Quiet Leadership with Rachel Robertson
Introvert, extrovert, ambivert: how real are these labels? And how can we use them to do a better job of making space for more types of people—without pigeonholing anyone?
We’re joined this week by Rachel Robertson, a designer and UX lead at Shopify. We first heard about Rachel when we stumbled on an article she wrote called “An Introvert’s Guide to Collaboration.” In it, she talks about how she used to carve out work she could do independently—but realized this was keeping her from growing, because she wasn’t exposing herself to different perspectives that could improve her work.
I love when people share their experiences and their perspectives… and I always benefit so much from that. So there was a point in time recently where I wanted to participate more in that conversation, and not just be a consumer of everyone else’s points of view.
—Rachel Robertson, UX lead at Shopify
We ask Rachel more about her experience as an introverted person, how that’s changed her approach to leading a team, and what companies can do to make themselves more inclusive to people like her.
Also in this episode, we:
- Discuss the mixed feelings people had about these introvert/extrovert lounge signs at Confab, a conference Sara recently attended.
- Look at the roots of the seemingly innocuous term “grandfather clause”
- Give a big fuck yeah to deleting apps, consider the Time Well Spent movement, and promise to really actually close the Twitter tab this time (any second now)
This episode of NYG is brought to you by:
WordPress—the place to build your personal blog, business site, or anything else you want on the web. WordPress helps others find you, remember you, and connect with you.
Harvest, makers of awesome software to help you track your time, manage your projects, and get paid. Try it free, then use code NOYOUGO to get 50% off your first paid month.
Katel LeDû [Ad spot] Finding the right job is hard work. Good thing there’s Shopify. Shopify is on a mission to make commerce better for everyone—and they’re looking for impactful, ambitious, and passionate people to help them do it. If you want to be part of a diverse team that loves solving problems—and help entrepreneurs around the world start and grow their businesses—then you should check out Shopify. Visit shopify.com/careers for all the info [music fades in, plays alone for 12 seconds, fades out].
Jenn Lukas Welcome to No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. I’m Jenn Lukas.
KL I’m Katel LeDû.
Sara Wachter-Boettcher And I’m Sara Wachter-Boettcher. We’ve got tons in store on today’s show: we’re going to check in on our vocab swaps; we’re going to share our Fuck Yeah of the Week; and of course we’re going to hear from a great guest. This week we are joined by designer Rachel Robertson who’s here to chat with us about how she learned to collaborate as an introvert, and what that taught her about leading teams with a range of different needs. So, speaking of being an introvert or an extrovert, I was at a conference just this past week and they had these really interesting signs outside the lounges. So they had these two lounges where you could kind of chill out between sessions or if you wanted to skip out on a session, and one of them was labeled “The Introvert Lounge” and one was labeled “The Extrovert Lounge.” And it was pretty neat, I’d never seen something like that where they specifically labeled one to be, you know, where you could do quiet stuff or you can be doing work or checking email. And the other one where you could have a conference call or plays games or chat with people. And one of the things that happened after that conference was that … a tweet went viral of a photo of this and there was like such a divided conversation about whether this was good or bad. The people that thought it was good were like, “Oh my gosh, this is how humans work.” And the people who thought it was bad were like, “This feels kind of like… judgy to people who are extroverts, or judgy to people who are introverts.” Or it feels like, “I don’t want to be labeled as one or the other,” and it really got me thinking I feel like introvert and extrovert has been this like really common discussion just in the past year or two, and I’ve always felt kind of weirded out by the language even though like probably most people would be like, “Sara, you’re an extrovert.” Like, “Sara, c’mon like you’re—you’re an extrovert. It’s pretty obvious. Just own it.” And I agree with that, but I also feel like there’s something weird about having that as an identity versus like being like, ok, sometimes I feel extroverted and I want to do extroverted things, and other times I don’t. And like, you know, sure I trend more to one side more than some people. But, I don’t know, I guess I’ve always felt like that was a way that we try to like put people into boxes and so, I don’t know, I’m curious: do you identify as an introvert or an extrovert, and what does that mean to you?
KL I definitely—I identify as an introvert based on I think the one thing that I have read routinely about, you know, sort of what defines an introvert and that is—or this is the part I relate to the most—which is that I recoup my energy by being alone and having downtime and sort of if I am in heavy social situations, I—I need to sort of like have that recuperation time. But I also feel like I’m extremely social in a lot of situations and when I go to a party I like to chat with a lot of people and I don’t—I don’t necessarily feel inhibited in terms of meeting new people or like talking to folks but, I don’t know, so I think I have—like now that you’re saying that I feel like I’ve felt sort of torn about it and I feel uneasy because I don’t know if I do fit squarely in one of those boxes. Yeah, so, I don’t know, that brings up an interesting question.
