The Interface is a brand-new podcast exploring trends and hot topics for UX content people.
Button 2022 was a great time—in Seattle or on your computer if you attended remotely. Together we recap the conference, talk about the standout sessions, and speak on what we hope to see more of next year. In this episode, host Patrick Stafford chats with guests Erica Jorgensen of Slack and Carly Gray of Meta about their experience at the event (and as speakers). Listen in or read the transcript!
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Patrick: [00:00:15] Welcome to the Interface Podcast, the monthly podcast from the UX Content Collective, where we talk about everything content design, UX writing, and content strategy. Today we are high off the Button conference, and we’re coming back to have a chat about it. Today I have Carly and Erica here. Carly, why don’t you introduce yourself to the people?
Carly: [00:00:37] Hi everyone. I’m Carly Gray. I’m a content designer at Meta. I was also a virtual speaker this year at Button.
Patrick: [00:00:45] Welcome, Carly. And Erica, introduce yourself to the masses.
Erica: [00:00:49] Thank you. I am Erica Jorgensen, and I just finished a book Content Research for User Experience coming soon from books at Rosenfeld Media. Happy to be here. Thank you.
Patrick: [00:01:00] Excellent. And both of you, of course, were speakers at Button this year, which we’ll get to in a moment. This year’s Button was really exciting. Obviously, Button has been going since 2020, but due to the event, which we probably don’t need to name, it was a hybrid event, or rather it was purely online in 2020, purely online in 2021. But this year it was a hybrid. It was in-person for the first time, and I attended in person. Erica, you attended in person. Carly, you attended remotely. I’m actually really excited to compare our experiences in terms of how that was and what it’s been like. But I’d love to start with just first impressions of the conference and how you experienced it and how you came away feeling after the conference. Erica, you and I spoke a little bit while we were there, but not really a lot. And I’d love to hear your thoughts, first of all, about just after those three days how you felt going back to work, and after listening to all those talks, what was your impression of the conference overall?
Erica: [00:02:14] Yeah, I think it’s so energizing and reassuring and confidence-boosting almost, I don’t want to say religious experience, but going to Button makes me feel good for the rest of the year. I don’t know. I wish Kristina could bottle that feeling because I think working in content is hard, really, really hard, and being around like-minded people who are having this similar, similar struggles, who are also sharing success stories. It’s just phenomenal. It’s phenomenal. I really wish my team could have attended. I think it’s just so powerful. I don’t know. I could go on all day. But yeah, it’s remarkable. And the halo effect, you just get this glowy feeling that lasts and lasts.
Patrick: [00:02:59] Yeah, I definitely felt a sense of community while being there in person. Carly, I’m really interested to hear if that feeling extended its way through your computer monitor to your virtual attendance. So for those listening who didn’t attend, there were these main stage sessions that were broadcast virtually. And Carly, you were watching. How did you feel watching that? Did that sense of community really come through?
Carly: [00:03:32] Yeah, I actually was going to use the word. I could feel the love beyond the screen, and I did feel a lot of FOMO not being in person, but I still just had as much excitement and enthusiasm as probably the rest of the people in the room. I was clapping and cheering all the presenters on, even beyond the live sessions because I actually caught up a lot with the recordings of day two and day three especially. I just had a lot going on that week. But yeah, even beyond when Slack was active, I can still revisit those recordings, go back through the channels, and get the same resources and access to information from those speakers. Overall, yeah, it was a very successful hybrid event. Kudos to the team because I know that was very challenging to have an experience parity for both virtual and in-person.
Patrick: [00:04:21] Yeah, it was interesting seeing people running around in person because there were clearly lots of things happening in the background and broadcasts to get right. And yeah, it was handled very smoothly, and I think it’s actually a good example of a hybrid event for others. I personally came away feeling exhausted and energized after the conference. I think those are the two biggest feelings I felt because you are meeting so many people who I’ve talked to online before but have never met in person. And these people whose work I admire and it’s energizing. You walk away, like you said, Erica, feeling just very happy and a sense of affirmation. You’re feeling like you’re doing good work and you’re with the right people, but also lots of great ideas and lots of practical things you can put into place. And there were so many great talks. Carly, I’d love to hear your thoughts on … were there any that stood out to you or any that you … I find that with these conferences you’ll watch a bunch of talks and that sometimes they tend to blur together a little bit and there’s usually like one or two that you just won’t stop thinking about that really sort of change your thinking or impact your work. Is there anything like that that stood out to you?
