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Writers of Silicon Valley: Connecting the internal and external product experience

Writers of Silicon Valley is a UX writing podcast featuring interviews with content strategists and UX writers from around the world.

In this episode, Patrick Stafford chats with Andrea Drugay of Slack about her background, what makes Slack’s copy so special – but most importantly, how to make sure UX writers and content designers bridge the experience that’s outside the product, and the experience inside the product as well.

To listen to this episode, find Writers of Silicon Valley wherever you listen to podcasts:

This episode was originally hosted at Writers of Silicon Valley.

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Patrick:

The first episode we have for today is with Andrea Drugay of Slack. Andrea is a fantastic guest and we chatted for well over an hour. And if you have anything to do with UX writing or content design, you’ve probably used Slack and you’ve noticed how well Slack uses its voice and tone to create an excellent user experience, something that isn’t talked about as much as how Slack connects the out-of-product experience to the in-product experience. And Andrea is the copy manager at Slack for Branded Marketing. So today we talk about how she is able to make sure there is cohesion between outside the product and inside the product when it comes to content design, copy, tone, all that fun stuff. So we had an amazing chat. Really hope you enjoy it. So without any further ado, here is Andrea Drugay from Slack.

Well, look, thank you so much for having a chat. I’m really excited to talk to you, especially because we already had a chat on Clubhouse a little bit. So it’s interesting to continue that. I have to actually ask, how did you find that Clubhouse experience? Because my experience was I saw that chat happening and I thought, oh, that would be great to listen to. And, you know, I just wanted to try it out first. And then I jumped in and then all of a sudden I was a speaker. I was a panelist. They just brought me up like no preparation or anything. And so I was part of the discussion. So I found it was funny because I was in my office and my son was getting ready for school. So he was being quite loud. So I had to sort of run outside to the car so I could talk without any sort of background noise. But I found it a very, very cool experience. I’m wondering what you thought of it.

Andrea:

Yeah, I agree. So I have listened to a fair amount of conversations on Clubhouse at this point. And so I sort of knew what to expect going into it and was contacted by a couple of people. Probably only like an hour or 90 minutes or something before they were going to start about joining as a speaker and I was like, oh, actually, I can join for about an hour if that’s because I know some of these conversations have gone on for hours. It’s just kind of funny. Yes, I found I had a great experience, I thought it was a really interesting conversation. I have many thoughts about Clubhouse. The things that I like about Clubhouse are very similar to the things that I like about podcasts. I was very, very slow to adopt listening to podcasts, mostly just because I couldn’t keep up with them. There were so many that I wanted to listen to and working in this past year, working from home, I didn’t have a commute and just had lost that and, you know, which was like a good time to listen to podcasts and then just restarted, just restarted listening to podcasts. And what I really just enjoyed was listening to conversation. And I feel like that was something that I was really missing, not being in the office. And the audio, just the ambient conversation around me. And I feel like podcasts and now Clubhouse have helped fill that in certain ways. I still find both of them, both podcasts and Clubhouse to be difficult to keep up with what’s happening when. I would love it if there were some sort of, like, calendar app, something that that could, like, organize them all for me in a way that I could just, like, populate my calendar and know that, like, oh, I can block off thirty minutes here and listen to that one or whatever or join that conversation. Yeah. But that’s one of the things that I really like about Clubhouse, is that the spontaneity to those so not everything needs to be scheduled. Yeah.

Patrick:

I really enjoyed the experience. I mean there are some things that I prefer, but the podcast format like we’re having now, it’s because after this conversation will all be able to go and edit it and I’ll be able to look at it and say, OK, we spent five minutes talking about this, but it actually wasn’t really that relevant. So I’m going to cut that out and so on. And so it’s a much more tailored experience. Clubhouse, to me is much more akin to a conference. It’s much more like an ongoing conference talk, sort of like all the time. But you are right, I get peppered with these notifications all the time about this conversation happening and this conversation happening. And so there’s no real way to understand whether that conversation is going to be worth my time or not. Whereas with a podcast feed, I can look at it and I can go, OK, I know this podcast host. I know this guest. I know that often with my podcast to feed will come through and I’ll say, you know what, I don’t really I’m not really interested in that. And so it’s just sort of like archive it immediately. With Clubhouse. I don’t know, I get much more FOMO. The other problem I think is becoming apparent with that is that right now it’s invite-only. And so, you know, that obviously excludes a large number of people. And with a podcast, I’m able to do something like a transcript. Whereas with Clubhouse, that’s not really that. It’s not as accessible perhaps. And so this I think there are just some issues that still need to be worked out.

