UX Nights September 14, 2021

To leave or not to leave? with Reality Canty

With Reality Canty

Video Transcript

Introduction

Steven Wakabayashi: So really excited to have a conversation with you all today. And we have two folks for you, myself and Real to chat about this topic that is really near and dear to both of our hearts. Real is from over at Google.

And before we get started, just want to give you some time to do a quick intro of yourself, what you do, where you’re at.

Real Canty: Yeah, sure. So I am a, I’m a design researcher. I’m at Google right now, working in and around equity engineering and building, ask, answering the question of how do we build for more equitable outcomes and into products and product development processes.

And that’s across, across Google and Alphabet. Prior to this, I had been spent some time at Airbnb. I’ve done work in the areas of privacy and trust. And then earlier on was, I was really invested in building learning technologies and learning environments, right? And so I have a background in cognitive psychology and the learning sciences, but at some point I was looking for opportunities to, to have more immediate impacts, right.

Rather than just generating knowledge that stays in the ivory tower. I actually, I saw, I learned early on that I was never going to achieve that. At least in my lifetime achieved a, realize a world where I can have it be working amongst scientists who look like me, who definitely didn’t look like, or the scientists that I was working with and working around.

And so I discovered design and I had an opportunity to build a learning app company for toddlers before I finished school that introduced me to design. And that brought me into really it, it brought me back to my childhood. Having the being in a space where I could be curious again and just answer questions, but enjoy in that question answering process enjoy, actually having impacts on people. That was what was most scratching for me. So I’m here now. And I, it feels like it was like most of my days feel like I’m playing like, I’m this young child that is playing, but doing some really responsible adult work.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And myself My name is Steven Wakabayshi. For those of you don’t know, my pronouns are he, him and located here in New York city/ Lenape territory and myself. I’m the founder of this organization, as well as I have my own consulting firm where we work with big tech companies the mixture projects from DEI initiatives to launching websites and applications.

And as we go into the topic, so that was it for this slide. And let me stop sharing and can everyone see our faces Real and myself? Yes. Okay. Awesome. So we started talking about this topic around the concept of leaving or staying within organizations. And for myself, I was really inspired to put this talk into our circulation of different talks, particularly because if not every single position I’ve had, I’ve hit that moment.

That point in time, when I just fought with this decision, whether I was facing microaggressions in the workplace or whether I was just being shunted with my growth, or just a whole plethora of all these layers. It just didn’t come in the easiest way possible. And especially as myself, I’ve been doing a lot of work in community organizing and within social justice, understanding that there’s so many layers of complexities with this decision-making that we do, whether it’s to keep us safe or whether it’s just working past the traumas that have built up within us.

It isn’t a really easy decision and this talk, I don’t usually see. Out in the open where people have a really deep candid conversation here. And so just, this is a reminder for folks in this space, we are all from marginalized identities. And so, just a lot of solidarity with everyone here.

If things resonate with you, feel free to pop it into the chat and comments. And again, while this meeting is recorded, the chat isn’t copied and paste sound public. So if you also have anonymous questions or comments that you’d like us to address and answer, feel free to shoot them directly to either Kenny or myself.

Yeah. And Real out of all the topics that we had for the year, my first question to you is just what resonated with you most about this topic and why did you want to be a part of this conversation today? Yeah.

Real Canty: Look, I’m really big on autonomy and freedom, right? And our ability to- everyone’s individual unique ability to shape the world that we live in right now and whatever our domains are in, we bring unique perspective and I, early on in my academic life, there’s this, there’s a culture where in order for you to become promoted, there are these gatekeepers and you have to satisfy.

And meet the whims of the gatekeepers. If you don’t, then you don’t progress to the next level to the next stage. And I was seeing a lot of people stuck in that. I felt, you know, even though I had a good network, I still didn’t like that feeling. I still didn’t like being part of that structure.

So I learned early on that, and this was a big part of my shift over into design because I knew that in front of me, in that space were all of these gatekeepers and I wanted to move into a space where I could take what I’m learning over in the scientific academics track. And if I move into this next space, I knew that without question anything that I did, that it was going to be because of me and I was not going to allow anyone or any company of any entity to prevent me from moving forward and making progress.

And so it was very, it’s very personal, not only for myself, but also for people who are coming in or when I have my conversations with junior designers, junior reearchers is more than just the technique. It’s more than the soft skills. It’s all for me, it’s all about our identity and the identities that we bring.

So when people tell me that they’re a designer, I try to push, I want to understand the code I’m going to have to get questions answered about to what extent are you bringing your ideas. As a designer, as a design researcher, UX researcher, right? That to me is absolutely important. And that’s, what’s going to change the landscape is when we bring ourselves more into this space and where we don’t have an opportunity to express ourselves as ourselves in our work, we either remove these hurdles in front of us.

They got to get out the way, or we have to create or find if we find other paths, we have to create new ways for ourselves. Right? And so that, to me, knowing when to leave is absolutely critical. But underlying that is, has to be a strong sense of self and who we are and why we’re leaving. And that means controlling our, our paths controlling our options and our opportunities.

I want people to have that I want us all to have that. I want us to change the way that business is done. I want the world to know that whatever value exists in it today it’s minuscule compared to what it will be when more of us come into these spaces and begin to start to feel comfortable expressing ourselves, or just be uncomfortable and expressing them.

Steven Wakabayashi: And I think you brought up a really interesting point that oftentimes, especially when I started my design career, right. I thought I had to fit this mold of what the perfect designer was. I read all the books by the biggest consultancies and biggest companies at the time. And I just try to be this caricature of a person that I thought would be successful.

And it didn’t occurred to me until decade plus later, that actually your unique purpose, my unique perspective, overlaid with my personal experiences with life, with everything that’s happened to me directly impacts my unique perspective and the way I see design. Why is this so hard for us to see that?

Why is it so hard for us to recognize that is really an important aspect of being a holistic full designer?

Real Canty: Totally agree. The people who I admire the most are most themselves. They know that it’s those people who there’s something unique about them. And it often is that they’re just being themselves, right.

And often what I’m admiring, it’s not so much what they know, but the fact that. It’s they get to be who they are, they’re being themselves in the display of what they know and the shadowing of what they know.

So, yeah totally agree with that. Yeah.

Knowing when a job is for you

Steven Wakabayashi: And so bringing us to the topic at hand. When do we know when we should start even thinking about this is not the, you know, the job for me or the future for me is not here anymore.

When should we even start thinking about these things? Because oftentimes we’re just working, working, we sometimes start complaining about work. Like, oh, I hate this. I hate doing this. Is that too vague? Like when do we know that it’s the moment that we have to depart?

Establishing options for ourselves

Real Canty: Okay. Can I add, let me add something to that, because that, I think there’s a, just before we get to that point, hopefully we’ve already established for ourselves options.

We’ve laid out opportunities for ourselves before we even arrive at that point. And this is every company that I’ve worked with. Every manager that I’ve worked with, I’ve been very open about sharing that every six to nine months, I opened myself up for conversations with other companies. That’s just what I do.

Right. And probably it’s even more frequent than that. I’m having these conversations because several things are happening. I know that at every point, every moment that I’m with the company, I’m being evaluated for the fit downgrade, the great world-class year, the great book last week is still continuing to do great work.

Right. And in turn, I’m evaluating the fit. And so I’m always having conversations with other companies just to see what’s going on, see how people are thinking, what’s new. Right. And by being forward about that upfront, it already puts companies in a different seat, in a different position. Right.