Carly: [00:05:47] Yeah. For me, I’m kind of in my mid to senior career track. So the two talks that really stood out to me that were very timely and much appreciated were John’s talk about saying no to your boss and how you should. And also, Michael Metts’ talk about leadership and influence in your own way. And I think a lot of organizations sort of hold influence to this really high pedestal, but finding a way that you can do that and lead in a way that’s true to you and in your personal style was a really big game changer for me because I feel like a lot of the times there’s a lot of encouragement to lead in a certain way. But that’s not the only way. So yeah, I would think those were the two standouts for me and something that I’ve already sort of taken forward into my day-to-day work.
Patrick: [00:06:45] How have you done that? I’d be interested to hear how you’ve done that already.
Carly: [00:06:48] Yeah. So I think in Michael’s talk, for example, he has these styles of leadership and I’ve already maybe had more listening conversations and more collaborative relationships with my product managers. I have a lot of tough product managers that I work with and just really asking them like, Hey, what can we do better? Instead of focusing on this is something we should not build and being more of a detractor in this work. But making that small track of progress over time does ladder up to that leadership and influence rank. So that’s one small thing I’m already taking away from that.
Patrick: [00:07:30] Erica, what stood out to you? Is there anything that you’re still thinking about? I mean, I’m sure there’s lots, but any any highlights?
Erica: [00:07:38] Yeah. I, too, loved Michael Metts bringing down the house with his closing keynote. I thought that was phenomenal. I don’t know what else to add besides the fact that the one thing that jumped out at me with his session was you might not think you’re making progress with your team or your organization or the practice of content design or content strategy, but the progress is incremental, and sometimes you need a lot of perspective to see what you’ve accomplished. And that hit home. I think that was something I was scribbling notes on. I think that was phenomenal how he brought that point home. I also very much enjoyed Michael Christiano’s session on breaking into content design leadership. While I’ve been managing for many years, he still had a lot of great advice. He does yoga. He’s a yoga teacher. I think you can tell he has a very peaceful aura about him that I think he brings to his. Clearly he brings to his management work. He had a lot of practical tips that you can take home and run with.
Erica: [00:08:45] I think taking care of yourself, you can’t underestimate the power of that. I think I have not been living that very well lately. And just those reminders are very valuable, I think. I also liked the failure session, the session on failure, people being humble and sharing their past mistakes and how they learned from them was awesome. That was moderated by Jonathan Coleman. I thought they were very quick, hard-hitting, kind of lightning talks on how I really, really screwed up and learned from it and moved forward. Failure shouldn’t be seen as the harsh thing it often is, I think. That’s how you learn. That’s how you learn. Maybe. Maybe failure needs a rebrand. Maybe we need a new word for failure. Maybe there’s a German word for that that I don’t know. It was like boom, boom, boom. Oh my God. Thank you for sharing these embarrassing, tough stories. The camaraderie and the selflessness came through a lot.
Patrick: [00:09:45] Yeah, I really enjoyed that. If anyone didn’t see that talk, Jonathan Coleman at HubSpot moderated a series of very small or very short, rather, talks on failure. And there were four or five people who described their particular failures in their own workplace, and they ranged from, “I took on too much work and therefore didn’t get anything done” to “I didn’t speak up when I perhaps should have to assert my role at the table.” And then I thought Yael Ben David’s anecdote at the end, where she essentially said that she came in like a steamroller and basically dominated conversations with engineers resulted in her creating some pretty, I don’t know what she said the consequences were, but definitely some tension in her teams. And it was yeah, I thought that was really vulnerable and so charitable for those people to describe those failures. I thought it was really great.
Erica: [00:10:59] A similar example where he was like, I am going to make an impression on my new coworkers. And he came in like hot and heavy working on his first project that had to get all his work, had to get rolled back, I think, over a holiday weekend? It sounded completely fallacious and like you just want to crawl under a rock and die. But how he had to come out of that and apologize and ask for forgiveness and change his way of working and get more stakeholder buy-in. That’s the hardest part, I think, about working in content is managing stakeholders and making sure you’re communicating with the right people at the right time. Yes, that’s what we do with content professionals. It’s hard. It’s hard. Doing the internal work is so hard to make sure that you’re at the right level, right altitude with everyone, and sharing just the right amount. Oof! Yeah. I thought he looked like he was like tearing up a little bit as he was sharing and I was like, don’t cry, it’s okay. It’s okay. That stuff, it just eats at you, you know? You just don’t forget a moment like that.