JL I liked a lot of the comments on this Twitter thread that brought up, you know, where do—where do ambiverts fit in? And I was like, “Huh, I haven’t heard that phrase before.” And so the ambivert is mix of extrovert and introvert and I was like, “Oh. Thank you,” because people when they see me I think, similar feeling, they assume I’m an extrovert. And that’s maybe just because like I’ve been in social situations, I do public speaking. But, the same way as you can tell like, I don’t really mind the public speaking but I get really tired afterwards, and I just like—there’s times where I can get a mix of like the energy from being around people, but I also want to like go to my hotel room, order room service, and just hide. And so there’s definitely a big mix of things. It’s weird to me when I hear that idea of like, “I need to recuperate by downtime,” I can’t imagine any other way. Like I can’t imagine not having downtime. Like the idea that someone doesn’t, like… is that really like a thing that people don’t want downtime?
SWB Yeah, I guess I feel like this is why I think that the concepts of introversion and extroversion are super helpful, but the identity labels are not always as helpful, because I think humans need downtime, and there’s—there’s differences in how much and when, but absolutely, like I consider myself fairly extroverted in a lot of scenarios, but I also need to hide in my room sometimes, and I also get to a point where I feel very tired after a lot of social interactions. I just think that that is true for all humans at some point and the points obviously differ, but there’s been this attempt to, again, right, like it’s convenient to give people a label and be like, “You’re this and you’re that,” and I think that the reality is just so much more nuanced. And I think that that’s one of the things that—it’s like step one is just recognizing, like, people have differences, and step two is recognizing that those differences almost always fall on whole spectrums and people don’t have the same experiences. And that seems to be a harder shift to get people to—to sort of take seriously.
JL Yeah. I really liked that they were addressing this at conference.
JL But I didn’t love the versus vibe. And that’s the thing that I feel like all these things—like we had to do one of those Myers Briggs personality tests at work one time—and all that ends up with I feel like is people judging you. And it just felt like it was one of those things you’re supposed to do so you can work well together with people—
KL And like know more about yourself.
KL Whatever but yeah.
JL Which in an ideal world, if you can get that to work, is great. However, it doesn’t always work.
JL And that’s the part that I think is tough.
KL It’s almost like—I get the—I think I get the thing that they were trying to do but, you know, obviously hindsight and looking back on it and being like, “I would’ve done this differently.” I mean it’s almost like saying, ok this room is going to be like chill—a chill vibe and quiet—and you can come in here and just like do your thing, and listen to music or whatever. And then this room is going to be games. And so there’s obviously going to be an element of, you know, getting to know people in a social—like interaction. That kinda feels more like you get the idea without having to be like, “I’m a this.”
JL You didn’t tell me there were games.
KL Yeah [laughs].
SWB So—so, speaking though of like hindsight and like, oh gosh. Huge shout-out to Confab, the content strategy conference that I was at, and, specifically, to Tenessa Gemelke, who runs the event. She’s sort of like the director of all things Confab, and after this tweet blew up—you know, it’s like retweeted 4,000 times and there’s this like huge debate happening in the thread— she talked a little about, oh, you know, “I learned a lot from reading these comments.” And one of the things that she said was that when they designed this she was really imagining it like the—the copy underneath each of these signs is, like, punching up. So she sees herself as being super extroverted and one of the things it said on the lounge copy was like—on the introvert lounge was where you can “hide from extroverts.” And she thought that was funny because as somebody who identifies as extroverted, she was like, “Oh, you know, this is—this is punching up. This is not making fun of people who might feel uncomfortable with it.” And she realized that that wasn’t the case for everybody. And—and I think that, you know, I think that the intention makes a ton of sense, and I bet that they’re going to do something similar again but I’m confident they’re going to have some slightly different labels. And, you know, I liken this a lot to the same kind of stuff I’ve talked about with when it comes to user experience design. Right? Like professional work where… it’s so much more helpful usually to ask people what they want to do than it is to get people to define who they are, because defining who you are is really fraught and almost always if you try to make people define who they are by like selecting this category or that category, there are going to be people who do not fit the boxes. And I think that that’s the same here. And I happen to feel comfortable using both rooms, right? Like I used one room when I was doing quiet things and then I used another room when I saw a bunch of my friends in there and we were going to play Apples to Apples, and that was fucking great, but I don’t know that everybody would feel comfortable that way.
JL Yeah. I mean I would sit, generally, in the quiet car on an Amtrak train, but sometimes I’ll walk over to the cafe car and get some train wine, you know?
KL Oh look at you! [Laughs]
JL It just—it just depends a little bit. However, I don’t necessarily want to be put into the same group as the other riders that I’m riding with on an Amtrak train because I don’t think that necessarily we would fit into the same sort of focus group labels just because we ride on the same kind of train on the Amtrak.
SWB Well, uh right, again, like I go to the quiet car all the time on Amtrak because I want to do some work and I don’t want to be bothered randos and that’s great but that doesn’t mean that I identify as “quiet person.”
JL Doesn’t mean that you can’t have an Amtrak hot dog.
SWB I don’t eat rail dogs [laughs]. But you know what I mean? Like if I tried to say, “No, I’m a quiet person.” You would all laugh at me. I am not a quiet person. But I’m a capable of being quiet during a train journey because I’ve chosen to be in a quiet environment.