Andrea:

Yeah, for sure. There are definite accessibility concerns, not being able to have transcripts, not being able to record at all, but leaving out every Android user there. So but again, it’s, you know, it’s very early stages. Yeah.

Patrick:

Absolutely. So before we go on, I think it would be great to explain to the audience who you are and what you do. So you have actually a very extensive background in all types of writing and working in design teams as well. So why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about your work history and what you’re doing now?

Andrea:

Yeah, sure. So the TDLR is I’ve been a writer and editor my entire life. I mean, literally going back to when I was a kindergartner, I used to create little magazines for my family and little newspapers. I was an editor on my high school newspaper, the friend who used to edit all her friends’, papers, that sort of thing. So literally going back my entire life, always been a writer and editor. After college, I decided to get my MFA in poetry, in creative writing, but I specifically studied poetry in addition to short stories and novels and all the different forms of creative writing. And I always figured after getting my MFA that I would move into publishing something like Chronicle books would have been a dream job, working Chronicle books, something very creative publishing.

And what ended up happening is I ended up getting a job at Google and that sort of set the trajectory for everything else that I’ve been doing since. I was hired as a copy editor at Google, and it was during a period of really tremendous growth. And I worked there for five years and wore many, many different hats and did practically no copyediting. But I did a whole lot of writing and eventually ended up on the training team, which is now the learning and development team. But it was just called the training team at the time. And I was helping teams develop, create and revise their internal training for new hires. So when a new hire would join a team to work on like Google Earth or something like that, the Google Earth team would have to train this person on the internal tools in order to continue developing the product or do whatever it was that they were going to do, if they were going to be on support or whatever, we just needed training because we had all these internal tools that obviously since they were internally built, they didn’t come with any training documentation. So it was a lot of sitting next to an engineer and having them walk me through what this tool was and then translating engineer speak into what I would call average human speak. This was this is many, many years ago. And a lot of what I was doing then these days would go by a very different name. None of these titles that we have these days existed back then. And so all of my titles back then where were irrelevant to the sort of content world that we live in now, which is that has been a whole other side of this very interesting journey.

I left Google after five years and freelanced for many years after that. And while I was freelancing, I was a writer and editor, copyeditor, content editor, blog writer, content writer, just basically writing all the things. I worked for agencies, so ad agencies, marketing agencies, mom-and-pop businesses, and a few startups. And at a lot of these places, I was the only writer. And so I was doing all of the writing. So which I know has been the experience for so many, so many writers. But again, doing everything from marketing emails to an onboarding flow, which again, wouldn’t necessarily have been called an onboarding flow at the time that I was doing it more just like what are the first steps somebody takes? And it wasn’t until around 2014/2015 that I started hearing the term UX writing and I was like, oh yes. That’s, that’s what this thing is. There are like the ten articles that existed online at the time and I read all of them and I was like yep, that’s it. And so then that, that was something that I was I was interested in. But in addition to doing all this other writing, so I’ve done a ton of marketing writing, I’ve done longer form blog writing, corporate blogging, that sort of thing. But at the time that I started learning about UX writing, I was like, oh, yes, this is something I would like to focus in for the time being. And so I did. I tailored my resume. I tailored my portfolio. I tailored my mindset. And I think that’s a key part of it is I really tailored my mindset to just focus on that for a while. I worked at a couple of startups mostly doing UX writing, although one of them I was doing everything.