Patrick: [00:11:53] I think everyone gained from the humility in sharing those stories. So I thought that was great. There were two that stood out to me that I’m still thinking about now. The first is Relly Annette Baker’s talk. She’s a UX content strategy manager from Google, and she spoke about basically, I guess the talk was called something like How to Prove your Value. But to me, it came across more as … How to show your impact. And I believe it was Relly that gave this anecdote of someone who was working. I can’t remember if it was her who shared this anecdote or someone else during the conference, but it speaks to a theme that I’ll touch on in a minute, which is sharing impact and sharing value. And someone at the conference gave this anecdote of she worked with someone who had made a content design change and it saved the business a couple of million dollars and she had encouraged…
Erica: [00:12:51] That might have been me?
Patrick: [00:12:53] That was you! It was you.
Erica: [00:12:56] True. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That was a dramatic example. And I try to emphasize how dramatic that was.
Patrick: [00:13:02] Well, I’m glad you’re here then, because I couldn’t remember who it was. This is perfect. And so your anecdote was that, no, you should share this impact. You should share this value. And sometimes we want to push ourselves down and not make a big deal about it. But that anecdote really tied in with Relly’s talk, I thought. And her talk was very much along those lines, show your impact. It’s not just enough to have a seat at the table. People follow impact and people want to, I’m sorry, I can’t remember if it was you who said this, but people want to ride the coattails of impact. And so, yeah. So I thought both yours and her talks were along similar lines and I thought they were great. And the other I really have been thinking about is Millie Shaw’s talk. Millie is a content design practice lead at Opencast and her talk was all about feedback and critique and just some techniques that we can take in our own critique and feedback. And one of the things that I think people can gain from that talk is that when you receive feedback, it’s just one source of information. You can take it. You don’t have to act on everything all the time. You know, you can take it, you can stew on it, you can think about it, and then you can ultimately decide whether to put it aside or to implement it. But sometimes you’re nodding your head. So you and I have probably been in the same situation where you hear every piece of feedback, and you think … I have to implement this. But you don’t have to.
Carly: [00:14:41] I love that talk, too, because feedback and the art of giving and receiving feedback is something that is not taught unless you’re on the job. I learned very quickly and probably not well on how to solicit good feedback. So I love that talk just to help people understand how they can maximize the types of feedback that they’re looking for. And then, like you said, not everything. You don’t have to include everything in your next draft or in your next iteration. Of course, some feedback is going to be: You need to do this or else you can’t publish it. But again, it took me a long time to understand that balance of listening and actually implementing what I need to or what I should. So, yeah, I love that talk for sure.
Patrick: [00:15:34] Especially when receiving feedback from senior people or department heads. My former manager at MYOB taught this to me. I had received some feedback from a department head, and my manager told me, you know, you don’t have to accept that feedback. You’re the expert in this area. You can explain to that person why you think their feedback is not appropriate to include. You should acknowledge it, and you should be respectful, but you don’t have to include it. I thought it was a really powerful, powerful talk. But I just want to go back to what I mentioned before about the idea of proving value and showing value, because if there was a theme that I took out of the conference, it was that. There were more talks about how actually to show your impact and discuss your impact and really shout it to the rooftops, not just in terms of, I guess, some sort of ethereal, any sort of … what’s the word? Vague way, but you can actually demonstrate solid, specific numbers that demonstrate your value. And Erica, as you just said, your talk included that anecdote. I wonder, did you notice that same theme popping up because you weren’t the only person talking about this at the event?
