Turns Out, My Dog is Not Sick

Update from this post, written almost a year ago. Thanks to the stranger who liked the previous post, I wouldn’t have thought to update it without the notification.

Before we moved from our previous city, Fred was

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Handsome Fred

diagnosed with insulinoma, a particularly aggressive and always fatal pancreatic cancer rarely if ever, seen in small dogs. In our new city, our new vet concurred based on blood work and symptoms, and prescribed a daily dose of prednisone as a bit of a hail Mary to control the growth of the tumor. She recommended we do another round of x-rays six months after beginning the medication.

Pancreatic cancer spreads like mold, and that is what makes it so very dangerous and fast. Not only is it in the endocrine system which travels through our whole bodies, but it grows via thin filaments of cells that infect everything around the site and beyond, and we felt it was only a matter of time before it manifested elsewhere. We kept a close ear on his lungs and eating habits, and watched for other signs that it might have metastasized. In the meantime, we moved house in the spring of this year and set out to find a vet closer to our new place. Enter: The Best Vet on Earth. But let me back up and add the other crucial element to this puzzle.

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Puppy Ramona

This is Ramona, born to a mama she looks just like along with three sisters, in August of 2017. We had no intentions for a puppy, we planned to adopt via a Shih Tzu rescue that does a lot of work in Ohio. We wanted to find an older lady friend to keep Fred company in his twilight years and hopefully give him someone to snuggle with. The more we talked about an older rescue, and Fred who doesn’t love to share space (or me) all that much, began to talk about a puppy instead. We knew that aside from plants, we’d likely not raise a living thing from infancy and that’s a valuable experience in marriage and life. Plus, in what remaining time Fred had with us, he could mentor and shape a puppy to be mellow and sleepy like him, and help it realize how to be a great dog before he left his fuzzy mortal coil.

We introduced the prednisone to Fred’s routine around August, found Ramona shortly after, and by October, she was home with us. We spread Fred’s feedings out to four small ones a day and medicated him in hopes of keeping his blood sugar problems under control. We bought a glucose monitor on our previous vet’s recommendation, who showed us where on his paw to take the sample when he had his next low blood sugar fit, and we sat back and waited for it while we got Ramona used to her new home.

But that fit never came. The prednisone dosage was slowly lowered over those six months and shortly before we moved to a bigger place in a neighboring town, we had the second round of films done. Nothing. They showed nothing. No visible cancer, no spread, and a healthy heart, lungs, and liver. Fred was cranky because of the prednisone and new puppy, but they had no visual on an actual illness. They believed he was still sick however, in spite of whatever it was that looked like a tumor the year prior simply appearing gone. We were stunned. And confused. Hopeful, but not confident, we needed a second opinion.

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We found a new vet in our new neighborhood and took Fred in for a checkup, to see if we could take him off the prednisone altogether and if they viewed the films differently. They agreed, but took it a step further. Not only does he not have insulinoma, but he’s in remarkably good health for his age and knowing absolutely nothing about his history prior to when he came to us almost three years ago. They felt his glucose was on the low end of healthy, but could be managed with regular feedings and a slower lifestyle (he can’t get much slower, really). He came off the prednisone and his personality has slowly returned. He hadn’t given his tiny kiss-licks in months but there they were, carefully doled out and never too much or often, Fred was his selectively affectionate self again! Ramona piles into his space and knocks him out of the way regularly in acts we refer to as “puppy rude”, he growls and corrects her and sometimes she even backs off. She insists on snuggling with him, whether he likes it or not, and he’s slowly allowing it.

So here’s Fred, 10 years strong and three years part of our family, healthy and as happy as he can be, in it for (hopefully) the long haul.

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I Nuked* My Facebook Account

*Mostly. I know, I know, but wait. Lemme splain.

