I see you, change

By | RL | One Comment

Clearly this is a time for living. For travel. For finding my feet and thinking big. But where I used to be carefree with my money and my heart and my life, ready and open to experience everything that could be thrown at me (I wanted to drink lots and laugh hard and find myself in places and wonder how I got there)… now, now I want to start building a life.

I’m at a point in my career where I know what I’m doing, my work has been seen by millions and right now I’m actively searching out what is right for me… I’m a senior designer and have been for a while. It’s comfortable to be refining what I know and not be that new kid anymore. I’m not scrambling to learn everything I can because I know nothing, bullshitting my way through knowing full well I don’t know how to do whats being asked. I have a business and accountants, and I’m thinking about my credit history (which is to say: how to get one when you don’t have one at all).

I’m moving on from the student-esque flat, filled with strangers. Where before I was excited by their unknown-ness, now I’m annoyed when they leave their dishes in the sink. At the new place? The place that’s just for me and Zee? I’m excited about buying cushions. CUSHIONS. And big oversized mirrors with ornate frames. Pretty kettles. Nice things that cost a lot of money and don’t come from IKEA and aren’t made of plastic. Even more than that… I’ve been thinking about buying a place somewhere, a proper, physical building, something to tie myself to. I don’t know how yet, and I don’t know where yet, but it’s a thought I didn’t have before. Gently placing a root or two somewhere.

I’m thinking about family, and I keep catching myself thinking that at this point, I get to choose. I get to choose who my family will be. The idea that before, you didn’t choose who your family was, you loved them even though you couldn’t stand them… now that I’m far away from mine, I love them more than ever across a distance I didn’t even realise could be so far. The idea of choosing who my family is feels tentatively glorious.

It does mean that I’m thinking about children, and futures and what all of that means and what exactly is I want. I don’t have answers yet, I don’t know what it is I want exactly. But I recognise my gears have shifted. I still want to adventure, I still want to wring the very last drop out of every experience. However, now all the experience wringing feels sweeter, like now is the afternoon of a great summers day, just as the suns going down. I want to savour it.

I’m being soppy, I know. I’m living my little heart out, but I just wanted to note down the change. I see you, change.

‘At least’ can be punched in the face

By | RL | No Comments

I hate the words ‘at least’. It’s a terrible phrase used to demonstrate a silver lining, a small dash of positive thinking by someone else. Usually to provide comfort. Well the person uttering ‘at least’ can go punch themselves in the face, because there is no way that ‘at least’ is in any way empathetic, kind or comforting.

I lost a contract recently, a three month gig turned into a four day gig when the project I’d been hired to work on didn’t go through. It happens, I’m a contractor and contracting is not as stable as perm work. I accepted this might be a possibility when I formed my own company and dived right into contracting.

However, it doesn’t mean I’m not bummed about losing a contract. It was with a pretty cool agency with some really interesting problems that I was keen to work on. Being let go is never ideal. So, when Zee (with all his good intentions) said ‘at least you get a day off tomorrow’ I actually wanted to hit him upside of the head.

Because there is no way that a day off compensates for not having a job. Saying it also completely belittles my legitimate right to be upset about losing a contract. Oh, I know you’re feeling terrible, and I don’t know what to say about that, actually, so here! Completely ignore all the terrible things you are feeling right now, and focus on this tiny sliver of an upside.

Shut. Up.

It’s okay to feel down when something happens. It’s okay to be bummed about it. Feelings are not a problem to be solved, and my feelings are not so flimsy that I’m going to be distracted, and magically feel better because I got a day off. ‘At least’? ‘At least’ does not make me feel better, and instead I feel like I shouldn’t have said anything to begin with. Why bother if all of the things I feel are going to be marginalised, and ignored?

The phrase ‘At least’ provides no comfort, it is not empathetic, and there is no genuine connection to be had with it’s utterance, and get this, it’s that connection that makes you feel better. Not a silver lining.

Instead of ‘at least heres a shit silver lining’, instead of trying to ‘fix’ a perspective, how about we just acknowledge that it happened (‘Oh man, you lost your job!’), acknowledge that it’s not awesome (‘Dude, that sucks’), that you’d rather it hadn’t happened (‘I’m really sorry to hear that’). At the heart of it, that’s all that really needs to be said. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, and I recognise that you’re not feeling great.

