Preface: This is the long of it. If you want the short of it - check out my LinkedIn. Essentially, I'm a designer, researcher, facilitator, and agent of authentic change all rolled into one. I've worked with startups, nonprofits, ad agencies, and massive household brands in the US & Europe. This is a story about why I care so very much about transformation and empathy in our workplaces.
Learning the need to control
When I entered college, I studied psychology at Berkeley because I wanted to learn about people - and at the core of it, I wanted to understand myself better. I came from a very rigid family background in which I had little space to explore or express my own deeper self. I always believed that I could use the study of other people as a lens through which I could facilitate self-learning.
I began the journey to comprehending my own mental models, and the subconscious forces that affected my behaviors. At Berkeley, I studied the effect of environmental factors, genetic heritage of mental illness in the family, neurochemical effects on behavior and mood, autonomic cognitive processes, how our brains process perceptual information, societal norms, gender norms, likelihood of mental illness or negative life outcomes, and more. I worked as an academic researcher for a few years after college and co-authored papers in psychology journals, but didn’t feel satisfied. Looking back, I think I understood myself and others around me better from a scientific perspective, but not a human one.
Lured by the promise of creating impact, I quit and joined a small startup across the bridge in SF. It was there that I learned about human centered design, or as it was more commonly being leveraged in tech: as user experience design. Human centered design resonated with me as a human lens through which I could understand people, and I began working as a UX designer. However I quickly grew tired Silicon Valley culture, which at the time I felt reflected many of the manipulative and punitive attitudes I was trying to get away from. I've since then learned that I carried that scarcity mindset within me and that by changing the way I interact and contribute to the world, I change the culture around me.
Back to my time in the Bay - I decided it was time once again to change my context and see what I could learn. This time, I wanted to make a much bigger adjustment than ever to jump start some serious personal learning. I flew across the globe to Stockholm, Sweden and spent the next 7 months fully immersed in Hyper Island's full-time course in design thinking and management.
So - I began my journey thinking that I could use the study of other people as a lens through which I could learn more about myself. At Hyper, I realized that in a way, I had been right. Hyper only taught me how to truly listen.
I went in thinking I would learn to become a digital designer, and came out wanting to help align teams and organizations with an empowering purpose, self-awareness, and the drive towards authenticity and fulfillment of our deeper selves. At Hyper, my learning was built off of the Swedish Armed Forces' theory of Understanding Group and Leadership (UGL), the psychology of people when exposed to the threat of change, and the foundational principles of human needs and behaviors in groups.
I was given feedback about rigid behaviors that I carried over from previous mental models on work and interpersonal relationships and how they negatively impacted my teammates and friends. I realized that I had internalized the systems and behaviors of misaligned and dysfunctional organizations of my past. It was a painful education, far away from home - but I came out of it wanting more feedback as a tool for exponential personal growth. I began to embrace my growing self-awareness and purpose.
Journey to unlearn
At Hyper, I studied the tools offered to us, including models of effective feedback, personal leadership modes, conflict management behaviors, stages of team development and organizational design. I studied nonviolent communication and realized its power in altering psychology and perspective, how it speaks to the compassion and empathy in myself and those around me. We worked in completely flat and self-managed, cross functional teams. It was incredibly hard to adjust to this way of work, and the struggle to balance our fear of inadequacy in ourselves and others, with the true freedom to do whatever we thought necessary or valuable, never ended. However, what we did gain was the responsibility and space to engage in problem solving in ways that was the most fulfilling way of work I have ever experienced. This is where I first began to experience the power of facilitating authenticity, trusting in collective intelligence, and seeing the good intentions of people in workplaces that are not set up to serve life.
I've learned to believe in the power of developing self awareness on all levels. From individual to organizational - I believe understanding how we affect those around us is the key to humanity's development.
I believe in the human potential that can be unlocked when they work in organizations that empower rather than control them. I’ve seen firsthand the amazing growth of passionate people who engaged in truly innovative problem solving and self-development when intrinsically motivated to a cause and goal the whole team believed in. Creating a working culture that embraces both vulnerability, compassion and psychological safety in the workplace, along with a clear reason “why” the organization exists - sets the stage for a living company that continually learns, adapts, and grows with it’s people and unlocks the full extent of their potential. I believe that growing self-awareness in organizations of the impact these companies have to our world’s economies, societies, ecologies, and more, will lead our world to a much better state.