Week 5: Reflection

23 October, 2021
This week, we focused on critical reflection and deliberate practice.

I have been in design for many years now. I gained a lot of knowledge through my journey from day one. After all these years, I have always known that design was my passion – I like solving problems, particularly ones that use technologies.

My first project was to create a delivery and order form at my first summer job. I originally designed a calendar view so that customers could see which dates were available. However, the developer who worked with me on the project insisted that a dropdown would be easier to implement. It would potentially create more invalid input as the customers would not immediately tell which dates would be available. I told my boss that I could try to implement that myself – I spent a weekend reading Active Server Pages for Dummies (2nd edition, 1999, by Bill Hatfield) and wrote the code for the page as I originally designed. Since that project, I landed my first full-time job and a title Web Designer/Programmer.

I wasn’t sure yet. At that time, quitting school was a good decision. I could have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree instead of an Advanced Diploma. But my boss encouraged me to work for a couple of years which she promised me that I would learn much more through real-world projects and experiences.

There was always something that triggered me and motivated me to change throughout these years.

I struggled in writing this week’s reflective journal. I wasn’t sure what I could write to answer the three questions asked.

  • Reflect on-action – What critical incidents led you to enroll in the course?
  • Reflect in-action – What critical incidents, if any, are you experiencing?
  • Reflect for-action – How are the first two points shaping your outlook for the future?

I started to do some research and found this D.I.E.P. framework[1].

  • Describe what happened
  • Interpret the events
  • Evaluate the effectiveness
  • Plan for the future

I followed this framework and completely rewrote most of my content in this post. I tried to reflect on my critical moment in my past years to answer the questions.

  1. Quitted my study and got a full-time job – I trusted my boss in my first job for career advice. She is still one of my go-to mentors. It was indeed a blessing to start my first full-time job and gain real-world experience. I had worked on so many different types of projects, ranging from companies of non-profit to Fortune 500. Those projects I was involved in had given me valuable knowledge and opportunities to advance in my career. However, after some years of agency works, I realized that my interest was in product development. One thing that was missing from my job was limited resources. The team was small, and I could not advance beyond one-off projects. I wanted to create version one, but I also wanted to learn from qualitative and quantitative data and iterate on the products based on user feedback.
  2. Moved away from agency works to in-house design – I wanted to focus my energy on evolving a product rather than creating something new in every single project. I joined Education First to help build their online learning platform. I loved the team there, and the job led me to different opportunities. I had access to a 50+ engineers development team to execute their new branding and revamp the design system. I got to work with other talented designers. I had the opportunity to do my first focus group with our users. As a website visited by millions of users a month, I learned how to use the data we collected. I also started to attend UX conferences to learn from others. I felt I could work there forever. One day, I got a call from Apple. As the biggest fanboy, I told my team that this is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for a company I admire the most. I was nervous because the job wasn’t about digital product design but customer experience. I had never worked in retail before. My gut told me that a successful company like Apple must know what they were doing. I finally made up my mind. At that time, I did not only quit my work at E.F. Education First, but I also quit my journey as a UX designer. For the first time, I left my comfort zone of something I believed I did great.
  3. Joined Apple to open their first retail store in Hong Kong – This one was unexpected. I got approached by their H.R. team because I was engaged actively in several online forums for Apple users. They never disclosed what position they were hiring for and didn’t even mention opening the first Apple Store in Hong Kong. My first day at work was on the plane en route to Cupertino for a month of training. I took the job because I admire Apple’s brand, products, and problem-solving philosophy. I thought whatever I would do in the company would gain my new knowledge. It also happened that I needed the break to rethink my career path. It was a great two years. I traveled a lot, learned a lot of secrets, and equipped myself with new soft skills that I thought I wouldn’t need. It was also the first time I was involved in customer experience. Looking back today, I didn’t realize how much these short two years have given me the opportunities to understand the value of listening to users. Understanding our users is essential to becoming a great UX designer. I wanted to go back to UX design.
  4. Got back to digital product design – After almost two years at Apple, I couldn’t stop thinking about getting back to UX design. Every day, I saw people using Apple products to get their work done in ways they had never thought of. Apple products saved their users’ time and inspired them to create. One day, I got approached by the Head of UX from jobsDB.com, a job search website in Asia. I believe I got hired as an Art Director was my initial visual design works early in my career. I knew this job would give me a window into the UX world. In the beginning, I focused on the new branding and design system redesign. Eventually, I got involved more and more on the product side to create a better experience for job seekers and employers. I started to build prototypes, conduct user researches and use different methods to generate ideas. Doing all these was to understand what users needed and create features that could help our users be more efficient at their work. I loved my mission and felt I get closer to Apple’s philosophy in product design. Users first, business second. If users like what you provide, they will give you business. On the other hand, if no users like your product, they will go for something else.
  5. The pandemic happened – The past two years have altered almost every aspect of our lives. My wedding got postponed, and I couldn’t fly back to Hong Kong to visit my family without additional quarantine or worry about returning to Japan. I could not hang out with my close friends as much as I wanted, and I adjusted myself to the new way to work remotely. The struggle was real, and it motivated me to think about how I could better equip myself to prepare for what could come next.

