The writing was on the wall. For over a year now, I’ve waffled, hummed, and hawed on what I wanted to do. Last May, I left Shopify. For a brief two months, I filled my time up with conferences and relaxation before taking a position at Xero.
Going into Xero, I was apprehensive. It’s probably not the feeling you want to have going into a new job but it was a good offer and I had hope that my apprehension would fade, with an excitement that would fill its place.
I straddled between the design team and the front-end team. I helped the design team come to terms with designing with patterns and I helped the front-end team figure out a direction to enabling a component-based workflow.
My ideas were welcomed and encouraged. That’s always a wonderful feeling. On the design side, however, ideas were one thing but implementation was another. Once I worked on the actual design work, I felt my ideas getting whittled away due to perceived constraints and user needs.
Perceived. I found it interesting how many of us could look and come to different conclusions of what to do.
In this, the possibly unfortunate conclusion I’ve come to is that either most design critique and user research before launch is useless, or that I have no idea what I’m doing and should stop designing altogether.
With not having much confidence in my design skills, I decided to refocus my energy on the front-end. However, to be effective remotely—I was working from home—I saw that I would have to sacrifice more of my evenings to be effective in working with the many teams across the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. I had already missed many meetings to shuttle my kids off to evening events, make dinner, or read them stories.
I found myself, again, wondering what’s next. I gave my notice at Xero. April 15th was my last day.
In thinking of my values, I need to consider my strengths. I am also considering where I want to grow and where I feel I need to prove myself.
I’m back to working for myself, something I haven’t done in over 6 years. My plan is to work on products for the web development community (and maybe beyond, if I’m particularly inspired).
By the fall, I hope to be talking about all the projects I’m releasing and I hope to have rekindled my love for being both a designer and a developer.
I suppose I should stop hoping and start doing.
It's hard when you're have a decent job - that might be perfect for someone else - but it doesn't quite fit your own situation. I'm sure you've done the right thing in returning to working for yourself. Good luck - not that I think you need it!
Good luck with the change and ventures new. I'll look forward to seeing where you take things.
You and me both, brother.
I've been in your situation, working for years not quite feeling that UX, usability and design has come together naturally in various places I've worked. So, I went freelance in September, with a myriad of projects I'd like to get done in between paying customers.
This comes with other problems, though. Either I'm hired in for a project to do specific things (so my insights and skills into things outside of my hired job is not so much appreciated), or I'm hired to "make something" for a cheap price that they'll bicker and poke at until what I considered good design turns slightly worse (and I've left mid-contract when the customer just wanted to do things too unspeakable).
Finding the right customer is always key. My current large project customer is awesome, but I know they're a rarity, and it will be some time until I see its like again. One hopes for companies and organisations out there would smarten up and do things a bit better, but everyone is rushed with budget constraints and egos rather than pathos, so "best practice" - meaning, some mediocratic norm - is what shapes the things we interact with.
On the "stop hoping, start doing" part, I'm reusing bits and bobs of the stuff I've developed over the years into an application package that allows me to try out a few business ventures where I'm in charge of everything (at least at first), and that is truly exciting. Well, without the budgets to make sure it takes off, of course, but gotta start somewhere.
Always fun watching your career unfold, Mr. Jon. I am sure the next chapter will be just as exciting as the last..