KL You know who’s not capable? A lot of people [laughter]. And I have very often appointed myself as the Quiet Car Patrol. So, just, you know, I’m very fun to ride the train with.
SWB I prefer Quiet Car Vigilante [laughter]. You have to, like, mete out justice in the quiet car.
KL [Laughs] It’s so true.
SWB The worst I had was somebody who was watching YouTube videos with no headphones.
JL In the quiet car?!?
SWB Extreme shame. I know. Listeners, I love all of you, except for the ones who are doing anything without headphones in the quiet car. So, I think we all are kind of on the same page that like we have varying degrees of introversion and extroversion and like fitting neatly into one box or the other is maybe not always helpful or even possible but I still think it’s so interesting to kind of talk about those different facets of people and I think a lot of business culture has really been like designed with the idea that more extroversion is the ideal. That like, that is the best way to be, and that if you’re less like that, you should try to be more like that. And so one of the things I was really excited about when we talked to Rachel, our guest today, was that she was kind of pushing back against some of that. That it’s not like there’s one better way to be, it’s that we haven’t necessarily optimized workplace environments so that more people can be successful in them. And so I’m super interested in talking about these concepts—even if they don’t perfectly fit—because I think that that’s so valuable to start to look at, like, well what do we change in the way that we operate our companies? Or what do we change in the way that we run meetings so that they become places where like more of us can, I don’t know, not be miserable—
KL And thrive.
SWB Totally. That’s probably a better answer than not be miserable.
KL I totally agree. I can’t wait to hear from Rachel. Should we do it?
SWB Let’s do it.
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Interview: Rachel Robertson
SWB Rachel Robertson is a UX lead at Shopify—which is, full disclosure, as you probably already know, a sponsor of ours that we’ve had for quite some time. But that’s not actually why we wanted to talk with Rachel today. The reason we wanted to talk with Rachel is that we stumbled on this awesome article that she wrote called “An Introvert’s Guide to Collaboration.” In that article she talks about how she used to carve out work that she could do independently. And then she realized that it was preventing her from growing because she wasn’t seeing new perspectives and learning from other people as much as she wanted to be. So we’re going to talk today about what she did to change that, and how that realization has shifted the work that she does as a designer and also the work she does as a leader. Rachel, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Rachel Robertson Thanks for having me.
SWB So let’s start with this article. What was it that made you realize that you needed to get better at collaboration? Or find a way for collaboration to work for you?
RR There wasn’t this like ah-ha moment, but I realized that I wasn’t having as much impact as I could have if I was working more collaboratively. At the time, as I mention in the article, like Shopify was growing quite a bit, and I knew that in order to have the impact that I wanted to have and, you know, be a good role model for more women joining the team, that I needed to start collaborating. Some things that I realized was that it’s really important to understand the people who you’re working with and for them to understand you, and to like be the person to help facilitate that inclusion in the team, and to work actively with each other.
SWB You know it’s interesting because as somebody who thinks of themselves as introverted and finds it difficult to kind of be more, I don’t know, I guess assertive or vocal in situations, it puts you in sort of a vulnerable position to have to tell other people what you need. How did you get to a place where you felt comfortable doing that?
RR Authenticity is something that’s really important at Shopify, and so people are encouraged and supported to be their authentic self. And, you know, to be your authentic self, you have to really be honest about what your true needs are and who you are. So I felt like the environment already kind of optimized for helping me feel comfortable doing that. But my challenge was more about how I typically tend to stay in my own head and internalize, and in a lot of cases, again, I think it’s just a personality thing, I tend to overlook my own needs. So I need to be really intentional about not doing that in order to sort of like participate in this culture that I work in.
SWB Yeah, so, let’s talk a little bit about what those are, because I know you mentioned in the article that you started doing this thing where you created like a blueprint for yourself to kind of help people understand where you’re coming from or what you need. Can you talk a little bit about that? Like, what is it that you need? And sort of like, how did you … articulate that or formalize that in a way that other people could use?
RR The blueprint exercise is basically just an activity that a team can do. It’s a practical review of outlining who you are as an individual, what your preferences are, any work quirks that you have. And I think this was actually a method that—I mean I didn’t invent this, I probably found out about this idea from someone who found out about it from someone else. But as someone who is on the quieter side and has sometimes struggled to kind of like break into conversations or kind of like build a rapport really quickly with people, this method resonated with me because it was something structured and specific that I could do that communicated sort of like what I bring to the team, to my teammates. But also it’s really important if you’re working with people to understand them and that they understand you. So bringing them into the activity as well.
SWB Yeah. So, tell us more. So, you mentioned that it’s a structured activity. For people who haven’t read the article yet, we’re going to link it in the show notes. But can you tell a bit more? Like what goes into that blueprint? What are the different pieces to that activity and sort of what does it reveal about you and about your team?
