November 1st, 2021

I'm joining Facebook

Like most people I go through love / hate phases with social media. It's safe to say that my career has been changed by using the major platforms though - mostly for the better.

I'd go so far as to say that social media has been instrumental in my success.

In 2007, I was working at the BBC and was asked to join a working group called 'Multi Platform Champions'. Our mission was to understand Web 2.0 as it was known then. We all joined Facebook and got to grips with sharing snippets of our lives online. Soon after I had my first baby and went on maternity leave. Using Facebook, I was able to keep in touch and share photos of the baby with my friends and colleagues whilst at home.

In 2009, I left the BBC and joined the design studio my husband had set up. Mark built his reputation writing about design on his personal blog and by self publishing a book. As well as Mark's writing and conference speaking, Twitter had a huge impact on our business by helping us to form relationships with people across the world in our industry. We worked out of a tiny coach house in a suburb of Cardff on amazing projects for global organisations.

I believe those early days on Twitter and the community building we did as a team were hugely influential. Without that, I doubt we would have been of interest to the world's largest font company. Our business was acquired by Monotype in 2014 and we worked in a globally distributed team for the first time. Platforms such as Slack and Zoom became invaluable tools of the trade as well as collaboration software like Google docs and Miro.

In 2018, I was made redundant and had to rebuild my profile. I wrote and published a lot of articles on Medium and used LinkedIn to expand my network. I also found new design and research communities within Slack. It was because of my network that I was able to pick up some freelance gigs.

The bad news was that social media only got me so far this time.

I was surprised how hard it was to find work. I applied for many jobs and was even successful for a few but no-one would hire a remote worker. Time and again I was told I had to be based in a physical office, or I would have to spend 3 days a week in London, or travel to see clients all over the UK. I was even told that for a Director level position, I could not be hired remotely (despite previously working remotely as a Director).

Let me be clear, I love working in an office and having in person time with my colleagues. I love doing in person research, workshops and attending team social events. The issue is that I live 3 hours away from London in rural South Wales. Most of the jobs in tech in the UK at my level (Manager/Director) are in London or other major cities in England. As a Mum of two children who are happily settled in good schools and a daughter of ageing parents who live nearby and need my support, I can't just move to London or another country for that matter. For more than ten years I collaborated and communicated with colleagues and clients across the globe using social media and online collaboration tools and helped to make products and services that people wanted to buy. Why could no-one see I could make a meaningful contribution and be remote?

It took a global pandemic for someone to finally realise that I could be a Director of User Research and work remotely.

I have been working for Babylon throughout the pandemic as a remote leader but when I join Facebook, it will be the first time I have been hired as a fully remote UX Research leader. This is a game changer for me.

But what about others? I’m a white woman, with an equally successful husband in the same industry and I have struggled to find work. Imagine how hard those with disabilities or chronic illnesses or from less privileged circumstances find things?

Last week I listened to Mark Zuckerberg's keynote address for Connect 2021 and he spoke about his vision for the Metaverse and how this will be a game changer for remote working. He said,

"Over the last year we have discovered that a lot of people can effectively work from anywhere… We want to give everyone the tools to be present no matter where they are… Giving people access to jobs and workplaces no matter where they live, will be a big deal for spreading opportunities to more people…Working in the Metaverse will be a huge step forward."

I really believe in this mission. The world was turned upside down last year and things can’t continue as they were.

Things have to change.

I must admit that every time I've opened the Guardian over the past few weeks and read another scathing attack, I've questioned my decision. I’ve been working at a mission led Health Tech company, what on earth am I thinking?

But that’s the thing.

I have thought a lot about this. This was very much a head decision and not a heart decision. I went through the most thorough hiring process I have ever been through! It was also the first one that enabled me to show my best self in interview. I was blown away by the attention to detail and the support and guidance given by the recruiters. They wanted me to be successful! No-one was trying to trip me up.

I was also able to ask good questions and get really direct answers. From this I was confident that the people I spoke to are the kind of people I want to work with. I met a lot of smart, thoughtful people throughout the process but a few things stuck out — the diversity, openness and integrity. Most of the interviewers were women, most were not white and all of them took their time to answer my questions about data privacy and ethics with openness and transparency.

To build for the future, it takes a company where research is empowered to discover and understand difficult problems.

It also takes a cross functional team who use research insights as an important input when coming up with solutions to these problems. I’m excited to be joining a company where research is invested in and has such a strong voice. As a Research leader who gets a kick out of enabling researchers to do their best work, I’m looking forward to supporting my new team with some of the world’s most complex challenges.

I can’t wait to get started!

Living the remote working dream!
Living the remote working dream!
Previously : Case Study: How I helped Firefly Learning recruit a new User Researcher
Recently : Off-boarding gracefully - setting your team up for success