It may surprise you to know that no, I actually don’t enjoy ranting and swearing on twitter. I’m a UX professional by trade. All I really want to do is design effective experiences for non-evil companies and work with non-asshole people who make me better at what I do.
I’m also a cishet, white, well-educated woman. I occupy an incredible place of privilege. This is important to state. Because I have it really, really well compared to a lot of people. Really, fucking well.
Right now, I am appalled at what is happening in this country. I am angry, I am frustrated, and I am heartbroken, and I don’t know what to do. I go to marches. I support campaigns of progressive politicians. I try to be an ally although I fear I’m not that great at it. It’s something I’m working on.
But back to UX.
As someone who ended up in UX through happenstance and a bit of serendipity, I’m primarily self-taught. I can honestly say I had no fucking idea what I was doing when I got started, but I would reach out to other professionals in this community and every single one was so generous with their wisdom, their time, their advice. I remember the first time I went to both MWUX (Grand Rapids, 2013) and the IA Summit (Minneapolis, 2015), and I felt like I had found my people. I had found my tribe. I felt validated. I found community.
Even though I don’t think I had ever given a talk at a professional event at that time, I made it my goal to speak at both those events. I was honored to present “Taming the Enterprise” at both those events in 2016/2017, and then “Why Do We All Suck at Collaboration” in 2017/2018.
In case you didn’t know, the latter of those talks would be considered, in some circles, “political”. In all honesty, I was terrified the first time I gave it on stage at MWUX 2017, because it was the farthest I’ve pushed myself outside my comfort zone. All I can say is it was the talk I knew I HAD to give. And then, my fears were realized. I did, as expected, upset at least one and probably more people for my language and for being political.
I will spare you the details of the existential angst that caused, and tell you what got me through it: the incredible amount of support I got from the rest of the conference attendees, from the conference organizers, from the conference founders. They gave me strength, and they told me to keep going.
So, I did. Instead of dialing it down, I turned it up to 11. That talk became my love letter to my professional community. My angry, frustrated, hopeful, determined love letter.
And I started to realize something. This is my thing. This is the thing I can do. This is how I can maybe make a tiny bit of difference. It isn’t enough, but it’s what I have. And I felt a little less powerless. In my community, I was finding my voice, and in my community, I was finding the courage to use it.
But something is now happening in my community, and just like what is happening in my country, it is breaking my fucking heart. Twice this week, we’ve had some weird ass shit going on with the Codes of Conduct for two of our leading industry organizations. I still don’t consider myself an industry insider, and I have no idea what either of these groups were thinking, but I’m truly concerned about what these actions, and particularly the complete lack of transparency around those actions, indicate about the direction our industry is heading. As someone who is a self-proclaimed expert at making mistakes, I am generally extremely forgiving, but, for lack of a better word, these mistakes seem…egregious. Actually, the response from the organizations involved (or more appropriately, the lack of a real response) leads me to believe that these were not, in fact, mistakes. They were intentional, and they were done to protect privilege.
And so. I have to make a choice. I have a career to think about. Every twitter rant, every talk I give that challenges the audience, pushes them out of their comfort zone, every time I have to ask detailed questions about the Code of Conduct when I’m invited to speak somewhere and potentially decline opportunities to make a statement…those are a threat to my career. (Although…given my recent twitter activity, that ship has probably sailed…)
And then I remember both my privilege and at the same time how powerless I have felt for the last two years. And I think about all the incredible people in this community who have so much more to lose than I do, and I think about all the amazing potential people we are alienating, and I ask myself how I can best fight for what is beautiful and wonderful in this community.
I’m getting rid of the safety net. Screw it. I say burn the mother fucking bridges down. This is wrong. This Code of Conduct bullshit is wrong. What it says about the direction of our community is wrong. I know this community. This is not who we are.
Burn it all fucking down.
I’m going to continue to express my anger and my outrage, because there are too many people feeling the same thing who don’t have the platform to do so. If this is where the profession is heading, there’s not a career here I want to save anyway.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep working on talks that help us navigate this bullshit. The next one will be about facilitating a practice of courage, and you can see it at MWUX in Chicago. My guess is you won’t see me again at the IA Summit/Conference.
I meant what I said at the end of my talk at the IA Summit this year: you are my tribe. I love you, you beautiful geeks. I’m not fighting with you. I’m fighting for you.