Half way through: the joy of design and teaching at General Assembly.

This summer I spent a lot of kiteboarding, hitting the road and taking on small projects. I’ll be honest about playing the role of design troubadour…it’s really fun!

Then six weeks ago I was pinged by General Assembly asking me if I had a spare ten weeks to come on board as an Instructional Associate for their User Experience Immersive Class. I meditated on the opportunity for about five minutes, stretched, and emailed them back: challenged accepted.

Walking onto the GA campus for the first time was a little daunting, knowing that these people (adults, wow!) had set aside twelve weeks of their lives to jump feet first into something completely new. My role with John and Felicity is to help take them from inception to industry ready in just ten weeks.

Throughout my career it has been drilled into me by my mentors that knowledge is a gift, something that’s never to be taken for granted. It’s my responsibility to make sure it is shared, not restricted to my own mind.

I quickly found myself going back to the basics, revising things that I had not thought about in over half a decade. Card sorting anyone?

After spending time with the students it didn’t take me more than a day to get excited. Witnessing the curiosity from the students after exploring something as simple as contextual inquiry made design feel alive again.

“It is not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and, yes, beauty to people’s lives.” – Don Norman

Teaching is intense and still feels new. There is pressure to be the person students turn to when they have a problem, to be the source of knowledge. It’s a positive pressure and a rare joy when work feels like a privilege, not just a necessity.

Half way in. Watch this space.

Committing to the curve

When I decided to pack everything into a suitcase and head to Nashville for a few months, I took an educated risk. I thought it would be an experience that I would walk away from with some life lessons learned.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with the city or the lifestyle of building ideas. Within the first week, I felt like I had arrived.

The reality of life outside a large corporation is confronting on a few levels. There is never a guaranteed paycheck. You have moments of bringing in large sums of money and moments where you experiment, iterate and fail hard (and often). This requires a serious adjustment to your mental model and no choice but to grow thick skin very quickly.

When you commit to embracing a curve in your career, you also commit to the unwavering instinct that everything will fall into place because the common thread seems to be that innovation and outcomes are spurred when one’s back is against the wall.

When I return to Melbourne next week I’ll be heading back to family, friends, amazing coffee and the city I call home. Logic would have me settle there for a while. Fortunately I left logic at the gate when I boarded the flight back in July.

I am in a unique position where I have nothing but time on my hands, so committing to a bootstrapped life isn’t crazy. I am most tranquil when I am delivering a meaningful piece of work and drinking coffee. The good news is that this feeling is not tied to any location. It just requires the attack pack, Macbook Air and Lucchese boots.

Committing to the curve is a scary prospect, but it yields a payoff that I’m not sure can be found in Melbourne right now.

Why stick to the grid when the world is wide open?

I’m sitting at the communal table in a quiet St Kilda cafe. A German couple are sitting at the other end of with a Lonely Planet Melbourne & Victoria travel Guide. The man is methodically mapping out the St Kilda area and making plans for the day.

His eggs arrive and he closes the book. He exchanges brief pleasantries with the waiter and asks him what they should do for the day.

The waiter suggests that they visit the penguins at St Kilda Pier and then explore the area on foot. The German man appears surprised by the advice, “Why?” he asks.

The St Kilda local’s response is simple, “You can visit the beach or you can experience Melbourne.”

Drop everything now, grab the essentials (keys, cash, cards and phone) and see where the day takes you.

Why stick to the grid when the world is wide open?