Erica: [00:17:02] My example made me laugh so hard because my coworker, Trudy, literally, she finds out that she’s saving the company $2 million, and she goes, she’s like, I’ve got a kick. I’ve got to go look. Come on. Like, toot your own horn a little bit. That’s remarkable. I think that just kind of spoke to me about how overworked we often are as content professionals. We’re not sufficiently staffed sometimes or just have so much work on our plates that it’s hard to take that breather and go, oh, I better share my impact. I better go talk to the monthly business review or volunteer to run a demo day or go to a demo fest or something like that. I think it kind of came full circle with the need to set boundaries and own your time and protect your energy so you can do that work. And that’s hard. I think our instincts are often to say yes, yes, yes to anything thrown at us, either out of guilt or because we can’t take a deep breath and ponder before responding to requests for our help or our work. You can’t have impact if you don’t have a little bit of energy remaining at the end of the day to go do that. Make a little deck or send a message to someone saying, I’d like to present at the next business review. It’s a cycle.
Patrick: [00:18:17] Yeah. Especially if, I think many people at Button are introverted by nature. It is difficult sometimes to step in front of people who you don’t know and explain; here’s the process that I’ve gone through and here’s the impact I’ve made. And also sometimes those assumptions we make about creating value, sometimes we … and I know this is my experience … I sort of think, well, this is the model I’ve used to demonstrate this value, but it’s not 100% accurate. It’s really just vague. I don’t know if anyone’s depending on it, but I think once you realize that everyone else in the company is doing the same thing, you know, everyone else is sort of creating these vague formulas about how to demonstrate value. All you need to do is show your work and say, well, this is how I’ve measured it. Here’s my calculus. I’m open about it. And to Millie’s point, I’ll accept critique on that. Carly, you were nodding while Erica was talking about protecting your energy and being overworked. Did anything in that resonate with you? Did you hear anything at Button that spoke to you on that level?
Carly: [00:19:35] Of course, yeah. To tie it back to Relley’s talk, I think she kind of, it’s unfortunate because the live broadcast cut out in the middle of her talk, but at the very beginning, she was kind of setting this up as like, I’m going to be your content design mom because you need to hear this. And she was like, if you’re always being the string person, if you’re always saying yes to these things, you’re doing yourself a disservice and you’re not, to your point, Patrick, showing your work or the amount of impact that you can have if you reserve that energy for other things. So yeah, focusing on the high-impact work is something I definitely need to work on, and thanks to Relly for being my content design mom and for the reminder so I can continue to protect my time and block out, say I’m out of office, say I’m not available so I can make the time to demonstrate that impact.
Patrick: [00:20:29] Yeah, that’s a really good, really good reminder. I think blocking out time is always good as long as you’re not doing it too much, as long as you’re not blocking out weeks at a time. But yeah, within reason. When I needed time to work on my own, I always loved booking a meeting room and just going in there for 3 hours, and I’m like, this is my little office space for 3 hours. Leave me alone. But sometimes you love the hustle and bustle and other times not. Carly, did you walk away with a theme at the conference that really spoke to you or any sort of broad … sometimes we can sort of see patterns where there aren’t any. But I definitely felt that, as I said before, there was that emphasis on value and demonstrating impact. Was there anything that stood out to you as a theme or a larger takeaway?
Carly: [00:21:19] Yeah, I think listening and I kind of touch on that in the beginning, but being a more active listener, not only of our users, right, Because that’s kind of a given. Like we all practice that skill very frequently and we should. But with our stakeholders. With Candi’s talk, it was all about that, like listening to your stakeholders to really understand where they’re coming from. And same with John’s talk: seek to understand with your boss or your manager to see where they’re coming from, and where this decision is rooted, and then you can better mitigate and collaborate and come to a solution that works for both of you. So that’s another sort of common thread that I could see throughout the conference and even through some of the virtual talks in the on-demand library.
Patrick: [00:22:11] And since Button started two years ago and I would almost say, you know, since the pandemic started early 2020, content design has grown significantly. It has been listed on LinkedIn as one of the fastest-growing skills or fastest-growing job opportunities in the past couple of years in a number of different countries, including the United States, including Australia. And we’ve seen, I know from our experience at the Collective, we’ve seen more and more people moving in from other industries because they see it as a career opportunity that they never thought they would have. Right. And what I really felt at Button was this buildup of two or three years of people entering this industry, people seeing more impact, people feeling less alone. And it was, as I mentioned, it was the first in-person event. And I really felt that energy come through. And I know that during the conference, during the main stage talks, there were lots of people talking on Slack. There was basically a main Slack channel. And even though Carly, unfortunately, there were many people who couldn’t be there, I felt a real sense of community in that Slack channel because there were all sorts of people talking about what they were seeing and sharing resources. And I don’t know about you, but I walked away feeling like, wow, this community really cares about the practice and each other and sharing. And I’ve been to some conferences where you walk away, you just think that was the coldest, driest thing I’ve ever been to. But yeah, I felt there were so many people saying that they would help each other or reach out, stay connected, and so on. Erica, I don’t know if you felt that as much as I did, but I certainly was watching that and feeling very, very heartened about the community and the future of the industry.
