Saturday, July 11, 2015

Who's thinking of the users?

This post is a result of the article that was published in the Washington Post regarding the new United States Digital Services coming out of the Obama Administration (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/08/11/white-house-launches-u-s-digital-service-with-healthcare-gov-fixer-at-the-helm/). It's a great idea. It's a noble idea. I am personally working with some members of that team. They are wonderful, talented, amazing leaders in their fields. But when the lead architect/developer referes to usability testing as 508 testing and another member of the team whose background is a dual degree in coding and management mentions that their product teams have some people called UX researchers they call to conduct usability testing after their product is designed ... that makes me, as one of those pesky UX researcher people, worry.

You see, as one of those UX researchers, I wholeheartedly believe that in this quest to innovate and move our old slowmoving technology into the modern world, we are leaving the most important variable behind. Our user. We are not Google. We are not Facebook. Our users come to us to apply for services that we cannot afford for them to not understand. I have read the backgrounds of the brilliant minds who've been hired to move us into the 20th century of technology that's eluded us in the Federal government (due to funding, policy and other concerns that don't hound the private industry). I don't see anybody who's putting the user in the center and saying keep him in mind. As one of those UX researcher people, I believe the user needs to be involved in the entire process. Because for some things, the user doesn't care for flashiness. A social media platform can be flashy. A disability application needs to be easy to fill, easy to read, easy to navigate, easy to know what's going to happen afterwards ... But I could be wrong. What do I know? I am not the user! We can change the code, we can change the database, we can change the colors ... if you don't ask the people who are going to interact with it in the end while we are making those changes, it could still fail at the end.

It costs pennies to make a change at the blueprint stage, dollars to knowck down walls at the framing stage and millions after you're conducting the final walkthrough of a house. So, when would you rather ask a homebuilder what changes they want?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Why does it matter?

All over social media, people are posting photos of Freddy Gray's criminal history in order to justify his death.

You know why it matters?

Because he's a human being.

By saying that his death shouldn't matter, you are stating that the people in power have the ultimate decision making poweer over your life.

What happens tomorrow when they decide that list of criminal activities only has to be 5 long for you to be killed in the back of a van?

Or only 1 long?

Or just enough parking tickets?

When there are no checks and balances for those in power, that power gets corrupted.

It does not mean all people in power are corrupt.

It does not mean all those with a record deserve to die.

I have a record. Sealed. What happens when somebody decides that my immigrant status and my sealed record makes me a disposable human being?

Will y'all sit around and talk about how I deserved it?

I saw a meme today that is perfect for this:

Not every colored person is a criminal
Not every cop is a racist asshole

Some people of every color are assholes and criminals

We all need to be human, and attack it as humans, devoid of color, race, ethnicity ... can we do it in our lifetime or do I have to worry about my kid growing up in a divisive, racist, anti-humanistic society?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Things I remember

Daily dinners at 8 p.m. with the family, followed by television for an hour ... every day

Evenings spent in the front yard, playing card or board games with the family

Making quick runs to the neighborhood store for spicy snacks to have with tea

Birthdays and anniversaries celebrated with family friends we grew up with

Yearly vacations with the family to new places

Helping my dad clean the chicken we got at the butcher shop

Learning how to make a cake from my mom for the first time

Being encouraged to do whatever I wanted by my dad, to the incredulity of neighbors (because I am a girl ;-))

These are things I want Oli to remember when I am gone and he has his own kids to pass traditions on to.

Unlike me, he'll never be able to say he remembers a clean house ;-)

But I hope he can say he remembers eating all meals as a family

Snuggling on weekend mornings no matter what time we woke up

Seeing his parents at whatever activity he was in - swimming, gymnastics, baseball, soccer ...

Going on vacations to see new things and learning history

Having silly dance parties in the kitchen

Playing chutes and ladders, Uno or whatever game it is with his mom and dad

Singing to the radio while driving places


In the end, I hope he can tell his kids that his parents were there for him. That his childhood memories are of all of us together. Unclean house, piles of laundry not done, dirty dishes in the sink notwithstanding ;-)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The light in my future

After the slightly depressing post about my brush with racism, I thought it was time to have a more upbeat post. And since I just took a management style quiz, I thought that might be fun to talk about.

My chart looks like this:


So, according to this, my priorities are work are:
  1. Getting results and doing whatever it takes to get them
  2. Taking action and hitting the ground running
  3. Offering challenge and being straightforward
  4. Generating enthusiasm by maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude
Apparently, not all Ds have that number 4, but I can see that in me. I am usually a very outgoing person, so while I can 100% relate to 1-3, I can see #4 as well. I just have to figure out how to combine all 4 to be successful at work.

