Why Representation Matters in the Workplace

This week I stepped down from my role as Research & Design Director at Year Up. My time with the team went much faster than I imagined. But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years its that when the universe knocks on your door with an amazing opportunity, you should open it. Even if it means saying goodbye to another amazing experience (more on this later).

As I reflect on my time with the Year Up team, what is going to stay with me the most, is the importance of why representation matters in the workplace.

When we begin any conversation about representation it is inherently linked to the concept of identify. I wear many identities within life: Partner, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Cat Mom, Adoptee, Colombian, Female, Researcher, Teacher, the list could go on and on. These elements of my identity come to influence how I exist and interact within the world. Unfortunately, these lenses can also show where I may encounter or receive bias in my life.

One of the unique benefits of having served on the Year Up team is seeing diversity integrated at every level of the organization. It is seen not only in the students that we work with but within the internal staff as well. From site staff, national, all the way up to the executive team; staff members come from all walks of life. Each with varying backgrounds, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. There is true beauty in seeing so many diverse individuals aligned and marching towards one common mission. It wasn’t until I landed with the team that I became aware of how much this was needed in my life.

I’ve spent the last 8 years of my career working in technology. For a majority of that time, I’ve been the only person of color in the room. Imagine that! One of the only people of color making product and design decisions that impact millions of diverse individuals. This is huge! Since our identities intrinsically impact how we experience the world, if our product and design teams are skewed towards one particular perspective it impacts how we identify and solve problems. Creativity is truly enhanced when you have empathy with your audience and incorporate diverse perspectives to co-create solutions.

Until 2020, I had only ever met and interacted with 1 BIPOC female at the executive level (Shoutout to Maribel). To put things into perspective, my experiences are not unique. It is estimated that only 2% of employees in todays tech companies are BIPOC. And the number of BIPOC females in tech are even lower.

That is precisely why my time at Year Up was so special. For context at Year Up, 53% of the executive team is BIPOC and a staggering 26% is female BIPOC. This experience showed me that as society we can do better. There are no longer any excuses as to why women of color cant rise to the levels of executive leadership. Let Madam VP be a true testament to that! But its also important to remember that its difficult to dream and see yourself in a specific role, if you’ve never seen examples of it before.

My expectations for leadership, representation, and diversity are forever changed because of my experience with the Year Up team. I plan on carrying this forward with me as I move into my next role and beyond. Year Up will forever have a place in my heart and I look forward to partnering and being of service for years to come.

Using information mapping to write clearer content

Last month, I sat down with some of my coworkers to officially hand off knowledge base responsibilities. Since transitioning more fully into my LXD role, I haven’t had the bandwidth to manage them anymore. It was a little bitter sweet, but it’s so exciting to see others step up to the plate and expand their skills.

I ended up reviewing some information mapping best practices to get the team more familiar with creating learning content. The session was so energizing! It reminded me of how much I love getting in front of people to share best practices and how much information mapping has helped to craft my content creation process.

What is information mapping?

Information Mapping is a researched based method that helps enable the creation of clear, concise, and focused writing. It allows content creators to put users needs at the forfont of the creation process.

I got trained in the information mapping methodology roughly 2 years ago and it’s helped every type of content I create. Everything from emails, presentations, documentation, help content, knowledge base articles, the sky’s the limit!

Below is an example before and after it went through the information mapping process. As you can see, information mapping can help to make the content more readable and bring important details to the front of the messages you’re crafting.

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Information Mapping – Before and After Example

Getting Started with Information Mapping

You don’t have to go through an information mapping training course to start using it! Here’s some guiding principles to help get you started:

Identify audience needs 

Whenever you’re creating content of any type of content, the first thing you’ll want to do is find out as much as you can about your audience. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Who is the audience?
  • Are there multiple audiences?
  • What do they need to do?
  • What do they need to KNOW in order to do the task?
  • How will they access the information?

audience

Knowing this will help guide the information you present to your users and make sure that it truly resonates with them.

 

Organize information from the user’s perspective

Once you have a better idea of the content the users will need to know,  it’s time to focus on how you’ll actually present it to your audience.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 1.25.56 PMBe sure to present the content in the order the users will need to use it. This often means introducing high level conceptual information first, then drilling down into more detailed content or steps later.Take a book for example; they’re often composed of multiple short chapters, rather than one long chapter of content. Each chunk of content should represent a new idea or topic.

 

Help users find what they need

Now that you’ve got your content down, it’s time to make some improvements to ensure that users can find the content they need.

Whenever I’m writing instructions or documents, I’ll add subheaders or descriptors to the content chunks in my document. The subheading should accurately convey what appears in it’s corresponding section. If the user is looking for something specific in your document, they’ll be able to quickly find what they’re looking for within the content.

