Looking back at 2021

Today is the 01st of March, and I have postponed writing this article at least 20 times already — if not more. But I’m here now, so let’s try to write something short and sweet (I promise). The idea is to put things in writing to gain sufficient hindsight on this past year.

Most importantly, it’s the perfect opportunity to share pictures of my adorable cat, who is growing up to be the cutest. #CrazyCatPerson

My favourite tools for doing this review are still:

  • My photo gallery together with my planner/calendar. 💬 I take a picture of each moment and I couple these with my planner, synched with at least 5 other planners. This way, I get everything done (for the most part) and nothing gets left out (for the most part).
  • A top-notch proof-reader. This year, I’m lucky to work with Morgane :)

Part #1 — 📍 2021 Timeline

Let’s be honest, 2021, the global pandemic and all that, it hasn’t been easy. I am starting to feel a certain nostalgia of how life was before this whole mess. Things are going at an intense pace, and I’m not able to keep up as well as I would like to. But despite it all, this past year, I was able to work on beautiful projects, spend some quality family time, get better at longboarding and — most importantly — eat out at restaurants again! #FoodLover

So, let’s dive right in, starting with projects

💬 With the various NDAs I signed and projects being launched, it’s difficult to talk about them without saying too much. I just want to mention them briefly, and if you want to know more, let’s talk about it over coffee (a tall latte with oat milk and a bit of chocolate sprinkled on top for me 😋) 💬 💬 I’m often told that I spend too much time thanking the people I work with, so I’ll try to hold back this time. But I’ve been working with the same people for 3/4 years now, so you might already know them. To those special people in my life: thank you, I’m lucky to have you ❤️

AARI — A B2B2C project with Saint Gobain

This was a huge project in 2020 which was carried on through 2021. I already spoke about it in my 2020 Annual Review. It’s an amazing project which aims to revolutionize the automobile insurance market. The team is unchanged, and they’re the best.

Going from B2B to B2C is quite a leap which must be thought-out strategically, in its design and implementation. All these significant adjustments take time. The project carried on throughout the whole year, but personally, I decided to leave after summer. The intense rhythm, the current context and my own fatigue pushed me in that direction. Trust me, it’s quite difficult to let go of a project in which you have invested so much of yourself. But it was the right thing to do, for the project, for the team, and for me.

✨✨✨ Key takeaways:
Working on developing this product with strict technical constraints and high business stakes was very demanding. Always keep in mind the importance of communicating with the engineering teams, making sure that the workflow is smooth and that there are no grey areas. Preparing a handover requires time and communication, so this must not be taken lightly. So, in the future, document everything progressively instead of doing it at the last minute. Never again. Never ever!

STACKEO — An intense ride

I already worked with Stackeo for a while last year to implement their design system and contribute to one of the product’s main features during a design sprint where I was lucky to meet the amazing team! In 2021, I joined the team once again for a really interesting experience. As a part of the core team, I was much more involved and worked on various issues that went beyond my initial role. Stackeo’s tool aims to accompany companies with their IoT life cycle management, in estimating the ROI of connected solutions, and by providing access to a Studio to illustrate and share IoT project architecture.

Strategy, design and implementation, marketing and sales (B2B in such a technical and complex field can be tricky!), organising events, working on investor pitches and deck presentations for various meetings, team alignment, always in a continuous improvement process… I worked on so many different things, and it was great. The start-up adventure is a heck of a ride, which can make you giddy or even give you whiplash. It makes you question yourself a lot, all the time. You are constantly positioning and repositioning yourself.

✨✨✨ Key takeaways:
On a human level, it was amazing. I shared beautiful moments with the team. Business trips, meetings clients, potential partners and peers, we went through intense times together. Most of the time, everyone was working remotely, and we cherished time spent together in-person. I learnt a lot with every single person. If I had to do better, I would spend more time with the CPO to work together, iterate, promote the product vision and spend time exchanging with end-users. The business side was often prioritised, and it was sometimes difficult to find a good middle ground.

