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The latest from Rosenfeld Media

The latest from Rosenfeld Media

  • Liftoff! Additional Clarifications, Corrections, and Context

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    This is a running post I’ll update when I spot something in Liftoff! that may not be totally clear, or could be at risk of being misinterpreted, or if something is wrong and I need to set the record straight.

    Page 8:
    Throughout the course of editing the first chapter, I removed language that clearly stated the timeline of events discussed in Helen Keighron’s contribution. As a result, a reader could mistakenly conclude that Ms. Keighron was sharing experiences referring to her present employer. In fact, she was discussing a previous job and how she is applying those lessons learned there in her current position now. I regret the error and am sorry for causing Ms. Keighron to appear to be referring to her current employer and workplace.

    Apply for a scholarship to one of our live virtual workshops this summer!

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    Fill out my online form.

    Liftoff To Stand With Kap

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    When I wrote the blog post Liftoff! Opening Credits: Contributors, Guests, and Reviewers, my goal was to highlight the many folks who shared their stories or reviewed our work throughout the course of writing the book.

    This book was intentionally different from some leadership and management books in that we didn’t want to overly rely on anonymous case studies that were more parable than playbook. That means that almost all of the stories here are written by the contributors themselves.

    One result is that we were able to find and amplify voices who may be less familiar to many of our readers. We could also share the stories of more women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color than if we only asked for people to opt-in to nominate themselves to share their perspective.

    That decision led to a few others I want to share.

    We made the choice to research and write the diversity and inclusion chapter ourselves rather than ask someone who has lived the experience of being a BIPOC in a corporate environment to write it for us. We didn’t want to outsource the hardest chapter to write in the book, only to have Russ and I go back to writing the rest of the text. That didn’t feel right then, and I don’t regret it today. Instead, we asked people—both design peers and diversity and inclusion professionals–to review our point of view in the text and help us shape the chapter in a way that can help other teams where their leaders can learn from our mistakes, the research we’ve cited, and our approaches to improving toward a more just and equitable workplace.

    But at the end of the day, while those new voices get published, the royalties still come to me. Not to the folks who volunteered their time to be a part of this book, either in the role of contributor or one-time-editor.

    As such, I want to pay forward the financial success of the book that our volunteers made possible. This post is a pledge to donate 50% of the after-tax profits of my proceeds to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, with a minimum donation of $1,000 by the end of 2020.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, “the Know Your Rights Camp’s mission is to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders”. I believe Kap was colluded against by a sports league that has benefited from systemic white supremacy since its founding, and has spent his prime athletic years organizing against and challenging those anti-Black institutions. I want to use my own privilege and good fortune to invest in his mission, because Black lives matter.

    We titled our leadership book Liftoff! because we want design leaders to help elevate their teams to success, and with your support we can also help elevate the young people in Kap’s camps–including Chicago, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Oakland, and others–to new heights too.

    Please note that this is a personal decision and mine alone, and my decisions should not be expected to also apply to others who may choose to protest, assemble, donate, or be a champion for change differently than my approach here.

    How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster

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    The word innovation gets thrown around a lot, but rare is a company who sets an audacious goal, such as recovering a rocket by landing it back on earth, and then works through years of expensive failures to reach success. Innovation is not an exaggeration here, and so SpaceX is completely comfortable editing together all their failed attempts for us to see. What other “innovative” company would do this?

    Liftoff! Leadership Resources

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    This list isn’t exhaustive and does not include everything we cited or reference throughout Liftoff! (and there’s a lot!). Instead, we wanted to share a number of the links that that may be helpful to folks on their leadership journey that were important to our book.

    Design Leadership Communities and Events

    Recent Design and Product Development Leadership books

    Hiring: More Places to Diversify Your Candidate Pool

    But there are still some more interesting places to either post design openings or browse through directories of diverse designers who may be interested in discussing your firm’s open positions. Let’s look at a few sites and how they describe themselves:

    College and university career sites

    If you’re looking for entry level to early career design positions and a degree is required, you can have a lot of success identifying undiscovered candidates here. Often, the posting is free, and you can also conduct individual candidate searches by major and year of graduation.

