Weeknotes 9 of 2024

In which a mini-break and a few games of croquet help to put a positive spin on a fairly challenging few weeks.

What I've been up to

  • I launched something. Over the past couple of weeks, I planned and launched a week-long event called Virtual Skills Week. It's a series of events for people in the Ministry of Environment to improve or learn new tips and tricks. We have sessions on MS Teams, Data Management, Agile, Communications, and Remote meetings/working.
  • I connected with lots of different people, but mostly designers. I did a presentation on design challenges to a community of practice in the UK. I also had another call to the UK, ith a former GDS colleague to talk about user research training approaches. I helped to host to our recent BC Gov design community call with Indi Young, and I ran our regular ENV design meetup. All were wonderful.
  • I learned a lot about the process of getting permission to control pests. Our designers in the environmental protection division are getting ready to begin work on a digital service for this, so I joined a 2-day inception workshop to connect with policy and program folks about the process. It was super interesting and though I don't feel I added a lot of value to the workshop, I was really grateful to get to learn from others and witness the coming together of operations and design.
  • I took a mini vacation! For the first time in .... years? Ever? (since becoming a mother anyway) I went on a kid-free weekend trip to celebrate the birthdays of two wonderful friends. It was a busy weekend but very cup-filling.

What's gone well

  • The best part of the last few weeks was connecting with friends who know me well and feeling so comfortable to be myself and being loved and cherished by wonderful people.
  • Another highlight was getting some honest feedback. It wasn't positive feedback but it was helpful. I feel like constructive feedback is a bit rare these days, people often try to focus on the good and keep other opinions to themselves (me included!) The conversations felt a bit uncomfortable at first but when I sat with it, I realized I was really grateful for it, and grateful to see this kind of feedback modelled in a supportive way.
  • On another feedback note, I received some wonderful feedback from the talk I did to a UK community of practice. Really lovely stuff that buoyed my spirits for days.
  • My last big highlight was our Strategic Services all-staff. I had the chance to meet the wider group I've been working for, and we also did some fun lawn bowling and croquet in the afternoon.
a painting of a group of people playing a game of croquet
Photo by Art Institute of Chicago / Unsplash

What's been difficult

  • I've been feeling scattered and overwhelmed, and had a couple of times recently where I've been unprepared for a meeting, and ended up feeling flustered in front of another person as I try to collect my thoughts. In one case, I even ended up giving the person I was talking to the wrong information which was fairly embarrassing. This has been a good reminder and reflection for me to prioritize meeting prep: I do better when I am as prepared as possible.
  • I'm coming nearer to the end of my temporary assignment and have had to reflect on what the next step could be. This is leading to a lot of questioning and uncertainty, and my anxiety is pretty high. At the same time, I'm trying to stay calm by reminding myself that I have a lot of job security as a public servant, and even if things don't work out as well as I would like, I will still have a steady source of income. (related: my current job is open for applications!)
  • I found out I hadn't been chosen for SD in Gov, which was a bit disappointing but fine and expected. But some colleagues had submitted some very strong proposals and also didn't get chosen. So now I feel doubly disappointed as I really wanted them to have the same opportunity I've been lucky enough to have.
  • Another stressful situation, though thankfully a short lived one: When I went on my mini break, I flew standby for the first time ever. What a ride! The flight to my designation was fine, but the flights back kept changing their availability. I got bumped from one flight and went through so many options with my friend who works for the airline. In the end it worked out (I snagged the last seat on the 18:30) but for a while it was looking like I would either be stranded in the airport overnight or would have to catch a late flight to Vancouver in the hopes of catching the last ferry. It was so exhilarating and I never want to do it again.
  • I discovered downside of accessible product design: Our lever-style door handles which are really easy to use, are so easy to use that our cat has figured out how to open them, and he's decided to use this knowledge to harass my children in the middle of the night. We're all very tired.

Inspired by

Recently I've read and seen and watched a lot of great things from various people. Starting with this talk by Katy Arnold (and all of the other Camp Digital Talks)

Camp Digital 2024 : Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
Camp Digital is an inspirational conference bringing together the digital, design and UX communities for a series of seminars exploring the latest thinking in our industry.
From Seed to Bloom to Compost — Emma Blomkamp
Some of the key lessons from nurturing a community of practice - from the initial germination through the full cycle of growth, change, and composting.
From team to allies: how government service teams can work together to reduce internal inequalities
We can use intersectionality to map our privileges and norms, make sure everyone in the team is heard, and from this build better services.
Exploring the role of value in government product management | oxd.com
Government should focus on fostering value-creating behaviours in product managers if they want to get the most from the role.
How to communicate the value of your work to the right people
For anyone starting a new project, Nia shares a workshop idea for stakeholder communication, and reflects on why talking about the work is a part of the work.

And of course, I have to mention this banger:

Public input is not user research
OMB is right that we need new methods of engaging with the public that don’t allow for capture by special interests. Service design provides some models.

Reading, watching, listening

I finished Animal by Lisa Taddeo and although it's early to call it, I know that this is going to be my book of the year. It was so good and yet so, so disturbing. As soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to write an essay on it, which I never feel compelled to do. I followed it up with Wellness by Nathan Hill which was fine but a bit boring (though maybe everything feels boring compared to Animal)

I watched Under the Bridge, a mini-series about a real murder, set in the place I currently live. It was interesting and suitably chilling but it also felt like they took a lot of artistic liberties with the story.

This podcast hit very close to home and felt very validating: So Awkward: Embracing life's embarrassing moments from NPR / Ted Radio hour.