The ‘giving back’ project kick off

From my humble beginnings at art school in the late 1990’s I’ve grown enormously as a person and as a professional. Repeatedly, the lead tutor at my university, Mike Tappenden, loved to tell us this inspirational story:

Baby in an incubator

“When I was your age I thought I knew it all. I looked at my teachers and considered them old fashioned. We were the youth, the future. We understood how new technology worked. We had the energy, the zest of life to inspire us in whatever we did. Our teachers told us we should sit down and listen to their lecture. Twenty years on and I find myself in the very responsible position of being your teacher today. I won’t be telling you to sit down and listen. Because twenty years on I now know how it feels to have become out of date and fall behind the times. I don’t understand the internet like you. Original design ideas don’t come to me like they used to. Raising a family has changed me and tired me. YOU, are where today’s inspiration lives. YOU, have that energy and zest of life to put yourselves out there and reach your potential. Grow yourselves. Teach yourselves. Learn! Do it. Do it now! GO! The library is on the ground floor.” – Mike Tappenden

Well, it went something like that anyway. He wasn’t quite so cheesy in real life despite telling numerous dad jokes. Mike inspired me with that story. At the time I felt like he’d inspired me to work hard for what I wanted in life because in two decades time I’d be an aged magician who couldn’t pull the rabbit out of his hat any more. So I worked my ass off and graduated with the 3rd-highest marks in my year group. I’d never had a decent grade at school (I was a coaster as a youth) so that success stuck with me. I attribute it partly to my own untapped drive, but just as much Mike’s inspirational story.

Nearly twenty years on and I’m now realising that story has a second gear. Mike didn’t only inspire me to forge my own career path and rise to the top, he has inspired me to break beyond the glass ceiling he described about himself. That he was out of touch, being overtaken by the youth. Well, not me. Eight months into new fatherhood and I can see his point about being tired after raising a family but I’ll be damned if I let my career efforts fail now. I’ve decided to break through that ceiling.

At work I am responsible for the success of the design function in the business. But that’s just one of many parts. I run design sprints that help us collaborate with colleagues from other departments: marketers, business analysis, data scientists, content experts, developers, researchers, and more. While I learn from them with every project I don’t feel the pressure of those other factors as much as my colleagues. Therefore I’m not learning about their relevant subjects as deeply as I could.

My design philosophy has always been that UX is not one single person’s job. If you’re “the” UX designer in your company then your job title is somewhat misguided. UX is everyone’s responsibility. It all contributes to the same end – business value. So, in short:

UX = running a business.

Therefore, if I want to be a better UX’er then I need to know how to run a business. By that I mean not just swapping my time for money – that’s a job, be it freelance or full-time employment. I mean creating a product that generates value regardless of who operates the business function.

As a father I won’t have much time to achieve this. I’ll be stealing an hour here, an hour there. This means it’s all the more important that I have the grit and tenacity to reach the final stage of this project:

Create an automated charity donation stream.

Alongside bringing value to users of my product, the key metric that proves my success will be the amount of passive income generated and passed onto a partner charity.

I’ll be writing about my progress here on in another attempt to prove to myself that I’ve understood the realities of that aspect of running a business. As Albert Einstein famously said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” To teach a subject embeds those learnings in your mind.

Finally, as a fun mechanic to tie each part of the journey together, I’ll be updating this graph that tracks my emotional state at each stage, starting with the project kick off.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Graph showing how I feel as an entrepreneur at the kickoff stage of my passive income project

Your thoughts etc?