Erica: [00:24:17] The camaraderie is real. I think, like you said, someone compiled a list of all the resources that they were hearing about in all the sessions and made a PDF of it. I thought that was awesome. With links to books and resources and courses and other things. The speakers followed up with tips. I think I got a lot of requests for information about the public speaking resources that I shared. I was like, oh wow, people are looking to get out of their comfort zone and that’s hard, but we can support each other. It sounds cheesy, but you need to grow all the time when you work in content. It’s all about, you know, standing on your toes and keeping an open mind and not knowing what you don’t know. It’s hard, but it’s also amazing. And knowing that there are 900 other people rooting you on who came to Button.
Patrick: [00:25:10] The PDF you’re mentioning. So that PDF was written by Clare Scott. She has actually turned that into a blog post for the UX Content Collective with a list of all those resources. So that will be out hopefully by the time this podcast is out. So we’ll link to that. But yeah, it’s a great list. I saw that and I thought, everyone needs to see this. Carly, I hope that the Slack channel, while you are watching from home, made you feel closer to the community or part of it from your hybrid experience. What did you take away when it came to the community and the camaraderie and all of that?
Carly: [00:25:52] It was so fantastic. We had a virtual channel. I’m tuning in from Canada, so there was a Canadian channel. And just to get to know fellow people that are going through the same struggles and even within my country because we can talk about the weather. I work with a lot of people on the Pacific, in California and Seattle and things like that. So I find it very, very lonely sometimes. I have no one to talk about snow, so it’s just great to get to know people on a more personal level. All of the mug shots, all of the pet photos, cat tax is a new term that I’m loving. And I’m going to ask people to pay the cat tax whenever I get to know them. I felt the love, like I said, and it’s a shame it’s going to go down, but that’s just more incentive to tune in next year, right? And get the same amount of community.
Patrick: [00:26:49] I don’t know if you’ve ever attended networking events, I’m making air quotes right there. They always tend to be terrible for lack of a better word, and they never result in what you really want from an industry which is making friends. You want friendship. You want people who care about the same things you do and people who have common interests and so on. And I felt like, the Button Slack was this awesome, for lack of a better word, networking opportunity. This is where you can find people who will help you when you’ve been laid off, and you’re looking for more opportunities. This is where you can find people who will help you. It’s where you need portfolio feedback. I just felt like everyone was extremely open and willing to help each other. You don’t really see that in a lot of other industries. And Erica, why do you think that is? I feel like the content strategy/content design community is quite very friendly and close and you don’t really see that in some other industries. Why is that?
Erica: [00:28:05] Maybe because we’re nerds and we bond over it? Nerdery was another theme of the conference … you are a nerd. Own it. Being the person who works with words is a little bit unusual, it’s not a skill set that a lot of people have. But we are nerds, and we embrace that. Maybe it’s that that we’re like instant friends because we’re on the same wavelength about we get the same jokes about writing. I think there’s something in my presentation about Wordle, like you wake up and you can’t wait to do it. We’re not like other people. It’s a subculture, perhaps, that it’s a subculture and we gravitate to each other. And the support, I think, just comes along with that. We don’t always get the seat at the table that we ought to have. I do think the industry is changing. It’s changing in a positive way and going in the right direction in large part, I think because of the kickass work that Kristina Halvorson and Brain Traffic have done over the last several years. They’re top-notch. And the work that they did to get this conference to happen in a hybrid way. I cannot. The AV equipment behind the stage was just stacked, so many gadgets and consoles and things like I don’t know how they did it. It was like when U2 goes on tour, and they have those 18 buses and 18-wheeler trucks or whatever of equipment. It was hardcore. But yeah, it’s a community. That sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
Patrick: [00:29:38] Exactly. Someone did tell me that one of the hotel staff there called us all a bunch of nerds. So there you go. That’s okay. That’s okay. We’re allowed to be.
