thoughts on transitions

i was having a phone conversation today with a potential client and professional colleague when she asked me if i had thought about submitting a proposal to the IA Summit – for the management track – about my transition out of traditional management. We were talking about my transition from being a manager of managers, at Yahoo!, to a manager of a small team, also at Yahoo!, to my role now as a consultant where my world has been turned upside down in terms of my role.

after some discussion, I thought was an interesting idea. We have talked a lot about design (and IA) as an in-house person and as a consultant over the years. I have written a lot about managing and about making the transition from an individual contributor to management, but I haven’t seen a lot or talked to many people about making the transition back out of management. I know people do it – I had people on my own staff who wanted to manage, did for awhile, then went back to the individual role. But that was generally after a short period of time. I have spent the better part of ten years on one side of the fence.

now I am on the other.

and it’s weird. not bad – some days absolutely terrific for all the reasons why I made the shift. but I am in that uncomfortable zone where I sometimes feel like I don’t know what I am doing. and sometimes I really don’t know what I am doing since I have never done this before.

  • do I start a concept model with circles or squares?
  • I’ll just have XX do that.  oh, there is no XX. where’s my team? who do I delegate to now? I spent a long time learning how to do that.
  • do the levels of pages in a website architecture really need to line up?
  • how do I keep an architecture map and a site inventory spreadsheet in sync?
  • does reading my google reader and twitter stream count as research?
  • how do I show content blocks on a sitemap while still keeping things high level? is that even possible?
  • how often do I call back or email back a prospective client before I get annoying?
  • how do I meet potential talent if I am busy working on a suite of wireframes and haven’t left my basement office in two days?
  • how much do we charge for that? really? that much?

It’s a new landscape and I am enjoying it and learning tons but I am definitely in my discomfort zone. thank goodness I have partners to learn from and lean on. I think there are a lot of points about these transitions to and from management and individual contributor, from in-house to out of house and back – that might make for an interesting presentation.

what do you think?

current: experience matters design :: senior level interaction design and systems strategy consulting former partner, tangible user experience; Yahoo! founder of the public and internal Yahoo! pattern library. design director of ued teams responsible for designing solutions across key yahoo! platforms: social media, personalization, membership and vertical search.