Looking Back at Three

With a blink of an eye, it's been over three years with the people at MC. This is by far, the longest I've ever stayed with any group of people.

In my twenties, I was really competitive with myself. All I wanted to do is improve my skills, move up the rank, gain a higher salary, and be in management. I felt like I never found the right place where the company invested in the people's well-being and cared about the happiness of each individual. It was a lot of "what can you do for me today".

All that ended in a big bang when I realized I was doing everything for pride, money, and wanting people's respect. I wasn't sure what made me happy anymore until I can confidently say today, I know the answer.

These three years, I decided to start over. I just wanted to do good work, be more technical, improve my communication, pay more attention, more patience, more empathy, to slow down and listen hard, and to do more things out of the comfort zone. For the first time ever, I didn't have a written goal list, no plans of attack, zero organization.

I simply didn't know what I should do. The first year, I was really quiet. I listened and I took notes furiously. I felt like an imposter, listening in from the outside and only talk when spoken to. Agreeable, complacent, and safe. I felt like I was the dumbest person in the room, and that's exactly where I wanted to be. I wanted to be at a place where the people really challenged me but also respected my opinion.

As time passed, I was cautious, too cautious. I didn't want to make a mistake, so I always asked for validation. I didn't realize the process of over-validating made me look like I wasn't confident in my work. I needed to be stronger in my voice. One day, while talking to a senior advisor, she said to me... "Why are you saying SORRY for that? What did you do wrong there? Nothing! Don't ever be sorry. Don't use the word SORRY because you DID your job correctly. You explored all the options and don't apologize for something that you have given thoughts to. Do you see men apologizing? Why should YOU apologize because you're a girl?"

That struck a huge cord in me,  gave me a lasting impression. I was startled by the cold honest truth in that phrase and all I had to do to fix it, is to put it to use. To think and say, what exactly do I bring to the table that no one else does? I may not be the best technical person in the room, but where do I belong in this? If I don't have a place, how do I carve a place that only I can fulfill and people will feel at a loss if I wasn't there?

This was a really important turning point. Everyone makes mistakes. No one can come up with the best designs in their life, every day, every time. It doesn't matter that the design sucks, it mattered if the design fulfills what the client is asking for. It was never about me, it was about them. I started paying attention to the people that I'm working with and figuring out what this group lacks and then be that person. Become the ever-changing chameleon that wears everyone's hats and shoes. Be the partner, not the designer. 

Constructive feedback given through mentorship or peers is the most valuable feedback you can get. People who work with you directly, indirectly.. what do they sense and see about your performance? Why stay at a company that you can't learn a thing or grow with the people there? It takes a lot of skill to deliver the most effective constructive feedback, one that focus more on empowering in a positive way, not fear-based commentary.

Looking back and looking at the present. Without really thinking, three years have passed and I'm still here. Sticking with the people that work towards the same goals with curiosity and enthusiastic aspiration and same values. Without planning, I've found joy and meaning in a place I've least expected. Thank you for helping me grow and be on this journey.

freelancing, careerCat Lo