m American and lived in America until I was 22 and yes I speak native English and know what football is. But all these years later I’m also quite Israeli, sometimes fitting in well in both worlds and sometimes a foreigner everywhere.
The biggest culture shock I’m experiencing working at an American company with 100% Americans and Ukrainians, is that people let each other talk. Israelis cut each other off. Every. Sentence. And it’s not rude; it’s how we communicate. I am working so hard to bite my tongue now! Because whereas before, jumping in was the way to get heard, now it’s a good way to not. There are a lot of benefits to letting other people finish their thoughts, I’m finding! There’s less miscommunication and less time wasted on repetition. On the flip side, conversations move slower and potentially valuable tangents may be getting lost. I do not believe that either is better or worse. I do believe I need to align to where I’m at. It will take practice but is worth it.
Going 100% remote
Before Covid, I worked full time on-site (for 10 of those years I was in a lab and that made sense because I sure as hell wasn’t taking the mice home with me). Since Covid, I’ve worked hybrid and I can’t see ever going back. I have friends and colleagues who prefer a hybrid model to full-time remote — I am not one of those people. I love being home.
However, never having that in-person time means being more thoughtful and deliberate about getting elsewhere the value that in-person context used to provide. One solution we’re working on is booking chunks of time to sit on Google Meet together, without an agenda. Just share space, like in an office.
Going mostly async
For years I’ve been working with partners up to 10 time zones away, but now it’s a way bigger percentage of my work than ever before which means we’re doing way more async work than I’ve ever done before. That did make me a little nervous because in my experience, async isn’t as high-quality collaboration as in real time. But necessity is the mother of invention and the company that needs it more, is better at it.
I’m noticing “over” communication in the form of:
- Longer Slack messages
- More context and fewer assumptions in Jira tickets
- Verbally repeating back to each other what we think we’ve understood in the precious live meeting time that we do have
- Emphasis on clear next steps, whether that be articulating action items at the end of every live meeting or being consistent about tagging in async communication, the person a reply is required from
- More care given to streamlining and communicating sources of truth
- Concentrating work flows in fewer tools
- Finding different ways to communicate to bring out the best in everyone — for example, heavy use of reactions in Google Meet gives some team members a more conducive way to express themselves in meetings despite cultural or personality differences
I’m seeing everything from practical hacks, to company and individual mindsets, that are making async work. Inclusivity is a big one! A core benefit of course is that the company is not limited to hiring talent in a specific geography, they can be open to recruiting the best in the world. It also means getting the most from everyone on the team.
New company stage
My new startup is 16 people. I’d never imagined in a million years that a company like that would be for me. It scared the bejeezeres out of me — with big impact comed big responsibility! And what about job security?? (Though big companies don’t offer that either anymore.)
But stepping outside a comfort zone may be the most obvious path toward growth. I’m embracing it and letting the nerves fuel me rather than get in my way. Easier said than done but highly recommended.
Establishing a practice
Walking into a company with no established content design practice, who is also hungry for a practice, is a senior content designer’s dream. Agency to apply learnings from past experience without the overhead of making the case for the value you bring is a really special position to be in.
I was hired to do everything the company needed and everything the company didn’t know it needed. The mindset behind that kind of a hire is refreshing — bring in someone who can cover the debt while also structuring the way forward; who can hack at the weeds while implementing systems; who can take on big asks while also filling gaps no one knew were there; who writes and also strategizes. Again, that opportunity for impact, going both broad and deep, and wearing all the hats, comes with a lot of responsibility which may come with anxiety. But it also comes with empowerment and can be super awesome.
All in all, here are some of my initial impressions, only a few weeks in, of pillars that are working organically, that can also be molded into part of a formal, intentional company culture.
- Letting each other talk
- Sharing space online outside of meetings
- Streamlining sources of truth and work flows
- Creating opportunity for impact and growth by stepping outside comfort zones
- Hiring experts and trusting them