And so I find that seems to influence the relationship that I have with the people that I work with. So that to me is first and foremost, because the last thing you want to you want, the position you want to be at is one where it’s time to go and you don’t have anywhere to go. You’re not even thinking that you can go somewhere.

I’m always walking today with an air, call it what it is with an air, a sense of comfort that, oh, I have options. And I’m creating these options for myself. So now when to your question.

Steven Wakabayashi: Or just like poking on that a little bit. Right? Because sometimes there’s this, you know, saying that around just like corporate loyalty, right? Is it disloyal to entertain other opportunities while you’re at the current position?

Being loyal to yourself

Real Canty: For me, I come from a place where loyalty is everything, right? Loyalty means it really means something. If we get to a point and I invite you into my home, we break bread and we have dinner together. That means something. But what I learned is that for other people, in other cultures, that’s like an opportunity for them to learn about you so that they can use that against you.

Right. So loyalty. What I learned is that loyalty and outside of where I come from has a totally different meaning. And I learned that at the end of the day, I have to be loyal to myself, to the people that I care for, who I’m responsible for. Right. That comes first and foremost because I, and I see too many of us that give this loyalty to these companies, but the loyalty is not reciprocated.

And so one, I have to understand that my concept of loyalty is different than a company’s concept of loyalty. I’m not concerned so much with the company’s concept of loyalty, as much as I am with mine. And this is why it’s important for me to evaluate, be open about how we’re evaluating one another inside of these spaces.

And yes. So it also is this thing that people come from different backgrounds. No, they’re not. You had to watch them. They’re not really loyal, you know? And so you’ve got this extra eye overlooking everything that you do, right. Especially when you’re working with data and new ideas and concepts, or when there are opportunities to work on next level, innovative concepts, you’re often not going to be invited because you’re not loyal.

Right.

Steven Wakabayashi: Or you have to prove yourself first. Right?

Real Canty: You got to demonstrate. Right. And I think that there’s for me. Or at the end of the day, we want to be in tune with what loyalty means for us and for a professional. That means you’re always looking for loyalty to what are your principles? What are your, what are you, what are your ideas?

It should be about growth. It should be about being able to contribute, being able to impact does everything that we’re being measured for. Right. And often we get in positions where we want to grow, but there’s a misalignment between what the companies are looking for. And what you’re looking for.

So I want to grow, I want an opportunity. I want mobility, but I’m not getting that right. And so if that’s the case, then I’m being, I’m ultimately, I’m going to be evaluated on my impact and up, but I’m not giving, being, given the opportunity. We see that people of certain groups in certain backgrounds, we’re not often given opportunities to make big impacts.

So we should be aware that we’re having these conversations outside of our present situation, because we’re looking for those opportunities to grow. That to me is what it’s all about. So when I talk about the loyalty to self, it’s really about what are our principles first and foremost.

And when we have these initial conversations with company, those cultural fits that they’re looking for, we should also be clear about what our principles are and asking them. How do you feel about that? How do you feel about the fact that I’m going to come in and I’m going to do work that’s impactful. Will I have opportunities to make those impacts to join teams and be put in position in order to lead?

And if not, then no one’s going to say no, but we should be developing sensors, attunements to be able to detect what a good response is for us in those discussions.

Evaluating if companies are "walking the walk"

Steven Wakabayashi: This question comes up again and again, which is how do you know, how do you know that a company is doing the work? Walking the walk? A company is equitable for us to enter. This comes up in so many conversations and doesn’t seem like there’s an exact right answer, but I’m just curious if there’s anything that’s worked for you, any questions, or just ways you’ve been able to suss out environments for yourself?

Real Canty: Yeah. I like being around people who are committed to craft, but also a warm, genuine people. Right. And so that’s people often, sometimes people laugh at me. It’s like, yo people are really warm. Right. It means everything to me to be around good people. Okay. And so that, that’s a basic. And I think that’s also because of, you know, coming from a space where trust, loyalty is. You, develop a sense of what good people are and you value them.

You truly build up an appreciation for good people. So I look for safe. Like what feels safe? What feels comfortable to me, it’s when there are a number of different people from different backgrounds that have different experiences. And you talk about that authenticity, when I can detect that these people feel comfortable when I can walk into and I’m in an onsite and I can look at number of people from, from different backgrounds.

And I’m like, yo, they look comfortable and what they’re doing and how they’re moving around here. That to me, that says it all, you know? So I’m always looking for those kinds of signals. I want to know that people get to be themselves. I’m looking for photos, I’m looking for pictures on the wall.

I’m looking for all of that. Show me that people feel good about being here, right?

Assessing the relationship between you and the company you work for

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And we had a question that came up asking. And this going back to being upfront with how we’re shopping around periodically, the question goes, at what point do you communicate that you will be shopping around periodically right after you join?

How do you bring this up? And who do you communicate this to?

Real Canty: Yeah, these are, those are conversations that I think we feel like, and I can’t tell you when this started. But it’s always, it’s a part of my life. And we are building it, shaping our professional identities reaching a point where we just feel comfortable sharing that with people.

But there are ways to communicate these things. So I have I speak with a lot of junior designers and I often use that as a way to communicate some things that I’m concerned about. Right. So I may be concerned about, I may be concerned about maybe the way that I’ve been treated, hope something somebody is saying someone’s done. When it’s something that I don’t agree with, I’ll immediately arrange a meeting with the individuals said or did something with their manager and my manager or a skip level.

And the way I communicate this is that it’s really not about me, although it is. It’s really not about me, but I just want to make sure that the way that you’re communicating, I want you to know that can have a negative impact on other people’s experiences that are coming in. And then I’d say I go into this thing.

And I speak with a lot of junior designers and researchers. And when they’re coming in, these are some of the things I want to ensure that when they come into a company like this, if they don’t have to have these experiences, right? So even when it comes to talking about, I found a way to communicate with what typically conversations to communicate in that space without necessarily putting it on me.

Right? So it’s not, this is what I feel. This is what I feel. Now, because what I’m doing two things, when I’m solving for that, I’m solving the problem and doing my best to ensure that doesn’t happen again to me, but I’m also planting the seeds to better ensure that this doesn’t happen to someone else.

Right. And when that discussion comes about, this is when talking about Liberty and freedom, right? I never want a company or anyone in the company to feel that I believe that this is the last place that I can go. This is the only opportunity that I have. I walk freely across the planet and I want them to know that. I know that in any point in time, who knows what happens to the company reaches economic hardship.

I think we traditionally, historically I’m most, I’m going to be one of the first people to get cut, right. Or, and if it’s not me, then it’s going to be people who look like me. So. That said it’s never enough for me to do well. And I just take my law was in look around and Hey, you need to pull it, pull yourself up.

No, for me, everyone has to do well. Right. In order for me to feel comfortable. When I’m not in a place today where it’s okay for me to give loyalty to a company, why not? Because I don’t find any company out here yet is doing right by us. It’s not there. So if you want loyalty, you have to earn it, right?

I’m not this, Hey, you should be happy to have a job maybe. But if you want to stand where I come from, which is close to nothing, then I’m all right with that. So I’m wanting to move different. And I want to also want to educate people that don’t have that perspective in these spaces so that they can look and say, you know what?

This person can move to another company. And we have to create that perception and that reality for ourselves. Cause what they want you to fulfill is that you have to totally commit yourself to this one space. If not, you’re not focused. You’re not dedicated. No I’m fully dedicated to what?

To my craft and to the problems in front of me, they happen to be at this company. But what are we talking about here? Are we in the AI space? Gotta go to another company. Right. Are we talking about privacy data protection? I go to another company and do that, right? What are you talking about? Inclusion, product inclusion? I’ll Go somewhere else and do that.