Acknowledgement > ‘at least’ x a billion.

Because at the heart of it, no empathetic response ever begins with ‘at least’.

Have you heard of Brené Brown? I hadn’t, until I (just now) did a Google search for the phrase ‘at least is not empathetic’. She actually says a lot of what I just said (which was great for my own validation. I’m not the only one who thinks a lot of this!). However, she said it much more eloquently than than I did:

So, ‘at least’. It’s not ideal, let’s agree to not use it to silver line anything, cool? Cool.

Interviewing for a UX Designer Role with Google…

By | RL | One Comment

Spoiler: I didn’t get it.

After the Recruiter Call

I have a phone interview with Google. I’m stoked (STOKED!) but trying desperately to play it down because, let’s be honest, the success rate of getting through (from what obsessive compulsive research I can find) is low. So looow.

So, this might be the high point. I’m good enough to interview with Google, and perhaps I go no further. I don’t know yet, the anticipation is killer. It feels a bit like Schrodinger’s cat, you know? That at this point, I’m both good enough and not good enough for Google.

Still, in the interest of not putting all my eggs in the Google basket, I’ve been applying for other jobs. When they ask what else I’ve got going on, I always trot out Google casually at the end, like it’s no big deal. Yeah, I’m talking to big name companies and I’m worth the slightly higher salary I’m asking for.

I haven’t told that many people, only a handful. Every time I do their eyes get big, and they say ‘Oh, Elly. Gosh! Google!’. I feel like a fake though, because I haven’t even had the interview yet. I don’t know if I’m up to scratch. I can see how working for the Google prestige could be addictive. What if I bomb out?

The Phone Interview

I just did an interview with a girl from YouTube. She was lovely. Nervousness and then relief. I heard back the next day. I was sure I’d done terribly. What do you know? I’m in to the next round! High five!

The Design Task

I’ve been asked to do a task. I’ve been given a few scenarios and assigned a few deliverables. They gave me a guideline of three hours and a week to do it in, which was fine.

Except that I was nervous about doing it (don’t fuck it up, El), so waited till the end of the week while Zee was away to get things started.

I’m not sure exactly what they were looking for, or whether I’m up to grade but I did the task. I fretted over it and went over the suggested time frame by an hour or two. It’s hard to pare it down, because while I know they want to set a reasonable time frame, it’s GOOGLE. You obviously want to put your A Game forward. In the end I stopped fiddling with it and sent it out, and now the waiting. Oh the waiting!

After the Design Task

I’m in the next round, bring it.

On the train to the face-to-face interview

Ahh, I’m nervous. I have a presentation (it’s a fricken hour long, how am I going to talk about myself for an hour??) I’ve been asking myself prep questions. I’m prepared. Mostly… I always feel at this point I probably could have done more. Still, I’m prepared.

Just not for the writhing mass of butterflies hanging out in my stomach. Interviews aren’t new to me, I’m a contractor. I do them all the time, I show up, I smile, I make them laugh… So why am I nervous? Pfft, big multinational technology giant nothing… Right?

Urgh. A full day of interviewing. Perhaps I should have had breakfast.

Sitting in reception…

… And it’s fucking balla. Big leather couches, jars full of tic tacs and gum. A fancy check yourself in kiosk. A chandelier, fridges full of water and sugary drinks… A wall of frames photos (the queen, Winston Churchill) interspersed with screens in frames with video scenes of the beach. Is very Dumbledore office esque.

So fun. Very impressive… which I suspect is half the point. We are Google, look at how impressive we are. Yes, the hype is absolutely more than just reputation.

After the presentation

Holy fuck that was intense. An hour is a long time to talk. Six people is a massive panel, and they didn’t give anything away. These guys? Best poker faces ever. I have no idea if I did well or not. Ahhhh. And straight into interviews. Ahhhh!

After the whole day of interviews

Holy shit that was intense! A full day of being on, I didn’t get a single minute to decompress by myself. You always have a host with you (seriously, a host even waited outside the bathroom when I was in it). Still, the hosts/interviewers were really lovely. Asked a lot of questions about my past roles and design skills. Did a two design tasks (one about virtual cash exchange and the other about improving a google product).