When the Cambridge Analytica stuff surfaced, it seemed like it was the final nail in a coffin that I’d been slowly building over the course of three years, in which to ultimately lay to rest my Facebook life. For too long I’d read the same memes posted by friends all across the country ad nauseam, I’d been privy to pointless and irritating beefs between people I both cared for and did not care for, endless MLMs from girlfriends I otherwise loved, that stupid dress debate, righteous as well as flawed soapboxes, unchecked-against-Snopes dire warnings, and a family member who never spoke to me unless he decided to fight me or one of my friends regarding a discussion being had on my wall (which is a lot like walking onto someone’s patio after not seeing them for a year and poking one of their guests, a stranger, in the chest).

I watched Zuckerberg sweat and robot his way through that hearing and the deep knowledge that the user is the product sat next to me and shook its head at what a sucker I’d been all those years. It was time, I was finally ready.

I composed a short but explanatory post why it was time (minus the family member call-out), that we as a society got by just fine without Facebook and could again, and asked people to get hold of me if they wanted to keep in touch through other channels like email or phone. I left the post up for 24 hours, collected some info and said some goodbyes (I wasn’t dying people, geez), then downloaded my data, deleted the app from my phone and tablet, and clicked “delete my account”. Naturally, it takes two weeks for Facebook to actually delete an account wherein the user has plenty of time to deeply regret their decision, wonder what they’re missing, and if everyone is somewhere without them having fun, and ultimately restart it.

About a week passed before I finally shook the urge to check the feed. I didn’t reach for the app first thing in the morning after waking nor did I browse the site before bed. I was blissfully unaware of the latest internet argument and I was very happy about that. Then, a few days later, I realized that I had conversations in Messenger that I didn’t want to let go (but I don’t use that app and the app I do use to check those messages requires a Facebook login), and that I was about to lose 90% contact with my in-laws, nieces, and nephews. I did some digging and found a Chrome plugin that would let me nuke as much of my wall, feed, info, photos, details, etc. en masse that I wanted to. I ran it for two days straight.

Then, after about a week and a half, I decided rather than get off Facebook completely, I would finish running the plugin then delete a huge portion of my friends list, change my name to something unfamiliar to anyone, remove all public information and photos, then pause my account for a week or so. Once I fired it back up again, my friends list would be mostly only those who I actually wanted to hear from and since I’d “unliked” so many pages, the ads in my feed would slow to a crawl and anything I wasn’t interested in seeing, would be very easy to unsubscribe from or delete. I took my friends list down from 565 to 160, and of those I really only see the same 25 people in my feed.

To say that I lost connection to the world would be an understatement. When we moved to our new state, we left almost everyone behind. We have two friends here, a couple I’ve known since high school, but that is it. It has become very clear that the majority of people in our lives were depending on our Facebook posts to keep them informed. The catch-up emails haven’t increased, the texts have remained basically the same, and the phone calls were never much to begin with.

Now, presuming the people we’re friends with and related to aren’t terrible, how does this happen? Does Facebook truly make people so lazy for connection that it becomes the sole means and without it, people not on the site are in fact out of sight and out of mind? My experience would say that yes, that is accurate. I’m not going to lie and tell you that it doesn’t sting (but it does help affirm the choice not to have kids, they’d be as isolated as we are and that’s not fair to them). When I lived alone, there were days when I wouldn’t see or speak to anyone and I’d realize that entire weekends would go by where I wouldn’t hear the sound of my own voice. I could have choked on a donut and died, and no one would have known until the stink became unavoidable for the neighbors. Living with someone legally bound to me takes that concern out of the equation, but not by a lot. We as a couple can go weeks without seeing the only friends we have here (I do not count my coworkers but it does help to have them), though I do talk frequently to the wife part of them. Now that I’m on Facebook very casually, it’s like keeping a toe in the pool at the very most and that toe isn’t enough to get me caught up in the soul-crushing fray it can be. It reminds me that some friends are more enjoyable in person than they are online. Being off of it calms my spirit, which is the best thing about the downgrade.