I’m going to build a skill set. And if you do right, not only by me, but everyone else that’s in and needs to be in here. Then we’re going to have a good, great relationship. And so that conversation happens early on and it happens frequently, because often this is providing insight for people who were there, whether it’s a manager or leadership, it’s letting them know that we’re thinking differently, not when we’re coming into these spaces.

Steven Wakabayashi: Absolutely. And what comes to mind for me is the concept of a relationship, right? We’re going on dates. We’re entertaining people to be a part of our lives. And again, right. Blind loyalty in relationships is not a great situation to be in, right? Because you haven’t seen how they react. You haven’t seen what they do.

And so now you’re answering to their beck and call. And the same exact thing is like, in our relationship with our workplace, if we haven’t seen what they provide or at the minimum their end of the bargain, right. Coming into the conversation that we had when we. Ask for, you know, how has your culture XYZ, yada, yada, yada, and entering the company?

I think one definitely giving some leeway and some time for people to show you who they are. But what, and this is a saying, I like to say all the time is when people show you who they are, you have to listen. You really need to open your eyes and open your ears and open your heart to what’s happening in front of us.

And sometimes we hold this picture or this, whether it’s our ego, right. Or whether it’s greed or all these different aspects. And we hold this vision of what we want, but it’s so sometimes disconnected with what’s happening in reality, that it drives us to these mindless loyalty relationships coming into the building.

And so, you know this story right? It goes people working all evening until the next morning, multiple times, day in, day out. And when you ask them, well, what has the company done for you? I’m still employed. Right. And, and I used to be totally from the same book, you know, where I’m like, oh, I have to show them. I have to show them my capability. It has to do all this, do all that. But if you also find the right people, you don’t have to flex. As much, right. When you meet the right people, they acknowledge who you are, how you show up as, and also work-life balance. The good people are the ones that continuously reinforce that.

And a big lesson for me has been becoming more cognizant of especially managers andpeople. I work with that kind of skirt more work on their table. Right. And then they challenge it. I don’t think you can do it, whatever I’m like. Yeah, you’re right. I can’t do it. You know? Whereas usually that works for other people for them.

Right. Because they’re challenging, people’s egos. And when we have a really bad relationship with our ego, then we, we get put in these positions where we’re just doing mindless things, but yeah, just corporate loyalty and becoming more conscious and mindful of it. I think it’s a really great anecdote that you’re just providing us all with.

And then just to kind of piggyback on Shelly’s point. I don’t necessarily think you have to be super upfront where you’re saying in the beginning "I’m interviewing other jobs." It could just be a simple thing as "I just want to make sure this is the right fit," you know, and just make it just around being the right fit because that trickles into many things, right.

It could be changing domains within the workplace, changing teams within the workplace, or completely shifting organizations as a whole. But going back to what you said Real, just like making sure this is a fit with you, but until you do that work right. To know what’s your fit, you’re never going to truly know whether or not you should stay or whether you should go.

Real Canty: Yeah. Yeah. And just also know, so that the discussion that I have. It’s more about who I am. So I just say it’s more than me just casually saying Every six to nine months I’m talking with companies when I’m actually talking with a company, I’m not telling someone, Hey, what about tomorrow?

I’ve got an an interview with such and such. I’m having a discussion with such and such. That’s not their business, but what they do know is that, wow, this is somebody who really is intentional about building his career. And here’s one way to think about it. He’s giving us the opportunity to provide a space for him to build his career here, but he’s highly intentional.

And if you know, and if it doesn’t fit, he’s also comfortable knowing when it’s time to end it and going somewhere else, so he can continue to build his career because he’s intentional. I’m not, I am not at not advocating or promoting that. We should go out and say, Hey, you know what, next week I’m going to be talking with another company.

I don’t think that would probably, I just think that’s just disrespectful. Oh, so, no, it’s not that.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. Or sometimes it’s weaponized, right. As a tool against us in a way that marginalizes our performance at an organization, when in fact it had nothing to do with the organization, right.

Just because we’re interviewing with a job how does that impact our work? How does that impact the way we solve problems in a certain instance, it really doesn’t, but people, egos are hurt. It looks bad on managers, other executives, right. When they have a big flow of talent, that’s leaving the pipeline.

And so, yeah, especially when we talk about safety and how we ensure our community is protected, we just have to be even more conscientious of what information we share, understanding that just because we share it doesn’t mean that the other person is best suited to digest that information properly.

And we don’t have to share everything.

Dismantling the need to always "problem solve"

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. There’s another question. They say, I think for me, the misplaced loyalty stems from this idea that I can’t give up and that if something doesn’t work, I need to find a way and problem solve. In a way, leaving means that I’ve failed, that a good worker would make it anywhere.

Somehow I don’t believe this is true. I’ve realized now that there are problems I cannot control or solve on my own. That it’s not necessarily my responsibility.

Real Canty: I was speaking with a colleague who also was at- We worked together before we came to Google and we were having a conversation about how great of an experience we had before here and now coming in this person that has a different experience. Difficulty communicating with the management, colleagues. Colleagues, you know, can be highly competitive.

And wondering was it just, I need to step up. I had to say, no, you know what? You don’t even have to really. You shouldn’t be questioning that, Hey, we should be comfortable where we work. That peace that you feel, you’re saying that you’re not comfortable. And that is enough for you to look and try to find somewhere else, on a new team. We talk about when going go that’s the time when it’s time to move.

And if you’re in one company, you may be able to just move to another team. To another product, right? Certain companies, you actually have to leave the entire company because it’s just not, you just don’t have that space where it feels like you’ve gotten far away from the situation that you need to move away from.

But when we’re not comfortable, that’s us, that’s how that’s our body. That’s a biochemistry and our mind telling us that it’s time to move forward. It’s time to move on.

Steven Wakabayashi: And sometimes we don’t have the opportunity to even just process that right through our bodies and become aware that a good manager or a good boss would never put us in that position. Right. Would not challenge us in a way that makes us think overly critical of ourselves criticize ourselves, right. Or roots the action that’s needed in a degradation like format. Right. And sometimes we feel so challenged that we’re like, I have to come up and I have to rise occasion.

Right. But also think about the sustainability aspect, right. About our wellbeing. How sustainable can we be? Right. In a situation when every day is, you know, climbing up a hill, pushing a huge boulder, carrying a huge backpack of all the weight of not just ourselves, but of all these people, throwing stuff on top of us.

And while we may last today or tomorrow, a year from now, it’s sometimes not the best for our mental health, but also our wellbeing to be in a creative industry. Right. I’ve I know a lot of people who actually left the creative industry altogether because of a really bad experience that they just kept trying to solve and push against it.

And when they just couldn’t do it anymore, took that as a sign of, I can’t be in this industry anymore. Cause I’m not cut out to be in this role. Whereas the reality was that’s not the best environment for you, neither are those people. Yeah.

Real Canty: Yeah. The question of, when is it time to leave? Often you might not know when it’s time to leave.

If you don’t create opportunities for yourself, if you’re not having conversations, whether it’s with a company or what’s with building a network and speaking with other people who are working in different places, if you don’t do a nice job of assessing what’s surrounding when assessing your opportunity, then how will, you know, if where you’re at is best for you.

Right? And so it moves everything. It means everything for us to have some sense of control, not all about. But some sense of control about where it is that we’re going to go. And when, and if you ever, even when you leave a place that empowers you, it’s going to empower you more. And you realize that anytime you see a headline about an executive that left and went to his, and now heading another company that was not the first conversation that they had, then you probably really good at what they do.