Even though this assessment points out my strong points, it also showcases things I need to work on if I am going to be an effective leader ever. It states that I can be annoyed with small talk, and people can tell if I am irritated. That's so true!!!

Another sentence that resonated with me was that "making an effort to meet people's emotional needs may require more energy than you're willing to expend." That is something I have to reconcile within myself. People I lead have emotional needs that cannot be left outside their cubes. Whether it be acknowledgement of their accomplishments or empathy for their situation, I need to learn to connect to people at that level.

I also like being in charge and I don't questions my decisions too often, having made them pretty quickly. I am also very competitive and quick to point out things that don't make sense to me, pushing for change.

My biggest motivations are innovation, implementing ideas, making key decisions, getting things moving and generating enthusiasm.

On the other hand, my stressors are following strict rules, inefficient meetings, slow pace, dull environments and a lack of control.

So, for me to be a good leader, I need to:
  1. Consider my words carefully to avoid hurting and shutting down others. I need to learn to apologize even when I unintentionally disregard or hurt somebody's feelings.
  2. Need to give people time to take in my suggestions, not accept their silence as agreement and give them a chance to share their concerns.
  3. Minimize wasted time and effort by spending some time up front to ensure accuracy instead of running after immediate progress.
The most interesting thing to me about this was that my style has apparently changed over the last 6 months.I like where I've ended up and I realize I might need to work on some things to be effective but I wouldn't change the basic characteristics of who I am.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The dark spot in my past

 
I say "the" dark spot as if there's only one. But, there's one experience in my past that I alternate between wishing it never happened and being grateful that I went through it and came out stronger. Because it helps me understand what others are still going through and suffer through daily. Folks who are made to feel less than human because of who they are, because of the color of their skin, because they don't look like people around them ...

There's a lot of back story I am going to skip because none of that matters to my story. In 1999 or 2000, I ended up moving to Tullahoma, Tennessee with a white guy (this piece of information is important to the storyline), in order to get myself back on my feet and not go crawling back to my family in shame (little did I know that might have been my best option but I was too proud ... ok, fine I was young and stupid).
My first indication of something being wrong should have been the way people would blatantly stop and stare at me. Or being ignored if I walked into a restaurant in front of the white guy I was with. Or, how people wouldn't really talk to me unless I was with him. Or, the way a cop talked down to me with a very hostile undertone, when I was at a store alone. He even asked me what I was doing in that town and who I was with. Think back to the last time you were asked that while picking up some groceries at your local store. And, I kept ignoring the signs. The truth finally came by, opened it's huge mouth and bit me in the ass the day I was arrested.

Have your jaws lifted yet? The white guy thought he would teach me how to behave by lifting a hand against me (don't worry, he's still alive and breathing somewhere, and if he isn't, it was natural causes). I didn't take too kindly to being hit. (I've left a lot of incidents out) I hit back and walked out. The neighbors called 911. Cops came. Took one look at me, another at the white guy and told me to come with them. I was shocked silent. The entire way to the police station, the 2 cops in the front of the squad car kept up a diatribe about their town going to hell with these "foreign types" moving in. How women and specially women "like me" not knowing their place. How this should teach me a lesson to control my mouth. I am documenting one incident in the span of 3 months where I probably heard something similar at least twice a week.

Thankfully, they let me make a call before trying to book me. I called my aunt in CA who told them that I'd be on the first flight out of their town the next morning, if they would just take me to a motel for the night. I couldn't be more grateful for whatever she said to them or how she found me a way out of that hell hole. I was just glad to get out of the police station where I was very well aware of all the hostile looks and comments being made. On the way to the hotel, I got a very nice lecture about how they hoped I'd learned my lesson. How I didn't belong there (like I hadn't gotten that message already). about how they didn't really know what I was anyways, was I mixed or something? And how they hoped they'd never see "my type" in their town again.

If you are a white male, I am sorry but can you even imagine that? Being treated worse than a family pet? As a woman of color, I alternated between wanting to do something that would definitely land me in jail or worse and just curling up and disappearing. Even thinking of those few months of my life makes my heart race, my hands colder and tears spring up in my eyes. I rarely speak of it because even now it has the power to make me feel ashamed, because I feel somehow that I did something wrong ...

I cannot imagine how as humans, we can treat somebody so bad that we don't see them as fellow humans. My ordeal wasn't even that bad, there are people who suffer worse ever single day, every single moment of every day because their skin color isn't lily white.

Racism is very much alive and thriving in every part of this country still, some places more than others. We have to identify it in our thoughts, words and actions. Stop joking. Stop ignoring. Start facing. Start confronting. Even if you are not racist, people around you are. Stop walking away. Societies don't change because a large group of humans suddenly rise up. It comes from individuals standing up one by one to create a large group speaking out against injustices.