Leaving Facebook has inspired me to check in far more frequently with friends and loved ones who perhaps don’t check in with me as much as I’d hope. We’re all responsible to reach out to each other and keep in touch. In the effort of being the change I’d like to see in the world, I’m reminding myself that connection is never on just one person, and feeling cranky that someone isn’t speaking to me a lot is when I realize that maybe I need to speak to them first. If they don’t return the volley, then I guess Facebook is the weakest Band Aid that most of us rely on these days to be our tie that binds, and sometimes it’s good to step back.

Here are my tips a peaceful coexistence with Facebook:

  • If you find it’s affecting your life in unhealthy ways, scale back. Check it rarely, contribute even less. This fends off targeted ads and cuts down on vapid interactions (and arguments). Remember that you met people and had relationships outside of Facebook once upon a time, and you will again.
  • When you see in the reminders it’s someone’s birthday, text or call them your wishes instead of putting it on their wall
  • When you realize you haven’t seen or heard from someone who you know is on Facebook, email, text, or call them to check in. Don’t post to their wall or message them in the app.
  • If someone posts that they’re having a hard time, reach out in a way that doesn’t use the app. Make sure they know you’re thinking about them and that you care. 59 “hang in there!” posts on a wall don’t equal a direct text or call. That goes for any news be it weight loss or the death of a pet. Nothing equals direct contact.
  • Keep track of birthdays and important dates in your preferred calendar, don’t rely on the app to tell you what’s coming up.
  • Educate yourself about things happening in the world from difference sources, don’t use the Facebook bubble to find out what’s happening out there. If you don’t already get daily emails from news sources in your email, sign up. If you don’t know who to trust, consult this handy chart:Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 4.45.59 PM

Facebook is not the devil. It’s a useful tool for contact and communication, but that’s only realistically, about 10% of its intent. I truly believe that in order to use it the way at least I think of it, as a way to keep in touch with far flung friends and family, the less personal information and companies or products “liked”, the better. I don’t believe there is a hack for the site, I think if you’re on it, they’ve got you tracked and numbered.

There are better ways to be human and connected to one another though, and putting electronics between each other isn’t it.

Covering Bases, Looking Out

Last we spoke, I had just accepted a job for which I felt highly unqualified. They still wanted me for some reason though and against all logic, I accepted. That was in January. I was hired along with a more experienced counterpart and together, we took on the task of rebuilding some external sites for a national retailer and its five brands, simultaneously. It was a tall order and we are frequently frustrated, to tell you the truth. We battle old ways of thinking, fear of change, and lack of true leadership that will lay the hammer down on problem children. I am not yet at the point of throwing my hands up and allowing the frustration to color all my days, I’m still learning and being part of a solution is why they brought us on. But sometimes, you have to look beyond your immediate situation at whatever might be coming at you from the side, front, behind, or beneath. Cover your tush, girl.

“I’m sure these are growing pains”, or “I’m sure this will get better”, are mantras we repeat daily, sometimes hourly, when things seem like they’re going in circles or not at all. At some point, that mantra can shift to a darker, more cynical, “This place sucks”, or “…Typical”, depending on how far you go.

My counterpart, let’s call him A, is more experienced than I am in the mighty ways of UX Architecture, this much has been clear from the beginning. He has the lingo down pat, he seems to know exactly what the next steps are in any situation and moreover, knows precisely how everyone is failing at success and he is not shy to point it out. Being somewhat new in this branch of UX, I cannot help but be impacted by the verbal shrapnel his criticisms fling in all directions. I began to see the company we work for as confused, floundering, barely run effectively, and full of idiots. Except for us, of course.

I did not like feeling this way and began to resent going to the office every day and seeing him sitting there, apparently just waiting for me to show up so he had someone to complain to. I found myself wondering why he’d stay, we’re contractors after all and it’s not like the people who put us in our jobs want someone who is miserable, to stay there. It reflects poorly on their choices of candidates and hinders their abilities to place more people in the future. They’d rather work with the unhappy worker and find them something new than allow them to stay on, potentially poisoning a well.

A month ago or so, after I found myself nodding through gritted teeth at yet another gripe session, I pitched the idea to our boss that we split up and work independently. Not only would it keep stakeholders happy to see us working on their projects at twice the pace, but in theory it would give me a break from this constant complainer, who was beginning to deeply affect how I felt about the employer too. I wasn’t ready to be bitter and resigned, I needed something to work for and take joy in.

