Book Review: “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott

Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your HumanityRadical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before reading this book I felt I had some pieces of a big and difficult puzzle. While I read it I managed to validate this, but I also realized how incomplete my picture would have been had I known how to organize the pieces.

In other words, I understand better now where the practices and techniques I was putting into action fit in the vast and complex world of people’s management. More importantly, I learned a lot of new ones that I can try as I find the need to develop in an area or another with my teams.

The book was both rational, and emotional. I loved that. It gave me objective indications (of how much time to spend on something, or in where to start from with the areas to cover, for example), but also left space to use my intuition and reminded often that people are different, and difficult (or easy), contexts are also unalike.

As for the format: I went once more for an audiobook (this must be the fifth book I listen). I was not particularly happy with the voice of the author (she narrated herself), but as with Extreme Ownership, I quickly stopped paying attention to that detail and started being captivated by the lots of good lessons she had to share (and the voice was not as extreme as the ones in Extreme Ownership ;))

Another book I would like to revisit at one point – although I must confess I lately think too much about how short life is to revisit a book 😀

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Book review: “The User Experience Team of One” by Leah Buley

The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival GuideThe User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading this book when we were a small team of product managers and product designers in the job. Often finding myself stuck in how to go on about a problem, and seeing that product designers were always full of work, I wanted to learn some more specific things about UX that I could apply myself to help move forward things without waiting for someone who already knew how to do it. Doing research, sketching ideas, presenting results.

Suddenly the team around me started growing really fast, and very talented people were coming in to tackle the problems faster than it would have taken me to learn the best techniques to do it myself, so I abandoned it temporarily and focused on learning on the job, from real practice.

I am glad I came back to the book. While I don’t have the same urgency I did when I first chose it, I discovered the book is like a small treasure (or cheat sheet) that comprises a ton of practical techniques to do UX work, from problem definition, to delivering results. When I finished it, I immediately found myself applying at least three of the techniques, giving some of my work more meaning and structure than it had before I knew about them.

I am not a team of one. In fact, I think I am part of a privileged group that gets to work with people who have very clearly defined roles inside of the different areas that entail product (researchers, designers, data analysts). But I still benefited a lot from this publication. If you’re starting in product management or UX design, it will be really useful to get an overview and tips of how to go about certain things. If you’re experienced in this area, it can be a good way of getting an overview of big part of what your job entails and perhaps refresh some of the areas or skills you might have unintentionally let to rust or gather dust.

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“What did I learn today?”: On writing and self-reflection

Over four years ago I wrote a post in this blog with the title “What did I learn today?” (blog post written in Spanish). I started asking myself that question back then as a way of reflecting about my days at work. It was a period when I was embarking on a new career, so learning every day was an indication that I was making progress. But it was also a way of making sense of everything, as it very often felt I was just overwhelmed by the influx of things coming my way, and not actually absorbing any of it to be able to reuse it. I wrote the question on a notebook (paper, just the way I like it). Slowly the question started evolving into a wider set of questions used depending on the occasion: What did I enjoy today? How did I contribute today? What is making me feel frustrated? Why am I so positive?

My work notebooks

Doing this exercise helped me feel more relaxed. In the majority of the situations, I had the answers. I just had to take the time to reflect and find them. It also helped me plan, reducing anxiety in the process. It generated new questions, giving me purpose, keeping me engaged. If I did not have the answers, at least I started a thought process that would take me to them.

To date I keep on doing this. Sometimes monthly. Other periods daily. Mostly weekly. I still feel there is a lot of change in my life, and chaos comes and goes. It seems I like this constant change.

Being able to stop and reflect allows me to keep this lifestyle of change, without burning out in the process. It allows me to understand that even if I have not reached a goal, I have made progress towards it. It also warns me if I have stopped or slowed down on something I want faster. But it also tells me if I am biting more than I can chew. So it allows me to select what to keep and what to quit.

I do this in all areas of my life. I reflect about how my body is feeling, how is my relationship going, how are things with the family. Sometimes is just verbosity, because all I need is to vent out emotions, ideas or questions that have been keeping me trapped in my own head; other times is a very structural analysis of options, where I use rating systems and tables to make a decision. Each one when needed, and as it best feels.

Here are some tips to encourage this process of self-reflection, based on my own experience:

  1. Keep white spaces/pens/paper to write in the areas where you spend time working or reading or just chilling. For example:
    • A notebook on your desk or night table
    • A whiteboard (I have one at home)
    • Sticky notes
  2. Don’t let those moments of doubt, inspiration or eureka get lost in your thoughts:
    • Use Google Keep or Evernote to keep thoughts synced
    • User your phone memo app (if no internet)
    • Keep a notepad or other document type of app with a new file open in your browser tabs
  3. Book time in your calendar to remind you to take time to reflect and to actually do it
  4. Re-read stuff you have written in the past. It teaches you about who you were and who you’ve become (or if you haven’t changed that much, too) 🙂

Reflect. Be happy. Don’t ruin other people in the process.