Just Build It

1*NXMN5dYXkx3wRDIrRHgayw@2xRaise your hand if you, or someone you know has ever run into this scenario… Everyone? Yep, it happens often, and it’s the worst. In some orgs it doesn’t matter how many red flags you wave, or if you wave them so hard and so long that your arms fall off. There are stakeholders who flat out refuse to invest in the research necessary to ensure that you’re building something your audience actually needs.

And then getting blamed for the product’s failure is just the icing on the cake. If you run into this there are 2 things you should know:

A. You tried. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

B. It’s not your fault, don’t get down on yourself.

You can push and push and push but if the stakeholders in your org refuse to understand the power of design thinking and the value in user research and usability testing, there’s not much you can do other than bounce and look for a job at a more design centric org. Or at least an org that is open to learning more about the value of design.

You could build the best product in the world, but if there is no audience for it, it’s going to fail. If you encounter this situation, just keep your head up and continue moving forward in your current job or toward a new one, your choice. 🙌

(Or come work at InVision, because we don’t have this problem!) 🙂

Don’t Just Decline Opportunities—Pay Them Forward

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Over the last few years I’ve been given incredible opportunities to contribute to all kinds of publications. Joining the team at InVision has opened so many doors for me—our incredible team is so supportive, and I’m grateful to all of them for all that they’ve done to help get me to this point in my career! (I’m looking at you Clark, Clair, Kristin, Leah, Stephen, and so many others!)

At one point I started to get overwhelmed with press requests coming in. I couldn’t keep up, but didn’t want to let anyone down by not contributing. I talked to my mentor about it, expressed how grateful I was, but how I was running out of hours in the day (and night).

He said something that SHOULD have been obvious and top of mind, but it wasn’t. I was so embroiled in stress over the thought of not being able to keep up when so many other people weren’t given these chances that it didn’t even cross my mind. He said:

“It’s awesome that you’re being asked to contribute in so many ways, but you’re only one person. Don’t feel guilty about having to turn these opportunities down. In fact, it’s a chance for you to share the opportunities with others. When you’re tapped out, it’s ok to pass them along to someone else in the company.”

The lightbulb went off in my head, my stress level rapidly declined, and from that point forward, I started passing along opportunities to coworkers as they came through. It was so much fun being able to help insanely talented people who sit back and quietly kick major ass at their jobs every single day get their names out there.

One of the first PR reps I ever worked with, Leah, told me once that her favorite part about her job was having the opportunity to help people launch and grow their careers through press channels they wouldn’t otherwise have had access too. She is not only insanely talented, she’s an amazing human as well.

Contributing a post, guest starring on a podcast, speaking at a conference, or contributing quotes to a publication can change the entire trajectory of a person’s career. (It certainly did mine!)

So, what’s my point here? This mentality applies to all kinds of situations, not just press related ones. Asked to work on a big project but can’t contribute? Is there a mega talented, super driven junior designer who you know would crush it? Pass their name along. Get a call out at a major meeting for something you worked on with a team? Follow up with a “this wouldn’t have been possible without XY & Z”. Something that takes 2 seconds and seems incredibly small to you may be a huge stepping stone for someone else.

If you’re a person who is regularly given channels to push your career forward, give someone who might not have access to those opportunities a chance to shine. Don’t just decline an opportunity—pay it forward if you can.

People Who Get Hired Don’t Get Hired

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Photo by David Werbrouck on Unsplash

Recently a number of my friends in the industry have been applying for new jobs. Some get those jobs, and some don’t, but they’re all insanely talented.

I noticed a trend in the people that got the jobs. They had all been shot down in the past.

A majority of people don’t get every single job they apply for. In fact, I’ve never met a single person in my life who got every job they applied for over the course of their career. I’m sure they exist in small pockets of the universe, but it’s extraordinarily uncommon. Little known fact, I didn’t get the first job I applied for at InVision. 3 months later an incredible opportunity opened up here that I was a much better fit for, and I got a “call back” to reinterview.

When you get shot down, don’t burn bridges. Don’t go on a social media rampage. Don’t give up on your dream. And most importantly, don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt.

It drives me crazy when people are upset about getting a rejection letter, and others tell them to suck it up and just learn from it, and use that rejection to motivate them to move forward. Is the second half good advice? Absolutely. But the first part is garbage.

Don’t just “suck it up” when you’re rejected—let yourself be upset. Feel devastated for a bit. Just don’t get stuck in that state and let it consume you.

