We want to capture the energy of the moment as we shift to working from home. We sat down with Jarrett to learn how he’s staying creative and navigating the current work-life landscape. Here is what he had to say:

How would you describe your creative practice?

At work, I’m a lead product designer on the personal mobile growth team at Dropbox. Most recently, I’ve been focusing on reshaping the mobile share and upload experience.

At home I'm still a designer and creative. Everything I enjoy, from finding vintage mid-century furniture to searching for the perfect loafer, all map back to my obsession with details. To me, being a designer is a personality type. I can't get away from it because it's who I am at my core.

How do you feel right now?

Grateful and hopeful, but at the same time anxious and terrified. This year I had some of the best times of my life. I married my best friend. We moved into our first home in Oakland. But also, COVID-19 hit, our country is more divided and the Black Lives Matter movement opened up feelings I've worked hard to suppress so that I can navigate a world that wasn’t built for me.

Facing these feelings and acknowledging the tragedies plaguing our country has really made me appreciate the sacrifices my family made to get me where I am today. Seeing how parts of the world are coming together for a common cause has made me hopeful that one day, being Black can be considered an asset instead of sometimes a death sentence. Our culture, perspective and tenacity for life is beautiful.

Jarrett leans over the balcony of his apartment building.

Have you found any special moments of humanity during this time of crisis?

I think all of this has allowed us to take the time to truly look at ourselves and what’s broken in the world. The recent BLM movement is the first time I've truly felt hopeful that the Black community is being heard. Some people are actually taking the time to listen. Some is better than none. Some can grow over time and become big enough to help push for real change.

How do you maintain your creative practice right now?

In a way, staying at home and having more time for myself has made it easier to cope with everything going on. I’m shifting my perspective to appreciate this time with my wife that I will never have again. I’m using it to learn more about myself, about us, and to face my conditioned numbness to the realities of the world. Understanding and prioritizing what really matters to me has been the only way to maintain any sort of creativity.

How has quarantine changed your approach?

Working from home was hard at first but over time I’ve gotten the hang of it. My home is my playground and is full of distractions that can lure me away from work (as it should be!) So my wife and I have started a pretty regular routine and set up our respective work zones. These are separate areas in the house that are free of distractions. It normalizes our days and helps us mentally separate work from home.

What new strategies have you developed to stay creative during this time?

Quarantine is strange because usually you have multiple facets to your job and the culmination of all of them is what makes up your experience. Before, if you were to ask me If I like my job and why, I would spend more time describing the environment in which I do my job rather than the actual job I'm employed to do. The people, the space, the meeting environments, access to collaboration, food, happy hours, etc. all add to the experience.

Now the focus is mostly about the work and what you produce. That puts more emphasis on what you do day-to-day and what problems you’re solving (or not solving). This can easily bubble up what you like and don't like about your job.

I like to focus in on what I enjoy doing and double down on that. This helps me stay energized and continue to produce work I'm proud of. If you're into strategy work, find opportunities to do that. If you're into visual design and craft, push those aspects of your projects to the max. To me this is important, especially now.

Jarrett sits on the steps with his two dogs.

As collaborative work comes online, how are you working with fellow creatives?

It can be tough and Zoom fatigue is real. Having said that, I feel more connected to more people, especially creatives in my life. With everything going on in the world, my creative circle is super active. The conversation around Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and political issues are strong and have lead to deepening relationships with folks I barley knew before quarantine.

When things where normal and we were going about day-to-day life, it was easy to fall into our own bubbles. I got used to talking and interacting with a specific group. Most of the time it's based on proximity. Sometimes I would end up falling out of touch with older friends that don't live nearby. Now, everyone is far, but this also means everyone is the same distance— just a phone call, text, zoom, social media platform away. I've been able to form stronger connections with some people while still continuing to have meaningful relationships with close friends and family.

Anxiety is running high right now. What do you do to stay sane?

The key is to find elements of normal life and appreciate them. We can't travel, but on a sunny day we can sit on our balcony, play some music and imagine we are lounging poolside. Instead of going to a bar, my friends hosted a Zoom party where one of our buddies from a favorite bar taught us how to make fancy cocktails.

