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  • The Optimizer Every designer is wired differently. Some people are idea people, some people are artists. I’m an optimizer.
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  • Airport express Recently I learned two things about interaction design and user experience from waiting in lines at the airport.
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Archives

4 June 2006

That uncertain feeling

I'm about to leave a perfectly good home and job to move across the country. A lot of things are uncertain, but I'm optimistic.

It’s a rare thing for me to be alone these days. I imagine it will become even rarer as time goes by. I don’t mind. I never really liked it as much as I said I did. It’s always hard to tell; with the wrong people, it’s sometimes better to be alone.

I’m alone this weekend because Laura is in San Francisco. She’s there because she’s looking for a place for us to live, because we’re moving there, very soon. My last day at work is the same as hers, June 23rd—three weeks from now. We’re planning to move the week after that. It’s all happening very quickly.

It started with an opportunity for Laura to take a job there. San Francisco is a place we’d both talked about wanting to live someday, and it seemed like a good opportunity. As it turned out, the job wasn’t the right opportunity for Laura, but it was an opportunity for us. It was a kick in the pants that got us started making plans. By the time Laura said no to the job, the wheels were already turning. We had decided to go. We’d told our friends, our bosses and families we were going. We wanted to go. So we are.

It’s a scary thing, moving across the country for the first time. A lot of things are uncertain, and I don’t handle uncertainty well.

But I’m young—we’re young. We’ve always talked about living somewhere else, at least for a while. Maybe we’ll come back to the midwest someday to settle down. Maybe we’ll get restless and move all over the world. But right now we don’t have kids, or a dog, or a mortgage. If we don’t go now, it will never get easier later.

As far as getting a job, I have some good leads already and I’ve had very promising conversations with some people I think I’d really enjoy working with. Laura’s looking too, but neither of us has anything nailed down yet.

Like I said, I don’t deal with uncertainty well. Unfinished projects where I don’t know the outcome stress me out like nothing else. (You should watch me in the kitchen—I clean up after myself as I go along.) But I’m optimistic about this. And I’m becoming shockingly self-aware spending so much time talking about myself in job interviews.

Interviews are strange social interactions. You’re talking to someone you’ve usually never met before. They know a lot about you, but only what you’ve told them. It’s your job to tell them everything you can about yourself to make them think of you as both capable and likeable.

Above all, you want to communicate certainty and enthusiasm. I’ve discovered that it’s hard describing what I do (and what I want to do) without sounding equivocal. I consider myself a hybrid designer and developer. I’m a designer with code skills or, if the situation requires it, I’m a coder with good design sense.

What is it that I’m passionate about? Where do I see myself in five, ten years? What is it that I want to do? I want to stay in the middle. I’m most intrigued and excited and inspired by the intersections: design and engineering, imagination and logic, pixels and code.

I believe there’s a need for people like me. A project doesn’t succeed with just pure engineering or pure design thinking. They need to be taken together. Why not in the same person?

Still, it’s hard to sell. Because talking about it creates uncertainty in people. Engineers think I sound flaky, designers think I sound boring. At least that’s what the paranoiac in me thinks.

I’m looking at a future mixed with certainty and uncertainty. I’m certain we will move to San Francisco at the end of this month. I’m not certain yet where we will live. I’m not certain where either of us will work, or when we will even have jobs. I’m not certain how much of our savings we’ll need to use, or how long it will last us if we need it. I’m certain we’ll survive. I’m certain it will be a learning experience.

So if you work in the Bay Area and you’re looking for a good designer with code skills, or maybe even a coder with a design sense, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll be in town next week. Let’s get in touch.

And if you’re looking for a talented designer with print, online and marketing experience (who’s also a hot lady), I know one of those too. I think she’s amazing. In fact, I’m certain of it.

Comments

  1. 5 June 2006

    Jeff Croft

    Man, I’m going to miss you.

    I totally get why you’re feeling stressed and a bit uncertain about things, but relax — everything is going to work out for you. With your talent, it has to. And it doesn’t hurt that you’re bringing Laura along, as she’s pretty damn talented, as well.

