Hunting for Your Dinner: Finding Opportunities & Adding Value in Wicked Times
Alyssa Boehm presented “Hunting for Your Dinner: Finding Opportunities & Adding Value in Wicked Times” at Leadership By Design: Home Edition. Enjoy!
The following transcript may contain typographical errors. Please forgive any mistakes!
Thank you so much for inviting me today, and I’m happy to be here with you in the dystopian. I’m also happy that I could include a lot of pictures of my cats in this presentation because I… To cats are really popular on the internet, as far as hunting goes, I can say this guy is probably not hunting for anything but an air condition or event, but besides all, we should talk about what we’re gonna covered today, and I wanted to talk about how you can use your super powers to add value inside your organization, because we all know that we have to be proactive, and I want to give you some really practical advice about what that might look like.
Oh yeah, wrong button.
I have a slow connection in the afternoon… That’s okay. It’s a quick presentation.
So you’re probably asking yourself why, you don’t wanna do this. When the world is crazy, being indispensable is a pretty good professional strategy.
A few years ago, I was at dinner with a bunch of really nice ladies who are working independently as UX consultants, so as a woman working in technology, I am aware that at some places, not all places, there is a little bit of a ticking clock on people like me, when we get aged out of roles, and so I understand that I am maybe tool for total, but I am not ready to retire, so I was peering these women with a lot of questions about consulting and how they were running their businesses and how they did their work, and they all gave me very similar advice, they said, Practice consulting at your day job, so this is a really fine time for you to practice if you are up to it, and I would like to echo all of the great advice that my esteemed colleague in front, Allen gave around taking care of yourself first. If you’re not writing for this, you don’t need to be ready for it, so let’s think about what it might mean if you were ready and you wanted to practice, it’s worth starting small and you should seek out smaller focused engagements hiking limited scope. That way you can find ways to deliver value without adding a lot of overhead or messing with the existing processes and all the people I talk to, so that this is how they get their foot in the door of clients, and then they work their way up to bigger paes.
And if you miss that important point that I made, I’ll repeat it again, people really do not like it when you wreck, they’re very carefully developed business processes.
I have learned that lesson the hard way, so I’m sure you’ve all heard that, a powerful story about Picasso and the 10-minute painting, or the 10-minute drawing.
So that’s the kind of thing you’re doing right, you are not maybe gonna charge the 10 million it, but you are tapping into your years of experience, your special collection of knowledge and skills, and you’re gonna imply them in unexpected places. I’d also like to say this is not about side hustle or working extra, a lot of you… I’m struggling with the world. I’m thinking about the extended family that I can’t help in all this anyway, I’m thinking about back to school for my fifth grader and thinking about the failure of the social safety nets for some of our most fragile and at-risk populations, I do not care for Grand culture, and I really think it’s ruinous, so I wanted to be very clear about that up front, I think instead, I focus on the hours that I have and how I can be helpful… This is my office. Meet Sherlock. You’ll see more of him. No, I feel like you’ve seen a lot of married.
So this is what we’re gonna cover today. So this is not the time to ditch the work that you’ve been assigned, this is about filling in your gaps and growing and expanding your influence, so your work should be valuable to an aligned with the business. So I’m reminded of a friend who’s to tell me that she looks for lots of different sizes of work, she talked about boulders, rocks and pebbles, so holders were really big initiatives, rocks were smaller projects and pebbles might be little tiny efforts.
So this is important to think, it’s not really like a halo on either, we just felt really wild and you’re doing weird stuff that maybe nobody cares about and they’re not gonna pay for as you start on this journey, it’s important to consider who might be interested in what you’re doing and who might be offended by it, this isn’t always gonna be a Belfort and be amazing type play, if you’re in a place where you have to charge or account for every hour of your time…
I think this is gonna be hard to do if you are totally booked up with work right now and over-committed, this is not the time to do that, this type of effort. And if you work with people who are really easily threatened, maybe somebody who thinks they are solely responsible for developing a roadmap by themselves, this might not be the time to try it out, but I do wanna address that people problem, if you do have a boss who’s given you a bunch of work already, or you have a really jumpy product manager in your midst, this is a good time for you to talk with them and over-disclose, talk about what you are doing and why you’re doing it, a great way to diffuse arguments against… The kind of work that you’re doing is to invite other people into your process and to help them become your ally, and remember, if you can’t do this now, it’s totally okay to talk this idea away for the future. What circumstances are better?
I’m really hoping for better circumstances for all of us.
Alright, so this is a really good time for you to a deep and serious inventory of your skills and capabilities, what’s obvious to you is not obvious to everyone else, it by with your trust and work out, because sometimes when you are externalizing and you’re talking about your value you remember all the other things you can do. And your friends sometimes will remind you of the things that they value about you, that you maybe just come in, so don’t underestimate the basics that we typically do well, reframing problems, talking to people, investigating, facilitating discussions, these tools are so valuable right now… Basically, it’s the basis of all of the design thinking work that you hear people talk about, I see the Medium articles about, you hear people… We’ve had to go to the training.
You can do that now, so you have untapped experiences and knowledge, and there’s an opportunity for you to bring in some of your outside interests into your work if you’ve worked in other industries or domains that might have some relevance to your current organization, maybe you have a really rich hobby that you can mix in with your job, don’t be stingy when you’re taking that inventory of your gifts and lastly… It’s important to make a list of the things you like doing. I think that’s important when you’re looking at your inventory. Maybe if you really… Or you really love taking into UI design, it’s good to acknowledge that it’s gonna be handing later when you start focusing and picking out the things you wanna work on, remember, if you wanna start small, you wanna start somewhere, and you wanna think about those Pebble-sized little projects.