    Latinxs Who Design

    “Latinxs Who Design” is a living directory of thriving Latinxs in the design industry. Their mission is to provide a space to find outstanding people to follow, look for a mentor, make new friends, or discover talented individuals to join your team.

    Blacks Who Design

    “Blacks Who Design” highlights all of the inspiring Black designers in the industry. The goal is to inspire new designers, encourage people to diversify their feeds, and discover amazing individuals to join your team.

    Women Who Design

    “Women Who Design” is a Twitter directory of accomplished women in the design industry. It aims to help people find notable and relevant voices to follow on Twitter by parsing Twitter bios for popular keywords.

    Queer Design Club

    “Queer Design Club’s” mission is to promote and celebrate all the amazing work that happens at the intersection of queer identity and design worldwide—from LGBTQ+ designers’ contributions to the industry to design’s role in queer activism throughout history.

    These directories provide an effective method of introducing you to people you may otherwise have never crossed paths with. But just blasting directories of people—whether from LinkedIn or one of the above community-focused services—won’t work if you’re not communicating the right message and tone to get people interested in learning more.

    Liftoff! Opening Credits: Contributors, Guests, and Reviewers

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    When Russ and I started writing Liftoff!, we knew right away that we wanted to amplify experiences & perspectives from a broad representation of design leaders. We also made sure we didn’t solely include all the usual suspects who frequently contribute to the greater user experience and design community.

    We’re grateful that these folks wanted to help by sharing their voices, either directly as contributors, as a reviewer who read our chapters from start to finish (and sometimes multiple times over), or by telling us a story that we quoted in the book. It’s also worth mentioning that some folks shared amazing stories that unfortunately weren’t able to be included in the text after much hand-wringing with our editors. In addition to the complete list of resources we footnote in the book, we want to highlight a few of the secondary sources whose work has already been published elsewhere but is especially relevant to our message.


    Kim Goodwin

    Primary Sources:

    Chapter 1

    Surprise! You’re a Design Manager Now!

    Monet Spells

    Helen Keighron

    Alexis Lloyd

    Peter Merholz

    Chapter 2

    Designing Diversity and Inclusion in Your Design Team

    Erin Thomas, Ph.D

    Lisa Welchman

    Gail Swanson

    Michelle Y. Bess

    Amy Johnson

    Eli Montgomery

    Maria Pereda

    Chapter 3

    Designing Your Hiring Process

    Joanne Weaver

    Jasmine Friedl

    Chapter 4

    Performance Profiles and Interview Guides

    Jen Tress

    Chapter 6

    Interviewing Potential Team Members

    Randy Ellis

    Chapter 7

    The Home Stretch – From Offers to Onboarding

    Amanda Schonfeld

    Chapter 8

    Unifying the Team Culture with Charters

    Dr. Steve Julius

    Chapter 9

    Designing the One on Ones

    Richard Dalton

    Shay Howe

    Abi Jones

    Adam Connor

    Elizabeth Goodman

    Chapter 11

    Presenting Work and Everything Else

    Amy Jiménez Márquez

    Brad Nunnally

    Gail Swanson

    Chapter 13

    Developing People, Teams, and Careers

    Jason Mesut

    Chapter 14

    Scaling Design

    Jacqui Frey

    Kim Lenox

    Todd Zaki Warfel

    Chapter 15

    Designing Influence

    Becki Hyde

    Margot Bloomstein

    Anne Hjortshoj

    Chapter 16

    Escape Velocity

    Adam Fry-Pierce

    Peer Reviewers

    Emily Campbell

    Ronnie Battista

    David Panarelli

    Bibiana Nunes

    Emileigh Barnes

    Amy Jiménez Márquez

    Eli Montgomery

    Secondary Sources

    A comprehensive list of references and works cited will be provided in the text. In the meantime, a sampling of our secondary sources include:

    • Chelsey Glasson
    • Hannah McKelvey
    • Jacqueline L. Frank
    • Danielle Mastrangel Brown
    • Camille Fournier
    • Yesenia Perez-Cruz
    • Nathan Curtis
    • Jeneanne Rae
    • Maria Guidice
    • Lara Hogan
    • Julie Zhou

    Avoid Zoom’s mistake! Understand your customers’ expectations

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    Zoom has been my go-to online meeting tool for years because it’s easier to use than competitors. So I was surprised recently when they screwed up so many privacy and security issues. It reminded me of some of the case studies I wrote about in my book, Why We Fail. My theory: our standards for privacy and security increased significantly in the past several years, particularly due to companies such as Apple who made it a strategic issue, and Zoom missed this shift. It looks like they’re moving swiftly to remedy the situation, but hopefully they don’t throw out the baby (usability) with the bathwater (dirty privacy practices). My video explains more.

