THE JOURNEY TO FINDING PURPOSE

On being stuck, getting unstuck and understanding that purpose is ever-evolving.

This is my story on finding purpose: I realized that what I have been doing for ‘work’ the last decade, simply isn’t want I want to do when I grow up anymore.

Someone once told me “if you can remember what it was like as a kid to grow out of a size of pants or shoes, that’s what’s happening right now — you are growing out of a chapter and ready to enter a new one”. Sounded cheesy when I first heard it, but it makes so much sense now.

I’m breaking up the story in 3 phases:

Phase 1) Why
Phase 2) Turning point of how this went into action
Phase 3) Learnings and process ( → Clarity/breakthrough, Direction, Actions)

Why

While one work-experience has lead me to the next-best one, over the last few years I’ve felt a sense of being ‘stuck’. Ideas came and went. I tested some of them, and others never made it out into the world. Friends vetted and approved them; I just stalled and procrastinated. I thought the solution to this stuckness was to get a new day-job. I hit the refresh button on my resume, pitch and goals and off I went to interview. As I went through informational conversations and interviews with companies I was inspired to work at, I was convincing myself that I was on the right path in terms of the type of companies and roles I was after. Through this process, I captured mixed signals: how i was presented on paper did indeed reflect my experience and skills but it did not reflect what I’m actually excited about in life and the change or impact I care to make. This was a deer-in-headlights realization, so I decided to pause on the job hunt and take a good look at myself.

Turning point

The following week I had a set of memorable conversations with two mentees of mine. These conversations stood out to me because both of them expressed gratitude for our relationship thus far and especially for me helping them through a phase of transition with their careers. The same week I had a lunch with a colleague I admire to ask for advice on my thinking about my next move. She asked me about passion and purpose. I stumbled. I didn’t have honest answers, but I suppose they were honest enough where I opened up and shared a bit more about what I think I do best and what I can offer outside of the context of my job. All my side-hustles either at work or outside have been about bringing communities together, building frameworks and systems to guide folks and lift blockers. Our lunch ended with a recommendation to meet with someone in leadership development at my current company. I munched on all this end-of-week and shared it with my therapist (I used TalkSpace for 6mos and I highly recommend the service). She had been amazing with guiding me and offering tools during this me-trying-to-get-unstuck phase but if it wasn’t for her calling out something specific about the two mentee conversations I had earlier that week, I would have walked right past it! — coaching came natural to me. That’s when I looked back at the conversations and realized I wasn’t mentoring, I was coaching. 99% of my coffee dates or friend-breakfasts over the years have actually and always been about career transitions; either big changes or micro changes. I have been so invested in this topic without realizing it and now I find myself in the same career-transition space!

From here I took some meetings with coaches to listen to their stories on how they got into it; either doing it for a living, or out of joy. One thing lead to another, from chats, to books, to videos, to referrals — and I landed onProject X’s Purpose Accelerator. I would sign up for 1 month to work on my very own personal and professional journey to finding my purpose. Sure, this may sound self-helpy and cheesy but the website copy was very clear to me: I would be offered the tools needed to propel myself forward and would follow the program with a group of strangers that would also become my accountability group, aka what I needed: a kick in the butt. This program was designed with so much detail, passion and care, I cannot recommend it enough. Some are shy or even partially ashamed for joining such programs, and I can respect that. I loved hearing why the founders came to designing the programming and resonated with the value it has been providing many cohorts before mine. These type of programs need to be integrated in schools and companies — period.

With my Purpose Entrepreneurship Accelerator crew, being vulnerable and about to hit the streets to interact with strangers — yikes!

Learnings and process

So many people are searching for purpose and it is so important to learn you are not alone on this journey. Purpose does not have a one-time definition, it’s ever evolving. You reach the best version of yourself when what you are doing (for work or in life) is aligned with your purpose. Don’t know what it is? Hey, I didn’t either but I was ready to find out. I was ready to be asked the hard questions, I was ready to step outside of my comfort zone to find out. I have been living this one-track life post school and felt that I had lost my focus. This program helped me look into my strengths and fears, to help me transition from a thinker to a doer. I was doer at work, but a thinker outside of work. Work defined my doing, not my true passions. Project X made me commit to continuous, small experiments. Nothing I was unfamiliar with; I was literally taking years of agile methodologies and design thinking and performing them on myself vs a client. What was different with this program was the power of accountability. I designed, acted, learned, rebuilt, and acted again while having built a system of support that pushed me to see these steps through, week by week, until I got completely comfortable putting imperfect ideas out into the world; and develop techniques to change my career in a more meaningful way.

