I met Jonny Burch this summer at a brilliant event called People People; an event that exists to close the gap between teams that are changing the world, and the people who can unlock their potential, hosted by our mutual friend Genevieve Wastie. I admire the way Jonny is building Progression in an open and accessible way. I strongly believe the design community needs to spend energy and resource on designing tools that serve us and Jonny is doing just that. Progression is the first and only tool for helping designers and teams to develop and grow. So, if you’re currently trying to scale a design team with nothing that answers ‘what does ‘good’ look like?’, do take a look.
Here’s what Jonny has to say…
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?
Ooh, there are so many. This year I've dramatically changed what I've focused on, leaving a well paid full time job to bootstrap a tech company, which is not yet providing enough revenue to live on. So here are a few, based on building something new.
1. Building something new takes longer and is more complicated than you think it will be. Ensuring that I built contingency (in the form of freelance work) into my time plans has meant I've sacrificed a small part of my working week to earn enough to sustain the company. If I hadn't done that I may not still be going now, 9 months since my last full time pay check.
2. Lots of people gather with encouraging words and offers of help when you start something new. Not everyone follows through on that with action. Your closest allies, best mentors and biggest champions will come from directions you don't anticipate, and chances are you haven't met some of them yet. Don't resent those who haven't had as much time - remember when you were in their position? Did you help everyone you could?
3. If you've been earning well, it's possible that you don't need a large percentage of that money to survive. Think about (and test) what you really need and consider the risk you'd be taking by reducing your income to that level for a period of time. What might that allow you to do? Change career? Spend more time with family? Focus on your own health?
What’s your burning question of the moment?
The explosion of time spent on digital experiences has put a huge onus on the quality of the products that people are spending time on. The damage they can do to everything from mental health to bullying and political or social change is only now just being understood.
Right now, I'm focused on understanding how to untangle the set of learned skills and outcomes that make up a design career. Designers are fundamental in shaping a better world both on and offline, and in order to hold designers accountable for healthy habits, the component parts of their skill set need to be better understood and measured.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen/ heard/ read in the last year?
The two standout recent reads for me are 'Principles' by Ray Dalio and 'Grit' by Angela Duckworth . The former is a fantastic handbook for self reflection, beautifully designed and thoughtfully laid out for speedy reference. The latter reset how I thought about the necessary requirements for success in any aspect of life, and laid the groundwork for the thinking that resulted in my new business.
I also just finished 'Other Minds' by Peter Godfrey-Smith - a history of evolution with a focus on the Octopus, which the book describes as 'the closest thing to an intelligent alien that we will ever meet'. It's completely fascinating from beginning to end, and a fun (shorter) companion to Sapiens.
What would be your one piece of advice to students out there?
This is maybe a few related pieces of advice, for the first months and years of a design career
1. Your first decade is for you. Try things out, be comfortable failing and don't stick around in a job for a minute longer than the moment you stop learning. Make lists of the things you like to do, and take risks to do them more.
2. Ask for (pointed, specific) help and advice on your career and work from the people you admire. The worst that can happen is they don't reply, or say no.
3. If you don't have dependents, life is cheap, so don't chase money. There will be future decades of your working life in which you have lots of money, lots of financial commitments and far less freedom to take risks. Ignore friends on bigger salaries. Believe me, they'll be telling you how jealous they are of you in ten years time when you love your job and they're trapped in theirs.
You can read the rest of the profiles here. If you’d like to nominate someone or yourself to be part of this interview series please tweet me @redjotter. I encourage people who identify as women and people of colour to nominate themselves and I’d love to feature people who aren’t based in London.
#1 The Go Getterhttp://www.redjotter.com/redjotterblog/2018/11/13/61-the-mindful-designer