I also think it’s important to take time for yourself. Whether that means watching a movie, working out, taking a nap, meditating or anything that makes you feel recharged, those moments are just as important as socializing.

What do you think the future of work looks like?

I think it's going to look a lot like this. There is a lot of benefits to distributed work and its proven to be effective when it comes to overall company productivity. It also opens up opportunities to attract talent in different locations and could lead to more diversity in tech. When things open up it will be nice to go to the office and interact with coworkers in person again, but I don't think it will ever be what it was.

Who inspires you right now?

My family and friends. My wife and I look back at our wedding photos and immediately remember the immense love that was in that room for us. It's something I can’t really put into words but it's that support and love that drives me to show up and be better. We feel incredibly lucky to have them in our life and at the end of the day it's the only thing that really matters to us.

How can we use creativity for good?

I think we need to prioritize the people we design for. Most companies say they are user-centered in design, but growth and revenue are actually the top priority. What would a world look like if companies truly prioritized people over money? How would the products we create change? How would the teams who create these products change?

What are you listening to or watching?

A ton of Toro y Moi (a longtime Dropbox fan!) He's been my top played artist for the past couple of years. His music just doesn't ever get old. I also love exploring new albums on Spotify. I'm usually listening to something if I'm not in a meeting. Here are a few favorite playlists:

Do you have a daily routine?

I do, but a loose one. Usually I wake up around 7:00am, stretch, make a coffee, talk to some family or friends, shower, then start my day around 9:00am. I always like to take a solid lunch break. It helps me break up the day and allows time for me to enjoy lunch with my wife. Usually I end my day around 6:00pm and try and get a workout in before dinner.

Jarrett's feet near his dogs, one of the dogs is smiling.
Jarrett's hands and feet near his dogs.
Jarrett's feet near his two dogs.

Images in order from top to bottom: undefined, Chris Behroozian; undefined, Chris Behroozian; undefined, Chris Behroozian.

Can you introduce us to your pups?

The one with the blue harness is Meeko and she’s 9. Marvin is the one with the black harness and he’s 7. They are very different. Meeko is crazy and still hasn’t calmed down. We joke that she has no fear and usually we wake up to her head on our pillow, like she’s a human. Marvin is super shy, very weird and funny. We sometimes catch him walking backwards on our hardwood floors because he’s scared to slip. He will hide under thin blankets he can see through. We think it’s because he can see us but doesn’t think we can see him.

Have you given yourself a haircut yet?

LOL I used to cut my hair but a few years ago I started to go to the barber and really enjoyed having a fresh fade. Now I gave up and If I can’t have a clean cut, I'll just rock my Afro. We’ll have to see how long it gets before barbers open back up. If I have to, I’ll shave it but holding out as long as I can.

Have you found new ways of taking care of yourself or combating anxiety?

I have to stay active to feel good. If I don't exercise or just move a little, I don't feel as sharp. Besides that I focus a lot on doing what I enjoy and talk to people I care about. Throughout the quarantine I’ve been helping my mom launch a handmade mask business (@terrimasks). That’s been a super fun distraction and it’s awesome to see my mom so excited that people like her designs.

What local businesses are you supporting?

My wife and I have been really getting into natural wine during the quarantine. We continue to support our favorite spots and order wine from them often. Ruby was our go to in SF, Ordinaire in Oakland and recently been getting deliveries from an awesome group of people, Bar Part Time. We also hit up Arizmendi for pizza and pastries in Emeryville often.

What’s your hope for the future?

That it’s not controversial to say Black Lives Matter, that Black culture is celebrated, not appropriated and that Black people have the same access to education, employment opportunities and guidance to financial literacy.

Jarrett standing on the lawn with his hand in his pocket.

What message do you have for the community?

Time is the most precious commodity. Use this time. Embrace it, learn from it, grow from it because you won’t get it back.

Thank you, Jarrett! If you enjoyed this piece, check out stories from fellow creatives in our Human Interest column and share yours with us online. We’re @dropboxdesign.

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