Erica: [00:29:48] I’m alright with that. It took me a while to come to terms with that. I think my dad wanted me to be an engineer. He’s like, you’re going to be an English major? Oh my God.
Patrick: [00:29:57] That’s a different type of nerd.
Erica: [00:29:59] Yeah, that’s another. Our jobs are hard, and we have to know a lot of different things. I think that came out in the conference, too. All the things that we know about accessibility and writing in an inclusive way and making sure we know how to localize. There are a million things that we do. We’re good. We’re smart. It’s hard, but we’re stepping up and doing it.
Patrick: [00:30:27] I definitely felt that inclusivity, so it was great. I want to wrap up because I don’t want to go on too long. But Carly, what do you want to see next year? Because there was a lot of great value here in the conference. And I think people can still buy digital library access so people can still go and buy access to these talks. And I haven’t watched all of the on-demand ones yet. But judging by the quality last year and the year before, I’m sure they were great. And they can go and see yours, Carly. They can go and see your talk. But I’m interested; what do you want to see next year from Button?
Carly: [00:31:07] Yeah, personally I would love to see some talks about content ops and content engineering. I feel like that is such an underrepresented space. And like Erica, you’re mentioning, there are so many different specialties within content design. I feel like that would be really fascinating and terrific if we can get some more insight into that. And speaking of little nerdy niche genres of content design that really fits the bill. My talk was about release notes, which when I pitched it, I didn’t think a lot of people would be super interested in release notes as a content design genre, but we had a lot of participants in the Q&A. And yeah, it just goes to show that we have so many different people transitioning from different roles. We had some technical writers in there or some copywriters, and we’d love to see more voices from that space too, like making the transition from all these diverse backgrounds into content design.
Patrick: [00:32:09] Great. And Erica, what would you like to see next year?
Erica: [00:32:13] I think more failure stories because that was so valuable. I could go for 100 more of those. I think I’m going to echo what Carly said about operations and engineering. I feel like the more we can make friends with engineers or speak to the complexity of our work, the more respect we’ll get. And I think componentized content to the work that Carrie Hane is doing with Sanity IO and others. That’s stuff that I personally do not understand yet. I’m a little afraid of it. I would love to learn more about that. And I think there have been Button sessions and content Confab sessions on similar topics that in past years. It’s interesting to see where the industry is going. I think that’s a road that we’re headed down. It’s really complicated. I think it’s difficult to learn because you kind of have to learn on the job or learn from others who’ve done it. And they’re not that many people.
Patrick: [00:33:10] That’s great. I’d personally love to see practical content strategy performed on stage.
Erica: [00:33:17] Like live?
Patrick: [00:33:19] Live. I’d love to see some sort of live interactive exercise performed on stage. I already have an idea about this, which I’m keeping secret. But Kristina Halvorson, I will be coming to see you soon. Or rather, I’ll drop you an email. She’s probably on vacation for the next six months.
Erica: [00:33:41] No, she’s already working. She’s already working.
Patrick: [00:33:45] That’s not good. Don’t follow that example. Alright. Erica Jorgensen and Carly Gray, thank you so much for taking part in the podcast today. Really great to hear your thoughts on Button. Erica, where can people find you and your work and everything else about you?
Erica: [00:34:04] On LinkedIn. Hit me up on LinkedIn. Erica Jorgensen or you can also find information about my book. It is not yet available for purchase but will be on the Rosenfeld Media website.
Patrick: [00:34:16] Perfect. If you do have any links or anything, we’ll add those to the show notes. And Carly, where can people find you?
Carly: [00:34:23] Yes, you can find me on LinkedIn or I’m pretty active on Twitter. My handle is Carly Gray. Gray has two Ys. There was one @CarlyGray who beat me to it, so I had to improvise. But yeah, I tweet many content UX musings, but also a lot of power-lifting or Halloween-themed ideas and thoughts. So if that’s your jam, feel free to follow me there.
Patrick: [00:34:50] Awesome. Alright. Thanks, Erica. Thanks, Carly. And thank you to everyone listening. We will see you again next month.