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The vastness of curiosity

I have been thinking deeply about this quote from the author of one of my favorite books, The Little Prince.

"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

— Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Though this also applies to my personal life, I often reflect on this in the work setting and with design teams. This quote always finds me looking back at Kimber Lockhart's post about fostering a sense of purpose. Everyone has a different drive and motivation, and when you can find people who are purpose-driven, there is an infinite amount of energy because it is their human need to explore and be curious.

If you can find people who are in love with the process and are curious, they will lead you all over the ends of the earth.

 


OK to disconnect: The death of my iPod classic after 14 years

It was Saturday night and I was at my San Francisco apartment listening to BT's new album "_" on my iPod classic. I was trying to get the mood right to explore some prototypes I have been wanting to finish up. Suddenly I heard the sound all-too-familiar with other devices. The hard drive was trying to spin up…quickly, and then fading away.

I knew what it this meant but was in denial. Suddenly, it locked up. I frantically plugged my iPod into the nearly-obselete 32-pin adapter and into my iMac. I tried restoring. iTunes couldn’t read it. I checked disk utility to give it another try…even tried to format it. Didn’t work. My iPod gave it’s last spin attempt…and failed.

I was devastated. It felt crazy to feel so hurt by the loss of an inanimate object. However, it hit me. My iPod represented more than what it physically was, but more than 14 years of my life. To put it in a bit of perspective, my iPod is the same age as my cat Wilson, both I received while in college.

I still had my papers and art projects from college on the hard drive. These iPods were ones that you could use as an external drive as well. So many memories of art history papers about Caravaggio sketches of explorations.

And of course, there was the music and podcasts. All the playlist I had on it was curated carefully by me. Looking at the playlists, I can remember the reason it was created, whether it was in honor of the death of a friend, parties, or especially created for

In an age of streaming, shuffle, remixing, reboots, adapters, and annual upgrades, the iPod classic represented intention, focus, and longetivy. It was just your hand on the wheel, turning, and exploring.

Now that they are discontinued, I'm not sure if I ever will own an iPod classic again, but I am so thankful for more than a decade of experience with something that was quite literally the soundtrack to my life.


Ask Me Anything: Why is the time set to 2:14 AM on all of your designs?

We couldn't afford to rent movies when I was a kid, so my mom would take my brother and I to the public library. Though there was a huge list of options for films, we would always pick the same one—Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In the film, the computer AI Skynet is the antagonist that becomes self-aware and begins targeting humans as a threat causing the nuclear nightmare, known as "Judgment Day". In the 1991 film prior to the new re-boots, Skynet became self-aware a 2:14 am Eastern Time.

In any static design I do, the time is set to that.

Have other questions? Ask Me Anything.


The best team white elephant party ever

As I was organizing my Vimeo page I stumbled upon this gem...our White Elephant Christmas party from 7 years ago when I worked at ExactTarget. It's amazing that these group of people have grown up to now have their own families, elevate in their career to be directors and beyond.


Tending your ideas is an obligation

I currently feel sad, hurt, and disappointed. It has nothing to do with anything at work. Something felt off.

I did what I usually do to figure out problems. I went for a walk, found a nice place to sit, and began writing, sketching, and reflecting to figure out where the source of this feeling is. After going through more than a dozen dotted grid Leuchtturm notebooks, the source of the feeling became abundantly clear. Upon each page turn, it became more challenging. My notebooks became a graveyard for ideas. Each drawing or note invoked a memory of the moment when that idea was generated. The ideas vary, from product ideas that might bring joy to people in a time of despair for the world, artwork, and design tools that could really infuse the process to build quicker.

In contrast that bad ideas should be jettisoned, when a good idea dies, it really hurts. These feelings reminded me of a moment in Bret Victor’s talk, “Inventing on Principle”:

“Ideas are very precious to me, and when I see ideas dying, it hurts. I see a tragedy. To me it feels like a moral wrong. It feels like a moral injustice, and if i think there is anything I can do about it, I feel it’s my responsibility to do so. Not opportunity, but responsibility.”

Victor follows up mentioning that the words “moral wrong” and “injustice” are not ones you often hear in tech. However, it is pretty powerful when you look at being a someone who works in tech having an obligation and responsibility. I resonate strongly with these remarks and don’t expect people to agree and believe this perspective.

When I see an idea dying, it hurts me so much emotionally. What travesties could we have prevented by seeing an idea all the way through? How many people did not experience something you didn’t make become a reality? What could I have doe to not let this injustice happen?

Like a garden, ideas need room and time to grow. They also need to be nurtured and maintained. Ideas also have a life expectancy and need to be cared for and nurtured. If they are neglected or not attended to, they fade from existence.

  • Revisit ideas daily. Gardens need to be watered, and so do your ideas
  • Ideas are stronger tethered with other ones. This is why I like to mind map and think about lateral thinking

I formulated my own list of things I can do to commit to tending to ideas:

  • Be able to build the real thing. Design prototypes can only take you so far. Learn the entire product process and be able to ship without being dependent on anyone
  • Make time in the mornings to review notebooks or wherever ideas reside and do something to push it to become real

Generate ideas, share them, and be held accountable to make sure the good ones become something real instead of a concept.

Tangibility is the oxygen for ideas. Keep ideas alive. It is your responsibility.


Take California

It’s been almost two years since I moved back to Seattle for the second time. The city of New York is a really special place in my heart and it was difficult to move away from there, but the motivation was the be close to family. I moved to Capitol Hill and re-united with my my mentor at HTC. A year later I then joined Black Pixel, the one company I sought after for several years. It was the dream job. After leaving Black Pixel I spent months exploring to figure out what I would do next.