    Piercings, Power and Getting Older: A User Research War Story by Tamara Hale

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    Tamara Hale leads the research practice at Workday. She presented this story live at the Advancing Research conference. (This post will be updated with videos etc. as available)

    As a researcher, I’m quite used to changing my appearance and my bodily practices to fit the circumstances. I’ve donned a headscarf when recruiting door-to-door at the Mosques of East London. I’ve traded my butch boots for kitten heels when interviewing scientists who adhere to biblical beliefs of Creationism. I’ve dyed my hair black and acquired a rural accent to better pass as a Peruvian when conducting research in Peru. From Managua to Caracas, I received instruction from my hosts about how to walk the Latin American city with purpose, and how to develop a second pair of eyes in the back of my head. That’s right, in my research experiences, I have literally relearned how to walk.

    A few years ago I was about to embark on a research trip to Tokyo. I knew enough about Japanese business culture to consult the interpreter I had hired about appropriate dress for doing business in a large, traditional Japanese company. I wanted to know specifically should I remove the multitude of visible piercings I had acquired in the last few years? Earlier in my career I’d been a consultant, and had done a lot of work for conservative financial services firms and had been part of large sales pitches. But then I joined a California-casual tech company, in an arguably more casual Colorado office. Over the years, what my business suits accumulated in dust, my ears collected in precious metals. It was probably a good idea to remove the piercings, my interpreter confirmed.

    Soon I arrived in Tokyo and in the tiny hotel room I proceeded to carefully remove my jewelry. After my sacrificial act of extraction, I made my way to dinner with the team. I’d only met the product manager a few times, mostly over video conferencing tools, and as soon as she walked in, with her gleaming nose stud, I realized that I’d neglected to share my knowledge about piercings and Japanese business attire with her. What to do now?

    To some people (perhaps non-researchers especially?) the acts of bodily modification and change to my bodily practices that I have undergone for research may seem inauthentic, maybe even a betrayal of my unique “self”- that which has come to be called “identity”. The reality is more complex. Other people familiar with fieldwork that crosses cultural boundaries, will understand that at times such modification comes from a place of respect, and an attempt to lessen the distance between ourselves and our research participants. Further, women, people of color, LGBTQ folks and other minorities are deeply familiar with having to modify bodies and bodily practices as steps for protection and self-preservation, necessary acts to go about living in spaces that were not designed with us in mind or deliberately designed to exclude us. Yet other acts of bodily modification are ways to enact agency, to question and subvert the social and cultural constraints imposed on some, even while some bodies’ trespassings are scrutinized more heavily than others.

    All of these thoughts went through my head over dinner and I was unsure of what to do with them. I chose not to mention anything to the product manager. The next day over coffee before our first customer visit, I fretted with my interpreter, “What should I do?! Should I ask my colleague to remove her beautiful nose stud?!”

    He informed me matter of factly not to worry too much about it since it was going to be obvious to our customers that I was the “serious business lady” and that the PM was the “cool, young California kid”. My heart sank. What the f*&?! Clearly this guy didn’t understand – I’m the one working in the Design department! I’m hip! ‘I have an asymmetrical haircut!’ What’s more, how dare he refer to me as a “lady”? I’m a millennial! Just barely, but still!

    But then he added that what was important was that in the eyes of the customer, I, an important, formidable, business leader had been sent to listen to their concerns and relay them back to executives in our company – and that I conveyed the part authentically. I was reminded in that moment, that whatever image I had attempted to craft for myself was at best tenuous and always subject to interpretations that I could not control. At the same time, I realized that many of the bodily adaptations I have undergone over the course of my career have allowed me to discover and come into alternate and new versions of myself. Through practicing research over more than a decade and a half, I’ve learned not to hold on too tightly to the ideas I’ve constructed about myself. And so, at once humbled, and feeling a little more powerful than usual (at least for the day) I stepped into the elevator to meet our customer.