My boss agreed and split us up to do work on a project or two each at the same time, and while that worked well for a month or so, it wasn’t long before we were back at the same desks or offices together, every day, complaints flying. Eventually I looked at A and asked if he was job seeking elsewhere. He seemed momentarily startled and glanced over his shoulder to see who might have overheard the question (no one, I made sure before asking).

The floodgates opened. Yes, he said, he had been looking but it turned out that “no one can afford” him and the cost of living in our city, he felt, was too high (it is not, I assured him, I just moved from a city with disproportionate COL:income), so a pay cut isn’t an option.

I began to notice a pattern with A. He talked a very, very good game but mostly, I realized, he’s full of crap. I figure that he has everyone snowed, convinced that he is deeply needed, very important in the UX scene, and knows more than anyone in the room (or anyone he works for). I took a step back and looked at the work he was doing, his bad relationships with our stakeholders, and then saw something I had been too intimidated by his touted experience to see previously: I can do the work he’s doing just as well, if not better, and people like working with me.

This revelation brought about two things. One, a new sense of confidence that I was no longer phoning it in or secretly faking it until I made it, because I was making it, and two, the company doesn’t actually need two people to do this job. We could do it with one UX Architect to work with the stakeholders in discovery and ideation sessions, and one dedicated UI designer to handle the wireframes and prototypes. With that team, maybe we could finally embrace an Agile system instead of waterfall, where we currently hope and pray things fall into place as we go.

On day last week I had lunch with a friend who works at our office and who also happened to work previously with A. I explained to him my frustrations working with A and his constant negativity, and told my friend about an idea I was rolling around: If A left the position like he’s been threatening to do, and they took it down to one Architect, it would save the company money while also eliminating a presence that is becoming increasingly cancerous to the process.

My friend encouraged me to speak to my boss. I told him it felt underhanded and a little sabotage-y but he replied that A is not shy about how unhappy he is, the problems he sees with the company as being unfixable, he comes in late daily, and expresses frequently his frustration with stakeholders through passive aggressive comments and eye rolls. The writing is on the wall for those willing to see it. So after lunch, I went to my boss’s office and said that if, and I don’t know anything for sure or have any concrete evidence, but if A would not renew his contract when it expires in July, that I feel the UX Architecture part of our team could be handled by me and a dedicated UI designer. I explained that having a designer would free me up to work with the stakeholders, which is all they really want, and would push Agile into a potential reality. That’s it. He didn’t ask for more information or proof, he nodded, looked intrigued, and left me with… I would describe it as… an optimistic “alright”.

Was it the right thing to do? Was I throwing my hat into a non-existent ring? Would they take my idea seriously and let me do it myself or would they get a more seasoned Architect in there to co-work? I have no idea. I can say that the company does not excel at stellar financial decision-making and they tend to think spending money is a failsafe against failure. But I know that I have my boss’s support in most anything that I do, and in spite of my own misgivings about the company’s future as a whole, I know that I can do the job and do it well. I will rise to the challenges and forge ahead with the solid and promising stakeholder relationships that I’m building.

I do keep my eye on the job boards, for my contract also expires in July and it would be unwise to presume anything about anything, but it feels better having made what some might consider a “power play” than simply waiting to see what might be around the corner. If nothing else, it has set me apart from my coworker, who only ever seems to be about the complaints where as I want to be part of a solution.

One Door Closes, A Yacht Pulls Up

Grab some coffee, this is a long one.

As some of you may know, I’ve been in UX for a little over two years but had been a team of one except for the three-month contracted gig that just ended. I paused the search for the Christmas/New Years break then applied for UX positions with two international retail brand companies and went on interviews for both. I was contacted by two different recruiters and worked with them through the process.

Company A interviewed me for a straight across the board UX Designer role on an established team, with processes in place and systems to follow. The interview went well and my recruiter thought I’d have an offer that day or early the next day.

