2023: a yearnote

This week has been blessedly quiet for me which has given me a chance to catch up, reflect and think about what happened and what I hope…

2023: a yearnote
Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

This week has been blessedly quiet for me which has given me a chance to catch up, reflect and think about what happened and what I hope for 2024.

Let’s goooooo:

What went well

  • Attending and speaking at FWD50 was by far the highlight of my year, I still feel so jazzed from that experience and all the lovely people I met.
  • I loved attending and speaking at SD in GOV again. And as part of this, the experience allowed me to connect with a lot of people on the topic of co-design which I’m now really keen to advocate for.
  • I continued to support the BC Gov design community and had some wonderful people help out as well. We ended up running 10 monthly calls (including 2 workshops), with five external speakers and five internal case studies. Most of our calls had over 100 people, and we now have 500 people on our mailing list. I also started running open planning sessions which has brought more transparency and helped to formalized the community a bit more.
  • I spent a bunch of time at the beginning of the year researching the impact of our community and the design practice as a whole, along with some other service designers in a different area of my ministry. Together we gathered some very strong insights into the design practice across the organization and how much it’s being valued and supported (spoiler alert: not enough.) I’ve used the findings from this research to try to advocate for design practice at executive levels.
  • I experimented with some systems mapping work during the first part of the year, so that was something new and interesting.
  • I helped represent design at a couple of BC government digital showcases, and made some stickers for it which have been circulating.
  • Inspired by an idea from my former colleague Jacklynn, a few of us put together some smaller design crit groups to allow designers to build contacts and connections across government. So far the feedback has been very positive.
  • I started off 2023 by speaking on one of our Digital BC Livestream calls and the followup podcast. This felt pretty uncomfortable for me but I’m glad I did it.
  • I put out an offer to speak to other design communities, and so have done virtual talks for a few different groups in countries like UK and Australia.
  • Our product team launched an MVP website to help developers in the BC government.
  • I helped coordinate the Canadian hour of International Gov Design 24-Hour Remote Conference — it was such a great event and I’m so grateful to Martin, Kara, Viktoria and Clara for organizing it.
  • Finally, I spent most of my December doing some very urgent and high priority research on the wildfire evacuation experience. I loved this experience, the people I worked with and the research participnts. I’m excited and hopeful about where this will go.

What didn’t go well

  • This year I’ve struggled with what I think are the beginnings of burnout. I don’t think I’ve actually gotten to the full burnout stage, but I’ve noticed I’m heading there on several occasions. So I’ve stepped back on some things. I cancelled a few design community things, I stopped some regular meeting series’, I said to no to things. Me noticing this and putting my mental health first, that’s a good thing. But there’s been a cost to others when these balls have been dropped which I don’t feel great about.
  • I didn’t write as much as I wanted. I really wanted to do NaBloPoMo this year but I just didn’t have the engery for it. I have the beginnings of so many blog posts, but haven’t been able to follow through. Maybe 2024 is when they get written.
  • This year I thought about levelling up in my career, so I applied for about 5 director-level service design (or design adjacent) roles, thinking that my decade of experience in user-centred design and research (plus being seen by many as a leader in design already) would position me well for this kind of role. But … I didn’t even get an interview for any of them. I’ve taken these rejections surprisingly well — I’m at a stage in my career where I feel confident in myself and my abilities, and I know that someone else not seeing that doesn’t negate the impact I’ve had. But the bigger disappointment for me has been discovering that other areas in my organization don’t seem to value practical design skills and experience, or perhaps aren’t open to different kinds of experiences and personalities. This doesn’t make me optimistic about our org being willing to change in a meaningful way. Or maybe I’m reading into it too much. Anyway, I’m still exploring levelling up, if the right opportunity comes my way.
  • I mentioned above that I have been using research insights to advocate for greater support for the design practice across government at executive levels. It’s been nearly a year since I did that research and started sharing it with senior leaders and nothing’s really changed. There are many reasons why, and it’s no one person’s fault. But it’s still a bit of a bummer. Early 2023 me had high hopes.
  • Microsoft and MS Teams in particular have been such a failure for me this year. I could rant for ages about all the things that have gone wrong for me this year with these technologies, all the hours I have spent googling how to do simple things. But nobody wants to hear about that.

What I’m looking forward to in 2024

Usually I am full of optimism and ideas for the potential of the new year, but I’m having trouble thinking of a good response to this except, I’m looking forward to keeping doing what I’ve been doing: advocating for design and research, supporting others and sharing what I’ve learned. Maybe the burnout has tapped my energy to commit to anything more at this moment.

I think 2024 will be a year of some change for me and for the design community, and perhaps the province itself since 2024 is an election year, so I’m cautiously looking forward and hoping any changes happen with care and intention.

I hope to write more, professionally and personally. I hope to support more people and be a safe harbour for those who feel isolated. Mostly I hope for peace and calm and some good sleep and a year of joy.

Happy Holidays ❤