And they’re constantly being poached, right. Poached, sought after. And so they always have in conversations, how in-depth those conversations are, whether they turn into offers or not as another thing. But when you see leadership or anyone leaves, it’s not the first conversation that they’ve had with other companies.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. That’s the biggest fallacy that I’ve learned as I’ve gone up in my career was as you get higher and higher, it’s not even a formal interview process at all. It’s who knows who, what conversations are happening and aligning different timelines so that if a opportunity fits a particular person and their skillset, and it’s a great fit, then it happens.

But there are a lot of executives, right, who are ready to jump ship, but just not finding anything for themselves. And also the last thing you want to do right, is to jump ship and flounder in your next position, because it was just something, it was a rebound, right. Going back to the analogy of our relationship this, you know, relationship was so bad.

I hated it. So let me just leave, bounce, find someone right. Immediately and how often have rebounds worked,? And and so oftentimes the analogy I give to people is let’s think about in retrospective a good thriving position, right. Where the environment is great. The manager’s great. The team’s amazing.

How often are people leaving that position too. Right. And how often are spaces available? And so. The way I recommend this to other people and just keep your eyes open and your ears on the ground and just have conversation, right. It’s so that when these things do open up, then you’re in the best position to facilitate the conversation, to continue into the next step.

But more often than not when we’re leaving, because something was so bad and we jumped into another position. Usually we go into spaces that have a high churn, right. Because they have a lot of spots open all the time or scaling really rapidly. And there’s a lot of issues there, of course. Right.

Or sometimes they just been interviewing for a long time and they’re just like grabbing everyone who can come in the door too. And so there’s a lot of unfortunate mismatches that happen, right. When it’s just more of a reflex.

Compounding doubt as marginalized folks

Steven Wakabayashi: And we had also talked about specifically for marginalized identities, right.

And maybe that extra layer of context on top of. Where we sometimes doubt ourselves if we can even leave the position, right? Because sometimes we’re put in a position where we feel so bad about ourselves and it’s something capable that I’ve seen this happen to. So many of my friends and peers and also myself. I’ve had managers that just like to belittle me to a point where I just was like am I lucky to be here?

I think in the part of becoming more aware is having a cognition to recognize if this is happening in the workplace, right. Where people are belittling us to make us fear or instituting trauma that affects the way that we seek and get other positions too. And so question for you, Real, is what other layers of of difficulty have you seen, especially for QTBIPOC folks to even start looking for a new position or have the energy to do so.

Real Canty: Yeah. I see too often extremely talented people, right? For whatever reason they are in the wrong situation, but it totally turned against themselves. But at some point recalling, a a front end engineer and she came in only one on this team and she was trans and just every day, speaking about the horrors of her experience, right.

And this and this company and great company. But in that experience, like talk about safe space and this whole thing about, you know, allies and this to me is what kind of human beings are we dealing with? And this person was extremely talented in order to get into these places, you have to go through so many different hoops, right?

You have to pass and go so many criterion people that you have to hit, you have to get through all of that. You belong in this space. And so that person just ended up leaving. It didn’t have anything set up. So that’s problematic to me because I often wonder if within that space, if there was an opportunity to bring that person on board or into the right team How successful she would have been.

It would have been, and we need that success. To me. this is not trivial. This is we app, the industry needs the success of us who marginalized communities, you know? And so I saw where they ended up fixing ended up turning you on yourself, but get to the point where, okay, we’re not coming in, coming to meetings on time.

Sometimes you’re not even coming to work. Right. And then all now you’re just giving them the things that they need in order to build a case against you. So it becomes self destructive. Self-defeating, you know.

Avoiding self-destruction!

Steven Wakabayashi: That’s a big one. Maybe we dig a little bit further than there. It’s just the concept of marginalized folks.

Becoming very self-destructive right. Becoming lazy in the workplace because you just had it and you, again, in the analogy of a relationship it’s as if you’re being empowered to make decision to hurt yourself first, before other people can hurt you. Right. To cut off the relationship first, before you had the opportunity to cut it off, and then in the workplace, see this time and time, again, really talented people just become so disconnected with the work, uninspired.

And it just becomes a totally different person, you know? So yeah, exactly.

Real Canty: Social anxiety, right? Finding places in the company to go, just be by themselves. You know, we find it. Let’s just get away from here. I’m just gonna, because we’re disconnecting from individuals, but we need to disconnect ourselves from either a team or disconnect ourselves from the company.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And I mean the hard part is catching yourself when you’re in the thick of it, because these things happen slowly and slowly, right? It’s not something that all of a sudden, like tomorrow, we’re just not feeling it. No, it just slowly, it just chips away at us ever so slightly.

And to a point where there’s nothing left to chip away at, we’re just this lifeless figure. And so, I mean, for myself at least what I remind myself is whenever I catch myself in that moment, reminding myself that one, this is not me, you know, reminding myself that there is also something affecting me to be this way.

And it’s less around working harder, but rather again, opening our eyes and opening our ears more to what’s happening around us to recognize what’s happening. And if I go to sleep and I wake up the next day and I feel the same way, at least for myself, I started to use that as a litmus test of. Have I started to do work on what I thought was issue.

If I go to sleep and I wake up feeling the same exact way I realized not just yet. Let me try and let me feel it some more. I also have a journaling practice that I do each day and the journaling prompt is super simple. It’s just "Today I’m feeling…" and I just write, write, write, write, and somewhere in like sentence, like 20, 30, it finally hits me.

But again, just like so much compassion for our community, right. Where we have so much trauma so much, for lack of a better term, like shit that we’ve dealt with all of our lives that sometimes we don’t understand bypassing something that we’re doing, just because we’re trying to survive versus we’re doing that for the better of us.

Reaching out to others in the community

Real Canty: Have you ever found yourself reaching out to others from the community, like within a space because you may have seen them on that pat? Have you ever reached out to, to bring them in it? Would it help them make a decision about how they should move, to let them know that you see some changes in their behavior and maybe their situation.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah.

I mean, it’s, it’s one of those things that if I start to feel it and I sense it, I reach out very softly. Right. Just connecting, see how things are going, but it’s also one of those things where right. You and I we’ve been a part of many large organizations and sometimes we have friends and organizations that we don’t see every day. And we barely talked to, and sometimes I’ve had instances where friends within an organization slipped into that. And I was so caught up with my work, whatever I’m doing in this other side, that I didn’t see what was happening and we’ll have like coffee catch up. But by that point, they’re like, fuck this, I’m outta here.

I hate this place, you know, and they’re just already on the other side. And then I’m like, okay, let’s see what we can do. Let’s see. But yeah it’s just one of those tough things that. I mean again, I was having a friend, a conversation with my friend the other day. She’s an Asian woman about how, again, that’s marginalized identities.

Sometimes nobody knows we’re falling apart right on the inside because we’ve been, so we trained ourselves so well to survive and smile as sort of surviving that actually deep down, we’re struggling to sleep. We’re struggling to be inspired or we’re dealing with issues with other people in the workplace.

And we were trying to be the quote unquote higher person, and not bring that into other spaces. And so, yeah. And I mean, the tip I just give to everyone is just check in with people outside of the context of work, right. Not asking how’s that project going? How’s this team going out to say, how are you doing?

How are you? And just getting away from that context, because more often than not, especially us from the community, when it’s, how’s your project going? The lights, the show must begin. "Oh, it’s going great." Right. Yeah, but how about yourself? Have you been in that position too?