Now I have my answer to the first question: What critical incidents led you to enroll in the course?

The pandemic and the unrest events in Hong Kong had emotionally broken me. I didn’t know how the future would look like. I tried to think positively and see what I could do to equip myself for the next challenge better. Although I love my job and the mission to help people get jobs, I have also been in the same industry for almost a decade now. I needed some new things to help me think outside of the box and help me see-through. The flexible work schedule lets me learn new skills like playing the piano. This idea of learning something new motivated me to think even further, what else I could do to diversify my experiences. I came across this course because it was my dream to obtain a higher education qualification. I also got involved in a social impact project because I wanted to do more great things to help people.

All these had also exposed my weakness in time and project management. I realized I got involved in so many different things at a time. I started to doubt all of my decisions. Did I lose focus at my day job? Could I devote enough time to study? How about the social impact app? Weren’t they too much now?

And these are the answer to the second question: What critical incidents, if any, are you experiencing?

The past few weeks have been a struggle for me. My manager suggested using a personal kanban to help manage my projects and time. I created three personal kanbans, and each was to help me focus and prioritize my works.

For my day job:

Kanban board for my day job

For my study:

For the social impact app Socious:

Kanban board for Socious

The tool has helped me break down tasks, plan my next to-dos and meet deadlines. Although I am still behind in my study, I now know what I need to do next to catch up. The three kanban boards also made it easier to overview everything I needed to do and adjust my priority effectively.

Connecting the first two questions, I believe I had the answer for how the first two points shape my outlook for the future?

By probably managing my time and projects, I hope to maintain high confidence and quality in my day job, study, and Socious app side project.

This week’s challenge required me to take the theory from this week and apply it to the existing content in the journal. I would do it in 3 steps.

Step 1: Review each of the entries I created in my journal one at a time and tag each entry with the reflective domains: Dispositional, Affective, Interpersonal, Cognitive, Procedural

Dispositional Affective Interpersonal Cognitive Procedural
Week 1 🔴 🟠 🟡 🟢
Week 2 🟢 🔵
Week 3 🔵
Week 4 🟠 🔵
One tag Two tags One tag Two tags Three tags

Step 2: Tally up the number of times each reflective domain tag is used throughout the journal.

Besides week 1, it seemed that all the other entries lacked the structure to explain my thoughts. I felt I was writing to answer questions and had not dived deep enough into self-reflection.

Step 3: Review the content in my journal. Then, acknowledge entries that could be used to help formulate a SMART goal.

SMART Goal 1:
Being a few weeks late in my study, I will spend at least one additional hour each day on this module and complete the reflective journal by the due date.

SMART Goal 2:
To dive deeper into self-reflection and get the most out of this module, I will review all the future journal entries to make sure they will have the right balance of the reflective domains.

SMART Goal 3:
My previous journal entries lack citing and referencing. I will include at least 2 references in all future entries and start engaging more with other coursemates by participating in the discussions.

In conclusion, the introduction of SMART goals[2] got me thinking the most. As I previously reflected, I knew my weakness in project and time management would create some barriers to my study. I was a few weeks late behind schedule and that led me to rethink how I could adopt the SMART goals framework in addition to the Kanban I had set up to help me get through the coming months.

References:

[1]dlsweb.rmit.edu.au. 2021. REFLECTIVE WRITING: DIEP. [online] Available at: <https://www.dlsweb.rmit.edu.au/lsu/content/2_AssessmentTasks/assess_pdf/Reflective%20journal.pdf> [Accessed 20 October 2021].

[2]Parker, A. 2021. Reflective Writing – SMART Goals [online]. Available at: https://learn.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/240/pages/week-5-smart-goals?module_item_id=9167 [Accessed: 23 October 2021].

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