Company B interviewed me for what I thought was the same role but after speaking to the Sr., he passed me to his boss, the VP of Digital, and head data analyst. Suddenly, they were speaking to me about a position that didn’t closely resemble what I thought I was there to discuss and when I asked for clarification, they said there were two positions and wondered if I was interested in the other (more of a strategist/architect role, less hands on design). I left confused since it was so far from what I thought I was there for, and called my recruiter immediately to get more information. He was also confused.

It turned out that they felt so strongly about my personality, portfolio offerings, and demeanor, that they began to push hard that I be considered for the strategist/architect role instead, a role they hadn’t made public or informed the recruiters about. No one had ever mentioned such a career track to me previously, I didn’t think it was worth considering given my lack of head down, team-based UX design time, and thought surely company B was delusional and, frankly, wrong. My portfolio is full of wireframes and user flows, which I’ve now come to find out are far less common than finished work featuring mostly UI (particularly user flows, which have always been a strong suit of mine).

Company A’s offer didn’t come same-day and I reached out to the Company B recruiter to ask if I could go back to Company B and further discuss the opportunity, since I truly couldn’t understand why they’d be so interested in me for a created position I didn’t feel at all qualified for. I met with the VP again, got a tour, met some of the team I’d be working with, and we got a chance to have a transparent, honest conversation about my misgivings as well as the other interview I’d had. He was beyond encouraging, said that in speaking with me felt that I was the exact person and personality match they were looking for, and felt they wouldn’t find another person that ticked all the boxes they had in mind for the job. I left that meeting with an unofficial offer, and the official offer came later that day.

My concern is warranted, I’m not blind. I am particularly worried that I’m skipping over potentially years of hands-on experience before walking into a company or two and helping them with theirs. Company B insists I will not be alone, I’ll have all of their support plus a Project Owner counterpart, and since it’s a created position, we can build it as we go.

I accepted the role and let Company A’s recruiter know that if things had been equal, I’d have accepted theirs. There, it would meant real time put in doing the work, solid experience, the safety of tested methods, and after a year or two I’d have likely moved onto another company. I worry that an elevated position such as this, a specialty-within-a-specialty will make it harder to find something comparable when I leave it.

But the hesitation was coming from somewhere beyond the professional voice; it was personal. Not so much impostor syndrome doubts, but more the kind I felt when D pursued me hard and I wondered, “Why me? What does he see in me that is such a big deal?” Followed with a little bit of, “Why do they want someone without all of the experience who would probably do better and not screw things up?” All of the self confidence that I have, I have mustered or worked to see and feel, it does not come naturally to me. When things like this happen, I narrow my eyes and look for the anvil. I’m working through that though, I won’t let it get me.

Ultimately, in spite of my misgivings, I took Company B’s extreme confidence in me into account and chose to take the risk of an unknown quantity (in terms of established processes) rather than go the safe route. An opportunity like this would have taken many more years and a dozen connections in my old city, I felt I couldn’t let it pass. So I have 10 more days of quiet couch, baking, dog, husband, and errand time, then a trip to New Orleans, then I dive into the unknown.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Cake.

It’s my last day doing UX at the bank. My heart actually aches to leave, which is perhaps the strangest sensation I’ve ever experienced at a place of business. Usually it aches to see coworkers still bubbling around restaurants I visit after quitting, or when social media tells me they’re all out together wherever we used to spend time after shifts. In this case though, it’s the sadness of knowing I might never have this same team dynamic, caring director, or encouraging environment again. Me. Missing coworkers in an office. That has never happened, in all my years of working in offices.

I had a phone interview recently that went very well and in spite of a few red flags that popped up as I learned more about the company’s needs, they want me to come in for an on-site interview next week. It is located well east of town, at least a 35 minute drive but likely more in rush hours (which is off-putting, I’ll admit, I’m spoiled with a 15 minute commute now). I have four more resumes out there and no rejections from them yet, so next week may prove to be a busy one for fielding what may come. In spite of red flags, I don’t feel like I can pass up any opportunities. I need all the experience in many fields and ways of working as I can get, after all it’s my lack of experience that’s preventing me from staying at the bank (as far as I know).