There were a few questions I probably could have answered different, and because a lot of them asked the same questions over and over there clearly was a theme. I answered them differently with each interviewer too, hoping to bang on one clearly best answer, but I’m not sure there was one.

I really fucked up the technical section. That really did me in. Despite the recruiter telling me not to worry, and that coding wasn’t a priority, it clearly was. I code basic html/css stuff with an editor. One that populates the syntax and variables for me. I also almost always refer to The Internet when I’m pulling a prototype together… so having to code some stuff in a Google Doc with no help? *pulls face* I really wanted to argue that this wasn’t a realistic view of my coding skills considering no one codes under these conditions. Buuut you’re not meant to do that in an interview, so I didn’t.

It was a really really really long day, oh man. I’m shattered now.

Interesting to see the offices, really impressive (so much food it’s ridiculous. The cafe rumours aren’t even close – they have cafe yes. They also have kitchens on all the floors. There is no way that there is any desk in that office more than 200 metres from a kitchen stoked with food at any point. I snacked at each kitchen we came to on the tour. Fruit in this one. Pastries in that one. This one has the better coffee machine, but this one here is really good for sandwiches… Seriously. So much food. The office overall was really fun and relaxed. If nothing else, I’m glad to have got this far. Fingers crossed!

Apparently now all my interviewers put in their report and it goes to a panel of people in Mountain View. We’ll see how it goes.

After the call

Bummed. Bummed is how I feel right now. Just got off the call with the recruiter who said I was borderline. In terms of Googleness (that’s the actual phrase she used) I’m awesome, I’d fit in with the team, I’ve got all the skills, my portfolio was strong…

Except apparently I’m borderline. And they said no.

There was concern that because I haven’t worked at Google scale company before, so I’d take a while to ramp up. Because my technical skills out of my brain aren’t up to scratch. Because I recycle code and use stack overflow.

They’re looking for succinct and precise think on your feet design decision justification, she said. Not that you weren’t, she said (except that I didn’t get the job, I thought).

They loved you, she said. The London heads were definitely supportive of your bid.

But I didn’t get the job I thought.

Try again in 11 months, she said. Because if it had been a different committee on a different day you would have got in, she said. A slightly different set of people, you’d have been in.

I understand, shopping decisions have taught me that if it’s a maybe it’s a no. But a different committee on a different day? That comment had me in tears. You’re good enough for Google, just not today. Try again tomorrow.

So. I’m bummed. I know that three of my better graduating peers have tried and didn’t get in. I’m in their club now. I never dreamed I was good enough at what I do for Google, but the hope was a buoyant bubble that was addictive.

Eleven months is marked in my calendar. You can bet that between now and then I’m going to be an awesome fucking web dev so I can prototype the shit out of anything. Then their stupid technical interview can suck it. I didn’t apply for a web dev role, but if that’s the only real feedback I can act on, you can bet I’m going to.

Eleven months and then I’m applying again. I’m in it. Also, still bummed.

Side note: next time make sure I’m alone for the feedback call. Not in a house with Zee’s well meaning folks, who catch me as I’m processing all the ‘your not quite good enough’ emotion.

Six months later

Meh. I’m less bummed now. I’m happy with the contractor route and woah buddy, how did I not realise how lucrative this is? I couldn’t have become a contractor and gone to Google. I’m not sure I will try again next year, so far I have the opportunity to pick and choose my projects, and I have been. This variety is awesome! My bank accounts are looking wonderfully healthy, and with no leave restrictions I’m quite enjoying the contractor lifestyle. Maybe I’ll try Google, maybe I won’t. At this point? Contracting is definitely winning out. We’ll see what happens in the next 6 months or so.

Choosing your family?

By | RL | No Comments

Now that I’m back in the UK … family means something different. I’m so far away, horrifically homesick (for the people, not the place) and I’m aware of just how much is going on without me.

Pretty sure I’m going about this the wrong way, but I don’t know the right way exactly…

So, here it is. I’m really struggling with my Mums new family, because mostly they’re ignorant, arrogant, entitled little shits. (Yeah, I just went there). As I’m processing this, and coming to terms with the idea that perhaps they have a completely different understanding of what family is, of how to be respectful, and not emotional stunted (still going there, yes) I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family’.