Questioning your skillset and your abilities is an absolutely, 100% human response to rejection. Don’t feel like you’re all alone in that feeling. Millions of other people ALSO didn’t get a job they really wanted that day and feel the same way you do, whether they show it and/or admit it or not.

Get that feeling out of your system, THEN pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and move forward. Don’t feel like a weirdo for being upset and hurt, and feeling less confident than you did prior to receiving that rejection letter. Own it. Everyone goes through it. But the ones who are successful keep moving.

Once you get through the feeling like garbage stage, THEN move on to the “what can I learn from this” stage. Shoot the company an email and see if they have any feedback. Many of them aren’t able to respond to a majority of applicant followup emails due to the sheer volume of applications they receive, so don’t feel bad if you don’t hear back. But other companies can respond, and appreciate you requesting that feedback.

There are some situations where not getting through to the next hiring round is due to something completely random/out of your control, that has nothing to do with your skillset. For example:

  1. Some companies use automated check lists that scan resumes to check for keywords to get them through the first application round to the “speak to a real human” round. Make sure that your resume is customized to very specifically align with the job description of the job you’re applying for.
  2. You may be OVER qualified for the job. Some companies know after a glance at your resume that they could never afford you.
  3. Titles can trip you up. As a freelancer, adding “CEO of XYZ” may seem like something that will give you a leg up in the hiring process, but it can get you instantly axed as a candidate if you’re applying for a mid level or managerial position.
  4. The company may be posting the position as a legal requirement, but already have someone internal in mind for the gig.
  5. They may only hire people with referrals, and if you don’t know someone internal you have no chance. Lame, but it happens.
  6. They did a terrible job creating the job description, and the skills listed and terms they used aren’t actually what they’re looking for. This happens way more often than you’d expect.

So what I’m trying to say is this: Not getting a job you really want is terrible—everyone goes through it at some point in their life, typically many times. And it’s going to hurt (a lot) regardless of the reason. But don’t throw in the towel when it happens. I knew a person who applied for 125 jobs over the course of 3 months before being offered a position. Giving up is the ONLY way to 100% guarantee that you’ll never end up in the career you truly want.

Just work hard and push ahead, even if it’s a millimeter at a time. Even if you hit a rough patch, run into people trying to block your path, or trip yourself up with a poor life choice, you ALWAYS have the option to get up, brush yourself off, and keep moving forward in the direction you want to go.

Working Remotely for a Fully Distributed Company

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Photo of someone holding a coffee cup in front of a laptop. By rawpixel on Unsplash

I’m regularly asked questions about how working remotely for a fully distributed company compares to traditional office life, so I decided to write a post about it. 🙌

What is working for a fully distributed company like?

In a word? Amazing. I can work from ANYWHERE with a wi-fi connection.

Some co-workers use the freedom to live their best digital nomad lives, traveling the world.

As a hardcore introvert who is easily distracted by office chatter, being able to sit in my office or living room and focus 100% of my attention on work tasks is phenomenal. I’m not suffering through an open office floor plan with people tapping me on the shoulder interrupting my workflow and focus, I don’t have to find an empty conference room to meet with coworkers—it’s glorious.

Recently my daughter encountered some really scary health issues. Working for a remote company that allows work/life integration in addition to work life balance was life changing.

She wound up having to go to a slew of medical specialists, and being able to make myself available during normal work hours by working from waiting rooms and making up any time in the evenings (though my boss was incredibly supportive and told me not to worry about making up time, I did it anyway) kept my stress level away from losing my sanity high.

I was able to devote my undivided attention to her when I was by her side, and worked during the tests that I wasn’t able to be in the room for. I didn’t lose any productivity, and my mind was kept off the fear of her test results.

During less intense periods of life, it’s also awesome to be able to take coffee breaks that include puppy cuddles. My 3 furbabies enjoy this benefit very much.

Doesn’t working for a remote company make you feel silo-ed and lonely?

No, it’s actually the opposite. Since InVision is fully distributed, the entire company is centered around remote culture. We aren’t trying to loop in one remote employee during meetings, we aren’t forgetting to update that lone employee on side convos and decisions that are made between meetings, the ENTIRE company is remote. All day long we use tools like Slack and Zoom to chat with coworkers water cooler style, as well as for meetings and to have access to team members for questions. We can snooze notifications when we need focus time, and turn them back on when we’re ready to address them.

One of my very favorite aspects of Slack is that since we’re located in 31 countries around the world, we can leave messages during our own working hours and team members around the world receive them and respond during their working hours. We don’t have to constantly try to coordinate meetings in different time zones (though we can when necessary) we can just communicate freely on a daily basis.

