Friday, October 21, 2016

Do I really need to write a book?

Last month, I was chatting with Peter Merholz at the Big Design Conference in Dallas. He was there promoting his new book, Org Design for Design Orgs: Building and Managing In-House Teams — an excellent book by the way, and we were talking about how interesting it is that it is still important to write a book to be sought out as a consultant; blog posts are not enough. “You’ve never written a book, have you?”, said Peter, “Why not?” (Interestingly, it was Peter who first asked me years ago why I hadn’t started my own user research firm.)

Should I have written a book by now? Probably, yes. (Should I have started my own user research firm years ago? Again, probably yes.) I certainly have a couple of books in me, but do I really want to urge them out? Is it really true that good blog posts cannot suffice?

Well, without answering those questions (at least for now), let me spend a bit of time proclaiming the merits of reading old blog posts — not just anyone’s, but mine! I’ve written lots about topics such as those Peter addresses in his new book, and though many of those posts have aged a number of years, their relevance remains surprisingly — perhaps disturbingly — high. And what makes my posts particularly valuable is that they present and contrast the experiences and perspectives of many; they are not solely about what I think and have experienced.

For example, consider the topic of design collaboration. Cross-functional collaboration is now highly touted as crucial to successful design, but I know lots of designers who still do their work largely independently. WTF? Some of my blog posts on the importance of collaboration and keys to its success include:
Numerous posts address (additional) characteristics of a good research and design process, something with which many continue to struggle. They include:
But what do you do when you can’t follow an ideal process? I had a conversation about just that about a month ago with a director at a company that strongly touts its ideal process, but can’t always engage in it. I pointed him to, Working “middle out,” an approach which ends up increasing the chances of following a more ideal process in the future.

Multiple obstacles to employing design in the most impactful way can surface. Some of the many posts about such obstacles include:
Each post in the above list also addresses how to deal with such obstacles. Additional posts which do the same include:
The design and positioning of design organizations is still a hot topic, as suggested by the reaction to Peter’s book. Among the posts I’ve written on this topic:
And I’ve authored posts on so much more. Indeed, there is gold to be found in these many blogposts.

Design leadership is a hot topic these days, and many of these posts could form the foundation of a very good book on the topic. But, can’t the blog suffice? Do I really need to write a book?

Well, things would be better organized in a book, and I’d update and extend the posts’ content, and I’d fill in some gaps, and…

OK, maybe I should write a book. But while I do that or consider doing that, look through the lists of posts I've presented above for those that might be of help to you now. Use the tags for help accessing others. As I mentioned earlier, even the older posts continue to be of relevance.

Friday, October 07, 2016

My best work lies ahead of me

A version of this post has been published on medium.

I’m presently looking for full-time work, and part of my strategy has been to contact people I know or with whom I’m connected on LinkedIn who work at a company with an opening in which I might have an interest. I also sometimes reach out to others in key positions at the company. I always try to meet — in-person or remotely — with such people, usually informally and sometimes over coffee or a beer, to discuss the role, the company, and what they believe is most needed in the role (and why). I learn lots this way and sometimes seem to go through a pretty extensive interview process even before such a process has officially begun.

One of the times I arranged to meet with such a person recently, I entered the place of work, was taken back to the person with whom I was to meet and had not met before, and then watched as she sorta froze as soon as she saw me, the smile disappearing from her face. This happened with two of her co-workers as well, and it has happened on other — though not all — occasions of a similar nature.

I’ve talked about this with some of my older friends, and they confirmed what I feared might be going on, since they had experienced the same thing: ageism. I surprised these people I was meeting for the first time by being older than they had expected and probably hoped, and it negatively affected things moving forward.


Ageism in tech has been dubbed “an under-the-radar diversity issue” — “the industry’s biggest secret.” However, it wasn’t much of a secret when Mark Zuckerberg uttered these oft-quoted words in 2007: “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.” Today, “the average age of an employee at the top technology employers is around 29.”

Some people have tried, such as via lawsuits. But the title alone of a recent Washington Post article suggests that most such efforts have been to little avail: “Baby boomers are taking on ageism — and losing.”
“At a time when conditions have vastly improved for women, gay people, disabled people and minorities in the workplace, prejudice against older workers remains among the most acceptable and pervasive ‘isms’.”
This is disgusting.

One of the jobs I applied for recently is pretty much equivalent to a job I held several years ago. I applied, because I loved that job and because my experience since being in that job has enabled me to perform in such a job even better. But I was told by the employer that the years that had passed since I held that job was a detriment.

Hmm… (and I can share a story of a similar nature involving another company).

Do not disregard the benefits of my experience, people! I’ve learned lots over the course of my life and career and have contributed substantively to the development of the field in which I work. And I continue such contributions and am higher performing and more capable than ever. 

And, as suggested by this photo from this summer of a subset of the people in the room who were giving me a standing ovation at the end of our 10 weeks of intensely working together, I know how to work effectively with those young people Mark Zuckerberg said are the only people of importance in tech:

I am looking for work (spread the word!), and my best work lies ahead of me.

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Some additional excellent articles on ageism in tech include last month’s “You’re How Old? We’ll Be in Touch” in The New York Times and the older “The Brutal Ageism in Tech” in New Republic. Please share others you recommend via comment.