Real Canty: Yeah. Finding people that you can trust is important inside of these spaces. And at times when I just want to meet, I don’t want to talk about any of this. And I know that those conversations, those are valuable and I’m not sure. I think everyone has them.

Right. Everyone has people. PEople who sustain themselves in these careers have people that when the doors close, they can talk the way that they would talk with anybody. And you need some of that. You need some of that "fuck’s going on?" you need to be able to just come in as people, as your authentic self and shut all that other stuff out for a minute.

And then sometimes that enables you to go and then go back and do what you can with that. And then when you don’t have that, I can’t imagine what that’s like every day of your life foremost. You just focused on it, this work, and you’re just bottling up all this other stuff. You don’t get to talk, mess about, this person that said this little, slight little remark, it’ll add a quarter of the amount that you know, it’s important for us to build those relationships.

And I feel it’s so important. We talk about empowerment. We have to, we need to be there for each other. We have got to be there for each other and that’s, if I’m on a team and I know that part of the way that were evaluated means part of the way we’re evaluated means being able to do work with other teams or other parts of the company.

I’m reaching out saying, look, there’s this little thing that we could have done come over us to help us out with this. And then that helps you when it’s time for you to go up for when you post evaluation or whatever, right. It’s about being strategic and understanding the landscape that we have to move strategically.

And we have to work with each other that way. We have to create opportunities for ourselves and ourselves.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And that reminds me of the other fallacy, right? When you join a company and the company says we are a family, we are your family, you know, and in, in one context, sure. Everyone should be friendly, but that shouldn’t be used in a way that makes people stay at work 24 7.

That’s not a family. In real life, our family, right? We’re not with them 24 7, or else we’re going to implode explode at the box. Right? A family has time apart. The family has space for each other, a family who truly cares if one another, regardless of where you go, they want the best for you. Right?

That’s true family, not the family that is spending day in and day out with one another. Addressing things within a workplace that more often than not right. You’re doing work that is undervalued, underpaid, underscoped, a whole plethora of things. And it wasn’t until I started managing my own business that I realized it for people to work overtime or people to work past the amount.

You can’t have a sustainable business, if you have people doing that, or if you rely on people to do that. And it just sickens me that there are businesses that rely so much on people to do this extra unpaid labor so that they can still stay afloat. Right? You have a lot of people in leadership positions that are like, ah, we can’t afford this.

We can’t afford it. Can you do that? But the reality is, if I do this, how are you going to sustain yourself as a business next year? The year after. It logistically it makes zero sense. But again, it goes back to this lie that we have been fed around by people who say they have our best interests in mind, but unfortunately it’s actually the margin, the bottom dollar that they’re the most interested in or their job security.

And in fact, right, especially when the highest performing people leave and you have people in power who are the least performative in terms of their output, They’re the ones who are going to act out the most. They’re the ones who are going to pull out all the stops, right. To get you, to stay, pull out the waterworks, pull out the, you know, all the things, right.

Real. Oh my God. Is there anything we can do? Not anymore. You know?

Yeah.

Real Canty: You know, often what we do is we have such a flexible skillset, right. And it’s why you don’t necessarily have to have domain expertise as a designer. Right. It’s how can we solve a problem? And we go and try to understand the problem space,

But there’s always this, you know, trying to find a passion, something that you can be passionate about, something that you can be continuously inspired in that work of itself. And so I think, you know, trying to find a combination when I think, you know, when is it time to leave,

Trying to find the combination of good companionship, colleagues, very interesting workspace. And you know, at some point maybe something that you can become a leader in, you can become expert at, right? And if you want to build it, get to a place where you can build the environments that you want to build.

Other people have built the environments, these nasty, messy environments that were uncomfortable. That’s what they were able to do. And I hope that we are moving ourselves in a position so that we can begin to design the environments the way that we seem most healthy and promote wellbeing. You know,

Where to start looking for opportunities

Steven Wakabayashi: My question to you. So there’s a lot of people attending our events who are usually either trying to break into the creative UX industry just had their first career. Two-part question. The first part is how do you know what you want to get out of it? Right? This is so it’s like so new to me. It’s like, where do I even start?

And the second part is. When I know it’s my time to go, where do I even start? Okay. You know? Or do you have any recommendations?

Real Canty: Yeah. Right. Cause the first time we’re just trying to get on, we really, you know, we’re coming in. I just want to get put on and

we have an idea. I don’t even know if it’s at that point. If we studied, then we know what image of a mature or relatively mature design organization looks like. And when you’re, if you have an opportunity to work in a mature design organization, then you’re going to learn a lot. People you’re being brought in, people respect what, you know, but most important when you’re junior, they respect what you don’t know.

And that means that there are affordances for growth. Right. And so that’s to me first coming in is what I’m looking for. So, you know, try to understand what a design, what a mature versus an immature design organization looks like. Where does design sit? If you’re going into, you know, design research, UX research, where does UX research sit, does it sit within design?

Does it sit with it? Some other part of the company. Right? All of these things are important because it says a lot about the expectations that are being set for you in these different spaces. And the second part, what was the second part, Steven?

Steven Wakabayashi: Second part is when you know, you’ve learned what there is to learn.

You’re not really growing anymore within an organization. You can just, especially when this is your first major departure, right? What do you recommend for designers to start having these conversations? Right.

Real Canty: Study the industry for opportunities for yourself to grow and to thrive. Think for me, you know, one, when you feel that you don’t have an opportunity to flex some skillset that you have, you’re not able to use certain tools because the company’s not willing to invest in them, which means that you’re not going to be able to grow the way that you feel you’re ready to grow and you feel stagnant.

You’re doing the same thing again and again, and there is no step for you to move up or for you to move out. Then it’s just time. That’s a natural progression. You want to continue to grow. You need move, you need a new space. You need bigger space. You literally have to spread your wings and add a little butterfly kit.

Now, as a kid, you ordered it and they send it to you, the kit starts with the caterpillar, goes to the cocoon. And I was supposed to take it out, like lift it and take it out of this little tube. And I didn’t. And so when it, when spread, it couldn’t spread and I didn’t know that the butterfly’s wings, they kind of crystallize into that form.

So it never actually spread its wings. So that’s the spread your wings part. You know, later on, when you hear people say, spread your wings, you should be able to spread your wings. Otherwise your growth is stunted. And so it’s important for us to have agency and in our growth. But for me, it’s knowing.

When I was at AT&T, great opportunity to do a lot of different types of work, not just UI design. But I knew that there were other companies that had these mature design organizations. I saw people coming in from the frog and I’m looking at the skill set that these people are coming in with.

And I’m like, wow, okay. So there’s some other things that are out there that I haven’t experienced yet. So I started studying the industry and getting a sense of who’s, who’s moving, where, what, where people coming from and what are they doing? And who’s sharing their work, right? So some design organizations, you can actually go and see what their design team, some of what the design teams are working.

You can see what some of the things that researchers wouldn’t want in it. And it, they’re putting themselves in position to be leaders in the space. I wanted to be a leader. I want to aspire to be a leader in the space. Right. And so there’s always trying to find what’s the niche that you can maybe carve out for yourself.

There’s always this, you know, talk about strategy, strategic career planning. It’s where there are opportunities for me to be excellent, you know, to excel, right. And not just do what other people are doing, but where is there an opportunity for me to add new perspective? To this thing we call design.

And I think a lot of us look for that, you know, to try to find the space that resonates with us, where we just open our mouth. And all of a sudden, you know, whatever was saying is without even reading and picking up a book often, it’s was so already in tune with part of the features of a solution space.