If you’re new to UX and are a team of one, my advice to you is to get out and get on a team ASAP. Knowing how to work on a structured team is more important than skills, in a lot of ways.

It’s really an amazing thing, growing up and getting healthy in the head. My work environments have been largely unhealthy. They’ve been either very passive aggressive, non-communicative, had no boundaries and procedure, or had poor leadership. What I’m leaving is the opposite of all of that, and that’s hard to walk away from. I keep thinking about that whole “better to have loved and lost” thing but I’m not so sure. I realize this place is a rarity on all fronts and I just don’t think I’ll find it out there in the world so easily.

That translates also to some of my friendships, now that I have a chance to look at them from a distance. A friend, acquaintance really, was in town last night for a musical gig. I was a maybe for attendance but as I felt the pangs of friendly obligation to support, I also realized that this friend never speaks to me except for the one weekend a year that we see one another. Matching effort for effort, I decided to stay home. I have no idea if that makes me a jerk, but it feels like the right thing to do, in light of how some of my relationships have changed since our move out of state. It’s good to put the best efforts into things that will feed us and that ideal lead me to part ways with the recruiters who found me my first few jobs here in town. Their behavior at times was unprofessional at best and made them liars at worst. The frustration wasn’t worth it and with that in mind, I head back out into the world of job searching with new recruiters and a new list of what to look for, ask, and seek to find.

Wish me luck and happy new year to you.

Adapt or Die (or, just go out of business)

Since moving to Ohio seven months ago, I finally switched my physicians over and have been scheduling checkups where needed. I made an optometrist appointment after living with some noticeable lag while trying to focus near to far, and had a bit of difficulty driving at night. I knew what it likely meant. I was informed by my new eye doctor that I need “progressive lenses” (aka: bifocals). I spent about three days mourning for my youth while staring at the estimate for the new spectacles given to me before I left the office.

The estimate was $664. That’s frames and lenses with a generous 20% discount for being uninsured, though these days the nicer way physicians word that is, “self-pay”. The frames came to about $245 and the rest is the charge progressive lenses. I sat in shock for some moments for a few reasons, declined the offer to get started on them right away, thanked the office workers for their time, then set out to price compare.

I went home and told D how much they were asking, at which point he immediately set out to find the same frames for cheaper while encouraging me to shop online for everything, lenses included. Now, while I understand the economy of that decision, I don’t mess around when it comes to healthcare and would always rather see a doctor for anything major (particularly regarding eyesight and glasses fit, since I stare at a computer 40 hours a week plus many hours at home after that). I knew I’d want to sit in front of someone at some point to make it all happen, though preferably a cheaper someone.

In the meantime, my new doctor updated and strengthened my existing prescription and switched me to disposable contact lenses (sorry, Earth), and they seemed to make all the difference in my near-to-far focus adjustment and night driving clarity. During my two week follow up, I let him know I was seeing much better and wanted to hold off on the progressive lenses, and he agreed. They prepared a new adjusted estimate for the frames and single-prescription lenses which came to $434, with the discount. Still not great.

I hit the internet with a fury, there’s no way I would be paying full price for the frames, especially when you find out that brand names have zero bearing on the pricing structure. I eventually found them for $91 and following some sage advice, stopped by Costco to get a quote on the lenses. They charge $18 for supplying my own frames or rather, not buying theirs, and another $65 for lenses which include a good anti-glare coating and strong lens material. When my frames arrive, I’ll be taking my paper prescription over to my nearby Costco and putting in the order. My doctor’s office by the way, was fully prepared to hand over my prescription with their blessing that I shop around.