Clarity/breakthrough

That one month I was dedicated, focused and had intent like I’ve never had before for my personal and professional growth. It was combination of Project X + TalkSpace + Headspace + the BestSelf.co Journal (reminder: I’ve been a PM for years so this rigorous and detail-oriented combo was my jam; it may not work for you). All my spare thinking time went to reflection and actions on repeat (it was a lot, no kidding, but it was worth it). Here is a snapshot of various exercises I went through to give you an idea of the journey to building your very own authentic definition of your own success:

• Identify your heroes and the values of your heroes
• What brings you joy?
• What situations do you find yourself “in flow”?
• Calling cards (Richard Leider)
• Build your own power mantra
• Death meditation, self-obituary activities
• Future-life meditation
• Dealing with your career and life baggage
• Gratitude and happiness activities
• Dates with yourself without a destination in mind, sans phone/tech
• Reflective best-self exercise *this one was brilliant* (have others call out skills and passions you may have buried or ignored)

Some can work on all this solo, buy reading books, retreats, journaling but something about doing this with a group of complete strangers was my trigger to react and get unstuck. If I had one main takeaway from this is that a vision of the future accomplished is what allows us to commit to relentless experimentation (Jeff Hittner I think you actually said this). I had never ever done this in my life, never thought to nor was I ever provoked to — vision is key.

Direction

I’m shifting from ‘solutioning problems for people’ to focus ‘on people development’. It will be two-fold: talent/skills development and coaching. I will apply this direction where I currently work (because if there is one thing my company cares about, it is indeed about the people and their growth) as well as work on external education and practice on the side.

Actions

  • Out of Project X, I have a product idea I’m working on (and a great community of mentors to leverage going forward). My action is to share with you where it’s at 3 months from now.
  • On Coaching, I’m taking a few lay-of-the-land calls with coaches to find the right education/certification program that suits me. My action here is looking at at career transition and life-coaching education options. I will also be looking to put my fluent Greek to use by offering bilingual coaching. (Recommendations welcome!)
  • Out of TalkSpace, I have a superb toolkit to use to balance focus, intent, goals, self-care and to be more aware of things around me. I did so much introspection with this service, and my action is to open up my toolkit as needed.
  • Out of Headspace, I learned how hard and how important it is to take breaks in your day to slow down, to relax, and sometimes to challenge your mode of thinking. My action is to use Headspace daily.
  • On Talent Development, my actions are: taking intros, calls and meetings with various folks that work in or have retired from HR to get more perspective in a rather new industry for me.
  • Out of the BestSelf Co journal, my action is to visualize my entire day and not let work or my inboxes dictated the planning of my day. The journal is designed as such where it sprinkles goals, lessons, wins, areas for improvement and gratitude as to make it a ‘natural’ way for you to think about your day. My action is to use this daily for 3mos (but to also not beat myself up if I skip a day or two ;)).

Thanks for reading. I believe sharing stories is important — it creates space to talk with others going through similar journeys.

If you have questions, want to chat on any of the above or want discount codes to any of the services above, reach out!

[Originally posted on Nov 10, 2018 on my Medium account.]

On PMs often doing more harm than good.

Andy Rutledge, principal and chief design strategist for Unit Interactive, claims project managers often do more harm than good and looks at what they actually do and what they should be doing in order for a project to succeed:

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http://www.netmagazine.com/features/project-management-and-design-professional#comment-6174

My response to his article is the 3rd comment below it. Enjoy.

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Andy,

Your article covers the account/project manager hybrid specifically and I wish you could have spoken to the account/project manager/producer hybrid as well because there are tremendous differences in all of these roles — they are all based on the person’s experience (mentorship and feedback from past coworkers/project leads/partners) and their educational background (creative, non-creative, tech, business).

I hate to say it but as much as you wished to make this article sound balanced (if that was even your intention) it definitely leans more on the negative side on the role of a project manager. Thanks, really appreciate it.

I’m sad to see that you consider a PM more a of middle man of a project rather than the buddy of the project lead (in most cases, the lead creative on a project), which leads me to believe that you haven’t had the luxury of working with a stellar PM. Sure, there’s bad and good PMs out there and some are more passionate about tweaking their style and role to match the company’s process and tone — and others simply consider it a just a jobby job. The later are those who haven’t come from a creative or digital background of some sort (speaking to the assumption that you are part of a creative agency). That’s a huge problem. A project manager that works at a bank and is PMP certified won’t fit the bill in a creative space *unless* the company is willing to teach him the ways. So hire wisely.