And now we just couple that with that technical skill that we gained, whether it’s the tactics or the strategy, you know, for doing great work inside of these spaces where people are at, what do you see people thinking and doing and sharing people that sharing publicly, they may be comfortable sharing inside of the company, going to conferences, speaking, listening, trying to get a sense of a vibe from a person.

These people feel good. They feel warm, right? That’s what I felt that Airbnb. Airbnb was this really warm space. They had screwed up on the, well, let me not say that they screwed up. There were, was a case around the discrimination that was occurring and what they could have done. So you have black guests who were trying to book and then there’s these racist white house.

Once they figure that out, what they could have done is they could have said, well, you know, that’s not really us. Those are the hosts that are doing, but they own that. And so that was important for me, just that position already said a lot about this company. And then it went and they built an anti-discrimination team.

By the time I got there and I had conversations I’m looking around and I just knew it. It was the first time I was in a space where I said, this wasn’t about me having the job. I really wanted to work with these people. We’re going to across all these buildings and everyone, almost everyone looked comfortable.

You know, it just felt like the right space. And it surely was a wonderful place to be. Just some of the most brilliant committed designers, researchers, and design organisms. It’s a beautiful place. And so once you have that experience, you can’t go somewhere else and not have those expectations and lower your expectations anymore.

People can’t say, that’s not what happens. You can say, Nope, that’s exactly what happens. And that’s what I’m looking for. And that’s all that I’m only going to be comfortable in that these kinds of situation of these kinds of conditions. I know what’s good. It felt good. Right. And we did great work. That’s what we should be striving to attain as a place where it just feels it’s got to feel good and we do the good work.

It’s like when we’re negotiating our compensation, like people like, ah, I made it for the craft. Okay, cool. Me too. But let’s get the money right up front. So that money doesn’t have to matter. The last thing I want to do is go into a space and I’m working next to someone who identifies as a woman, I’m going to get paid more because of my biology.

Right. That’s why I’m getting paid more and I don’t want to be a part of that. Now that I say inside of interviews, or when it comes down to negotiation, cause I sure enough, don’t want to be working with someone who’s got a bunch of equity and getting paid more than me and I’m performing at their level of outperforming them.

Right. And they didn’t even have to negotiate to get what they got.

When I find out about that kind of thing, then I guess another visit another opportunity, what I want to try to find a different situation and it doesn’t have to be me. That’s another thing, we need more people who care about other people so that- I just never wanted to be one of those people that they could just, you could just feed.

You know there’s these little comics about the rappers. We were like give him the store the more 40, you know, give him something, give him something to drink, a little smoke, and it’s more than that, right? You take care of everyone and make sure that we’ve got a future in the generation to continue. We can see where our wealth is going. So I’m thinking of, I’m always thinking about opportunities on so many different dimensions, but we have to work to get here and coming in into this, you don’t see everything.

I think it’s easy. I can speak to these things now, but when I initially was coming in, I was naive. Right. I couldn’t see far. I couldn’t see all the details and all the things that really mattered, but I also didn’t have the kind of the network that would have helped me see these things. So find people that tell it like it is, be amongst them, and learn from them and take their insights into you the same way when you’re designing, you’re taking insights and bringing those insights into designing for product and user experiences in general, customer journeys, user journeys, gather insights as you will, and use those to integrate them into the career path, the career journey that you’re building for yourself.

Steven Wakabayashi: Absolutely. And then just one more additional insight that I had was. Workplace has changed too. Over time, you may join. Everything is great. And leadership changes, organization changes happen so often. And what we use to once know, it’s not that any longer. Right? And sometimes I see people staying in an organization trying to hold onto, right that little ounce of what it was, what it used to be and still work through and struggle through what it is now.

And again, it’s just opening up our eyes or ears or hearts to what is happening around us. And I mean, this can happen so quickly, too, right? It can happen within months, especially if you have very not so great leaders, you know, just coming in again, focusing on bottom margins. And one of my agencies, there’s a big shift in leadership after the agency got acquired.

And what they ended up doing was just starting to cut and eradicate people whose billability was very low. But within the work that we do, we have some people doing work internally, right? Who don’t bill with external, outside partners with an agency context. And so their rate of billing was different. Fired without any compromise.

Some people who’ve been at the company for a long time. And it was when I started seeing that happen, I was like, oh, like, you really need to start paying attention Steven. Cause this isn’t what it is.

Breaking out of the "Circle of Fire"

Steven Wakabayashi: And yeah, we have another comment let’s see, along the same times, what advice do you have for when you realize.

Too late that you are in a bad environment, burning bridges cause you’re resentful. So I get stuck in this loop of, oh, I can’t burn my bridge. I need this reference. It’s like starting with zero. I don’t have lots of experience as it is. And so I’m in this loop trying to put out the fire of the burnt bridge, improving the relationship and ended up staying longer than it is healthy for me.

Real Canty: Circle of fire.

That is tough. Affording that to me, is this, you’re going to have a moment where you’re going to walk. You’re going to leave a company because you’ve set yourself up to leave a company. When you’ve had conversations with companies. And once you do that, I guarantee you, when you do that one time, it totally, it’s going to change the way that you would arrive.

And it also, you can see that. I don’t know, I’ve worked with people who I can tell they really didn’t even need it.

And there’s something different about the way that they push back and they walk into meetings while they’re eating the carrots while, you know, in a meeting, you know. They have a totally different stance and it’s because, they don’t need this. They’re coming to contribute.

So before that bridge, before you even light fire to the bridge, it’s not even necessary because you set yourself up to move when it’s time to move. And that if you get, make your accident, sometimes people are happy that you’ve made the accident. You actually, sometimes it made that their position, a little situation easier.

There are times when some of these companies some companies are just notorious for not letting people go, right. And you just get the spitting at people that they want to get rid of you. They want to see where they want to see you leave. Has often very little to do with you.

It’s just that there’s a poor fit. And if you can let go for whatever reason, you’re holding on and go to another situation, you’re gonna. You do that one time. You do that one time and everything changes from there in all that. Yeah, you feel empowered and you know that you are bringing value to a company.

It’s not that, you know, thank you company for giving me this. It’s really, you’ve assessed the viability and you assessed, you’ve assessed the match for yourself, between yourself and that company. And that’s what you’re there to contribute. And you recognize immediately when that’s no longer valued. And when your contributions are no longer value, you find a way maybe some other place within the company.

If you like the company or you move to another situation, it’s just what it is. And it’s difficult to burn those bridges and you get caught up in that loop. It’s going to get kind of hot. There’s going to be hard to break out of that.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. My perspective is the question behind the question, right?

Which is what are you holding onto? It’s not the job, right? What is it that you’re holding on to that is what’s holding you to an anchor to this toxic environment, right? We can ask our same thing with friendships, relationships, so many things outside of. The why behind the why, which is what is actually keeping us here.

What I also realized was in a toxic relationship with incompetent people that you work with, as soon as you leave, they’re all going to throw you under the bus. They’re all going to throw you under the bus. They’re all gonna talk poorly about you. And sometimes it’s not even about how you show up for the work, because that was me for the longest time where I had to do justice by the work.

Right. And I was fighting and fighting within certain institutions and structures and teams, because I wanted to make sure the work was good. But then the reality finally was it doesn’t matter how much effort I put in if either leadership or the people running. Are not going to be open to making it either sustainable ensuring that it’s healthy, et cetera.

It doesn’t matter how much effort I pour into that. And again, it’s like a relationship, right? A project is comprised of all of us and we take a fraction of that project. We cannot do the work for other people and how they can show up for the project just because we think we’re killing ourselves and we do that work for them.