I felt guilty though. I knew I’d be using (well ok, paying) them for the resources and knowledge, then taking that elsewhere. I can’t articulate the guilt other than to tell you what it felt like when customers came into a shop I once worked at, tried things on and asked all the questions, then told us as they left the store empty-handed, they’d be buying the items online for less. I mean, we all do it but no one says it. Shopping online for the glasses felt cheap and a little tacky to be so forthcoming about my intentions to buy elsewhere, for the contacts too. But there they were, printed prescription with doctor’s signature outstretched, ready to hand the information over so I could totally circumvent their invoices.

The question now becomes, why on earth haven’t brick and mortar stores kept up with this online pricing structure? Sure they have staff to pay and rent but even so, why keep an assistant staff of seven daily plus two doctors, in a nice brand new office with tens of thousands of dollars worth of frames and contact supplies, just waiting around for the next sucker to not do their research and pay full price? Why is the consumer expected to pay all of that overhead, when they can receive the very same product for $400 less online? Are these stores being funded solely by the older generation or less tech-savvy people, who would rather entrust such a huge amount of money for a personal touch? Likely.

In my profession as a User Experience Designer (or Interaction Designer if you wish) efficiency and ease of use are our primary goals. Make sure the user knows exactly what to do on a website, find what they need, complete the process, and walk away without anger or retribution in his or her heart. When something isn’t working, it screams at us for a fix. Its waving hand stretches above the waves and begs for a better life preserver.

Were it my office, I’d pare down to a small shop with night and weekend hours (because unlike the old days of the family optician, everyone works and can’t always take time off for daytime appointments), keep a small staff to intake and assist, very limited frames in stock, and offer some deals for online purchases. Keep the overhead down, keep the cost to consumers down; forgo the waiting room Keurig for a more affordable way (especially for the “self pay” sort). Swim with the changing tide.

Costco has managed all of that but the online purchasing (though I’m sure they do that too). They have managed to work with a small staff, have limited frame options, and are able to roll the traditionally ridiculous cost of eyewear into the overall cost of doing business, to save their members a mint while still having a real doctor to sit in front of and speak to.

When I work at home, I sit next to D in our shared office and I listen to his UX struggles. I listen to his reactions to users who aren’t experiencing clear navigation through the site that they need (that they are paying for) and frustrated, are left to ask for support. I listen as the owners and managers make less-than-informed choices regarding better, clear UX and UI. I think about what an amazing time we live in, and how UX and UI are still so very misunderstood that a definition barely exists, and changes from person to person, depending on the position they fill or seek to fill. Its importance is rising to the surface like a bulb that was flickering and then is suddenly dialed in to illuminate the problems AND solutions. It is, in its own way, creating an informational revolution. Designers are holding the pitchforks and torches, waiting for the decision makers in the high towers of companies and industries to finally get with it and make the changes that ever faster must be made before their customers jump ship to competitors, with almost no thought. If the grass is greener, it’s because that house has a dedicated experience designer in it.

I Typed Too Soon (update – 3 updates!)

Here is an update to this post.

Yesterday about five minutes before a project review meeting with my counterpart, I received an email from my recruiter letting me know my contract wouldn’t be extended. I sat down a little shellshocked, particularly because my recruiters seemed so sure I’d be staying through April. My counterpart is also a contractor, though she’s been there for a long time and is in talks with HR to join the team as staff. I confided in her right away that I hadn’t had my contract extended and we talked about it for half an hour, before even touching our work. She ended our meeting with a hand on my shoulder and her sincere empathy.

The UX team welcomed me not as a temporary contractor, but as another team member. They included me on lunches, events, meetings, jokes, and research outings. We’ve connected, had great conversations, I am learning so much. But now it’s coming to an end sometime in the next two or three weeks. After I read the email I was, for the first time in a long time, heartbroken.

To be honest, at some point in the last week I started to get the feeling that I wouldn’t be staying and tiny as the feeling it was, began to prepare for the disappointment. The signs were there: My project meetings had been pushed off and cut short, I wasn’t invited to design sprints and concept exercises, the time and attention from others that I needed in order to successfully do the work I’d been assigned wasn’t there, and something told me not to upload my photo on the team Trello board until the extended contract had been drafted and signed. I did sign a congrats card or two but I didn’t chip in for the gifts.