Which leads me to my next point. An efficiently run company with open communications, knows that every single team member can freely speak their mind and define what works and what doesn’t work for them. In return the PM and creative lead should be aware of what works best for the team, the project and the company’s methodologies overall — and then apply those styles and sustain them.

Your mandate was clear: hire professionals and then let them do their jobs. I couldn’t agree more! A company of a certain size needs support in those 3 areas (account, project and production support). Craft an ad for a rockstar producer. Train them as you would train your designers. Why not? Let me remind you that PMs don’t go to PM school. PMs learn on the job. Job after job they start to craft what the ‘standard’ is. Work with them to create the process that works best for you and your company.

ex. If you think a PM shouldn’t run a kickoff meeting, then don’t let them do that at your company.

I’m simply surprised you carry this tone when your mantra is ‘professionalism’. As *you* would train your designers to work as professionals and set high expectations for their results, you should be doing the same for a project manager. And if the PM is already a professional they will naturally help you train the rest of the team to be professionals to have more a voice as they should.

A PM doesn’t create a void, their job is to resolve it with the proper means necessary.
A PM is a professional — a master psychologist who deals with everyone’s egos, styles and methods of work and communication. The PM tweaks their style to cater to everyone’s needs and expectations. This goes for the internal teams as well as the client(s). And on top of that, they have to manage all the inbetween, the actual production of work and finances.

A PM doesn’t harm the team nor the company nor the business. They actually run the business for you.

Cheers,
Crystal Ginn

What does the Web Producer mean to your company?

The definition of this role can also be affected by :

1. Your Title.
Different titles which will consequently add a variation or focus to the role.
ex. Digital or Interactive – Producer or Project Manager

2. Your Project.
Your project’s final output can either be a website, an experience, a product, a tool, an application, a service, a campaign or an ecosystem. It will make your role shift based on the tasks, responiebilities and deliverables of the project itself.

3. Your Company.
Your company could have a focus solely on design, ux, marketing, strategy etc. or be a hybrid. You can be part of an agency in design, in advertising, in production etc. Depending on what the company offers, your role will define which hats you need to wear.

4. Your Team Structure.
You can be a Producer that manages internal and external teams.
You can also manage one of the two and partner with an account manager role.
You can also partner with a Project Manager who will focus on the foundation and internal maintenance work of your project while you manage production, client, team and output.
You can be technical/development savvy and not need a tech lead type role or you can be more of a tech PM focus lead your self.

Every Web Producer is a unique mold. You don’t go to school for this role, you learn on the job and finetune your style, preferences and career path as you go. You can take courses, obtain certificates, attend talks, workshops etc. to polish your knowledge.

In the end you are the project lead. You know what works best for your project and team structure and you will do your best to create an environment, team and style that to make your projects run as smoothly as possible 🙂

Webpm Tips: Hunting for freelance gigs as a digital producer

+ Always keep track of which recruiter has pitched you somewhere and where you have reached out yourself directly.
There is this invisible contract between a recruiter and an agency when you are being pitched. Meaning if recruiter A pitched you at agency A, recruiter B cannot pitch you at agency A, as there is an invisible contract between you-recruiter A-agency A. This contract usually lasts 6mos — up to a year. Meaning, if someone else presents you there later on, the original recruiter takes the cut. So keep track. Be honest and nice.

There is no handbook that teaches you such things. You find out the hard way (ahem). It’s a competitive field out there and you always want to play a fair game with recruiters. Trust me, their world is small and word goes around.

+ To print or not print out your resume.
I tried something new the last time I was looking for flance (short for freelance) work: I never took prints out of my resume with me. I sent it (once more) as an attachment, about an hour before my interview. I indirectly forced my interviewer (or the assistant) to print it and therefore force them to scan my resume before i arrived. It’s frankly annoying when an interviewer has not done their homework on you or forgets to print out your resume overall. If I’ve taken time to craft that piece of paper oh so carefully, please scan it. Towards the end of my job hunt, I ended up carrying spare copies. I gave up on my stubbornness.

+ Don’t dress up too much
A simple, solid color dress with a splash of another color works.Either it’s a funky necklace, belt or shoes. If a Creative is interviewing you, trust me, they will compliment on your funky shoes. (check!)

+ Power zone of hands
Don’t let your hands carry you away. Keep your gestures between you waist and shoulder area. As you go through tons of interviews, you’ll naturally practice this. If nervous, have a bottle of water with you, no pens or anything else alike to fuss with.

+ If you attend more than 1 interview in a day …
:: Ditch the bike. I love biking, but the sweaty hair won’t do it.
:: Carry the following in your purse/bag: deo, hand sanitizer, perfume, mints/gum, hair product, phone charger.