From that I exploration I met a mentor who really changed the way I worked and thought about ideas. I worked in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco California. As I worked, I also started contracting at One Medical, where my friend David (another designer named David H. with a slightly smaller cat) works. He told me that I would love it and there is this great new CTO who has been taking charge for a while and thinks I’d get along. That person is Kimber Lockhart. I remember when I first talked to her on the phone after a panel interview she did, I felt an instant connection and resonated with this person. As I contracted, she and I began doing 1:1s and the rest is history. I decided to join One Medical’s product team as the last decision I made in 2015.

2016 turned out to be a _really_ odd year. A lot of us can feel that once David Bowie died we knew this year was going to be a bad one (I’ll let you fill in the rest). In 2016 some personal events made it really important for me to remain in Seattle. I found myself on the Monday 7am Virgin America flight every week…so much that the staff and flight attendants all knew me. I’d fly to my first meeting and work there until Thursday evenings to fly home to Seattle.

Here’s the kicker…I didn’t officially have a place to live. I crashed with my aunt down in Redwood City and spent a lot of quality time with her. She is the one who taught me to be curious, live a simple life, and always travel. In addition, my friend Rob and his wife Emily took me in for several months with me crashing on their couch and occasionally feeding the cat. Their sacrifice made it possible for me to continue flying back and forth. By the middle of Summer I realized I needed a more steady arrangement and reached out to my friend who serendipitously was looking for someone to rent her place while she was traveling. It really reminded me of when my friend Damon was staying at my place while in Europe. His presence did such a favor for me to have someone trusted in my apartment.

This year has reminded me a lot of the power of community—a word that is often thrown around as a buzzword but yet so obviously necessary. Community for me is the tribe I’ve found in Seattle Xcoders and the Cocoa Community, my Destiny clan, and the Brunch Crew in San Francisco. As friends have sacrificed to accommodate me while I achieved a goal, I found that I wanted to pay it forward and have friends stay at my temporary place instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a hotel room. It also gave me the chance to catch up with them and spend some quality time.

2016 also brought constant change in my life and willingness to embrace change. The time feels right for a change, yet again. At the end of the year I will be moving down to the San Francisco Bay Area. The difference this time is I will only be living in one place—something I have not done in several years.

I would be lying if I said there wasn't any initial reluctance to moving down there. In fact, I still do. Of course, there is the myth that rent is $800 billion a month for a studio…okay, that is slightly exaggerated. Just slightly. That actually wasn’t my concern.

My concern about San Francisco is that it is losing its sense of purpose and reality. There seems to be a focus on making the world easier, not better. You could not tell the difference between an episode of Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley and real life. The tech scene in San Francisco is very much often “the scene” and superficial. It seemed like more of a lifestyle instead of a privileage to make such an impact, and with such great power comes a great responsibility to do something meaningful.

However, my concerns were addressed with a sense of hope, meeting people who were truly authentic about their mission and was looking for the signal through all the noise. I met people who were part of a continuos narrative of some of the great pioneers of the bay area. I feel I have ties with people I look up to here. Similar to the connection I felt in Brooklyn with Adam Yauch, I have ruthless innovators who taught me to “just win baby” and be a crazy one.

My goal is to chase the big dream and finally do something really meaningful…be a living proveocation. I’m looking to put that dent in the universe. My commitment is to stay true to a mission in using technology to empower and enable humans, not exploit them.

I want to be a better community member, and really be present in one city. This starts with simply being a great host. I’ve traveled the world for so many years visiting friends, and as they have hosted me with wide arms open, I want to return the favor.

I will miss Seattle a lot. It is the city that where I have spent most of my adult life and I will always have ties here. Ever since moving back from New York I have appreciated it so much more than I ever did. I will miss most the Seattle Xcoders community—a place where I really found my tribe and sense of purpose. However, I know it is just a hop and a skip away to come home and visit friends.

When I was young our family friend, Mrs. Pulliam, once told my dad “David’s life is like an unwritten book. You’ll never know what the next chapter will contain.”

Here is to the next chapter.

Notes:

- Yes, Wilson is moving
- The title is inspired by the Propellerheads song “Take California”, which was the song used in the original iPod commercial


Abstract For My New Talk: Making Together

Talk Title: Making Together: The Need for Organizations to Have Internal Studios

Abstract:

The practice of design, engineering, and product management has been see as the foundational aspect for building products. However, as product roles continue to evolve with ever-changing problem spaces, the lines of responsibilities have blurred. This talk challenges the notion of ownership and function with the intention to break the barriers and friction by building together synchronously. A world where a PM cares as much about design as much as a designer cares about working with engineering directly to get it shipped.

One approach to this problem is building a work culture and space that fosters a studio model within organizations, whether you are a small startup or large corporation.

This talk covers:

  • Why current processes are broken
  • The importance of having a space focused on collaboration
  • Work approaches and tools needed
  • Seeing the problem together

Note: The focus of this talk will vary based on the conference/audience. I plan to dive very specific in process and proposed work structures for more technical conferences for engineers and designers.


Planning my 2017 speaking engagements

I cannot believe that 2016 is already coming to an end! As the year comes to a draw, I am planning on scheduling my speaking engagements for 2017.

"What topics do you speak about?", you might ask? Historically, I have talked about design and prototyping. Most recently, I gave my talk There and Back Again. I am more than happy to give this talk at conferences in 2017 but am also expanding the scope of talks to: generating creative ideas, design leadership, and product thinking.

I'm available for lectures, case studies, workshops, and panel interviews.

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If you're interested in booking me or know a conference I should look into, please contact me!