From that place, that was where I decided that I was just kind of over freelancing and didn’t really want to be freelancing anymore. I had been doing it for so long and I wanted to be on a team. I really wanted to be on a team of writers and ideally at a growing company that was maybe around two thousand people. I figured that was like a good size, just based on previous experience in other places that I had worked. And that was when I started working at Dropbox, which sort of checked all the boxes in so many ways. And Dropbox had a tremendous experience really helping to grow the team from this very small team of four writers to 13 or 15 or whatever it was when I left. Part of that journey also involved moving into management, and so that was an interesting sort of shift because I had I had led teams before on a project basis. One of the startups that I had worked at, we had this interesting way of working that was we kind of all led our teams for our area. And it just there wasn’t this structure that exists in tech companies these days that is so parallel to the structure that exists for product design these days. Back then in 2010, that just didn’t exist, so everybody was just kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall trying to figure out like what even would a manager do? We’re all managers. And so then being at Dropbox, that had this more formalized structure in place really helped us to be able to build out these career frameworks for UX writers that were very much based on or similar to career frameworks that exist these days for product designers, which also 10 years ago didn’t exist. And a lot of those are based on career frameworks for engineers, so there’s this very tech-specific sort of framework for career frameworks, for career journeys that we have all just been sort of learning together. I sort of think of the writing world as five or so years behind product design, which is probably five or so years behind engineering. So we’re like 10 years behind that. And that’s just on the UX writing side of things.

So now at Slack, I currently manage the copywriters on the marketing team and marketing team writing includes everything, so everything brand and marketing. So that’s big brand campaigns things like we have a print ad in The Wall Street Journal that I just got my Wall Street Journal today, that we wrote, all of our digital ads, all of our landing pages, all of our event copy scripts for videos and TV scripts, things like that. So much. Much more top of funnel than UX writing, but as we all know, there are those areas that we get into that are sort of gray areas. It’s critical that we work very cross-functionally with our content design team for things like our home page. That’s the great unanswerable question. Who writes the home page? Is it product? Is it marketing? Is it brand? Do you outsource it to an agency? Who writes the home page? And we’ve kind of talked about this a little bit before. I have some belief in this borderless writing. I don’t think it needs to be just one team. So that’s the stuff that we write right now. But before I joined, the copywriters were reporting into a design manager, who is an amazing person and just really, really supportive of writers and the writing journey. And she had a vision for the writers to be reporting into a writer. And so that is the role that I have stepped into, taking the knowledge of these frameworks that exist for UX writing that we collectively have been building together through conversations and, you know, through just building this massively expansive UX writing global community now to be able to take some of those things that we’ve learned and apply them to other types of writing and other writing careers, where a copywriter doesn’t necessarily only then have the path to creative director because not every copywriter wants to be a creative director.

Patrick:

Exactly right. And I’m really glad you’ve mentioned this, because this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine where writers tend to have this, specifically UX writers, tend to have this view that. Sorry, let me just repeat that, because that’s too broad of a generalization. Some UX writers have this view that, oh,  if you work in product that’s pure UX writing but if you work outside of product, that’s not UX writing, that’s marketing writing. And I’ve talked to hiring managers who will say we will only consider people if they’ve worked inside a product. And my response to that is always like, why are you reducing your talent pool? I use this example because it’s sort of the easiest to understand. Let’s say you’re writing a tooltip, and you have a tooltip that’s in an out-of-product experience, like in a comparison table or something like that. And then you have a tooltip in a product. But the process you take to come up with what the user needs to see is still the same. The thought process is still the same. So I don’t quite understand why there has to be this division between. Oh, you haven’t worked in a product, then sorry I’ll only hire a quote-unquote pure UX writer when I’m sure there are plenty of people in your copywriting team who would do a fantastic job in the in-product content design team if they were put there. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on that.

Andrea:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I 100 percent agree. And I think that that sort of mindset, if you’re getting that from hiring managers, it makes me curious about what their experience with writers has been because maybe they haven’t ever worked with a writer or worked with a writer directly. But in general, I mean, his is a very broad generalization, but I sometimes think that any good writer can kind of write anything. I mean, if you know the audience and the intent. It’s. like writing a call to action, writing about a headline, a, you know, a sales intro letter, your own portfolio. You know, who is the audience? What is the intended action? There are some basics of just solid understanding of how to communicate with words that cross borders and break down all silos. And it kind of doesn’t matter sometimes just if you’re good, if you’re a good writer, just go there and write.