They brought me in to cover for someone who was on leave while dealing with Visa issues, “for a few weeks” which turned into a few weeks more, then the option to be extended. I was a band-aid from the start, and I didn’t realize how advanced the work would be that I was dropped into. In fact, it wasn’t until yesterday’s meeting, four weeks into my contract, that key components of procedure and resources were finally shared with me. In the interview, my now-manager complimented me on the wireframes in my portfolio but when I worked the same way for the assigned project, was told they weren’t done in company style (“There’s a company style?” she asked, confused). In fact, during yesterday’s meeting with my coworker, she showed me for the first time, some procedural site design style sheets I’d never seen in the three weeks I’d had the project; key elements to succeed in the assignments they gave me were missing for weeks and no one thought to show me how they do the work. They’ve dropped the ball during my time there, it hasn’t been all rainbows and bon bons, but I was so thrilled to be there, I forgave and smiled.

Last week I was invited to a group lunch to welcome the newest (permanent) hire and in the invitation, I was included as part of the new blood. My gut told me not to go and celebrate, so I let the lunch planner know that my future was yet unclear and I felt uncomfortable being welcomed if I was leaving. Good thing because as I saw the group walk down the hallway to exit the building, noticed one of the directors was in attendance, and she surely must have known about the email I had yet to receive, since she’s been out of office on recruitment lunches for a week and a half. How foolish I’d have felt had I gone, only to return to that email.

I was seeing a fantastic therapist for about a year before we moved out of Chicago. I will readily admit it, I think therapy is great when you find the right person. I’d seen a few before and they never challenged me or held up a mirror in the way I needed, until her. She was truly great and I miss her so much, there is a lot I wish I could talk to her about.

In our sessions, she helped me to realize that I often keep one foot in the cynical world no matter the situation, so I can never be shocked when something crappy happens. At the same time however, when that crappy thing does happen, I beat myself up with something that sounds a lot like, “I should have seen that coming, I’m an idiot for letting myself get excited about ____”.

This was no different. I immediately felt foolish going on about how thrilled I was at the job, and how much I looked forward to work after years, YEARS, of never feeling that way. It was everything I wanted: casual dress, a short commute, frequent and authorized work from home, a warm and excellent program director, and friendly coworkers I actually wanted to hang out with. I tweeted about it, posted a job change to Facebook, bought a new laptop bag. Then… poof. I tried my best to keep the evil voices out that afternoon, “You’re terrible at UX and they don’t want you”, “You should go back to graphic design”, “You should have seen this coming and not gotten so attached”, and while my recruiter insists it’s a budget decision, that they can’t spend to keep me longer, and they only want senior level UX Designers for the team which I am not yet, that’s only a small consolation. There’s literally nothing I can do about my skill set, though I am trying to get better (and I have my opinions about ditching excited and skilled junior staff for the sake of habit-established senior) and I can’t help a budget.

Today, I decided to work from home and give myself a mental break. I’m updating my portfolio and resume, I’m sifting through recruiter emails and LinkedIn jobs, and all the while I just feel… sad. Just sad.

Update #2

Great news, friends! I asked my manager if I could make the Wednesday before Thanksgiving my last day rather than work the day after, when the office would be empty. She didn’t respond but rather, asked for a meeting so we could discuss it.

My recruiters had no information for me, surprise, so I walked in prepared for a long, drawn out reason for their not keeping me. I was extremely pleased to find out that not only did my manager never stipulate an end date to my contract, but that she and her boss, our director, were pissed when they heard my recruiters extended a possible offer in the first place. My contract was always open-ended, and she never implied otherwise. So after much discussion it was clear that after this gig is over, I would not retain my recruiters’ services.

My manager was clear to tell me they like the work I’m doing, like me as a person, and want me around through end of the year. So my contract was extended and I made sure to be paid for the two calendar holidays, I’ve been given a project that should carry me close to the end of the time, and it will benefit the team and those who come after. I look forward to work and am sad that my time with the team is ending, though not nearly as heartbroken as I was when I was under a false assumption.