OPCO — Developing a new platform and other data issues

This year, I worked on another Opco project, with, once again — and I cannot stress this enough — such a great team, really cool people. This time around, I worked on the development of a platform which manages trainings from various providers for HR and employees. Working on implementing a global design system, coherent with Opco’s entire ecosystem, data research to be as pertinent as possible, and smooth sailing all the way.

✨✨✨ Key takeaways:
I love these people? Seriously though, I love design pairing. Each person working on various components, going back-and-forth, discussing, keeping an open mind and broadening the scope. Challenging one another on Front design, accessibility issues, responsiveness, interaction… With the right people, it’s a real treat. Again, documentation is important, taking the time to do it is crucial.

Imagine Legal — Working with Mentorat-design

In keeping with knowledge-sharing and working with Mentorat-design, Pyc and I worked alongside Imagine Legal on various projects. The human-sized team has a lot of ambition and added value. Together, we touched upon various issues ranging from law to synergy with design methodology, designing comprehensible documents with clear language, and training — in which Imagine excels.

We also organised a mini-conference at the LegalTech event on legal design, which took place in November 2021 at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, on the following subject: “Designers, how about working with law professionals? (and vice versa)?” This led to very interesting debates, where it was clear that this is very much a hot topic! To legal departments and other law entities: we have much to learn and gain from working together.

✨✨✨ Key takeaways:
I honestly didn’t know a lot about Legal Design, but it is now clear to me that we face similar stakes and issues. Ensuring that information is clear and exact, making sure that it is understood by everyone. The need for communication between various services and more. With Pyc (my sweet buddy), we are thrilled to be advising them and to continue to learn and grow together. At the end of the day, isn’t the most important thing to work with great people and love your job?

Teaching and Workshops

Ups and downs and ups… Conducting workshops remotely requires a lot, a lot, of energy. You must encourage, question, capture attention and create interaction, much more so than usual. This type of exercise is difficult for everyone involved. Is it doable? Yes. But for how long? For five days? Difficult. For two weeks? Way too intense.

I did several in-person workshops at Hetic, LISAA and at the Webschool Factory. It was such a pleasure to see my students again and witness exciting new projects come to life. The pure joy that comes from discovering, exchanging and challenging each other. I got on particularly well with one class who I was lucky enough to teach and share some knowledge with. When students give you 100%, it’s so great, you can only go along with it and give 110% back. That’s for sure.

✨✨✨ Key takeaways:
Teaching is so cool. You get to share what you know, step out of your comfort zone, find a million different ways of explaining one single concept. It’s challenging, but I really feel like I’m making a difference — at least, that’s what I like to believe 😊. But at the same time, it’s also super tiring. You always have to be on top of your game because you have this huge responsibility to your students, which could be your colleagues one day! I learnt my lesson: remote-teaching is not for me, or at least not too much of it. Occasional workshops would allow me to delve deeper into the subjects — as a certain designer would say “the devil is in the details.” With the limited time imposed by the workshop format, unfortunately, I don’t always have time to do this.

💃🕺🏻👯‍♀️ Stepping out of the box: As expected, it’s the end of the year, last class together, and everyone is exhausted. So, this year, I decided to step out of the box and share a different kind of moment: a dance class 😊 It was the opportunity to let go of all the seriousness and to have fun. I think we all enjoyed ourselves 😇

Projects here and there

Several other projects, either to help friends out or to speak at events over a couple of days. It’s always interesting to take time for this and to see how others work in very different configurations than my own.

Memory dump

  • How could I forget the day spent on Process Design with 8 other designers and a 40-people strong crowd? If you want to organise this type of event with perfect control over the whole process,
    🌟 check out: https://ignited-kingdom.com/
  • Working on the marketing and the digital strategy of a physical product, as well as the inner-workings of the company. Redefining values and everything that follows in terms of actions. All of that on such a cool topic: https://www.letsplayonthemoon.fr/
  • A sweet, contemplative and magic project with 3D and beautiful poetry. Soon to be finished, but slightly hindered by, let’s say “annoying” performance issues. The author of the poems is no less than Stan Carotenuto, check out his show: https://www.instagram.com/stan_christophecarotenuto/
  • One day, I will share it, I promise. “Making the JoliDoli.