RR Yeah, so I had down things like, “What is your superpower and your work quirks?” So by that I mean preferred methods of learning or, you know, your communication style, anything that you can think of really. Skills and interests. People’s backgrounds because that’s always interesting I think. And what people can come to talk to me or whoever is filling the blueprint out about, which kind of reveals the things that they feel they really bring to the team. A fun fact about me is that I have a bachelor of fine arts in contemporary dance, specializing in choreography, and that I had this little dance troupe for a while. And it’s just, you know, kind of like a little humanizing fact about myself that’s a point of interest.
SWB And what kinds of stuff did you end up learning about your teammates this way?
RR You pick up the things that are unique about everyone, but also make the connections over things that you have in common. So, you know, there’s kind of—it’s nice to see that diversity in the team, but also the things that you have in common. And then a big one is kind of the fear of public speaking and the nervousness of being around the center of attention. That one’s pretty common in my team.
SWB And yet here you are being interviewed for a podcast today.
RR Yes, I know [laughs].
SWB How are you feeling about that?
RR It’s exciting. I mean I am—I am nervous, not too nervous, but it’s exciting because right now something that I’m excited about in my professional growth is, I’m trying to practice feeling a bit more comfortable exposing myself to a broader audience than, you know, just my day-to-day team. So it’s a bit scary, but also I’m motivated to do it because I’m trying to grow in this area.
SWB Yeah that’s really interesting. So as somebody who’s not necessarily very introverted, it’s—it’s interesting for me to listen to people who talk about, you know, wanting to kind of like keep things more to themselves and being more likely to kind of retreat internally, and yet simultaneously having that desire to get out in front of people and to be able to talk about things. So how do those things come together for you? What makes you want to share the things you know and sort of talk more publicly?
RR I guess if we’re talking about introversion I should probably define a little bit about what that means to me. So for me it’s, you know, aspects of being more internal and in my own head and really needing to be alone a lot of the time, and drawing my energy back from being alone. But I don’t see it as something that I’m trying to get over or deal with. I think it’s just, you know, part of who I am and it is being my authentic self. I try to stay in tune with what is motivating me, and things that motivate me are, like, personal growth and having an impact, and I love when people share their experiences and their perspectives—like reading about it, listening to it—and I always benefit so much from that. So there was a point in time recently where I wanted to participate more in that conversation, and not just be a consumer of everyone else’s points of view.
SWB What I’m really struck by in what you’re talking about is that you realize that there’s is sort of like a benefit, frankly, to the world of people who are more introverted feeling comfortable kind of stepping out of their comfort zone a little bit and speaking up. And so I’m curious, how can workplaces, and also, like, society in general, do a better job of supporting folks who aren’t naturally extroverted, but still have tons of goodness to share?
RR I guess just in society in general, like, characteristics of people who are more extroverted tend to be maybe looked up to a bit more or rewarded a bit more. And I think that’s because people who are extroverted tend to be a bit more open and think on the fly, and like open about their thoughts on the fly. And there’s this perception of trust almost because of that openness. Whereas if you’re a bit a more introverted, it can sometimes come across as you’re holding things back. So for me personally, I always think about trying to manage that perception or just be aware of it.
KL As I’ve been listening to you talk about all of the things that you’ve done and all of the steps you’ve taken, it makes me feel… like I really wish I would’ve known some of this or just thought to kind of like explore it a little bit more, especially when I made my last career change, which was coming to A Book Apart. And the main reason for that is because I went from, you know, working in a sort of a traditional organization, a traditional company, where it was lots of people and, you know, teams and structures that I was really used to, and then all of a sudden I was remote. And I was working with, you know, a team of people who I never saw. So I really—like thinking back on that, and even today I think it’s still a challenge—the struggle of, you know, collaborating with people that you don’t see when it’s easier for me to just do the work on my own. I think, like, I’m looking back on that, and I think it was—that’s why some of that felt harder, because I also had to get over this like physical boundary. So I guess I’m just thinking, I feel like this could be part of an onboarding exercise where you talk about a blueprint or that type of thing. So I think, I don’t know, I think it could be a really nice way to kind of get folks to talk about, you know, where their strengths are and where their weaknesses are so that there’s—it feels like there’s more support.
RR Yeah definitely. I think the format of things, too. Sort of practicing a bit more mindfulness and inclusion in the format of things. I mean, I’ll give examples in the workplace. Like meetings are a big one. Often these are kind of set up, there’s a room with a lot of people, and it’s, you know, maybe not moderated. And if you’re more comfortable speaking up, and a bit louder, it might not necessarily be the best format for people who are a bit quieter, right? So, yeah, I think there’s a lot to do with format and just being mindful of different peoples’—like the way that they think or how they communicate.