As far as team bonding and feeling lonely, I feel closer to my coworkers at InVision than I have been to coworkers in traditional offices.

The primary reason for that feeling of closeness is that we have better lines of communication as a remote company than I’ve ever experienced in-house. We have channels for every interest imaginable. One of my absolute favs is the #invision-pets channel which I visit daily.

Photo of Jennifer’s 3 white Bichon Frise dogs.

Photo of Jennifer’s 3 white Bichon Frise dogs

We also have a channel called #house-swaps-invbnb where team members trade homes to see new places around the world. Live in New York and want to see London? There’s likely a team member who would love to switch things up for a week or two and crash at your place while you crash at theirs.

Individual teams also have private channels where they can chat about life and share links, family photos, and gifs if they feel so inclined. (And chat about projects as necessary of course.) We also have a #Team channel for company wide announcements.

As an added bonus, we have arguably the best party parrot emoji selection of all time. (This is just a teaser—the list goes on and on. And yes, that is indeed a Guy Fieri parrot. 😂)

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A screenshot of 63 party parrot emojis

Since I’m able to work from my house during the day, I’m more motivated to get out to see friends and enjoy hobbies after hours. As an introvert, I’ve found that working remotely for InVision has actually made me more social.

Don’t you lack team culture as a remote company?

Honestly? We have a more positive team culture at InVision than I’ve ever experienced in a traditional work environment. Our entire company culture is centered around employee happiness. (Seriously, I’m not trying to be cheesy, its amazing.) We have an actual official Director of Employee Happiness (his name is Avi, and he’s one of the very best humans). He’s a certified life coach, and is there for team members and leaders in the company who need support, at all times.

We have amazing benefits. All employees are offered stock options, so we all “own” a piece of the company. We have usual HR support with additional services like an anonymous ethics hotline. It’s not used much, but it exists in the event that someone experiences or witnesses something they think wasn’t handled properly, but they’re uncomfortable contacting HR directly to report it.

Our team does annual compensation reviews to make sure that there is equal pay balance amongst team members, with special attention make sure that compensation is equivalent for employees regardless of gender and ethnicity. (This is a HUGE deal for me. It’s very rare for tech companies to make this a priority.)

And of course there are fun perks like monthly coffee and fitness stipends!

We’ve scaled insanely quickly. When I interviewed 3.5 years ago we had 50 employees. Now we’re 800+.

The last startup I worked for had a culture crash when we doubled in size. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop here at InVision. We hit 100 employees, and I thought, “Oh, here it comes.” But it never did. The culture remained fantastic. Then we hit 200 employees and I thought, “This will DEFINITELY be it. We’re going to crash and burn.” But things just got even better. The crash never came. Why?

Because our CEO and senior staffers put employee happiness at the core of the company from the very beginning. It changed the entire rapid growth dynamic. Instead of experiencing a culture tank and trying to toss perks out to course correct like most startups, they made taking great care of employees the foundation of the company from the very beginning. And for a remote company, maintaining positive company culture is especially imperative.

Recently a designer reached out and asked if I feel that working remotely negatively impacts the UX of our products, due to lack of collaborative interactions in office.

I would say it has the exact opposite effect.

Since we’re fully distributed we have the luxury of being able to hire literally the best talent in the world. The caliber of the employees here at InVision is mind boggling. People I’ve idolized my entire career are now my coworkers.

Hiring people all over the world means that we have perspectives from people from all kinds of backgrounds tied into everything we do as a company. It’s especially impactful when it comes to our products.

Design is a universal language—it knows no barriers.

Photo of a person staring at the night sky by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Photo of a person staring at the night sky by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I’ve seen design community members from warring countries share tips and tricks with one another on social media regularly. Design transcends boundaries and brings people together.

Being able to incorporate voices from around the world into the very DNA of our products strengthens everything we create.

And as far as collaboration goes, we use tools that allow better collaboration than I’ve ever experienced in office. I mentioned that for communication we use Slack and Zoom, but we use departmental tools that allow for clear team collaboration, as well as tools to collaborate company wide. Just a couple examples are InVision (of course), G Suite, Confluence, Asana, and the list goes on. These tools keep us all in the loop. And when you think about it, people have to use collaborative tools in offices just as often. The last traditional office I worked in used Slack, InVision, GoToMeeting, Asana, and others.

Working for a fully distributed company has changed my life for the better in so many ways. Remote life isn’t for everyone, but don’t knock it till you try it!

Get Out Of Your Own Way

Sometimes life sucks. Stuff happens. Things seem overwhelming and like they’ll never get better.

