Weeknotes 18 of 2023

The one where it all goes a bit off the rails

Weeknotes 18 of 2023
Photo by Zak Neilson on Unsplash

The one where it all goes a bit off the rails

Last week a few divisions in our ministry were asked to rapidly respond to some urgent priorities around our government’s response to emergency situations, and I was part of that. For a few days I was ‘deployed’ to a Research Ops role to support another Service Designer, and then was moved over to another team to help lead some research and analysis. It’s been exciting and interesting, but also completely exhausting.

What went well

  • First off, I participated in the Inernational Design in Government 24-Hour Remote Conference, organized by Martin Jordan, Kara Kane and Viktoria Westphalen. It was 🔥SO GOOD🔥. What an innovative, exciting idea, and I loved being able to hear from so many different countries. I’m so grateful to Sarah Gary, Joanne Li and Fouad Jallouli for representing Canada with me.
“Team Canada” at the intl design in government conference, hosted by Martin.
  • Being ‘deployed’ to another team has meant I’ve had the chance to work closely with some really lovely and talented people (like Charlotte and Aude and Sarah) who I know but not well. It’s been wonderful.
  • For the past 3–4 years, my research has been focused internally, on supporting public servants to deliver services, rather than on the service users themselves. So taking on a role where I am leading public research has been a really refreshing and interesting change of pace.
  • Doing this work has reminded me of a skill I have that I haven’t used in a while. I’ve worked in emergency management situations before (particularly during the 2013 floods in Calgary) and I’ve learned I am good in these situations, I am calm and helpful and I do a good job of being empathetic, but also being detached enough that I don’t heighten the emotions in unhelpful ways.
  • Doing this work has also allowed me time to explore and learn more about Trauma-Informed research, which wasn’t yet a widespread practice when I was last working with members of the public. I’m so grateful for the expertise of the Service Design team at Government Digital Experience (particularly Amanda and Maleeka) who shared their wisdom with me.
  • Our larger team — the one I am actually on, just not so much this week —had a holiday gathering taco party and gift exchange at our director’s house. It was so fun and lovely.

What was difficult

  • Serious technology fails. The absolute worst part of the past week had to do with Microsoft Teams. On Thursday, I helped organize a lovely workshop led by the amazing and generous team at OXD. I ended up having to delegate some responsibilities because of being pulled into the other work, but my co-organizers were totally capable of making it all happen. Because it was a workshop, OXD had carefully planned breakout room activities, but during the call, the breakout rooms weren’t working. It was a catatrophe and although I know it’s not my fault, I feel so awful for everyone who had to panic and pivot and on a moment’s notice. Still, the team running the workshop are pros and it sounds like they made the best of it. But I’m livid.
  • Research recruitment: The project I’m working on had very tight timelines to recruit participants. Recruiting users is my least favourite part of research (how I miss the days of GDS where we had an ongoing contract with a recruitment firm) but I know a lot of people in BC and was able to use those connections to find enough people. It all worked out in the end, but it was very stressful and awkward.
  • Emotional stuff: I don’t know how much I can say about the work we are doing, but I will say that I’ve spent this past week talking to people about extremely stressful and upsetting situations. The interviews have gone smoothly, and I feel that both our team and the participants have handled the conversations well, emotionally speaking. I personally don’t feel overwhelmed by the emotions or trauma of these sessions. but one thing I do keep thinking about is: ‘I wish I could do more,’ and, ‘I hope they are ok.’ It’s such a strange thing to spend an hour of time like that with someone, and then that short relationship ends. I imagine the volunteers and emergency workers must feel that times a thousand.
  • Overwhelm: In addition to being completely snowed under at work, it’s also a super busy time of year for me, prepping for the holidays for my family. I haven’t been sleeping; ing enough, I’ve been dropping balls all over the place. I’m looking forward to some rest.

Inspired by

I’ve had less time than usual to read but these are some things I came across that I really liked

A golden thread
How UX, UR, HCD and other acronyms have been a constant throughout my career journey
Why you made a bigger impact as a smaller design team
Recently read a blog post by Katherine Wastell about the phases of establishing design. I like giving names to things…
Seasons of Change Leadership
Reflections from FWD50 and Canada’s digital government journey

And of course, please please watch Sean Boot’s FWD50 talk or read the blog post if videos aren’t your thing.

Reading, watching, listening