SWB Yeah, you know, as somebody who typically speaks up in meetings or conversations—I mean, it depends a little bit on the audience, but I tend to be, you know, one of the people who’s comfortable kind of jumping in—I think it didn’t used to occur to me that that wasn’t true for everybody, or that they needed different things to feel comfortable doing that. And I really I feel like I really started to learn about that a few years ago when I got more interested in things like facilitation. And so as you were speaking I was thinking about some of the tools I use when I’m facilitating, and so, you know, for example making sure that some of the activities that we do if I’m facilitating a workshop are activities where people have a chance to kind of like jot down ideas or collect their thoughts individually before they’re supposed to pipe up as a group, you know? Or there are other techniques like that give people different modes of participating. Like sometimes it’s they can add stickies to a wall and then their ideas definitely get up on the wall, and, you know, and then we can talk about them. Sometimes it’s having those few minutes to write something down before it’s time to take input from everybody. But I started thinking a lot about, you know, what are the ways that we can structure these kinds of sessions so that more people feel like they can take part in them? And also so that, you know, it’s not just the loudest voices that get heard—because I can assure you, the loudest voices are not [chuckling] necessarily like the smartest or best voices in all scenarios.
RR Yeah. Like I always appreciate going into meetings where there’s going to be ideation or sharing ideas to get a bit of context ahead of time from whoever’s running it. Agendas actually really help.
SWB So that brings me to something that I noticed in your article and I would love to hear more about. So there was a picture you included of something that was called inclusion pyramids that you have in meeting rooms around Shopify. Can you tell our listeners what those are and where they come from and what they’re for?
RR Yeah, sure. So they’re paper pyramids that are located in all the meeting rooms at Shopify and in some common spaces, and on each side there’s a little tip about making an inclusive meeting. And so this was—we have a diversity and inclusion team, and they developed these pyramids, these paper pyramids, as just as a friendly reminder to be mindful of fostering inclusive meetings. And they’re kind of passive, right? Like they’re—the way they’re used is that they’re there. In different meeting rooms there’s different messages on the different pyramids. And the way I use it, personally, is, you know, like I noticed just in the course of meeting I, you know, I’ll glance at them and there’s a few that over time have stuck with me, that I try to be mindful of during meetings, whether I’m running the meeting or just participating.
SWB What are the ones that have stuck with you?
RR Yeah, so, there’s about, I think, two or three. The first one is about how meetings aren’t for everyone. They’re not everyone’s jam. And it’s really important to seek input and get feedback from people who were quieter during the meeting. Another one is around being mindful of people if they’re joining remotely into a meeting. We have really sensitive microphones in the office here and so trying to avoid typing or having side conversations during the meetings. Those are the—the two that are always at the front of my mind. And then of course like another one—the other one is if people get interrupted, you know, being intentional about bringing that conversation back to the person’s point or to the person.
SWB Yeah. That’s so important. I mean I think also about the way that sometimes people will get, you know, like their point will kind of get trampled over or ignored or whatever and then somebody will bring it up again a few minutes later and it’ll get attributed to a different person and sort of making sure that you’re giving people credit for their ideas, too, and that you’re, you know, you’re identifying where they came from. That kind of thing I think about a lot.
RR Yeah. Yeah, it can happen especially if—if the conversations are getting pretty lively or vibrant, right?
SWB Yeah and I think a lot of times it happens without people realizing that that’s what they’re doing, or without any sort of like malicious intent. And then I think sometimes it happens for other reasons that are more complicated, like I remember reading about the Obama White House, they—the women who worked there did this like amplification strategy, because they felt like they couldn’t get their ideas heard. And so they would specifically seek out each other’s ideas and amplify them and say like, “Oh I really liked what so and so said about blah blah blah,” to like make sure it was ingrained in people that these ideas were coming from the women, which I thought was super interesting. And I think, you know, it’s indicative of what was going on in that culture that that was a problem they were having. But yeah, I think using all of these techniques to kind of look at how do we think about things like meetings, how do we think about our workplace culture to make sure that people with different perspectives can be heard. Because you mentioned something earlier about, you know, like you’re not trying to change who you are. You’re not trying to stop being introverted. And I think that’s really important, because I feel like that’s what a lot of advice about how to succeed at work is, is like, “Oh! You should just become a different person!” As opposed to looking at like, oh actually we should figure out how to play to the strengths of lots of different types of people.
RR Oh yeah. Yeah. I’ve read the books that have that message [both laugh].
SWB So I think we have a lot of listeners who would also identify as being introverted and would also, you know, love to be more collaborative, but don’t necessarily work for companies where they feel like that’s easy to do or where like maybe, you know, you mentioned that you felt like the culture really supported that there. What advice would you give to somebody who’s just kind of just trying to figure out where to start, or isn’t sure that they feel safe speaking up about what their needs are?
RR Mm hmm. Yeah. I—I think my advice would really be to first identify like what is behind that struggle. Like what is actually going on there? Is is that you haven’t been communicating what your needs are, or have you tried different ways of approaching that? Are there different people that you can talk to in your organization to like get your needs heard or get support from? And then of course there’s other situations perhaps where the support just really isn’t there from the company or the organization, and I haven’t been in that situation, but if it were me I would probably think about trying to find a place that is more supportive.
