[Below is the latest iteration of my About page, where I attempt to tell the story of my life thus far with clarity and meaning. Life is messy, and so is writing about it. But I keep trying.]
I spent a decade in User Experience desperately trying to make technology easier and more pleasurable to use. Then I realized that designing the product is all for naught if you don’t first take the time to design the organization.
In 2012, I started experimenting with how to help businesses become more aware of their power to reduce suffering — otherwise cause it. I found that by cultivating mindfulness and compassion at all levels of an organization, people awaken to the thought patterns and ingrained behaviors getting in the way of serving themselves and others effectively.
To learn how to work with new tools and approaches, I needed more education. In 2013, I became certified in Social and Emotional Intelligence assessments. Then in 2014, I completed a year-long program to become a certified Integral Coach, guiding people through this process of self-inquiry and helping them to navigate obstacles with a little more ease.
There can be no world peace without inner peace.” — Dalai Lama
My own journey to self-discovery has been a winding road. As an only child born and raised in New York City, I was immersed in technology at an early age. I took a direct route to the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and expected to land at the mothership (Apple) soon after. But just three weeks into college, I was far more interested in my English writing course than I was in writing code.
With protests from my parents, I switched my major to Professional Writing and started exploring a whole new side of myself. I fell in love with communicating facts in a way that compelled others to action. Yet I missed technology. While perusing the course catalog for a computer science class to take just for fun, I happened upon the Human-Computer Interaction program, described as the synthesis of computer science, design, psychology and statistics. It was a light bulb moment. I applied for the double major the first chance I could, and spent the next two years combining the study of behavior with the pursuit of truth.
I stayed at Carnegie Mellon to get my Masters in HCI, and in 2004, graduated into a discipline on the verge of being called User Experience. I began my career at Digitas, then moved to Tribal DDB, both digital marketing agencies. Looking for greater depth and rigor, I joined the UX team at Liquidnet, a financial software company committed to user-centered design. While the exposure to a sound process was just what I needed, I wasn’t inspired by the work.
Nothing felt right.
This whole time, I had been freelancing on the side to make ends meet, and after three years had a pretty good thing going. In mid-2008, I worked up the nerve to quit my full-time job and try independence on for size. I was terrified. But before long, I realized that being my own boss was a perfect fit for my personality, my lifestyle and my ambition.
You must do the one thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
I began attending events and conferences across the U.S., and became an evangelist for User Experience through my blog and Twitter. I connected with inspiring leaders in the field, got asked to work on high-profile projects, and was invited to speak to audiences around the world. It was beyond my wildest imagination.
In just seven years, I have gone from a full-time wireframer to a certified professional coach, from designing interfaces to designing organizations. With each step, I have gradually moved earlier and earlier in the process in an attempt to have the greatest possible influence on how and when the most important decisions get made. It is those decisions that have the longest lasting impact on the health and wellness of the business, and shape the principles by which it treats its customers and employees.
Today, I blend lessons from User Experience, Coaching, Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, Yoga, Buddhism and Self-Development in my leadership coaching for new managers, career mapping for UX practitioners, and UX training for creative professionals and product teams. I get to help people find themselves again. It is by far the most rewarding work of my life.
As a driving force of this latest transformation, in late 2012, my partner Fredrick and I left New York in search of space. We spent the first year in the Florida Keys, catching fish, chasing sunsets, and staring at the night sky. Today we live aboard s/v Jenny, our 1980 Endeavour 37′ sloop, currently docked in San Diego. Living in nature means everything to me now, but I’m still learning how to slow down.
While I continue to discover my calling, Fredrick finally admitted his and is now a chef at the famed Whisknladle in La Jolla. Together we enjoy local food, dank hops, briny oysters, yin yoga, quiet movies, green flashes, hikes on rocky beaches, and collecting new life experiences. We are in the early stages of planning our circumnavigation.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
After enlightenment, the laundry.” — Zen Proverb