You have 4 options:

  1. Curl up in the fetal position and give up on your dreams.
  2. Whine about it for the rest of your life and blame all of your problems on it.
  3. Ignore how you feel and eventually explode.
  4. Let yourself grieve. Wallow in it. Feel all of it. Then get it together and keep moving forward, one tiny step at a time. You can climb an entire mountain one step at a time without even realizing it’s happening until you look behind you.

I’ve hit some hurdles in life. I’ve gotten really, really, really down. I hit a point that I felt like I was in a pit I could never get out of, and focusing on my career of choice was pointless because it could never happen due to everything else going on in my life. And you know what my mentor said to me when I said I just couldn’t do it?

“ You’re right. You can’t.”

It snapped me out of darkness mode long enough to get REALLY annoyed and I shot back, “Wow, thanks for all the support.”

The response?

“You are standing in the way of your own career. Get the hell out of your own way, and you’ll be able to achieve incredible things. In fact, I think you’ll be able to go further than your dreams are even targeting right now. Get up, dust yourself off, and get back to work. Standing still is a cop out. Take one step at a time and you’ll slowly move forward toward your goals. And then you’ll surpass them. Go ahead and feel bad for yourself for a while, but don’t get stuck there. Inch your way forward crawling, then start walking, then run. It’s possible, just stop standing still.”

I’ll admit I was kind of pissed. This person had no idea how much I’d been through, how low things had gotten, how much pain I was in. And you know what? After a while I realized that it didn’t matter. It was the best advice, both career wise and life wise, I’d ever received. So, I slowly got it together and started pushing. It felt like I wasn’t making ANY progress for years. but I kept moving. And slowly, snail pace things started to move in the right direction. And I kept taking small steps forward, a few back, and then bigger steps forward, and then all of a sudden I was on track, going for it. I’d finally gotten out of my own way.

So what I’m saying is this: If you’re feeling discouraged right now, and you’re losing hope, go ahead and feel bad about it. Cry it out, get angry, feel all the things—then slowly put yourself back together while you start moving forward. Even truly horrific circumstances can lead the way to incredible things if you just keep pushing instead of giving up.

So my challenge for you is this: Regardless of your current circumstance, get up (if you need to, do it slowly, but do it nonetheless), get out of your own way, and get back on track toward achieving your goals. You’ll be surprised how much easier the second step is after you’ve made that tough, draining, future defining first one.

It only takes one step to start moving in the right direction.

The Career Building Power of “No”

I was chatting with some friends this week, and we got on the topic of how hard it can be to fire clients.

I mean, they’re giving you their money, and you obviously want to keep a strong freelance following and your good reputation.

Here’s the thing. Keeping a client who is a holy nightmare to work with is counter productive on soooo many levels.

Give yourself full permission to fire terrible clients, guilt free.

If you’re considering firing them, one or more of the following are probably true:

#1 They suck as human beings.

#2 They’re taking advantage of you by trying to make you feel guilty about your fees/the amount of time it takes to finish their project.

#3 They’re the actual worst at communicating, which means you’re wasting time you could be working on other projects waiting for them to respond/wrestling decisions from them.

#4 They’re paying you late/refusing to pay for something you’ve already completed.

#5 You’re just not vibing, and it’s frustrating both you and the client in a big way.

Toxic clients are detrimental to ALL of your design work—not just the work you’re doing for that one client.

If any of these issues are occurring, give yourself 1000% permission to fire them, guilt free. Why? The stress they’re adding to your life is taking away from the other awesome clients you’re working with. They’re negatively affecting the quality of ALL of your work, not just the work you’re doing for them.

Keeping a toxic client will not have a positive impact on your career.

Choosing to keep a toxic client around to “keep your good name” isn’t going to have that effect. The rest of your work back sliding is going to damage your reputation, and there’s a high chance that they’re not going to recommend you to their peers anyway after the fact.

It’s always ok to respectfully fire awful clients.

When firing a client needs to happen, don’t just tell them to take a long leap off a short pier — have an open and honest conversation about your concerns.

Sometimes that conversation on it’s own will resolve the issues you’re encountering. If it doesn’t, tell them that you’re sorry, but they’ll need to find a designer who will better fit their needs for the remainder of the project and issue a refund for any project work you haven’t completed yet. That way you’re not “blaming them” for the issue, and you’re not saying you refuse to work with jerks. You’re just peacefully parting ways.

Fear of bad press isn’t worth destroying your sanity and your career.