So that was like realization one. And then the second is the, again, going back to the being thrown under the bus, the most incompetent people will throw the most competent people under the bus. That’s always what happens time and time again, it sucks. It’s unfortunate, but it’s because they’re trying to save themselves.

It had never to do with us at all. Right. It had all to do with them. And these toxic people in these toxic environments we’ll do what’s necessary for them to thrive and it’s set up in that way so that they can thrive. Right. And so it’s, it’s breaking, I guess, for myself, it’s breaking some of these These rumors with these myths that we tell ourselves, right?

If I show for the work and only for the work, everything’s going to be good, right. If I do good right by the work, no one will ever talk poorly about me, is this reality? Not really. And sometimes when we can let go of that, right? If that’s what we’re holding onto, then we can become more aware and more conscious of what’s actually happening for us.

And at the end of the day, going back to the concept of wellbeing, it has to be at the center of all of this, right? If we cannot stay sane, healthy, alive, doesn’t matter if we’re going to work today, tomorrow, if we’re not going to be able to work. And we’re debilitated in a year from now, right. Health and everything around wellbeing is, has to be number one.

And in, for instance, when we’re starting to slip we really need to assess, is this really a good situation environment for myself? And also. How many billions of people on this earth, right? How many millions of companies and hundreds of thousands of opportunities that we can explore and take this is just at least I try to tell myself that it’s just a one place, right?

One team, one environment. And I have yet to meet all of these other amazing places just yet. And so at least when I’m really down in the pits, that’s what I tell myself that inspires me to continue to reach out connect with other folks. And there’s a lot of people that really care about doing the work and right by one another.

And so we’re out there. Right. And we just have to find one another through all those through all the crap.

So yeah.

Building up a sense of self-worth as a junior

Steven Wakabayashi: There is another question. How do you build up a sense of self-worth as a junior? I feel like going in even freelance projects, this inherent lack of legitimacy that has me feeling afraid to say no, because I’ve heard it so many times and don’t want to burn a bridge.

Real Canty: Yes. You’re still the junior because you can’t say no. And this is one of the traits that you’ll acquire is you will feel calm. In fact, knowing when to say no and how to say no is part of the work you have to do. Saying no the first time you say it and realize that, oh, it’s not the end of the world.

And it’s okay to say no. A Lot of times you think, if you say, no, they’re going to flip out and say, well, what do you mean no? You have got to see. Because when you say no, it’s you telling this pro this, whatever, the ask the source of the ask, it’s you saying that I’ve evaluated this and as the expert in the space, no is the right answer. That is what no means. That’s what no is coming from. We say no, because no is the right answer. It’s not me. And I think the way that I initially internalize it is if I say no, the perception is going to be that I can’t take on the work. And what I’ve learned is that if you value me and you want me to, you want me to stay around that means I’m going to have to be healthy. And I’m saying no, because I know that if I add this and I say if I know if I say yes, that this is going to burn me out, right? That’s a big part of it. It would also say no means that ask is not adequate. It’s not appropriate for the problem that we’re working on right now.

No is powerful. No, it comes no as part of our toolkit. And it’s something that we have to know how to use when they use it. And that it’s meaningful. It really is incredibly meaningful. And we have to know when to put that in front of us, when you add it will be a, that is one of the things that the techniques that will move you from junior to away from the junior status that you have.

We’re not saying no all the time, but we’re thoughtful about when we’re saying no. IT means something when you say no.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, absolutely. And what I’ve learned too is as you go up in seniority, it’s around providing alternative pathways. Right. Where, although it might be no, it’s almost phrased as a yes. And right. So yes, but this other thing instead. If I don’t have the bandwidth, this is somebody else who has bandwidth.

Right. If I don’t agree with this approach, well, because I think this other approach I think might be better suited. And so sometimes even reframing that can be a powerful way of saying no to certain things without necessarily stopping the sentence. Right. Because design is also about how do we continue the conversation, right.

Rather than once and done, it’s built, shipped, sailed, finished, you know, what we built today might not work a year from now. Right. And it’s having the humility to understand that, acknowledge that everything is in a perpetual state of shifting and changing. And sometimes the answers people don’t want to hear could also have additional context that it provides.

Right. And so that’s a big thing, context matters. And so if you do have the bandwidth asking people, could you explain a little bit further? I would love to understand more right at the same time. I’m sure you understand Real, but especially as you go up in seniority, how you explain your rationale is really the power you hold as a leader and the leaders that can articulate to anyone, right.

Their rationale of how they came to thinking of something or this decision that makes sense, not just to the high level executives, right. With all the acronyms and context, but to the lay person that’s the depth of influence that they can have. So figuring out ways that even our language, right, as designers, sometimes we get so caught up with specific industry term.

And when we’re talking to like project managers or other people who aren’t in design They might not understand, even though they’re like, oh yeah, totally got it. They might not get it. And so just using really simple lay terms to explain context, I found to be really powerful.

Real Canty: I love that because I said that no is meaningful and no by itself is not meaningful.

But Steven, what you’re talking about is the rationale provides meaning, so make no meaningful, right. And the rationale, the explanation, the alternative solution, the alternative way of thinking it provides, it gives meaning to the no, and also gives you, it builds legitimacy and trust in your decision-making.

Right. And so it’s over time it’s oh, yes. So that no had a certain reason behind it. I feel that whenever you make a decision, if there’s been a lot of thought into it, I trusted and you have now built legitimacy. And so building legitimacy for ourselves is important.

And that’s, I think a big part of, you know, coming in even a first come in, it’s this, I didn’t know how to explain. I didn’t know how to provide it. I didn’t know how important it was to provide the meaning. Right. And so that was important in order to build and over time within an organization, you can get away with saying no providing less rationale, explanation behind it.

But given a line of work is always a courtesy. It’s always respectful to provide that because we’re always educating, always providing more insight on for people. And so I absolutely love that. No, by itself is not meaningful. We have to make no means for absolutely. And then Karen also had a good input in terms of imposter syndrome and that usually.

The ones who feel imposter syndrome or not the imposters the people who are very skilled at all are actually the ones who aren’t sweating it whatsoever.

Steven Wakabayashi: So true. I mean, I still have a tremendous amount of imposter syndrome in so much of what I do. It’s nuts insane, but it creeps in right through various small ways. These self doubt of just like certain people’s comments or what people say. And it’s just it’s, it’s, it’s a part of trauma, right?

And trauma is re triggered by certain little equips words, phrases, reactions, and so understand that imposter syndrome is more impulsive reaction. And that actually there’s something that had happened around us that had triggered this trauma within us. And it’s less around seeking within ourselves for the solution, but rather putting the sonar out of us and going what actually triggered that and assessing.

If it, if whatever triggered that is good for us or not, and if it’s not obviously the need to move away from it. But oftentimes when we feel the imposter syndrome, we go so deep within ourselves and we’re like, rather than realizing maybe it was just a manager saying not the best things to us. And then we ended up diving into ourselves this whole time and killing ourselves and beating ourselves up about it.

Yeah. That was like a huge realization for me. It’s not imposter syndrome, but more imposter trauma and imposter reaction and that something is causing it rather than that’s who we are. Yeah.

Real Canty: I remember, you know, coming in. And so there’s a lot of literature on communities of practice moving from the outside of a community, moving to the center, gaining more expertise.

And it is a novice expertise so that, you know, that’d be such an moving from a novice to an expert. And so there’s this in some cultures, some company cultures it’s okay to not know it’s part of the culture. You don’t know, you just say I don’t know. But in other cultures, it’s not, you have to know, you always have expected to know.