Patrick:

I think what I get from the message I’m getting from those hiring managers and other people who was saying that or sort of acknowledging some sort of division, I think what they’re trying to get at is that what they’re really trying to say is they want UX writers who understand the responsibilities of a product and the metrics that are used to measure the performance of a product. And they want a UX writer to have that buy-in and to really understand the ramifications of, say, feature completion rate versus a landing page, which might have a conversion rate attached to it or something like that. And this is actually a good segway into what we talked about on Clubhouse. And what I’d like to talk about now, which is for UX writers and copy writers and other areas, how do you go from good to great? Let’s say, you know, you’re really you’re doing well, but how do you separate those people who you want to promote from a junior role to a mid-role and a mid-role to a senior role? I have my own thoughts on this. I think a better understanding of product and how products work and how product success is measured is a baseline. But I’d be curious to hear from your point of view at Slack. I’m sure you have a very large team. Well, I’m actually not sure what size your team is there, but I’m sure it’s more than, you know, a few. How do you go about deciding within your copywriters and content design teams who is good enough to move up that promotional ladder?

Andrea:

It’s a great question, it’s a great conversation to have. I mean, the most basic way that I think any of us talk about this is scope and impact as you quote-unquote, move up the ladder, which I put that in air quotes, because I don’t necessarily think it needs to be a ladder that is something that you climb upwards. I think there can be a lot of variety in the way that things are structured. As as you move into the next level, there is going to be an expectation that you will have increased scope and the writing that you do will have increased impact. In order to demonstrate that you can do that, you are ready for that next level of responsibility, you also have to demonstrate at the level that you’re at that you can broaden your scope and that you can demonstrate impact.

Patrick:

It’s a good point that you said that, you know, it doesn’t have to be a ladder. We have this assumption that everyone just wants to move up in the world and go to a more senior role. And that’s definitely not an assumption we should make for everyone. So I’m glad you pointed that out. But I think in terms of that phrase, the increased scope, increased impact, I tend to find that the writers and content designers who are ready to take on more responsibility are those who will think even at the base level, how is what I’m doing impacting the larger story and calling out at that point if anything should change or if we need to rethink even the frame of the question that we’re asking. So they get a request and it’s been said we need to do this. And it’s really just about asking, OK, why are we doing this? What’s the solution? Is there an easier solution?  And really sort of taking that bird’s eye view. To me, that’s sort of the first indicator that someone is ready to take on more responsibility or, as you said, more scope.

Andrea:

Yeah, yeah, I agree. Absolutely. You move from being able to connect the dots, like that’s a step that some people who are maybe newer to the role or newer to this way of working might be new to them is like, oh, I have to connect the dots between all of these areas of writing or these methods of process or whatever. And then at what’s the next level after connecting the dots? What do you do when the dots are connected? You know, one of the directions that could go is you’re defining what those dots even are. And another direction you could go is defining whether we need dots? Are dots even the right thing that we should be looking at? So basically moving into a more conceptual area where this concrete knowledge that you have is there to set the foundation to support these abstract ideas and to help you build these connections. And I think that applies to process. That applies to relationships in addition to the actual words and the actual content strategy.  I think that’s a whole other side to it, too, is how much of what you’re doing is writing and partnering with design and to get the right words into the right place at the right time for the right action, for the best possible outcome for everyone involved. And then there is the broader strategy of all of the content that is being produced, and I think that gets into the broader conversation of what is content strategy?

Patrick:

It’s interesting. So there’s this guy, Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s this entrepreneur type. I mean, some people may know who he is. I know a lot of people have controversial thoughts about, you know, some things he says and so on. But he has this phrase that actually resonates with me quite a lot, which is he talks about the difference between the sky and the dirt. So what we’re talking about right now is the sky, the strategic level, thinking, are you competent enough to understand how those dots connect? And as you said, do we even need dots? You know, are we doing things the right way? I’ve also found that there are people who are able to think strategically, but and so live in the sky. But they’re not necessarily able to live in the dirt so that they can think very broadly about things. But at heart, are they a practitioner? Do they get the day-to-day things right? And I think in terms of thinking about how do you go from good to great, for me, it’s about a combination of exactly what you’ve just said, but also a combination of things, you know, day-to-day. So, for instance, are you proficient in a design tool? Are you able to just whip stuff up quickly? If I say to someone, the user researchers sync today, can you please handle this user testing session? Are they able to do that? In a critique, are they giving feedback in a probing but empathetic way? You know, are they asking the right questions? I think we’ve all been in a design critique with someone who’s a jerk and they’re not getting the best out of people. So it’s just those day-to-day things as well that I think you need to combine those. And sometimes I’ve seen people who, they think that they’re thinking strategically, but really all they’re doing is just adding roadblocks because they’ll be in a meeting and they’ll just say, oh, you know, are we really doing the right thing or do we really need this? And sometimes those questions are great. But if you’re just trying to look like you understand strategy, you’re just being a roadblock to everyone else. So I think it’s about having that balance between strategic thought. But also, can you even just get the work done day-to-day?

