Make Work Human ❤️
There were multiple times that I came across a creative block, like how to move forward when there’s a bunch of ideas on the table, or how to manage expectations while dealing with such a complex problem. It was in times like these that the Dropbox value of teamwork really shined. I realized that a great project or a great workplace has less to do with how cool the project looks or sounds, and more to do with the people you’re designing for and with—how they support you in your daily challenges, help unlock your blocks, and make you feel like you can tackle anything.
“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
This quote has military origins—it’s meant to help with combat situations where you might not have enough time to think through your next steps. The idea is that you’ll be more successful if your moves are more deliberate, rather than acting with urgency but not assessing your situation.
These thoughts are from a chat I had with Jay Stakelon about that unhealthy aspiration we all have with working harder than we can actually handle. I was struggling with a fear of burning out while trying to gauge a proper balance between what was expected of me, and what my limits were. Jay helped me realize that it doesn’t really matter how much work I get done super quickly if I can’t sustain it.
It’s way more valuable to build sustainable work habits so that you can consistently perform at your best. This might sound like common sense, but it’s one of those things you don’t realize until you catch yourself, completely green to a field and feeling like you have something to to prove, wanting to impress your coworkers and team yet considering your own sanity and well-being.
I felt super lucky to be at a company where sustainable work habits and maintaining a healthy work/life balance were actually things my leadership and peers would call me out on. I can’t tell you how many times someone corrected my habits with reminders like, “Monday’s a day off, do not work Monday,” or the genuine encouragement to get outside on my weekends and take time away from my work. I kind of hate that this is unique and not the standard everywhere, but props to Dropbox for leading that charge. It was really cool to see a company not only talk about human-centered values, but also lead by example.
“You’re only as good as your last game.”
While this quote may have traditionally had more to do with celebrities and athletes, its meaning is universal. It basically suggests that you’ll only ever be remembered for your last few achievements, so it’s not worth holding onto the past. Rather, it might be more worthwhile to focus on goals of what you can achieve in the future. The topic came up during an intern lunch with Alastair Simpson, VP of Product Design, where we discussed what kind of impression you have as a new employee, onboarding remotely.
I was really worried about building the ideal first impression because it was my first job in product design, but I couldn’t figure out what’s too much and what’s enough. After our discussion, I realized that first impressions don’t matter as much as I once thought. I kept thinking I needed to build some type of reputation to carry me forward, but especially now, a few months after the internship, I’m realizing it means absolutely nothing. No matter how impressive your past projects, or what you did last summer—nobody’s going to remember it, and you’re only hurting yourself by trying to find comfort in a reputation. The way I see it, if you focus on your goals and what you’re working towards, you’ll never have to worry about your reputation because you’ll always be striving for your best anyway. Nobody (not even your hyper-judgmental inner monologue) can really criticize you for trying your best. This is something I think back on often, when I find myself frustrated at a lack of growth or change… It reminds me to stop looking back at what I’ve done before, and to start thinking about what I want to do next.
“The thing that you’re working on is not gonna last.”
This quote is from a talk I had with Jen Pearce when I asked about how to make sure to address all the possible angles and ask the most critical questions in a project. I remember that Jen first heard this quote from someone else, but held onto it because it resonated with her. It also really stuck with me. Jen said that what means the most in your career are the people you work with, and the things you learn from them, not so much what you ship or how good your project is (because, chances are, your project will probably change or be handed off to another team soon after you design it, anyway). I took this to mean that it’s so much more worthwhile to build relationships and learn about the people you’re working with, or designing for, because I think the best work you can do is shaped by the people you meet and how they inspire you. The more time you spend learning about the world and all of the people around you, the more it’ll reflect in the dynamism of the work you create.