After a 2 month weeknote hiatus, now feels like a good time to pick them back up again.
Since my last weeknote, my health has improved enough to start working again, and I’m 3 weeks into a new contract with BT.
A strong start with BT
It’s early days, but so far I’m really enjoying BT.
Joining a new company remotely, during a pandemic no less, was always going to be a little weird—but the design ops team has made a real effort to make the onboarding experience useful and enjoyable.
I’ve joined as product owner for BT’s design system. It doesn’t exist yet, and part of my role is to figure out how to make it a reality. With 3 brands to support (the BT group includes BT, EE and Plusnet), and multiple platforms, across a frankly enormous company, the task at hand is ambitious. But this kind of head-scratching complexity is my learning zone, and it’s good to be using my brain again.
Discovery work and technical experiments are underway, and the team seems excited and aligned around the vision of what we’re trying to achieve.
And to top it off, I’m back working with my old GDS teammate Dave who’s product designer on the team. Not only is that an absolute joy (Dave is awesome), it’s also very convenient for getting up to speed, since he can explain everything to me in GDS equivalents.
Procreate, sketchnotes and visual communication
When I was ill, I treated myself to an iPad Pro, partly for watching hours of Netflix and YouTube videos in bed, and partly with an ambition to teach myself a bit about illustration using Procreate—an illustration app for iPad.
Lo and behold, it turns out that merely having the tools doesn’t magically make you an illustrator, so I put a call out on Twitter for some help, and sketchnotes legend Chris Spalton kindly offered to help me out.
We met on Thursday evening via Zoom, and alongside conversational meanderings such as “what do they even put on jigsaw puzzles nowadays?” and “why you can’t draw a design system”, Chris shared his advice on sketching ideas (not art) and developing a visual vocabulary.
Keen as I was to get stuck in, I’ve tried to capture his advice in something which is—if not quite a sketchnote—sketchnote-adjacent:
What d’you reckon, Chris?!
A trip to The New Forest
Last weekend we went for a 2-night stay in The New Forest. I’m still pretty anxious about Coronavirus, so we spent most of the time in our room or outside, but it was just what I needed.
On the second morning, we got up just after sunrise and went out to photograph the wild horses in The New Forest National Park, just near where we stayed. It was pretty magical.
My current breakfast of choice: porridge oats cooked with oat milk, with sultanas and a mashed banana mixed in right at the end. Topped with greek yoghurt, toasted walnuts and maple syrup.
Thank me later.
Value reporting for design systems
If I’m being honest, the reporting side of product management is the area I’m least confident and probably least capable in. Telling the story, defining the strategy, creating alignment, and building stakeholder trust and support: those are the things I like and am good at. Crunching numbers? Not so much.
And anyone who’s worked on a design system will know how particularly hard it is to measure the value they provide in a quantifiable and meaningful way. This is even more challenging when said design system doesn’t yet exist, and you’re dealing with forecast numbers which you won’t yet be able to validate.
Nevertheless, it’s necessary.
On Thursday I attended a value-reporting workshop with some other product owners in BT to discuss this challenge, and I’ve been bothering my network of design system experts to get some ideas together.
Once I’ve got some better ideas, I’ll perhaps write something more in-depth about it.
If you don’t know, I’m recovering from something called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome which I developed as a result of the shingles virus back in May. Among other things, it causes one-sided facial paralysis, which I’m slowly getting better from.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been getting some new pain and tightness in my cheek and chin, and have noticed some strange linking of movements like when I close my eyes, the corner of my mouth turns up.
On Tuesday I spoke with a physio at the Linden’s Clinic who saw me at the start, who told me it’s the start of something called synkineses (pronounced sink-eye-knee-sis).
It happens when some of the damaged nerve fibres start to regrow to the wrong place. In my case, one of the fibres which is there to control my eye closure, now goes to my mouth.
This causes overuse of the muscles in your face, hence the pain and lifting on one side (my face is basically getting a really great workout on the left).
There’s nothing to be done right now but wait. It’s likely to get worse over the next 3-4 months, and once it’s levelled off, the clinic and I will assess the impact and discuss treatment options which, from what I’ve read, include rehabilitation physio, botox, or surgery.
I’ll be honest, I hit a bit of a low this week. I’m so grateful for the quick and considerable recovery I’ve made so far, and 2 months ago I would have been over the moon to be where I am today. But every now and then it hits me that the effects of this virus aren’t going away any time soon, and I feel overwhelmed and sad to think about how suddenly it all started and now it may never fully go.
I’ve had a bit of a fallow period on the writing front—which has been necessary—but this week I’ve started again. As well as this weeknote, I’ve started writing an article on my experience of moving from content design to product management, which I’m hoping to publish next week.
Things I read, watched and listened to
- I finally finished A Field Guide to Getting Lost, a beautiful and though-provoking collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit on the subject of loss, distance and getting lost
- After seeing his brilliant talk at the Design and Content Conference, I’ve been listening to David Dylan Thomas’s Cognitive Bias Podcast, which explores the many different types of cognitive bias.