Andrea:

Yeah, yeah. I love that you bring that up. Absolutely. Because I totally agree with you. There’s a way that I tend to put it is and I don’t know if you’re familiar with this phrase: think globally, act locally. I always tie this to many, many years ago, I worked when I was at high school. I worked at a Body Shop, which was before Estee Lauder bought it. And they were this independent natural skincare and stuff company. And they were very environmentally conscious. And when we were working there, we used to always have to wear these sort of environmental warrior kind of tee shirts with quotes from Anita Roddick, the founder, and just other folks who she admired. And that was one of the maxims that we really had to learn. We sort of had to embody working there. And again, this is talking about skincare, but the intent behind it is, you know, can you hold both those concepts in your head at the same time, keeping in mind the global impact of your environmental decisions. Ultimately it starts with small decisions, but they balloon and can have a global effect. So acting locally comes down to things like: you take out your own recycling and you reuse your bags and whatnot, just all of the small local actions that you can take in your community or local meaning your home. So think globally, act locally. And I think it’s a great metaphor for so many actions that we have to do in this role where you really have to keep that global picture in mind. You have to keep in mind the holistic narrative of your product, no matter what you’re writing. I don’t care what you’re writing, if you’re writing an error message, if you’re writing a landing page headline, if you’re writing a sales email.  Then the event form copy for our webinar. It’s all part of the broader story that your product is telling and that you are telling with your product, and this sort of gets into the bigger question of brand and brand being everything. And I think one of the things that we do see in a lot of tech companies, especially, is this division between brand and product. And there is sometimes not much of a bridge there. And you see these ads and you come to the homepage and it’s like, oh, this is like this product seems really cool. I have no idea what it does still, but it seems really cool. And then you get into the product and it’s like a completely different experience. That’s where that to me is the result of not thinking globally, acting locally. Just not keeping the entire story in mind through the whole process, and it gets into that the sort of like what you were talking about in the day to day, somebody being very strategic, somebody who can think about strategy or product strategy, that sort of thing. But then when it gets down to the actual the weeds of the actual writing, if that’s a skill set as well. For a lot of people, not for everyone, but for a lot of people, you really need both.  You need to find a balance.

Patrick:

Absolutely. We did a webinar recently at the Collective about kick-starting your career. And we got a bunch of really good questions. And one of the questions we got was how do you balance the brand voice with constraints? So how do you get your brand voice into a form copy or very small pieces of text? And my initial response was we did actually answer the question, the webinar. But I was thinking my first response was, well, that’s what separates good writers from great writers. You know, they’re able to do that, which is not a helpful response in any way. But it was my first thought. It was just thinking about that’s that’s really what it is. And, you know, the ultimate answer to that is, you know, practice.

Andrea:

But it’s so funny that you said that because the answer that popped into my head when you just ask that question was, well, practice.

Patrick:

