Week 16, 2019 — Mentorship, more events and finally a non-weeknote article

Photo: View from Algolia’s office, where the Hexagon event was held.

Becoming a mentor

The Paris chapter of Hexagon UX kicked off its mentoring program with a matching event. I’m excited to participate as one of the 15 mentors, some of whom I know already, and grow together with our mentee cohort.

Here’s a question I’ve been asking people: What is the difference between mentoring, coaching and consulting? A friend who’s a trained coach had a clear definition, and I’m looking to add meat to it. Having worked as a consultant for almost a decade, it’s very easy for me to slip into a problem-solving consultant posture… even when I go into a conversation with a different intention. This is a habit I’m really keen to unlearn. I want to be able to switch modes between the three and stay there.

The minimum commitment is a 30min coffee every other week for three months. That’s a decent chunk of calendar time but what kind of “impact” can there be with someone who would a) essentially be a total stranger in the beginning b) took a completely different journey in starting UX design? Well, a friend reminded me that a new perspective can be unlocked with just one well-articulated sentence that lands at the right time. Wise words!

Fifth DRT event in the books

Episode 5 of Design Research Tokyo was held on the same day – obviously, I wasn’t there in person but there’s plenty of support work to be done after the concept-ing which doesn’t require physical presence, such as coordinating with the speakers, preparing introductory slides, managing social media, etc. It’s pretty cool to follow tweets about an event you helped organize… I find the act of choosing the menu and gathering the ingredients to be satisfactory enough, without being there to see anyone “eat the meal”.

It’s time to wind down what’s been an amazing first season, and take a break before opening the second season.

Published something that’s not a weeknote!

I spent most of last weekend writing up this article, and thanks to great editing support from Chris, managed to publish it. Whoo! A lot of people said good things about it and some folks extended the conversation, which is really cool.


Thanks to the regular weeknoting, I’ve realized that I often have weeks, sometimes back to back, with multiple events. It’s a lot, isn’t it…? It was hidden in plain view because typically I’d engage with one event as an attendee and another as speaker or organizer. So they weren’t being mentally tallied in the same bucket as they should be, because my “being around people” battery needs a full charge outside of these events.

I should look into what May looks like, from this perspective. It’s been a good couple of weeks, though. And the weather has suddenly become sunny, and the whole city’s come alive.

Week 15, 2019– Two conferences and a dinner party

Photo: New watering can, French style.

It’s been an event-heavy week with lots of short interactions with a great many people.

Tuesday was the Design Sprint event, organized by Le Laptop and Google Design. The conference was a really enjoyable event, with intense curiosity and goodwill from the participants. Something special was in the air…

Google Design Sprint Conference | Le Laptop : Space. People. Methods.

In collaboration with Le Laptop, Google Design is joining the local Design Sprint community in Paris to announce the official launch of the Global Design Sprint Chapters program. As one of the premier chapters in this new program Lelaptop will be hosting a Design Sprint Day to bring together Innovation and Design Sprint thought leaders to share their knowledge and experience.

I’d decided to try a different kind of talk which wasn’t about How or What but rather about Why, and to share some recent (i.e. not fully developed) thinking with the audience to chew on. I’d struggled to find a landing for the talk, stripped half my slides the night before, and was a lot more nervous than I usually get before a public talk. It was worth it, though. It seemed to resonate deeply with part of the crowd – and I think I found hints that will push my speaking skills to the next level.

But between the speakers’ dinner the night before, this short talk in the morning and facilitating a workshop in the afternoon, I was totally wiped.

Wednesday was an IxDA Paris / UX Paris event with Cennyd Bowles, who introduced key ideas from his book Future Ethics.

There have been all kinds of talk about ethics in our industry in the past few years. I think there’s significance in ‘one of us’ having made the commitment to go deep and is now able to accelerate our understanding and generate experimentation in a way that just might shift the conversations. I’d really been looking forward to this event, and now that we had the opportunity to meet him – and share a beer or two – I shall take my own next step: finish reading the book!