Another best practice that i’ll do when writing directions is begin all sentences or steps with action verbs. For example, this means starting software how to’s with words such as “Click”, “Enter”, or “Select”. This puts the action that the user needs perform, front and center, ensuring theres absolutely no guess work on their end.

I’ll also emphasize words of importance by using italics, bold, or using all caps. In some cases, I’ll actually insert tips if something is really important to the user (ex: TIP: Changing this field will change all of your admin settings).

Finally, I’ll add supportive graphics throughout the document to help ensure that I get my point across. This means including pictures of software screens, machinery, or tools, you’re expecting the users to assemble or use.

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Example Instructions from The Predictive Index Knowledge Base

 

Putting it in action 

And that’s it! The next time you sit down to craft content, begin to incorporate some of these best practices to start getting your messages across to your users quicker.  So go on, and get your information mapping on!

 

Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences

Last month I was fortunate to attend a Design Thinking workshop with the eLearning guru Connie Malamed. After reading Connie’s blog for over 8 years  I was beyond psyched for the opportunity to meet her in person!

The workshop was absolutely wonderful (as expected) and really helped cement many of the ideas I have been implementing over the past 6 months in my new learning experience role. It opened my eyes to how important design thinking is and where some of the crossovers between Learning Experience and User Experience are as a whole.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a strategy that became popularized by Tim Brown, David M Kelly, and Roger Martin. It focuses on using a structured human-centered approach to solving problems. It’s gained popularity over the years as businesses began adopting it to respond to growing trends, gain a better understanding of consumers and try to differentiate themselves from competitors.

Using Design Thinking in your Learning Practice

Over the years many variations of Design Thinking that have emerged. This became even more apparent when looking for a graphic to represent the framework. If you simply do a quick google search of Design Thinking you’ll find thousands of graphics showing different steps and processes.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus on the variation of Design Thinking that Connie emphasized in her workshop. I think it’s a great fit for anyone who is looking to use design thinking in their learning practice.

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EMPATHY

The design process should always start with empathy. This means trying to gain insight and perspective of your target audience. For learning practitioners, this might mean the learners who attend your instructor led training courses, virtual trainings, or watching your eLearning videos. This stage is similar to your traditional audience analysis. Whoever your audience is, try to gain a deeper understanding of their world by putting yourself in their shoes. The best way to gain empathy is to connect with learners directly. You can do this by performing user research in the form of interviews, observations, creating user personas or empathy maps.

 

DEFINE

The next step in the design thinking process is to define the problem your learner is having. You’ll want to look at your findings from your research and see if any patterns begin to emerge. For example, are all of your learners encountering the same problem? Are they feeling a specific way about something?

Once you’ve identified common trends you’ll want to distill all of your findings down into a problem statement or performance goal. You’ll use this to focus on when designing an effective solution.

 

IDEATE

Once you’ve defined the learners problem is when the fun starts to happen! Ideation is when you start to generate possible solutions for your learners performance problem. As an introvert, I tend to do some some of my best thinking alone first then i’ll gather a group of my coworkers and guide a brainstorm session.

While brainstorming, I’ll usually ask others to write their ideas down on post it notes and put them on a white board. Once everyones done writing their ideas we’ll create an affinity diagram and group solutions with common themes together. From there we’ll discuss all of the ideas and pick one or two to create a prototype from.

 

PROTOTYPE

Next, you’ll want to take your the final ideas that you generated with your team and create a prototype. A prototype is a simple and inexpensive model of the ideas you selected.  Prototypes are awesome for testing out your ideas with your users without investing tons of money and resources before you’ve determined whether the solution is successful or not! In other words, it’s a great way to fail quickly.

Depending upon your solution, your prototype could be a paper sketch, exercise, case study, storyboard, wireframe, or interaction concept.

 

TEST

Once you have a prototype, you’ll want to return to your users to solicit feedback. Test out your prototypes and observe how they respond, interact, and their overall experience with it. Be sure to test your prototypes on more than one person.

Don’t worry if your prototype absolutely failed – you’re not meant to get it right on the first try! It’s highly likely that you’ll have to do a few cycles of iterating your prototype and refining your ideas. Once you’ve refined the prototype and you’re confident with how your users are responding to it is when you’ll want to start bringing it to life!

 

Putting it Together

Since leaving the workshop – I realized that I’ve been using Design Thinking in my new role without even realizing it. I feel more confident than ever applying the new methodology to my projects. I actually think i’m actually going through ideation and prototyping faster because of attending the workshop.

For those in the world of learning incorporating Design Thinking into your practice can help eliminate costly development efforts and increase the likelihood that your learning solutions will meet the needs of your users. I definitely recommend trying it out when working on your next project.