In part 1 of this series, we talked about the inherent optimism of designers, developers and managers, as well as specific elements of our professions that increase our sense of optimism. Now let’s touch base with some real people as they consider how optimism is reflected in their own lives.
I polled some coworkers and friends who can be loosely grouped into designer, developer or manager roles, and I asked what made THEM optimistic. Interestingly, almost without fail folks had a hard time identifying this at first. It seemed easier for them to come up with what kept them from being optimistic than it was to define what kept them engaged and hopeful.
I’ll start with the manager role, and with my own experiences in management.
In my own life, I’ve felt optimism in several ways. First, it’s amazing how good it feels to make a fundamental and positive difference in someone’s life – someone who relies on you to keep them informed, supplied with projects, needful resources and sometimes even advice. For every crappy situation I’ve had to deal with as a manager, there has been a more impactful moment where I realize the difference I made for a person, a team or a project. I’m optimistic that if I can trend towards keeping my eyes and ears open, my mouth mostly shut; if I can focus on striving for a healthy balance in all things and on being a servant first and boss second, my optimism will continue to be justified.
What does a management peer have to say?
“What drives me the most is my role as a teacher. I don¹t view myself as someone who has a long list of things to get done. Instead, I view my role as someone who teaches others how to get things done and to do so while producing exceptional quality…
“Nothing is more satisfying than watching your team learn and grow over time, and I look forward to preparing them for that growth everyday.”
Tripp’s comments echo the sentiments I’ve heard from many of the great managers I’ve worked with over the years.
Next, let’s talk to developers, starting with my own reflections on the role.
As a developer, nothing makes me more optimistic than being given the chance to implement a new tool or new feature within the scope of a well-defined project. By well-defined, I mean that the requirements are actually spelled out with enough clarity that I’m not having to chase down specific interaction details, approved copy or the latest round of graphic assets. Optimism comes from knowing I’ll be given a tough challenge AND the breathing room and time to do it well. Bonus points if I get to collaborate with other developers to come up with something extra special.
Let’s see what other developers have to say:
“It’s like the Wild Wild West all over again. The number of devices available to assist users in consuming content is growing. Mobile browsing is exploding, wearable tech is just on the horizon. Content and information about almost everything anyone could want is at your fingertips… as developers, we’re the ones with the power to unite the content with the users and display it in such a manner that it delights the user, that it informs the user, that it makes a difference in their lives.
… for all those reasons, I feel like despite the number of challenges we face as developers… how could you be anything BUT optimistic!?“
“As a coder/developer/programmer, I’m excited about how fast we’re now able to create powerful new tools and applications with new languages and methodologies, mostly spurred by a large organic open source ecosystem (or ecosystem, depending on view). I’m also glad that our profession, to a degree, has been able to grow its talent pool beyond its initial, small, arguably insular, group of practitioners.”
“Being given the chance to write code which can stand the test of time and be used again and again… Code that deals well with changing circumstances and can be adapted pretty easily to meet the needs of tomorrow. All that pie-in-the-sky kind of stuff. I like writing code that makes writing code easier and more fun…”
We’ll hear more from these folks later on when we examine some of the challenges each group faces as they look to the future.
In these conversations, it was obvious that the simple act of verbalizing something positive about their design or management gig was followed by an uptick in their outlook. Now if you’re paying attention, this means that we’ve made something from nothing. We’re outlook alchemists! Where once there was a lukewarm, gray day with nothing interesting on the horizon. Haven’t we all been there?
Take a few seconds every day, snatched from whatever your day already holds. Think about those things you’ve identified that are essential to your vision. Then make such efforts as you are able to bridge the gap.
Next time, we’ll take a peek inside the minds of designers to see what makes them flourish and what makes us feel like we’ve died a little bit on the inside.
Editor’s note: Also published on GIANT UX