    There’s a reason people have trouble dealing with hybrids: it’s because most of them suck. Take hybrid cars, for example. They’re almost exclusively either pokey, ugly, or both.

    But that’s not you. Like I said before, you’re a jack of all trades and master of most. Someone who can cover all the bases is completely ideal if they can really cover all the bases. And you do.

    I’m not happy you’re leaving, but I understand. And damnit, if you’ve got to go, I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure you get a kick-ass gig, because you totally deserve it.

    (insert gay hug here)

  2. 5 June 2006

    Robert

    Hey, I’ve actually said this before, but I might as well say it again. I’m looking for an intern with a savings account that knows how to do everything I don’t and can deal with a little uncertainty. And I’m looking for a hottie that lives in San Francisco.

    Sounds like we could make a deal.

  3. 5 June 2006

    Wilson Miner

    Thanks, Jeff. Right back at ‘ya.

    I didn’t mean for the post to come off so scary and morose! I guess that’s what I get for sitting down to write it at the end of a Sunday night after a weekend spent recovering from a cold, eating takeout lentil soup and watching Jimmy Stewart movies.

    I heard through Laura from a friend in SF that “people aren’t really self-deprecating out here.” Apparently it’s “more of a midwestern thing.” I hope they watch a lot of Jon Stewart out there, because otherwise my entire sense of humor is going to go over like a ton of bricks!

  4. 5 June 2006

    Mike Stickel

    I can totally relate on the hybrid designer/coder point. It’s very tough when interviewers ask “if you could only do one, which one would it be?” I want to tell them it would be the one where I could do both but I’m too afraid to do that so I pick one or the other depending on my mood at the time. Do you stick to your guns or pick one over the other?

    Just think of the move as an adventure. It’s going to be fun. You guys will have a great time and all the uncertainty will be completely unfounded once you’ve been there for a week. ;^)

  5. 5 June 2006

    Wilson Miner

    Mike: My answer has been that if I had to do one, it would be design, but I’d get bored eventually. Which is true. I don’t think I ever see myself doing pure code. I think like a programmer sometimes, but I don’t think I have the disposition to do it all the time. If that were my job, I’d be redesigning this site a lot more, just to have something to work with.

  6. 5 June 2006

    Geof Harries

    I’m the head of a small web team inside of an advertising agency. For our last hire, we sought out a designer/developer combo such as yourself. As I discovered, these sorts of highly talented folks are few and far between: we got zero applications.

    During the process, I saw resumes from either pure coders who could care less about visual design, or designers who think that code doesn’t matter as long as their fonts are correctly kerned. We ended up hiring a developer who is increasingly taking more interest in user experience concepts and overall design principles, which is beneficial to all of our projects.

    Dare I say that if you’re interviewing for a job where they want you to go either way (code vs. design) then forget about ‘em. If the company doesn’t see the dual-sided gem they have in their hands, then they’re not worth your time.

    I’d rather have a person who can talk and walk on both sides, appreciating the importance of aesthetics as well as the complexities behind the scenes. You know that you can trust them, end to end, and that’s key to a solid team.

    Good luck!

  7. 5 June 2006

    Laura Brunow

    Side note- I really like the way the new picture looks on the home page. It looks nice when the page’s greens get picked up in the photo.

  8. 12 June 2006

    Chris Kavinsky

    you’re right that its a scary thing, but I commend you for doing it. I don’t know if I could pick up and move to a new city without a job lined up. You’re a braver man than me. i also wouldn’t get too stressed out about the job situation. One option you may consider is doing freelancing/contract work in the short-term. I picked up some work through the Creative Group, a designer temp agency, which worked out great for me. I believ hey have a SF branch. May be worth checking into.

  9. 12 August 2006

    Josh Hallett

    If life would’nt have been so uncertain then there would have been no charm in it. All you need is optimistic attitude and that is already there in you. So all the best for a new phase of life. Wish you success in all you do.