Part #2 — Retrospective & key teachings

Sure, there was no place for boredom in 2021. But at what cost?

Summer crept up on me so fast, and we’re already in August. I took a few days off to be with family, only working in the morning, before dinner, and sometimes in the afternoon when it’s too hot to be outside.

I didn’t see my friends because I had deliverables to finish, things to do. Things that are taking two months longer than anticipated — sometimes more. I am in auto-pilot mode, but the perfectly oiled machine is starting to falter. The slightest change in my meticulous schedule feels like a catastrophe. I’ve even stopped dancing: that should have been a red flag for me. For whatever reason, I’m “scared” to go outside. I let myself be convinced by the appeals to stay indoors and work (always work), to fight the virus. And one day, this downward spiral stopped. That was the day my dad called me, he sounded exhausted. My priorities shifted automatically. After that, I went through a weird phase where I wanted to drop everything and handover all my projects. It was an uncomfortable moment, where I felt — bad guilty even — and I asked myself a million questions… What am I doing?

Once I was with my family, that feeling completely disappeared. Time flies, it really does. And I am so grateful for the people around me, professionally and personally. I feel like I’ve made big decisions this year, I shifted my priorities and I’m headed in a better direction.

Looking back at last year’s article to see if my 2021 objectives have been met:

  • Always prefer quality to quantity. Deliver true expertise, keep learning and strive to improve, always. Yes and no. I took on a lot of stuff, but I am improving.
  • Improve my UX Writing. ****Yes! And on this note, I strongly recommend Gladys Diandoki’s book “UX Writing : Quand le contenu transforme l’expérience” [Only available in French — the title translates to “UX Writing: transforming experience through content”].
  • Take the time to explore emerging tools. Do Figma and Blender count as emerging tools? 😛
  • Read, read, read. Yes! But mostly magazines such as Chut ! and Epsiloon, as well as novels. I also started reading… One Piece 😅
  • Take the time to write, force yourself to. It’s a great exercise, reading your own words can be useful and allows you to see how far you’ve come. Not enough in my opinion, but I’m getting there :) Trying out FR/EN too.
  • Take the time to rest, relax, enjoy the present moment, ikigai style! Yes, at the beginning of the year, then heck no in the middle and back to oh yeah at the end of the year! Keeping this one strong!
  • Get around to actually doing things instead of just scheduling them. Yeah but no, because I planned too much stuff!
  • Most importantly 😜: it’s too late for snowboarding this year, but it’s never too late for surfing and longboarding! Did you know that I snowboarded down my first red slope [which is an intermediate slope in Europe] this year :D ?
  • Keep working with amazing people, like last year. Heck yeah. I’ve also taken the time to meet people this year and interview people I follow and admire on social media. We took the time to talk, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour. And I’ve learnt a lot from these discussions so far.

🧪 2021 lessons

  1. I’m clearly a morning person, no more late-nights.
  2. Intuition is a great guide. If it feels off, don’t do it.
  3. Your loved ones won’t be with you forever, spend time with them now.
  4. Don’t think you can remember every single thing. Write things down.
  5. Your feelings are valid. Allow yourself to share what you feel.
  6. Figma, sure, why not?
  7. Blender, sure, why not?

Part #3–2022 objectives

  1. Learn to cook Armenian food. Like, seriously.
  2. Improve snowboarding and longboarding skills.
    #Will 2022 be the year I buy my first snowboard? 🏂🏂🏂
  3. Motorcycle road trip.
  4. Sort out my clothes, let go of things that don’t spark joy.
  5. Do a 3D project on Behance, finish Horaisan and publish the JoliDoli? Why not!

And… That’s all folks! And it’s already a lot. I don’t know if you’ve had the courage to read all the way to the end, but for me, it felt so good to write this and put the words on paper (so to speak). Despite everything and through these difficult times, I know how lucky I am and once again, I would like to thank the special people around me.

This article is dedicated to Peter, my friend and mentor. Hope you’re having a blast up there.

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