SWB Yeah, I mean, I think it’s not that easy necessarily for everybody, and not necessarily in all industries, but something I think a lot about is, like, when I’ve seen friends who’ve been in clearly toxic work environments, it’s really easy to blame yourself or to think, like, you must be doing something wrong. You must be the one who’s problematic, or whatever. And I think it’s helpful, even if you don’t necessarily have a plan to go somewhere else, but it’s helpful to be able to just see it clearly and to be able to say like, “Wait. No, no, no, no, no, no. The problem isn’t me. The problem isn’t that I’m an introvert. The problem is that this place is doing these specific things that are preventing me from feeling safe and successful here.” You know, I think even just that knowledge can be empowering.
RR Yeah definitely it’s like the first step, right? You have to know what is actually going on, what is the case, and then think about different courses of action from there.
SWB So. Ok, so, now that you’ve kind of gone down this path of figuring out how to work more collaboratively and to have more of a public presence while also being true to yourself, how has that shifted sort of like what you want to do next in your career or with your goals?
RR I think I just want to do more of that. Like I want to keep getting better at it. As I mentioned, the big one for me is working on getting a bit more comfortable with things like public speaking, and, you know, putting myself out there, whether it’s writing an article or, you know, speaking to you lovely ladies here.
SWB So, I think that that’s great. I would love to hear you speak and write more, because that article you wrote about collaboration was really valuable to me, even though I don’t work at a, you know, a traditional company where I have a lot of teammates. I work with different people all the time, and it was really useful for me to think a little bit more clearly about, what are some of the assumptions I might have going into meetings? And sort of challenge those assumptions a bit. So, thank you for that. I’m looking forward to what else you have to say. Where can our listeners find out more about what you’re working on and what you’re interested in?
RR Yeah, so people can check out things that I’m writing about on ux.shopify.com, along with all of my other brilliant colleagues on the UX team.
SWB Well, that’s great! Thank you so much for being here today and we have really enjoyed talking with you.
RR Thank you [music fades in, plays alone for four seconds, fades out].
JL Hey, so in Season 2 we introduced the vocab swap, which was just our chance to look at some of the language that we use in, you know, our everyday lives. Things that maybe you were like, “Ugh I wish there was something else I could say in this instance.” You know, like “kill two birds for the price of one”? That’s not what you say at all [laughter].
SWB What—I have a series of questions! [Laughter]
KL Is that like Payless BOGO?
SWB Why are we killing birds and—
JL This is why I need you to tell me how to swap my vocabulary!
KL Why are we killing birds and—
SWB We’re not killing birds.
JL Ok. So instead what we’re really trying to do here is find better things than what I’m currently saying right now. So, does anyone have any others besides killing birds for a vocab swap so that we can talk about this week?
SWB I have one that I came across just recently that I just never thought about, which is so true for so many of these. And that is the term “grandfather clause.” So a grandfather clause, as you have probably heard in your life, is some kind of policy that is old and outdated and most people don’t have that policy, but because you had it before a certain time you get to keep it, right? And the term actually comes from after the Civil War, during Reconstruction in the South, in the 1890s. A bunch of Southern states started enacting things like poll taxes and literacy tests. And so of course those were designed to keep black people who had just recently been granted the right to vote from actually being able to vote. So the problem for the people who were enacting this legislation was that if you had poll taxes and literacy tests, that would also disenfranchise a lot of poor white voters, who were often illiterate as well. And so that meant that that would cause an uproar. So what they did to ensure that they could keep black people from voting without keeping white people from voting was enact this thing they called a grandfather clause. And that meant that if you or your family had had the right to vote prior to 1867, you could vote, even if you couldn’t pass the tests. So the 15th amendment was passed in 1870 and that’s when former slaves were given suffrage. So that means that in 1867, of course, no black people could vote. And in 1867, all of these white people could vote without passing any tests or paying taxes. And so the result is that white people ended up being grandfathered in, and black people had to follow the new rules. So that was declared unconstitutional in 1915 for reasons that I hope are pretty clear, but we still hear that word a lot.
KL I’ve even worked at jobs where like I, you know, I miss some arbitrary cutoff and like the—the pensions weren’t available to me because I hadn’t been, you know, quote/unquote “grandfathered in.”
SWB And so it’s like a term that we don’t really think about because you’re—you’re like, “Ok! Grandfathered in: that’s meaningless, right? Like that’s not—that’s not sensitive language.” But I think the history of that is super problematic, and I have found myself, you know, questioning using that phrase and sort of like questioning how common that phrase just sort of slips in in weird places. So, I don’t know, do you have any fun ideas for [chuckling] different ways to talk about grandfather clauses?
JL I really like legacy. So legacy policy or legacy clause or legacy rule. I think legacy pretty much describes what a lot of these instances are.
KL Yeah and I think in some contexts you could say, you know, this is a historic rule or a historic guideline that we’re working with or whatever. I mean, I think then in some cases it’s actually a special case, and that’s how people are talking about it, which feels a little like, let’s actually call it what it is if it is a special case.
