2011 Year in Review

It has been a while since I have posted and what a better way to start again than to write my 2011 year in review. And what a year it has been, both personally and professionally. And while I will focus this piece on the professional know that this has been an amazing year personally and I couldn’t be happier.

So how did I enter 2011? The year started with a promotion from Senior Designer to Lead Designer at Electronic Ink. I was elected PhillyCHI vice-chair, and I had a few conferences on my travel list. I decided early on that 2011 should focus on growing the skills I have and less about jumping into the deep end of new ventures. This was both a naive and short-lived goal as 2011 quickly proved to be one of the more challenging and exciting years. Travelling to IxD11 in Boulder, CO I was brought into the IxD12 committee to work on creating a redux-framework for local chapters with Joshua Kaufman (big thanks to Eduardo Ortiz for that). Three months later I start working with Abby Covert as the marketing director for the 2012 IA Summit in New Orleans. So much for taking 2011 easy. This is on top of increased writing, the usual stream of travel, increased responsibility at work, PhillyCHI, and meeting the most amazing woman I have ever had the pleasure to date.

This isn’t to say that I set the wrong goals or failed to meet my goals for 2011. Looking back, I successfully developed skills. I developed my abilities as a writer, and team manager. I developed more time management skills balancing work and my personal life. And I grew my skills navigating the undercurrent of client and office politics. This isn’t to say I was completely successful. I worked harder and longer than I ever have before which, while enjoyable, was counter to the neutral mode I had planned for. Life Lesson 1: There is no such thing as neutral. There’s just a different kind of focus that allows different parts of your brain to relax.

I also had to remove myself from certain situations. Around September, my commitments to IxD12, IAS12 and PhillyCHI were consuming a lot of my time. Unfortunately, I started to neglect some of my PhillyCHI responsibilities. To that I am forever sorry to my fellow officers and thankful for their support. It was a hard decision to decide not to run for reelection in 2012. I believe that to sign up to do something is to sign up to do it to the best of my capabilities. Having stretched myself too thin I was unable to accomplish that. Life Lesson 2: Learn when to say no. It is not a sign of weakness to acknowledge you can’t commit to something and friends and colleagues will respect you more for stepping away from a situation rather than take on too much and hurt yourself, the program or organization, and relationships.

Probably the most important lesson I learned in 2011 is that work is work. My first few years out of school I treated design as a defining characteristic of who I am. Over the course of 2011, I realized I had it backwards. I used to believe relationships come and go but I will always have my identity as a designer. I couldn’t be more wrong. Relationships are what you make of them and deserve to be nurtured and embraced. To those in the design community I have gotten to know better and who have supported me, thank you. And to those outside of the design community, thank you for all of your support and compassion. And while relationships grow, the design community is fickle. Jobs change, people change, and to put that much stock in a group of loose connections is foolish and risky. Life Lesson 3: Cherish the relationships closest to you and remember that you are defined by who you are and how you act and not by what you do. Separate yourself from work enough that at the end of the day you can enjoy a glass of scotch and good company. Do not focus every minute around the design community and do not make every decision based on professional advancement.

So what does 2012 have to offer? It does not have any PhillyCHI leadership involved. It has two conferences with large roles. It has a job I’ve been at for two years and have continued to grow and develop skills I never focused on or knew I had. If 2010 was the year of firsts1, and 2011 the year of being tossed into near-impossible situations, what is 2012 for? There is a lot to develop and grow. I still hope to have the opportunity to present at a design conference or for a local UX chapter. I hope to continue to grow stronger relationships with those most supportive of me and to recognize those relationships that might be damaging or holding me back. Let 2012 be the year I take my lessons from 2011 and build on them. If 2011 was a year to calm down, let me embrace the craziness of life in 2012; take it one day at a time and jump back into the unknown. Happy new year to everyone and thank you to those that mean the world to me.

– david

1 While I failed to write a comprehensive article, I reflect on 2010 as the year of firsts. This is the year I first moved to Philadelphia, switched from in-house designer to consultant, traveled abroad for work, led my own project start to finish, and was connected with many friends and mentors in the design community.

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