    Steve Portigal is the founder of Portigal Consulting. He’s written two books on user research: Interviewing Users and Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries. His work has informed the development of music gear, wine packaging, medical information systems, corporate intranets, videoconferencing systems, and iPod accessories. Follow Steve on Twitter or listen to his podcast Dollars to Donuts.

    Don’t Fall Flat: A User Research War Story by Randy Duke II

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    Randolph Duke II is an Experience Strategist with Cantina. He is always open to connecting on Slack or LinkedIn. He presented this story live at the Advancing Research conference. (This post will be updated with videos etc. as available)

    As a researcher, you come to expect the unexpected. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get surprised. I had received my first project as the lead researcher and designer for an internal IT group. The IT group hired me to help them learn about and fix some internal software tool. I agreed to a really tight deadline so the client provided an employee to support and shadow me. We’ll call her “Laura”. Laura was really bright and took well to instruction – the ideal apprentice, if you will. Although I shared some potential questions I might use during employee observations, I warned her that fieldwork could go any which way and that she should try to be ready for anything. I hadn’t realized we were both going to need that advice.

    Two days into visiting offices across their different buildings, we were finally scheduled to meet “Carol”. Carol was important to my small data pool; she represented an important team within the company and previously shared unfiltered, critical feedback. Compared to her colleagues more nuanced responses, we knew time with Carol was going to be different. Upon introducing myself and thanking Carol for her time, she immediately responded with “I know who you are and I have opinions.” Before I could even come up with a response I just instinctively smiled and thought I am going to need to bring my A game. I planned to be approachable and responsible in guiding a fruitful conversation instead of just letting her complain. As therapeutic as it might’ve been for Carol, I needed to help Laura and myself understand why Carol felt the ways that she did so we could do something about it later. That’s what I planned, at least.

    I first attempted to build rapport by asking Carol to describe how she works which immediately sent us down another path. One of the first things Carol brought up was a coworker she introduced to the company: Flat Carol. Flat Carol was a nearly life-size cardboard cutout of Carol. It was a 10-year old photo of her, smiling and holding a phone to her ear. It had a blank speech bubble encrusted with the remnants of old pieces of Scotch tape. I was caught completely off guard! Was this something that people just did here? I looked to Laura to gauge if something like this was somehow common and the look on her face confirmed that yes, Flat Carol was definitely out of the ordinary. I had warned Laura to be ready for nearly anything but here I was the one who needed to act. I thought to myself: do I find a way to make this conversation more about the software as scheduled or do I show Laura how to react to the unplanned?

    In the few seconds I had to collect my thoughts I made my decision: I was going to be as present for Carol as possible. How could I hold onto a well-intended plan of talking about software when Laura and I had the chance to meet “someone” Carol was willing to share? I put down my question guide, and just focused on Carol. She told us how she put Flat Carol in her seat when she was away from her desk, whether she was going on vacation or as far as the restroom. How Flat Carol would have kind words or notes taped to the speech bubble for people passing her desk. We occasionally spoke about company processes connected to the software research, but that wasn’t my priority. Every so often I would look over at Laura to see what she was gaining from this experience and saw several approving nods, smiles, and fervent note taking. By the end, Carol shared that she was grateful for our conversation and Laura was relieved. Once we left Carol, Laura let out a sigh of relief and said “I don’t think I could ever recover the way you did.” That’s what research is about.

    In mentoring Laura (who was, after all, still my client), I had spoken generally about being ready for anything, but when we were faced with a real surprise in the field, I had to live up to those words in a way that surely exceeded what either of us had in mind. We all walked away better for it.

    Steve Portigal is the founder of Portigal Consulting. He’s written two books on user research: Interviewing Users and Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries. His work has informed the development of music gear, wine packaging, medical information systems, corporate intranets, videoconferencing systems, and iPod accessories. Follow Steve on Twitter or listen to his podcast Dollars to Donuts.