Tomomi Sasaki on Twitter

Thrilled to learn from @Cennydd at @UXParis @IxDA_Paris 😊 Technology was never neutral. Future tech raises the ethical stakes. https://t.co/uoV9gYpa59


On Friday, I had a friend visiting town and took the occasion to cook a full Thai dinner for seven people. Thai cuisine is quite mysterious to me. I love it and have eaten quite a lot of it over the years but there are too many unfamiliar spices and vegetables for me to deconstruct a dish.

Lucky for me, earlier this year in Bangkok, I found a fantastic Japanese recipe book called “Thai meals with fish sauce”.

I think that there are a few key ingredients that, once you learn how to use, opens up a whole vector of dishes. For example, garlic with Italian dishes, ginger with Chinese dishes, soy sauce and dashi with Japanese dishes… and it turns out that fish sauce is one such ingredient.

I’d been quite pleased with two dishes that I’d practiced last week, and was looking forward to doing a whole spread. On Friday, I cooked three dishes and was really pleased with how each one turned out. My guests were happy with the food, and I was happy, too – these were dishes I’d be glad to cook and eat again!

Cooking is such a high ROI life skill.

The before picture.

Week 13, 2019 — Zooming in and out

Photo: A moment of calm along the river Marne.

I ran a series of remote workshops for an international aid organization with my collaborator Alex; bridging six countries, two languages and many levels of hierarchy to help bring about more structure in how they coordinate among themselves. Our eyes had been opened to the possibilities of remote workshop-ing with the Full Circle Leadership workshop last year, and Alex had recruited me to this project so that we could build upon that experience. The common advice for remote facilitation focuses on tools and the practicalities of being remote – in the vein of “yes, it’s possible!” – but what I find most interesting are the considerations for emotional engagement, and what we as facilitators need to do to strengthen the sense of being present. I find that the energy needed to hold space for people to come together is intensified by the lack of physical interaction. It’s a fine dance between control and letting go. There are half a dozen articles we’ve loosely mapped out to document what we learned… let’s see how far we get 😛

Many of those new skills were applied immediately to the ResearchOps Town Hall that Dave Hora, Judith Mühlenhoff and I organized on Wednesday. This is a public online event that the ResearchOps community runs each month, rotating hosts and topics, and it was time to start talking publicly about the Researcher Skills Workshop!

The call for folks to organize workshops in their own cities is now live, which you can read about in this article below. We’ve been quite open and inclusive about the process in the last 4mo, working out loud in public Slack channels and running a few trial workshops, but having 50 people listening in and interacting real-time brought the conversations to a different level.

It’s happening!


My work with Design Research Tokyo continues at an uneven and frenetic clip, as I alternate between feeding the fire and fanning the flames.

Here’s the one that we announced mid-week, which garnered 143 sign-ups for 120 seats in a couple of days.

Design Research Tokyo: Season 1 Episode 5 (2019/04/17 18:30〜)

(English follows 日本語) ## イベントについて Season One Episode 5 では、3つの異なる視点からプロダクト開発におけるユーザリサーチの在り方について探求します. * Dara Gruber :グーグルジャパンのフルタイム・UXリサーチャー.プロダクトチームにユーザの視点を持ち込むための定性調査の進め方と、いかにしてステークホルダーやPM・エンジニアのチームを巻き込んでいけば良いかについて、自身の経験をもとに話します. * 坂田 一倫:Pivotal Labs Tokyo のプロダクトマネージャー.リーンスタートアップと XP 開発を…

We have three upcoming events, which sounds crazy, but feasible because the programming for two of them are done by other people. I really like being in a showrunner role, charting the course for the “season”, without having to be MC.

I’m also trying to be more conscious about inviting people in to get involved in the organizing side of things, too. Whenever someone is feeling overwhelmed, instead of working harder, I turn it around and say “Let’s see if someone can help”. Or if someone comes along with suggestions, I try to draw it out and then hand back the ownership of the idea.

No workshops or big meetings next week, and I’m looking forward to some solo working time. A chunk of it will be dedicated to preparing my talk for this Google Design Sprint event.

Google Design Sprint Conference | Le Laptop : Space. People. Methods.

In collaboration with Le Laptop, Google Design is joining the local Design Sprint community in Paris to announce the official launch of the Global Design Sprint Chapters program. As one of the premier chapters in this new program Lelaptop will be hosting a Design Sprint Day to bring together Innovation and Design Sprint thought leaders to share their knowledge and experience.