A Designer’s Perspective: Top Tools & Resources

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When I think about cool tech and design resources, so many options pop into my head. As a user experience designer always looking to learn something new, I have to say that there is an ocean of books, blogs, design tools, and inspirational sites out there that can help you grow personally and professionally. If you are curious, passionate about design, and eager to learn, we have already something in common.

Productivity, design thinking, behavioral change, and innovation, are a few areas of focus that have shaped the person and designer I am today. Below is a selection of tools and resources to help people like you and me:

Books:

  • Change by Design – An introduction to design thinking and how to drive innovation in organizations.

A little bit of everything:

  • Einstein window – Identify which is your most productive time in the day and get the most out of it.
  • Bullet Journal – A straightforward and productive way to design your to-do list.
  • Toastmasters – Improve public speaking and leadership skills while meeting new people.
  • Leadercast – Leadership event to get inspired and learn from top leaders in the world.
  • Pomodoro technique – The best productivity tool that helps you prioritize and time yourself.

Community:

  • AIGA (The American Institute of Graphic Arts) – Excellent professional organization for design, especially around graphic design.
  • IXDA – Interaction Design Association
  • Code for America – If you are interested in civic projects, open data and, helping your community, I highly recommend finding the Brigade chapter in your state.

Trend, news and, inspiration:

  • Website Awards – Recognized web designers and agencies in the world.

Webinars, blogs, and podcasts:

  • Mural.com blog – Mural is an awesome tool for remote collaboration and documentation. They also have really good webinars.
  • UserTesting.com – Test your designs and sites with this tool. They also provide webinars with top leaders.

Prototyping tools:

  • Balsamiq – Create quick mock ups, and wireframes
  • Invision – Build web and mobile prototypes to share and to gather user feedback.
  • Axure – Create highly interactive prototypes.

Design resources:

  • Codepen – Front-end inspiration
  • Usability Hub – Use this free service to get quick user feedback

I hope you find these tools useful, regardless of whether or not you are growing a design career or a career in another field. Do you have other exciting tools and resources? I am always looking for new things to try.


Erika B. is a multidisciplinary designer, thinker, researcher and strategist from Caracas, Venezuela. She is an alumni of Savannah College of Art and Design where she studied Industrial Design and Service Design. She works at Daxko as an Interaction Designer and during her free time, works as a community organizer at Code for Birmingham.

Haters Gonna Hate

By | Culture, Employment Brand, Free Career Advice, Healthy Stuff, Life at Daxko | 3 Comments

Last week I received an email notification about a review of Daxko on Glassdoor. After reading the review, which turned out to be a negative one from someone who identified themselves as a former team member, I actually felt somewhat personally offended. It’s a feeling I have yet to shake, and it has made me want to put another perspective out there. I don’t think what I am going to say will sway anyone’s already-formed opinions (as the title suggests – haters gonna hate), but I would like to put my voice out there as a positive reinforcement for a company that I believe in and devote my time & energy to each day.

The line the reviewer wrote that struck me the most was, “Everyone is happy ALL the time despite them working until 11 at night…” Wow! What is possibly wrong with everyone being happy all the time? This part of their statement baffles me so much that I don’t really have much else to say about it except that I think it is a testament to the people we work with and for. Was that supposed to be an insult? I like happy people. I like working with happy people, too!

What has me pondering more deeply is the part about working until 11 at night. I actually worked until nearly 11 on two nights the week before this post was made, so it made me wonder, “Did someone overhear me grumble about this, and then they added it to their negative review of our company?” Possibly. But you know what, when I work late, that’s on me. I do it because I want to catch up, I want to get ahead, or I simply want to GSD (get “stuff” done – keeping it G-rated, folks!). I don’t work late because I feel obligated to or because someone has asked me to. One of the projects I was able to complete definitely could have been put off to another time, but I knew it would be helpful to some of my team members, so I took personal time to take care of it, and that makes me feel good. I wish I could do things like that more often, actually.

However, the statement also made me realize that I need to watch my attitude about the things I choose to do, because it can easily rub off on others. As they say, it is much easier to drag someone down than it is to pull them up. I vow to try to be more positive about the opportunity I have to spend my time doing work that helps others. I vow to try to be that person that is happy ALL the time despite sometimes voluntarily working until 11 at night.