So, here’s the assumption. We’re family…. should we be tight, and on good terms? That’s the assumption, right? That whānau should be part of each others lives? Should be respectful, and welcoming. Loving. Stable. I think as a premise, that’s the one I’ve be conditioned to. You don’t get to choose your family. You don’t get a choice. You suck it in when things aren’t rosy, you smile and you make the effort. Even when it’s a whole new family filled with people who are really good at making everyone else unhappy.

So, I can’t choose my family.

I can’t choose my parents, I don’t get to choose who my parents love, or have chosen to be their new families. I can’t choose my extended whānau anymore than anyone else can.

You know what I can choose? Right now, in Zee, I’m choosing my own immediate family. I’m choosing him to be my family. (Sidenote: this is a new idea for me, so if you’re not as blown away by this as I am, that’s probably to be expected).

It’s kind of a new concept, up there with moving in together (which we’re doing. At some point. Right now we’re still in Zee’s tiny too small room in a flat share with flatmates who like to watch lots of reality tv). Since I moved out of my old flat, and we’ve travelled and now the plan moving forward is to… well, be together. In him I’m choosing my own family. It feels like a revelation.

I’m pretty sure I’ve chosen good, too. I’m not saying it’s all roses (is it ever?) but if I’m choosing my own family? I’m glad it’s Zee.

Frank Turner owes me nothing

By | RL | No Comments

Alternate title: Figuring out where the value is.

One of the best things about London is all of the impromptu. With Zee away in Portugal (because it’s not like we just got back from an epic multi-country trip or anything) I crossed the river and went to North East London for a good old fashioned back yard BBQ. It was fun! It was good catching up (Carrie and Jamie are getting married! G shaved his beard!) and once all the stories were out it just about passing the time. Love it. We played songs through youtube and tried out Carries hula hoop (harder than it looks, because it’s got weights in it).

We also tried out the mini bonfire, which then meant going down the road for marshmallows, which turned into roasted marshmallows that you dip in Jack before consuming. It was a sugar overload in one of its many fine forms. And, because Carrie is amazing, I tried on all her fancy dresses for an upcoming wedding. That was fun.

This is turning out to be a ‘we did this and this and this’ post. It wasn’t meant to be, all of this is preamble. The best kind of preamble, really, because I adore these people. Anyway, what I really wanted to post about was this sense of entitlement I had, that perhaps I shouldn’t have.

I’m a fan of Frank Turner. I think he’s delicious, I like his tunes and I even once met him at a gig for The Water Tower Bucket Boys when I first went to London. I was with G, who got all fan boy on me. Frank was lovely, though. And it was that night I became a fan. So when he was playing a DJ set down in Camden off we went to go have a look see, drink some more drinks and dance. Lots and lots of dancing. It was great!

Right up until I decided that perhaps, if I was lucky, I could probably go get an autograph when Frank was between sets. He’s a nice guy that makes time for his fans at almost every gig I’ve been to, so off I went, up to the booth. And I waited and waited and waited and waaaaaaaiiiittted.

And I stood surrounded by other girls who also wanted autographs. It felt… greasy. And weird. And these girls spent the whole time either yelling out his name, sighing dramatically, adjusting their cleavage or trying to negotiate with the people whose jobs it was to stay between us and Frank so he couldn’t be pawed at. Fair call.

Frank? He mostly ignored us.

At first, I was angry, because wtf, all the waiting! Just turn around and SIGN THIS BIT OF PAPER! And then, very quickly, realised that Frank? He didn’t owe me an autograph, or his time or even his attention. He owed me nothing. That I’m sure at every gig he does there are girls fawning over him, waiting for him, wanting a piece of what? What was I going to do with an autograph? What value did it hold for me? Turns out: nada.

In the end I rolled my eyes and went back down to my friends, because seriously, these are people whose time and attention I value. I danced. I drank all the things in a little basement club in Camden. Frank? Frank arrived late for his set, played obscure tunes that no one but him knew, and then he left early. It wasn’t really worth the ticket price we paid to get in, let alone all the waiting for an autograph I did.

It turns out that the best part of the night was preamble. Spending time with this little crew, in a backyard, on a bus, in a club in Camden – that’s where the value was. Learning curve, aye?