Even if they rage out and try to blast your reputation afterward, there is a good chance that others in the industry will already be aware of how awful they are to work with. And if people aren’t aware, they will be when they see the client publicly blasting someone. Consider it a public service if that happens. Other designers will know to steer clear. The benefit of removing the negativity from your life is worth the gamble regardless.

Sometimes you can finish the current project and just gracefully decline additional work with the tried and true, “I apologize, but I won’t be able to take on this new project.” You don’t have to make up excuses, you don’t have to lie about a huge workload (especially since you’ll be looking for additional work), it’s ok to just say no.

Don’t get me wrong, you need to pay your bills. And you’ll always have clients that are difficult, it’s just part of being a freelancer.

But you need to know where you draw the line between difficult and toxic (and that line will be different for every freelancer). ID that line and stick to it. Saying “no” and firing awful clients will save both your sanity and the quality of your work (and your career) long term.

Contribution: Women in Tech Share Positive Experiences and Advice for Landing a Great Gig

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Lately there have been a lot of blog posts outlining stories of battles women have won to represent themselves in the technology industry, and hurdles they’ve overcome to fight for gender equality in the workplace.

What there aren’t many of, though, are posts explaining that not every company puts those hurdles in the way or makes those battles necessary.

Continue Reading…

InVision: Design, UX & Dev Tools That Will Save You Tons Of Cash & Time

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3 years ago I worked for a startup that had been acquired by a large corporation. We were using the daylights out of a rapid prototyping tool named InVisionApp. It had completely changed the way our team designed.

Fast forward a year, and a team member at InVision reached out about a job opening at the company. I took the plunge and joined a team of dedicated, crazy talented people who loved the product, but most importantly loved having the opportunity to positively impact the daily lives of designers all over the world.

When I interviewed 2 years ago, there were 50 employees. 2 years later, we’re a team of 350+. Our weekly newsletter now goes out to 2.5 million subscribers. And our product has gone from a rapid prototyping tool, to an entire suite of tools. It’s wild, some people hear InVisionApp and think of the original rapid prototyping tool that it was when I started. We’ve had an INSANE number of additions in the last 2 years, and I’d like to highlight a couple of my favs that many people don’t realize are part of the product.

  1. Boards: We have this awesome tool called boards built right into the product. You can create gorgeous mood boards and stakeholder presentations in seconds.
  2. Workflow: There’s an integrated design workflow tracking tool. Need to keep up with your progress? Add cards to workflow and drag them to the appropriate columns as you complete your tasks.
  3. Freehand: I used to use several tools to bang out wireframes. They worked ok, but I wished there was something lighter to use. We’ve got a new tool called Freehand that lets you create wireframes in minutes. You can also pull in mockups and conduct collaborative feedback sessions with your team. (And as an added bonus it’s just really fun to play with.) 🙂
  4. Prototyping Inside Sketch: We have a plugin named Craft that lets you hook up your clickable prototypes right inside Sketch, and then send them to InVision with a click using Sync. It’s a MASSIVE time saver!
  5. Stock: You can test out images from Getty and iStock right in your design before you purchase them. Then you can purchase them with a click if you find one you love.(There are a ton of other hugely time saving features in the Craft Plugin that you should def checkout. For the sake of keeping this post shortish, I’ll stop there!)
  6. UserTesting.com Recording Baked In: A lot of people don’t realize this, but we have UserTesting.com recording baked right into the product! You just activate it and you can record your usability testing sessions with a click.
  7. Inspect: Once you are feeling good about your design and you’re ready to handoff to the engineering team (or to yourself if you’re a 1 woman/man show) you can fire up Inspect and it will pull all the specs out of your prototype. Automagically. It’s the best.

So there are a zillion other awesome features and tools built in to InVision & Craft, but I’m going to stop there for now. If you get a sec, I definitely recommend playing with the new features. They’ll save you an insane amount of time, as well as crazy cash since they replace a giant stack of different products in a shot. You can just stay in product and do all of the things. I think you’re going to really love it. 🙂

(Disclaimer: In case you didn’t catch it, I work at InVision now. And love my job. And we’re hiring.) 🙂

Startup Years = Dog Years

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We were in a meeting recently and someone made a comment about startup years being like dog years. Definitely an accurate statement!

If you analyze the progress made by a successful fast growth startup in sales & revenue, feature additions & product growth, and staffing additions, each year is often equivalent to about a decade (or more) of large corporation progress.

One of the biggest thrills of working for a startup is the breakneck pace. It’s not for the faint of heart, but man is it ever a fun ride!