That brings me to another point. No matter what your role is at Daxko, we get to come to work daily doing tasks that directly or indirectly help others. One may argue that we are now more heavily in the for-profit member-based health & wellness industry, which doesn’t necessarily have the same mission as our non-profits – still, their customers are bettering their lives, and what we do affects their ability to serve them. How awesome & how rewarding?! Daxko prides itself on providing rewarding careers. We work hard. Sometimes we even work late. But how rewarding is anything if it isn’t hard work?


Christi B. is Daxko’s Sales Maestro who only gets going in the mornings after a generous dose of coffee & eyeliner.

Living Unoffended

By | Culture, Free Career Advice, Healthy Stuff | 2 Comments

Offended. We’ve all been there. I’ve cried my fair share of offended, frustrated tears, and stomped my feet in anger at the gall of someone to make such an offensive comment. And the offense always comes at just the wrong moment, too. Maybe you can relate to one of these sentiments:

They have no idea how many hours I put into that! 

They have no idea how much thought I put into the planning! 

They have no idea how I managed to pull that off well with 5 other balls in the air to juggle, and I still managed to feed kids dinner when I got home!

There is an ancient proverb that rightly observes that “it is harder to win an offended brother than a strong city.” Our natural response to offense is anger and frustration. It only makes sense. But this angry, frustrated state doesn’t really do anything for me or anyone else, aside from cut down on my productivity (and it does). Lately I’ve been struck by how easily and how often I find myself offended—even if just slightly. So easily I let offense ruin my day or even my week, that I’ve decided something must be done. 

THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF OFFENDERS:

1) Those who mean well.

Though their delivery is offensive, there are many people who offer their “helpful advice” because they truly believe that it is just that: helpful. Their heart in sharing this advice with us, the offended, is not to belittle us, but to add to us. In these cases, difficult as it may be, I’m learning to look past the offensiveness of the implications the offender made, say “Thank you,” and laugh it off. Most of us have been on the offending side of this— the part where the words came out of our mouths, but just as they hit the air they didn’t sound like what we we had intended. There’s really no recovery. I’ve been on both sides of this, and I’m making the decision to have some grace for the offender when I’m on the offended side. 

2) Those who are just mean.

Let’s face it: these people exist. Everywhere. These are the people who WILL say and do mean things, and likely on PURPOSE, with no regard for their negative impact on us. They may even speak offenses passive-aggressively whilst smiling. What do we do about them? Here, I think it’s important to remember that all of us operate through the filter of our past experiences (both good and bad) whether we recognize it or not. Hurt people hurt people. People who have been talked down to talk down to others. Those who have been criticized to a pulp are the nastiest of negative critics. It’s the sad reality of the world we live in. My Momma always told me, “There’s a reason everyone acts the way they do. You never know everything someone has been through.” Here is where I’m learning, once again, to implement some compassion. Is it right for these people to speak this way? No (and in the right moment, with the right attitude, I might respectfully say as much if necessary). But there is something much more important going on here than my pride or feelings being wounded. Here is a human being who has likely been treated as less than a human being at some point in their life. How will I respond? 

In both scenarios I have two choices: I can stay angry and resentful towards this person, or I can choose compassion. This is the moment where I have decided that I want to live unoffended. I know it’s not easy, but I believe wholeheartedly in the truth spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Kindness, not retaliation, is the answer. Compassion, not resentment, is the cure. I haven’t figured it out, but I want to live life unoffended. I think it’s in the best interest of my relationships, my workplace, and my own sanity. It’s going to take some practice, some encouragement, and some intentionality, but I think it’s worth it. 


Ellen D. is Daxko’s Air Traffic Controller, organization queen, master event planner, and lover of running.

 

5 Tips for Taking Ownership of Your Career in the New Year

By | Culture, Free Career Advice, Grow Your Career, Healthy Stuff, Professional Development | No Comments

It’s a new year, which means many people are making resolutions and goals in both their personal and professional lives. One thing that has been on my mind lately is taking the reins on my career. I’m fortunate to work for a company whose mission includes providing rewarding careers to team members. In the long run, though, my career growth is up to me. I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the companies they work for is that it’s the company’s responsibility to look after their career. But that’s just not true. Sure, a company can provide great growth opportunities, but ultimately it is the team member who has to work at their own career goals and steer their career toward those growth opportunities.

