It's my pleasure to introduce Rachel Mercer to you. I first met Rachel during a workshop I ran with her team at Made by Many and she has been inspiring me through my connection machine (laptop) since. Rachel is Strategy and Innovation Director at @TheUpsideUK and co-founder @MyPullist. Her tweets are highlight of my feed and she lives up to her reputation as an unapologetic internet enthusiast and a feminist. Find out why she calls herself a full stack strategist here.
Here's what she has to say...
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?
I think a lot of my biggest lessons have been internally facing. As I mature and progress in my career I am getting better at identifying the people, environments, and energies that I need in order to be positive and productive.
My biggest learnings this year have been refining my perception of myself and my needs. For example, I previously thought that I simply needed bigger and better projects in order to be fulfilled at work, but in actuality I just needed more autonomy and space to think. I believe this has fundamentally changed how I approach my role and my day to day job.
What’s your burning question of the moment?
I'm really intrigued by developments like 'The Next UI is no UI' and how that is going to continue to shift my role moving forward. My career is not like that of my parents, where they've been consistently doing the same thing for 30 years, and their biggest shift is that they now have spreadsheets and e-mail. In the meantime, the software that I use is recycled at an ever increasing pace. The formats and contexts I design for persistently shift, and the windows of time that I'm optimising for are ever shrinking. Tried and true business models (such as the purchase funnel) are also experiencing upheavals and shifts. Now, maybe this is the anxious person in me, and maybe it's the dystopian futurist in me, but I have a lot of mind space dedicated to understanding and potentially identifying if, when, and where my redundancy will happen.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen / heard / read in last year?
Last year I took some time to read Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind (which also has a corresponding TED talk, for those who don't want to plow through 450+ pages) and I think for anyone working in Marketing, User Experience, Service Design, etc it's a really illuminating read. I love how it accessibly unpicks a lot of the biological rationale and motivations for how people behave. Especially concepts like the fact that humans in modern society have a series of shared 'myths' that they adhere to - whether religion, or money, or social norms. Also how those agreed 'myths' spread through a network or group. I found it to be a really inspiring and useful reference for my work.
What would be your one piece of advice to students out there?
I think it would be to try to cling on to who you are and what you learn as much as possible when you enter the workforce. Every organisation has it's own structure and ways of working that tend to be quite rigid, and I think the beauty of programmes that allow for group work really allow complete autonomy for teams to try and do what they think is right without the constraints of budgets, timelines, internal organisations, etc. I think part of the value that you bring to organisations is your freshness, your optimism, and your approach.
You can read the rest of my interviews with designers here...