+ Always follow-up promptly after the interview
You know this one, always follow-up with thank youz etc. no later than a day and lay out the request for next steps. Once I got to work client side I adapted a different opinion to the follow-up time frame. My employers would say things like “Oh this guy followed up within hours but the other guy didn’t follow-up until a day and a half later”. If you want the job, you gotta shine so follow-up promptly!

If you have any more to share, comment away:

Project kick-offs: Agenda, scope, team, emotions.

Tip: Prep yourself emotionally for project kick-offs.

You may have the print outs, gantt charts, budget forecasts and assets ready but that’s not all it takes to prepare yourself and your team for a new project to commence. It’s taken me a while to realize that high levels of stress during the beginning phase of a project is rooted in not preparing myself ‘mentally’ for a new project. It may sound corny, but everyone needs a to hit the refresh button on their confidence levels from time to time.
When the curtain opens
A project kick off, can easily be underestimated. Get the team together, share the basics, talk about what needs to get done and GO. That’s definitely your stepping stone to series of failures to come across the lifespan of your project. From team chemistry, to communication and overall commitment.

You want to kick off of a project similar to team kick off:

  • Gather the entire team
  • Talk about the project
  • Talk about what the team wants out this project: expectations, milestones etc.
  • Get a whiteboard and write everyones names on it and key project details (doodling allowed too!)

This makes the meeting more of a facilitation training vs presenting. With facilitation and making things a bit more personable you create a safe environment for your project and team.

Ideally, I’d like to also structure a conversation on the following:

  • List out what the team wants
  • List out any fears, uncovering things they are afraid of (more like risks)
  • List out expectations; mine and teams’ (workstyle, communication styles etc.)
  • Talk about roles. If any conflict or overlap, make it clear
  • Goals. Project and personal goals (adding a piece to my portfolio, thought leadership, company goal etc.)

Behind the Scenes

1. Be a good leader and follower

Creative and effective leadership in design environments calls for emotional literacy and intelligence. A project lead needs to have the ability to listen to others and also express themselves. This behavior affects relationships and facilitates communication.

Project lead criteria:

a. Self-awareness
b. Self-management
c. Social awareness
d. Relationship management

2. Helping relieve someone from an idea they are attached to (aka how to properly kill an idea) vs Helping pushing an idea forward

3. Awareness of others and how the team works.

4. Ask questions vs being directive.

5. Adjust attitude and team conflict.
During the project’s entire lifespan

Know yourself. Know and understand your emotional landscape. Work out your own shit so you can be a great leader to others.

Be in touch with the fears inside you. Fear gets triggered a lot in our society. Before walking into a meeting, listen to yourself and deal with fears. Bring less baggage to the table.

Classic example: The fear that I’m not a good PM. That’s a valid dear to have, I’m sure there is a trigger to that thought, but for the time being, you have to put it aside and walk into your meeting with confidence and later evaluate the root of your fear.

Sarah B. Nelson, once summarized the key emotional states you need to put aside while at work: HALT

Hungry. Angry. Tired. Lonely

Take care as many as you can before going into a meeting (please).

Key takeaway: Always work on checks & balances of the emotional state of your teams and project.

Under: Emotional literacy and intelligence for creative and effective leadership in design environments

SheSays Digital Production Course, PART 2: The Basics

My presentation @SheSays Digital Production Course: The Basics, 7/22/11 @TheLabNYC

Before you start, you have to learn the lingo. So say hello to our ‘Digital Production Glossary’. In this class we’ll cover the “what”, eg w: Image formats, software, program languages, banners and online advertising terminology, digital video glossary, version control etc. We’ll also cover the differences between PMs and producers and their responsibilities

The course is run by SheSays, an award-wining organization doing courses like this for the past year. Most courses sell out quickly so book now through Eventbrite http://digitalcreativecourse.eventbrite.com/

This is a very practical course for anyone wanting to know how to make great digital work. It’ll transform you into a doer not just a talker because the instructors will give you pointers you can start acting upon the very next day.

SheSays Digital Production Course, PART 1: The Basics

My presentation SheSays Digital Production Course, 5/20/11 @GoogleNYC

Shesayscourse preso cginn_may19

View more presentations from shesaysny

The course is run by SheSays, an award-wining organization doing courses like this for the past year. Most courses sell out quickly so book now through Eventbrite http://digitalcreativecourse.eventbrite.com/

This is a very practical course for anyone wanting to know how to make great digital work. It’ll transform you into a doer not just a talker because the instructors will give you pointers you can start acting upon the very next day.