And so those are the cultures where ignorance is actually acceptable. And those can be frustrating, but they can also be tricky. And you’re going to find a lot of imposter syndrome. Would’ve been imposter trauma in those spaces. But I recall being in one of those spaces and 2 examples. One, someone was asking a question, stakeholder team was asking a question and I was about to respond and give them the right answer.

But then a teammate pipes up and gave a response, totally wrong. And I’m just like in my head, like that is so wrong right now, this person felt confident, but they were clearly an imposter. So your point enough, this situation in the same space, I knew, I didn’t know, trying and learning how to run workshops.

Right. And we had our team three or four of us and it’s probably 13 and 15 of them in this big one workshop. And we broken down with a number of different groups. But I’m in this culture where you have, you’re supposed to show that you’re expected to demonstrate or reflect express that, you know, even when you don’t, I said my first time in a workshop and I’m, co-leading this workshop,

I feel uncomfortable because I haven’t done this before. And so there’s a VP and the VP that I’m working with is whispering. He says, you’ve never done this before. And the coolest thing is he then invited me over to his family’s home and after that I said, I don’t, I don’t want to be in a workplace with a culture that embraces a culture, promotes a culture of ignorance, but I also never front. And that’s another thing. Right? So like, it’s never cool to front. Like we don’t doing something that you, as something other than what you are. Okay. That’s just natural. That’s where I come from. And so when I was in a space, like it’s okay for you to fake it in this space fast forward.

Now, today, everything. When I don’t know, I just start the, we just start the discussion off with I don’t know. So it’s okay to not know, but we’re going to find the answer together. We’re going to get someone else who does know. Right. And so, the imposter trauma is I try to remove whatever the mechanism is that would trigger the trauma.

And if I can, it had part of it has to do with this need to put on as if I have something with a five, no more than what I actually know. Now this is humility and moving into the space with humility. I’m comfortable saying I, you know, I don’t know, but I certainly find the answer of what we can get the answer to that, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I know, and I don’t think that’s going to cause that it’s not going to help them in the right.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And conversely, also having confidence in the we’re going to just try our best to navigate given what we have given the context of the situation, have confidence that we’re going to just try our best and that’s enough, right?

At the end of the day, if somebody wants somebody else, go find somebody else. Right. But if we’re dedicated to working on this together, may you have grace in me so that we can process and work through things, and we’re not going to find the solution at the first review, maybe not the second, but we’re going to cultivate a relationship where down the line, we’re going to find a solution that we both weren’t even aware of because we’re helping one another achieve it.

And so, yeah it’s tough. Again, it’s like trauma, right? That once it’s with us, it’s a part of us, whether we like it or not for the rest of our lives. And when it re-triggers, I think it’s just about becoming just more compassionate with it and being more mindful of it and less reactionary.

Yeah. Yeah. So we have about 13 minutes left. Anyone have any other questions? Real, this has been an awesome conversation. Just a lot of soul nourishing stuff. And yeah, really appreciate you being in the space with us.

I appreciate the opportunity to come in and have any other questions for us.

And of course, anyone wants to reach out, we have a slack, you can talk to us on slack. And we’re also on LinkedIn and you can reach out to us that way. And again, all of this is just so tough to have the immediate answer to. Right. But it’s just something that as we just work through life and the complexities of it take it day by day, you know, and sometimes that’s all it is that we can do.

And that’s okay.

Real Canty: You know, you know, even today I have to remind myself. Cause sometimes there’s this other thing that we have is we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform. Right. And we sh we are always striving for excellence and we don’t want to let anyone down. That’s so independent.

That’s often independent of the people that we’re working with. And at times when I just have to remind myself, maybe there’s something that I didn’t complete, right. I’m having a meeting I’m supposed to demonstrate or show and it, at times when I have to just let me just stop, back up, and remind myself that you’re going to present this.

You’re going to love it. Often, we are so much with like these overachievers that often when we present our work, people always love it. It doesn’t matter what kind of praise we receive from. We often feel that we’ve let ourselves down. So I have to remind myself at times to step back and to remember that you’re about to go into this meeting.

You’re going to go into it. You’re going to go into this day. I think sometimes you don’t even want to go into the building. You’re going to go into this day and you’re gonna come out on the other side and it’s going to be fine. And you have to remind yourself of that. It’s going to be fine, right?

Creating opportunities for ourselves is important, but not good. We’re not here expecting others to create opportunities for. We know what the way that the tables are slanted, how they’re tilted. And so moving into this space, it’s important that we find each other and that we are very intentional about helping build out our careers.

Right. And thinking about the impact that we can have on industry together, right. By building partnering, being very intentional about the relationships that we make and the opportunities that we create for one another. I need you to come over here and do some work over here, right? I’m know you’re talented at what you do.

And I also know that by you coming over and getting some of this work over here is going to help you with your career. Right? This is all we have to think like this. So this is a no, there’s no way around it. And there aren’t many of us, it’s still many of us who get in position.

And we forget about the hour, forget about the, we forget about where we come from. And sometimes, you know, the problems that we’re running into is so systemic. They become that. They become assimilated into the to the problems that are constantly being assaulted and imposing themselves against.

So we, we need to find out who is we and we need to build relationships, meaningful relationships to move ourselves forward. That there is more we should have more conversations. We should have more books about how to thrive in these spaces with intention. We don’t do it alone.

Where’s your voice. Bring our voice. Creating spaces where we bring on a voice ourselves, but we merge our identities, become that as a designer. When I get to hear what designer and researcher that sounds like them sounds different. That sounds just really unique. It’s because they sound like them. Like that means everything can change. I can change the way I talk. I can change the way I walk. I can do all of that, but I think it’s more meaningful for me when I push the field forward by saying, you know what? We all don’t have to speak like this. We’d all ought to have walk like that dress like this, or have the same preferences. It’s important that we bring who we are to the table. It may be more challenging at times, but when we build the right network around us and the right installation and protection, food, clothing and shelter amongst ourselves, then we put ourselves in position to be happy and to be successful and make impacts on this.

Steven Wakabayashi: That was so good. That was so good. Oh, that was the, you just hit the nail on the head. You just home run. It’s so good. I just, yeah. I have nothing, nothing else, so perfect. You know, that’s what we show up for. That’s what we show up for. That’s what we do day in, day out. That’s why we create space for one another because we get it and we just want to thrive and want others to thrive with us.

Closing Remarks

Steven Wakabayashi: Well, just want to say Real. Thank you so much for this evening. Such an awesome deep conversation. A lot of comments saying how timely it was and just how it was just so great.

Myself, I love having conversation with you and really appreciate it and hope to have you again soon into our space with our community once again. And so with that any last words real before we close the space.

Real Canty: Thank you. I’m glad that we’re connected and you know, I’m here. I just want everyone to know that I’m here.

Anything that I can do to help you move forward. I mean, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’re going to do this together to me. Ultimately, we’re doing this together. So the more of us, they come in and get it. The more of us they succeed, the more they will change the way that these companies build themselves and create more opportunity for ourselves.

So thank you very much. And I’m there for everyone. So all of you. Okay.

Steven Wakabayashi: Thank you. Awesome with that. We close the space. Thank you so much, everyone for coming really appreciate you all and hope you have a good rest of your day or rest of your evening, wherever you are located. And until next time, hope to see you again.

Bye.

 

Transcription by Descript

Join Reality Canty as he shares his experience working with Google and creating equitable design and development practices.

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