At Zeta, I should tell you, she doesn’t give us as much attention as the Big Cat does, but she’s real sassy, she’s kind of a brain… Find this operation.
Alright, that the network is also here.
Okay, I… Has everyone ever told you to be more strategic, because I feel pretty confident somebody has…
I am told this from time to time, by focusing on the goals of the business and orienting your contribution around those business goals, you are being strategic.
So you may have heard that quote, follow the money, all of the money. When you’re thinking about what initiatives the company has focused on in the areas of interest, are they worried about customer growth, are they worried about a new product roll out, you should think about that last company all hands meeting that you attended, what did the Boss types talk about… Can you find some slides or links to red map looking at that type of information, reflecting on that type of information is really gonna be helpful.
For example, I recently looked at my companies big initiatives and saw that were about to invest in some pretty big enterprise software purchases, so I talk to my boss about helping that team in their discovery process, and I offer to facilitate some conversations for that team to help them, uncover business problems to solve the… As an outsider to them in their process, I bring fresh eyes to the organization, plus when I volunteer to facilitate those conversations, I took a lot of pressure off the person who was trying to act as both a facilitator and a participant. I spent a couple of hours pitching in and I’m helping the company by focusing on business problems to solve, pushing processes along a little more efficiently since some people aren’t trying to do too many things at once, and ultimately helping to reduce risks.
Alright, you may remember back in the olden times that before times when you were at the office and you heard somebody start complaining about a project they were working on or something that was not working out for them, you might want to reach out to that person to see what’s going on. If there’s anybody I… They still have that same problem. Is there anything you could do to help in and out, talk to your CSM, those people who everything looking at quantitative data for a white I, so a customer tickets, a Google Analytics, you can start to see some patterns.
And when you marry those patterns with the qualitative information that you’re getting from your CSM friends, you might see some spaces that can use some help or attention, and when all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask a couple of extra questions, and again, I should be clear about what you’re doing and why? Because sometimes people get a little suspicious or uncomfortable when you’re asking too many questions, I’d like to explain what my interest is and what I’m thinking about, sometimes I share a little hypothesis to see if anybody agrees or they can shed some light on it.
From time to time, CDs have been a really great source of feedback for me for really small and tactical things, unfortunately, a lot of that feedback is small and tactical, it’s hard to get it prioritized when you’re focused on big initiatives, but it’s an opportunity for you to roll those into enhancements. into work that’s already ongoing.
So I can tell you another little story, I learned it that our CS spent a ton of time explain to customers what they have access to when they buy our product, because it’s an enterprise product, you have one buyer, but you… Thousands of users potentially, they don’t know what they are signed up for, so CS spent a lot of time answering these questions about what they have access to, so when the time came to do a redesign of a certain part of the site, I realized that we could slide in a fairly straight forward. And the anime that would make it obvious to the customers what they have access to, so I solve the customer problem and I reduced a pinpoint for the CSM and everybody was much happier afterwards, and that was alter enough of one single conversation.
Alright, so if you were still looking for input, this is a great time to hold some office hours, I know it’s not the same as when you’re a person and you can have a little fun next or whatever, but you can still do this virtually. I used to run office hours all the time for little questions that came up for people, I would get things like, what’s the use of all capital letters? Or Can you UX the sign-up page?
I can already hear the grounds, I hear you, this is like a sprinkle city X on it type situation, and that’s not what we’re always excited about, the way I chose to look at these situations were that these were really small, more questions, and I would not have known that the people have them, if I hadn’t had these office hours, so I had an opportunity to do a little bit of educating, I could solve an actual problem, and everybody left feeling a little bit better, plus I was able to get some visibility into other places other opportunities that were going on in the company, because I made sure that I was clear about what I was doing with my little quick consultation that you get what you pay for, you might not be getting the deepest… Riches feedback, we haven’t gone through a deep, interesting, valuable research plan, but at least you can benefit from my experience and knowledge. Again, the important thing here is to be clear and specific about what it is you’re doing, and that’s the engagement plan, to explain if you’re spending five minutes, what the five minutes gets them and what it’s gonna look like if your facilitating meetings talk about how you’re gonna participate, and then what your outputs are gonna be, if you’re sharing notes, if you’re writing up some recommendations, that kind of thing, always be clear. And every time you help with something like that, you’re building your internal network and you’re building your brand, so remember, be specific and socialized what it is you’re doing, because a lot of people think we just make wire friends and widgets…
Alright, wrapping it all up.
Remember to focus on the value that you can bring and make sure that you’re working towards the business goals again, you don’t wanna be off doing weird things and you don’t wanna be doing stuff that nobody wants and that they can’t use… You are being strategic.
Remember to touch base with your boss and your manager, one of the things someone told me a long time ago was the goal of your first job is to learn how to not create more work for your boss, and I remember that from time to time. I don’t wanna be an extra burden on them, and what you’re doing is trying to keep yourself again occupied and doing valuable work, so a there, you shouldn’t be creating more work for your boss, but your mileage may vary again as you’re practicing and start getting your… Getting your bearings, run this process by leveraging your broader skill set, you are able to help people understand that there is more to design and just making wire frames and making flows and doing UI design.
I know a lot of people really focus on moving the needle, and what I wanna tell you is it’s really okay for you to focus on some very tiny needles, look for those publicized opportunities because you are practicing and you are building a muscle. And remember, you get invited into more places when you show up and you can demonstrate that you deliver on behalf of Sherlock and zeta, I thank you for your time.