SWB Right, or like you’re being granted an exception of some sort, yeah. Yeah. And it’s like such a little thing, and I bet most people don’t think that much about it when they say it, and also like you think like how often does that even come up? But it comes up surprisingly often in anything contractual, and I was actually a little bit bummed that that wasn’t something that I knew about, that I didn’t know like sort of the provenance of that language. And now that I know it just makes me think about how many historical terms come from places that I don’t really want to replicate.
KL Totally. I feel like ever since we started this, I’ll find myself saying something and I’m like, “Is that what I really mean?” And, “Maybe I should explore that. Like, am I using it correctly?” So I’m glad that we’re doing this.
SWB And I mean, you know, I don’t think it’s like—I don’t think anybody can be perfect with language. I think there is no such thing, right? Because context shifts all the time and audience shifts all the time, and if you are talking to people with different cultural backgrounds, expectations shift. But I do think that there’s something that’s so valuable about taking that moment and being like, is this just a thing people say without thinking? Or is this what I actually mean? Like, what am I communicating with this phrase, and am I communicating some things that might have consequences that I don’t intend?
KL Yeah. A little bit more awareness and just I think it’s never a bad thing if you take a pause and think about what you’re saying.
SWB I think a lot about habits and how powerful habits are, and I think that you can obviously learn a habit to—to trade one word for another. But, even broader than that, I think you can learn the habit of being more intentional with language, and so I think for me just talking about it on the show and like recording that and sending that out to the world gives me a really good reminder to check in with myself and take it seriously and to not brush that off. And I feel like that has been really good for me, and I hope that that’s good for some of our listeners too.
KL I think so too. I was just going to say, “Fuck yeah,” because this feels like a Fuck Yeah. But we haven’t even gotten to that yet.
JL But we can!
Fuck Yeah of the Week
KL What is our Fuck Yeah of the Week?
JL Our Fuck Yeah this week is fuck yeah to deleting apps from my phone.
KL Oh boy!
JL Yeah. See ya, apps! I’ve gone a little bit like clean-house wild recently because I have been like following some of the news that’s been like happening along in 2018 about this while time well spent movement which was originally coined by the people doing humanetech.com maybe a little bit co-opted by Facebook now. But there’s a bunch of companies that are sort of embracing this movement. So there was just recently Instagram was reporting that they are going to start showing you through their usage insights, the time spent on their app. So you can see how much time you are spending on Instagram. And Google just released some time management tools to their new Android P system, and Facebook and other apps are doing similar. So the thing is this whole idea of like, looking at, like, what is technology doing to us? Are we spending not just really too much time, but what kind of time are we spending with our apps? And do we know how much time we’re spending on our phones?
SWB And I think like a lot of us just don’t know, because you see these stats about like number of times people look at their phone in a day or whatever and it’s like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times, and you do it without thinking. But I also, you know, I’m a big fan of cleaning house in my apps every once in awhile. It’s like a little—like my little Marie Kondo exercise. I got a new phone recently and I totally deleted a bunch of apps. I kind of went through and I was like, “Am I actually using these? How many of these are tracking data?” You know I had turned off a lot of that data tracking, but there’s this huge amount of stuff that’s being tracked. I deleted Facebook long, long ago because it’s super creepy and it’s a time suck. However, they—they also own Instagram, so I’m not sure that the tracking situation is any better for me now. But I do really appreciate any effort to kind of get people to kind of take stock of how technology has changed our lives and whether they’re happy with that. And if you know anything about me, you know I don’t go around like lauding big tech companies very much, and I don’t want to do that here because I think that like a lot of this is sort of like kind of a—a shallow response to a lot of negative press tech has had this year. But I do really think that, like, being able to take stock of what you’re getting from it and—and, like, have there been consequences to all the good things that you’ve gotten from technology? Right? Because there’s obviously a ton of good stuff I can say, like, about keeping in touch with friends and family and like being able to have instant access to like pictures of my nieces, which is pretty great for me. But then it’s like, what are the negatives that I often don’t take stock of?
JL Yeah it’s interesting, so I was like reading a bunch about this whole idea of like digital wellbeing, and how we can change it so that it’s—we’re just spending more time doing the things that we really like. So like, you know, once I deleted more things from my phone then what was left were the things that like maybe I enjoy more, like my Breaker podcasting app, you know? Or I do still have Instagram on my phone, but like again, I’m trying to figure out how to make that work in my life right now to like, I don’t know, where I’m not like hating myself after I’m like, “What did I just do?” So like the other morning, somehow, we got my son to daycare like really fast and I had like some extra time and I was just like scrolling in my kitchen, drinking coffee, like looking at Facebook. And I’m in this like just like local neighborhood group and there was just like—there was this thread and it was just like—it was about the Kendrick Lamar concert recently, [laughter] and I just couldn’t stop reading it. There was like 426 comments and I was like, the stupidity of some of like the people posting on this were just like—I was like—I just needed popcorn. Like I was just going through it, but then next thing I know it was 20 minutes! And I’m like reading through all these like stupid comments and I was like, “What am I doing?” And I was like, “How did this benefit me?”