There’s really no secret to it. It’s just like anything, people always ask, how do you get good at this? It’s just years of practice. Just do it more. But it’s interesting that you said about where this division between brand and product and I’m really interested about this because lately I’ve been thinking about how so many product managers come from a development background or they come from an MBA background. And so, so much of it is is not focused on design. Now, there are great product managers who understand design and put influence on design, and they can really get it. But I’m curious about what it would look like if more UX writers went into design product management and they became product managers. Because, look, maybe I’m biased, but I feel like it’s easier to teach UX writers business skills than it is to teach someone with a development or engineering background, design skills. And maybe I’m just saying that because I’m in it like I’ve worked in design teams. And so that could be my own bias there. But I wonder what it would look like if more PMs understood the impact of writing or also if there was a position like you’ve described overseeing content across the whole experience from outside product to inside product. And they sat alongside a design lead. I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking about that lately. And maybe that’s the wrong approach. But I definitely agree with you that there needs to be much more of a bird’s eye view between an experience outside of the product and inside a product. And I think Slack is a really great example of how you’ve been able to I mean, Slack is often used in these types of blog posts and examples about how you’ve been able to create that cohesive experience. So how do you do that? Because you’ve mentioned that your role is overseeing content more so outside of the product itself. But you also work with people who are, you know, the content design teams. So how do you work and how do you make sure that there’s consistency in the brand voice there?

Andrea:

It’s a great question. And I appreciate your mentioning that Slack is a really good example because, you know, in our day to day lives, we all we can always find areas that we want to improve upon. So it’s just always wonderful to hear things that work or seem to be working well for people. This is going to sound like a cop out answer, but it all comes down to relationships and building relationships and building relationships with people that you work with then as partners. And just that level of respect and understanding and curiosity, curiosity about what your partners do will be reflected back to you. Curiosity about your own team. And if it’s for some reason not reflected back to you, then that’s your opportunity to be proactive and tell people what you do, which is a whole other side to the conversation, too, is just the level of socializing your efforts that so many writers have to do in a company. The reason I say I think it comes down to relationships and building those relationships is because when once you have an understanding of the day-to-day of the human that you’re working with, the better you’re going to be able to understand how to communicate to them and with them what your goals are and why X, Y or Z is important for this product launch or why it matters to it. But you use the same term here and there or you know. At a company the size of Slack to small, small companies, this is a lot easier to manage. But know writers are often in the unique spot of having a lot more insight into a variety of projects that are happening across a company, sometimes all of the projects. One of the things on my team at Slack right now, we write across everything on marketing and we have this unique insight into all of the projects that are happening. And where that comes into play is when we can see we can be in a design crit or a review process or a kickoff and someone can mention something that nobody else in that project kickoff might even know anything about, but we have insight into a similar project for a new name, for something or understanding like, oh, we’re actually starting next month. We’re not going to be calling this that anymore. We’re going to be calling it this. The things that maybe have not been broadly announced because they haven’t been launched or rolled out or anything yet, but because it’s so important to our day-to-day lives to make sure that we have a cohesive narrative, that we have language that flows in a consistent and cohesive way across the whole story that we’re telling. We’re pattern matching and just have all these different levels and layers of insight. We can help a lot of different teams, too, because of those insights and so helping your partner is like understand that yes, you are acting locally with them on this one project. You are present and focused with them on this project that you’re working with them on. But you also have in mind the global holistic. Language and story so you’re thinking globally.

Patrick:

And acting locally, and I think part of it comes down to also then to bring the conversation to what we were talking about, which is identifying people who, you know, how do you go from good to great? To me, it’s about thinking globally. What does that actually mean? To me that means things like, do you understand what the company’s OKRs are? Do you understand the OKRs of the people who aren’t even in your team? You know, so thinking just at that level, I tend to think of it as being in a company or being in any type of organization is about solving problems. What problems can you solve? How are you solving problems for yourself, for your team, for your manager, for your department and so on and so on. The way I like to think about it is divided into two groups. You have micro problems and you have macro problems. So the micro problems, other things like how can we get this project out the door, you know, how can I give good feedback on this critique session? Those are the micro problems. What I’ve seen sometimes is that as people have more responsibility and they focus more on the macro problems, they let the micro problems slip. And so they don’t have time for those anymore. To me, looking for someone who is truly great in a role, as their macro problems grow and as their scope and impact, as you put it, grows, they continue to balance that with more solving more micro problems. So that’s things like even just the simplest thing of asking people, asking someone, hey, how are you doing today? Can I help you with anything? Or, Hey, do you need anyone else in this critique session? Now, obviously, you know, you can’t expect someone who’s at the CEO level to be doing all the micro problems all the time. But I think it’s just about if you really want to go from good to great, you really need to make sure that you’re balancing those things together. And so you’ve got a good balance of the, as you said, thinking globally. But those little micro moments of understanding, OK, what’s the problem you’re trying to solve and how can I help you solve it. One example I think of is at MYOB last year, another designer and I were putting together a database of language for features that could be used inside the product and outside the product. And one of the basic things we went and did was we went around to every potential stakeholder and we asked them, how will this help you solve problems or what problems can we help you solve with this particular tool? And is this tool the best way to do it? Even just thinking in that framework, I think, as you said, builds those relationships and just helps you get things done faster. And more effectively.

