Designer’s Best Friend

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Conference after conference, for months I’ve been jotting down notes and listening to the speakers at the same time. Trying to absorb every bit of information and praying I could apply all of it in real life. Pandemic put us inside our homes with limited things to do but with the technology we have right now, everything became seamless and human experience became more important than it was before.

There are a lot of expectations and qualifications that people are looking for in a designer. They expect you to know the importance of empathy, who knows how to resolve problems, those who are unknown and yet to be defined. Someone who can justify certain decisions and a strong communicator visually and in writing. These examples are only few of the many things the designer can do. And trust me, I can’t do all of it everyday. With the situation we have here in the Philippines, it became challenging to put trust to someone. We’re not just racing against deadlines, we’re racing against profit who doesn’t care about our emotions, our health and our time for family or even ourselves. I thinks it’s time to commend our workmates, project managers and developers. This one is for you.

Learn to have empathy to your people

I’ve worked with a lot developers for over a year now. I used to sit beside one of our iOS developers and I always find time to look how he build what we designed each day. People used to call me “ma-PR”, good in public relations stuff. I always check on someone, ask how are they going. I have a workmate of mine, Jade, which is one of our best talents. I can’t say he has it all. We all have our own opportunities. Jade is silent when he’s working and it will take time for him to reach out and tell us if there’s a problem. More like an introvert, there’s nothing wrong with that, really. I’ve seen great leaders who were used to be introverts. But when he speaks, he’s quite straight-forward which is a big plus for me. In communication, being frank can get you right in front of the problem itself. Regardless if the person you’re working with is quiet and shy, giving him the time to speak up is important and you should be there to listen well. Even though other people think he has a lack of collaboration and initiative in the team, all of his tasks are nicely done. I got the chance to talk to him about his personal life, that he help his dad with their shop that sells car parts while working full time with us. How he met his long-time girlfriend and because he likes online games that’s why he decided a career path in developing mobile apps. Honestly, after hearing his story, I was amazed on how he turned to be the person beside me everyday. I finally understood that building connection with a person requires empathy, and understanding your people takes time. Little did I know, for months I was allowing myself to listen and feel what the developer feels.

The biggest challenge in 2020 so far is when the pandemic hit the country, everyone is connected using online platforms and trusting the process became more challenging same as trusting the people you work with. You can’t see how they work, you can’t look right into their eyes if they are really into what they are doing. All you see are messages after messages, updates after updates, mentions after mentions and bunch of emails unread. There’s this one person I hate to work with but finally learned to admire her dedication to our project. It was hard to get along with someone you just met online, I know this because of using too much dating apps before. I was hired in the midst of pandemic in a software development firm. They are investing to these young professionals, I don’t know if I’m still young to be included but yeah I’m one of them, to help big companies with their platforms. Why not give this a shot?

In a conference call, I usually don’t forget small grumbles, subtle complaints from my teammates and when I hear one, I dwell on it for a very long time. Project managers became too stressful for me to communicate with, sometimes they don’t know where the project is heading to or they just sound too controlling for me. I often have one on one of my calls from my teammate and I heard a lot grumbles about Linda. She’s cute, that’s all, kidding. She’s good at bargaining time for deadlines but just like all of us, she has lots of opportunities, one is balancing the tasks we can do within the given timeframe and clients adding a handful of updates just days before the deadline. You get used to it over the time, designers are good at it.

Finally, the day came where I already had enough of all the untimely updates and additional features that obviously won’t work in just a snap which needs to be done asap. So I spoke to one of our supervisors, raised this concern and guess what, there are still untimely updates, unresolved problems, backlogs after backlogs. I may not know how Linda handles all these pressures from the clients, but I can see how she puts in effort. She wakes up early and sends us message, checking us and telling us jokes. She maintained that calm approach even after a long stressful online meeting. I don’t have a hundred percent idea on how she feels since I’m on the other side of the screen. She’s a manager who manages herself and the team to get through the day. I ended up admiring her instead of complaining more.

I’m telling this once again, it’s hard to trust people, even when technology touches every human life, where everything became easy to experience. You doubt if their work is going to be exceptional or not, it has to be but you just don’t see it right away. If you can communicate well, is concern to the people you’re working with, no matter how complex the problem is, there will always be a humane solution. We will all go back to the person we always count on when our parents are away, a best friend. But this time, a best friend inside the company. It could be your developer, project manager, analyst and designer too.

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