I had an end of year review at work yesterday which prompted me to think back about my professional journey.
10 years ago
I wasn’t in a good place. I had worked hard to build up my classes where I was teaching French to various groups. I was self-employed but slowly stopping classes one after another because I could not cope anymore. I didn’t have my diagnosis for ME/CFS yet and had no idea what was going on with me. My life was shrinking and I didn’t know if I’d be able to work again in the future. Only maybe from time to time and from home, on my own terms. Which is what prompted me to try to study computing, online with the Open University. Looking back, it was a really good idea.
5 years ago
I had my second permanent role in the UK, as a graduate software developer for the government. A 46 years old graduate! Studying had worked out much better than I thought. My initial plan of studying one module about web technologies had turned into a whole degree and I had managed to work initially with a zero hours contract (Video game localisation testing) and then a permanent full time role (video game support).
I had regained my confidence about being able to work, and I was enjoying working in IT. I was learning a lot about working for the government as well, about agile (or maybe more: how not to do it ahahah!) and was about to get involved in my first digital transformation project. In 2017, I was going to start studying online again on my own time about UX design, and joining my first meet-up: UX Glasgow.
2 years ago
Covid was not really a thing, at least, it felt very far away. I had started my first service designer role in May that year. It was the end of my second project and there was so much work to do! I was a regular from the UX Glasgow meet-up and had started to help organising it along with Neil, Bobby and Kat.
I had joined a new meet-up: Service Design Scotland, started by Mike Press, Hazel White and Lorri Smyth (now my colleague). I’m not sure if Barbara Mertlova was already very involved at the start but she was going to be later. At the first (and only) face to face event in January 2020, I briefly met Angela who was going to later be the reason why I ended up spending hours interviewing fellow practitioners, analysis and discussing my own practice, while working on the Practitioner Stories with Angela, Serena and more recently: Vinishree.
Looking back, I had no idea how joining that new meet-up would have such an influence on my professional life later on.
1 year ago
I was busy making the switch from Medium to this blog over the end of year break. 2020 had been so busy! I had started volunteering with Code Your Future in April, while also working on the Digital Skills project with Jumana (and many others later) and then adding the Practitioner Stories to this. Life outside work was very exciting, rich and fulfilling (despite being fully online!). But work was not so good anymore. I was starting to feel stuck. Like in previous places, I felt like I could not really make a difference because most people had given up trying after too many push back. It was taking way too much energy to only move things a little. I knew I needed to change but was not sure where to go next.
6 months ago
For the first time in my career in the UK, looking for a new job had not been that hard. It was like everyone was looking for service designers! Becoming a consultant had never been on my radar. To be honest, I didn’t have a great opinion of consultants in general. To me, too often, they felt like the people coming in, promising the world to our managers, getting a lot of money for it, delivering a huge report, full of complex graphics and jargon but not really helping us – the permanent staff – to deliver a better service.
But …. I knew Lorri, I had heard Fionn (head of service design and customer experience for my team) speak at two events, I felt it might be different to be a consultant in that team. After a phone call with him, I thought it might be perfect for me.
A week ago
I got to meet a lot of my colleagues face to face in Edinburgh during a team away day. I had a really good time. After 5 months in my role, I have already worked on 3 different projects, hosted a workshop with Arooj and Fionn at the conference, helped organise an event internally around digital accessibility and I have been part of many rich conversations where we could reflect on our practice as a group or while working with a colleague.
The design team is really diverse. People have very different background and personalities. They all have a lot to bring to the conversation. We keep growing so I still don’t know everyone but all the people I’ve been interacting with so far have been keen to act on their ideas, trying new things, reflect and challenge others in a constructive way. I’ve been really impressed by many of my colleagues, some of them much younger than me (I guess at my age, I’d better get used to everyone being much younger than me ahahaha!) and I’ve already learn so much in such a short period of time.
A special thanks to Roxanne, my line manager who has been so supportive and really good at pushing me to reflect further.
This year, I’ve seen many people around me starting new jobs, progressing to more senior roles or changing careers. For some of them, I got to chat with them and sometime gave them that little extra push to make their decision, it’s been great. I get so much joy from it. It might be something left from my teaching career: the satisfaction you get when you see people growing more confident and managing to do things they felt was not for them before.
I’m not sure what’s next. By now, I know better and do not try to guess. I would have never been able to foresee any of the changes I made in my professional journey, even if you had asked me 6 months before them. Time will tell!