Andrea:

Yeah, absolutely, I agree. I mean, because it’s one thing to be able to come to a meeting and say we have this problem and just only being able to view it or listen or understand from this business strategic level and yet not have any understanding of it on the micro-level. Actually what it is that needs to be changed, if we just remove this, then this could just be one model and a button and boom.

Patrick:

I’m a huge West Wing fan, and there’s this scene in the West Wing that I always think about. The scenario is that the United States is about to invade a country, to stop a war between Russia and China. And so it’s in this extremely cold region. And so they’re in the Situation Room and all the important military people are briefing the president and they’re saying, oh, we’re going to drop out, we’re going to drop out, carry our equipment here and we’re going to invade here and we’re going to have 40000 troops here. And so it’s a very sort of big level of thinking. And then the president asks, so what are they going to wear? And then the secretary of defense is like, you know, the normal uniform. And the president replies and says, where we’re going is one of the coldest places in the world. And Americans haven’t fought in a cold temperature, Cold War, for decades. So do we have coats? What are they going to wear? And then the secretary of defense says, we’ll check and get back to you. And to me, that’s just a great illustration of understanding like that high-level, low-level thinking at once. You understand the big picture, but then you also understand the logistics of how are things going to get done. So it’s one thing to say, yeah, cool, we should redesign this onboarding flow. It’s another to say, well, do we have goals in place for it? Do we even have the components we need to create this? So, yeah, I think it’s just a good illustration.

Andrea:

I love that story and it brings to mind a nuance that we have started playing with on my team, which is actually moving away from, say, literally moving away from saying what is the problem we’re trying to solve here to what is the outcome we’re hoping to achieve? Yeah, it’s you know, it’s just a different slant because it sort of opens your mind to different possibilities, different ways of working together, maybe different teams that we need to pull in, different partners that we need to pull in, maybe different relationships that we need to start building. Maybe if the outcome that we’re trying to achieve is it actually turns out to be something that’s very straightforward. What we had originally defined as a problem, maybe it’s actually just very simple to solve. Maybe it’s a very lean project and we’ve got a designer and a writer and an engineer and boom.

Patrick:

And that’s it.

Andrea:

And that’s it. And maybe it actually turns out that the outcome that we are hoping to achieve is something that we haven’t even yet defined. And maybe if we can define that, then we can create a work back plan.

Patrick:

Yeah, absolutely fantastic. Look, I could talk about this all day with you, but unfortunately, we’re just about that time. So this has been such a fantastic chat. And thank you so much for participating. The one thing I ask everyone at the end of the podcast is what’s something that you’ve been reading or listening to lately? It could be about UX writing or otherwise that sort of helped you with work and if you have anything that you won’t be able to share.

Andrea:

I have actually a great book that I would recommend. It’s called Women in Tech. I want to make sure I get the title absolutely correct. Let me just set this up. It’s called The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay. And it was written by a woman that I worked with at Google many moons ago. Her name is Alana Karen. I hosted a fireside chat with her for our women’s ERG at Slack. It was so insightful to hear her talk about her own experience, but also about the experience of these 80 plus women that she interviewed for the book and their stories. How we got here, why we stay. The book itself is really tremendous effort. Just it’s so, so good. It’s so insightful and so relatable and also really inspiring. And one thing that I really like about it and that I found so intriguing is right there in the title: Why We Stay. We see so many articles, hear so many podcasts and blah, blah, blah, Clubhouse talks about why women leave tech. That’s where a lot of the focus goes. And there’s so much less focus on why we stay. And there are lots of reasons why women do stay in tech. But the broad variety of reasons, just like the broad variety of women who work in tech anyway, it’s a really wonderful book. I highly recommend The Adventures of Women in Tech.


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