So, how do you take ownership of your career? Here are five ways to start.

#1: Step out of your comfort zone.
One of our CEO’s favorite sayings is “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” and this is certainly applicable to your career goals. I would not be in my current role if I hadn’t been willing to take a few risks and explore the unfamiliar. My background is in teaching, training, and writing. Though I was able to carry all of this knowledge over into my role as Talent Marketing Manager, I didn’t come from a marketing background. In truth, I did feel a little uncomfortable during the first few months in this role. This discomfort only encouraged me to work harder and has truly benefited me in the long run, allowing me to develop skills and ideas I didn’t think were possible for me.

#2: Speak up.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, if something is bothering you, if you have a differing viewpoint or opinion… speak up. I’m going to be honest – this is something I am still working on. It’s probably something I will continue to work on throughout my career. My team lead often reminds me that she doesn’t know how I feel unless I tell her. Earlier in my career, at a different company, I never felt empowered to voice my opinion, and this has carried over into present day. Fortunately, Daxko is huge on transparency, and team members are encouraged to speak up. I have gained more confidence in expressing my thoughts and even saying “no”. If you’re uncomfortable speaking up in person, try writing it out first. It’s okay to practice what you’re going to say before you actually say it. Of course, sometimes “on the spot” can’t be helped; if you’re in a meeting and you want to express a differing opinion, do it thoughtfully, respectfully, and don’t let someone speak over you until you have finished your thought.

#3: Have a long-term goal, and learn skills to help you achieve it.
During my early years at Daxko, I quickly realized that although I enjoyed the training aspect of my job, my ultimate goal was to work on Daxko’s marketing team. When I was a trainer, I sat close to the marketing team and was privy to some of their brainstorms and discussions, and that’s when it clicked: that was the team I wanted to be on. In addition to an Education degree, I have an English degree with a concentration in rhetoric. I was putting my Education degree to use as a trainer, but I have always loved writing and creative processes more than teaching. I recognized that I would be able to put my expertise in persuasive writing to use as a part of the marketing team. Once I had this goal in mind, I began to get to know members of the marketing team and schedule meetings to learn skills from them, such as Pardot and WordPress. These tools helped me in my role as a trainer (I was in charge of the Services monthly newsletter), but the knowledge also gave me an edge when I was interviewing for my marketing role.

#4: Never stop learning.
At Daxko, all team members receive an annual professional development budget to use on courses, books, conferences, or activities that will help us get better at our jobs or learn new skills. In past roles and my current role, I have used part of my professional development money on certification courses to learn more about my field and develop my skillset. Learning shouldn’t stop when you graduate from college. On the contrary, most of the knowledge I have gained through professional development has been more valuable to my career than my college classes. If you work at a company that does not provide a professional development budget, you can still develop your skillset. There are plenty of free or affordable online courses through sites like ALISON, Lynda, and Coursera, just to name a few. Read blogs that pertain to your field. Find thought leaders to follow on Twitter. And ultimately, you won’t know what costs your company might be willing to help cover unless you ask, so keep #2 in mind, speak up, and discuss professional development with your manager.

#5: Find a mentor.
I didn’t have a career mentor until last year. Don’t get me wrong – I have had plenty of mentors in the past who have helped guide and shape me into the person I am today. Last year, though, I sought out a mentor in my field who I could trust not only for career advice, but for professional advice in general. Because I am still fairly young in my career, there have been many situations I have encountered in the workplace that are new to me. That’s why it’s great to have a mentor who is more experienced and who has faced these same situations in the past. When you’re seeking a mentor, I suggest someone in your field (or the field you want to move into) and someone easy to talk to. Many of the conversations I have with my mentor are about our personal lives, and I really value the fact that my mentor has gotten to know me and truly cares about me. I suggest meeting in person once every couple of months (or monthly, if you can swing it) to catch up, and of course, email, call, or text your mentor whenever you need advice.

Remember, your career and development are in your hands. As you think about how to grow in 2017, keep these tips in mind. Have a vision, and make this the year you take strides to achieve it!


Janna B. is Daxko’s Talent Marketing Manager who is slowly becoming a morning person and wishes she lived in the 1960s/70s.

Are you ready to make a career change in the new year? Check out our current opportunities.