SWB I mean it’s—it’s kind of like watching crap TV, right? Where it’s like, it’s not—look: if you need a little mindless time, that’s ok. Everybody—everybody has their limit and needs some mindless time, and you are a busy mom of a young toddler and you got him to daycare and you had a little window of time. Like what are you supposed to do? Pick up Tolstoy? Like I don’t—
JL But that’s like, you know, I could’ve—I could’ve walked to work in that time, which like I have been doing a little more of, or like I could’ve just like sat outside for a little bit and not looked at a screen. So that’s the thing I do think—and not to say that that’s not other people’s like mindless time or that I don’t watch like TV sometimes but, you know, it’s weird the other day like my husband was commenting about the fact that like, we like got a new couch last year and it’s not as comfortable as our old couch. And he’s like, “God this couch is just not comfortable.” I was like, “Yeah, but we don’t watch as much TV.” [Laughter]
KL That’s such a good point. Yeah!
JL So it’s like, if it’s just not there, like, you just won’t do it. So if I delete these apps, then like maybe I won’t spend as much time on my phone.
SWB Totally! I guess I just mean, like, it’s cool if having some mindless time looking at an app sometimes is sort of, you know, like what you need at the end of a difficult day or just like it’s fine like I don’t want to shame anybody for wanting to—
KL Or like just how you are going to spend 20 minutes at that moment. It’s fine.
SWB Right. I mean like it’s just like when I watch House Hunters International on a plane [laughter] where like I just need to zone out and enjoy some me time. But I think it’s also a question of, like, when is that what you’re doing, and when is it that you’re just kind of like mindlessly wasting time and—and actually coming away from the experience feeling really unsatisfied? And—or just having that be, like, the default behavior. And so you know like, “Oh I’m not doing anything else so I guess I should watch crappy TV.” “I’m not doing anything else, so I guess I should play with my phone.” And, like, trying to be more aware of that.
KL Yeah. I recently, like in the last couple of months, a friend of mine had told me about this app called Moment, which basically just tracks entire usage of your phone. So it tracks every app usage, every time you pick up your phone, every time you make a phone call, every—like every time you do anything on your phone. And I used it for like 36 hours and I was like, I [laughs] looked at it several times and I was just like, “I’m not ready to face this.” Like, I just can’t. However, it was part of an exercise I was doing to kind of figure out where I was spending my time in a day because I was kind of like, “I’m working so much.” And like maybe I could be a little bit more, you know, constructive, or like sort of package my time a little bit better so that I feel productive but also have some free time and like don’t feel guilty about it or whatever. And though I stopped using the app, I made a decision which has benefited me way more than using the app, and that is to not look at email while I’m in bed, and that I’m only allowed to start looking at email once I sit down at my desk for the day. And that was a huge shift and it has like improved my life, like, levels and levels.
JL That’s awesome. I mean this goes back to our episode of Shannah, you know, we were talking about financial planning and like looking at a budget because until you make a budget, you don’t really know where your money is being spent. So I think until you use an app like that or start like thinking about his stuff, you don’t really—you can’t really tell how much time you’re spending on certain websites or certain apps.
SWB And I think just like figuring out how much money you spend eating out or whatever, if you haven’t really been tracking it, you’re going to underestimate it. Like, I’m sure I would underestimate how much I use my phone, and I can definitely say, “Yeah, but it’s all this work stuff.” Right? It’s like, “Well, you know, like I have conference and then I’m in between meetings where I have to travel to them, so I’m like on Slack on my phone.” And it’s like yeah, that’s true but like, that’s some bullshit [laughs]. Like you—that’s not counting a lot of other stuff you’re doing. Especially I noticed something I do that I’m going to try to stop doing is like, I will go and kind of like mindlessly scroll Twitter and then like not tweet, and like consider tweeting a bunch of times and then not tweet. And like, I don’t have to tweet. That’s, like… the goal isn’t even that I need to tweet more. It’s just that, like, I want to be more intentional about when I want to part of that and when I’m not part of that, and mindlessly scrolling it, except for like it being a good way to sometimes get some headlines really quickly, like you get a sense of what’s happening in the world. You don’t need to do that for an hour and a half. You can like do that in five minutes. And if I’m not going to be actually like communicating with people and making connection and like contributing ideas, then like I should fucking close tab. But sometimes I am also that person who’s like, “I gotta get off Twitter.” And I close the tab and then like literally 30 seconds later I open a new tab of Twitter without realizing it!
KL My favorite is like, and then I’ll just like pick up my phone and look at it and I’m like [laughing], “What am I doing?!”
JL Well that’s it for this week’s episode of No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. No, You Go is recorded in our home city of Philadelphia and produced by Steph Colbourn. Our theme music is by The Diaphone. Thanks to Rachel Robertson for being our guest today. If you like what you’ve been hearing, make sure you subscribe and rate us on your lovely app which you can use to listen to this podcast [laughs]. We all do. And it really is awesome because your support helps us spread the word. And we will be back next week so we will see you then [music fades in, plays alone for 30 seconds, fades out to end].