New Economies, Business Models, and Teams: First Semester Overview

I survived my first semester of my part-time MS in Strategic Design + Management at Parsons while working full-time!

My overall thoughts:
Management - Three classes is tough to manage, some which require more reading than others. However, I am very good at time management and this isn’t my first rodeo at working while going to school. I worked while I was in college and consulted part-time between two cities in law school. My grades have gotten progressively better throughout the years.

Content - I was initially very skeptical about what I would be learning, but came out of the 12 weeks with my “life changed” and very impressed. High level topics like sustainability and circular economy have been applied to my own personal life.

Classes Breakdown:

  • New Economies - I was most skeptical about this class initially because I didn’t know how I would be able to apply high level ideas to my work or life. Instead, Cody Fleishflesser (my professor) was an impressive facilitator and got the class thinking each week about different ideas through videos or readings — that we would end up teaching each other with (classmates taught classes). My biggest takeaway was thinking about design and innovation where design can help dictate strategic decisions — and how I can play a role in this as a design facilitator.

  • Sustainable Business Models - This was the wildcard class for me, because I didn’t know what to expect. When I see “sustainable”, I think “eco-friendly” —but found the content of the class far more interesting. “Sustainable” was defined broader — to see what one could do with what resources were available (not just environmental). I learned how to build quick business models through lean, social, business model, transitional, among other canvases. My personal sustainability plan affected me the greatest because I tracked my financial habits and learned how to create KPI’s and measure success for myself…and use these metrics to improve.

  • Managing Creative Teams - I worked on a client team for Citi on Campus with my classmates Morgane and Shemar. Morgane has a consulting background and Shemar was a graphic designer. We got hands-on experience designing a chatbot for Citi’s recruiting team and really enjoyed the interviews, prototyping, testing, and research we conducted with real-life undergraduate and graduate students. I really enjoyed getting to learn more about how each of my teammates worked and how we could figure out how to best utilize each others’ skills to bring together our final client presentation and playbook. This project helped me realize what my skills were as a facilitator and where I myself could grow as well.

Thanks! Feedback and Iterative Design

November means it’s almost Thanksgiving! Around Thanksgiving, I like to reflect over the past year and think about what’s great, what could have been improved, and overall highlights. Think of it like a yearly progress report.

For me, feedback is a really important part of learning. How can I grow? How can I develop? What skills can I gain? What am I good at? These are a few questions I try to ask myself to learn more about how I can be better. In school, when students are measured on a metric of grades, perfection is the goal. But in seeking feedback, I’m looking more for what I’m good at, and how I can substantively improve…and iterate my life accordingly!

We’ll start with the good. This year, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about my IGTV videos, ability to learn digital marketing and branding, and skills in synthesis and facilitation. Further, I’ve started tracking food and money —learning more about myself and creating actionable insights of how I plan my week. I’ll consider those my pro’s.

I also have learned that I want to learn more in the areas of presenting more, leadership, and communication. Something I picked up from a friend at a hackathon is perhaps a bi-weekly check-in about “How am I doing on a scale of 1-10?” and following up with “How can I be a 10?” to get more imminent, actionable feedback.

Will end on a few things I’m grateful for this holiday season:

  • Family (spouse, parents, brothers, cousins coming out to support me)

  • Self-Awareness (to reflect on and learn more about myself)

  • Good Coffee (for the last push of the semester for grad school!)

Product Thoughts: KPI and Data-Driven ACTION

For my Sustainable Business Models class, we’ve been talking a lot about the Lean Canvas and Business Canvas. I like these frameworks because they create structure for someone to figure out ideas, startups, maybe even form a company. However, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a big focus to learn whether a product or business is successful. But how are KPIs applicable to our daily lives?

In class, our final project is a Personal Sustainability Plan (PSP). My PSP is based on financial sustainability and how much I can/should spend a week. The KPIs for this project are percentage of money I spend on coffee, clothes, food, and overall spend.

 Here is my attempt to spend less on coffee. In the last 7 weeks, I have spent almost $200 on coffee.

Here is my attempt to spend less on coffee. In the last 7 weeks, I have spent almost $200 on coffee.

During my bachelorette party week and travel week, I spent…enough money to be ashamed of myself. But I looked at the metrics logically and they drove me to action. Instead of focusing on the emotional judgment, I focused on how I could improve to do better. The following few weeks, I’ve been on track and financially sustainable.

One area I am interested in focusing in on is how to help people separate the emotion from data. I’ve applied this attitude to other aspects of my life. For the last 1.5 years, I’ve been tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal. Some days I fall off, other days I am on track. Recently, I discovered that I had gained 3 lbs, and became more aggressive in my data-driven tracking. I did not get angry or judgmental. Instead, I looked at the metrics and thought to myself: “I will meet certain metrics each day.” Today, I am roughly 5 lbs lighter, having achieved my goal because I looked at data logically to help drive me to action.

My final thoughts are: how might we show data in ways that empower users to take action?

Adobe Max 2018 - My Speaking Experience

Adobe gave me and my partner, Sharon Rajkumar, the honor of speaking at a session at Adobe Max. Our session was highly interactive, with audience participation, a fun break, scenarios, and a timer as a prize. Over 100 people signed up for our session — and it was an exciting experience.

PROS:

Overall, we had a very well sync-ed presentation. We swapped off well and had interesting scenarios. The adrenaline gave us the extra burst of energy to do our best run. Initially, we provided the audience with post-its to provide us feedback with, and the audience was engaged, and provided us a lot of great positive reinforcement and support.

GROWS:

I always like to look for areas of improvement for my next round. It was a big presentation, so nervousness was a factor — definitely more practice and speaking in front of larger would be a benefit.

Also, we both synced on similar styles because our theme was women supporting women. Next time, I would make sure we differentiated our styles to play foils/contrast. We tried a foil dynamic in future meetings about our idea and it worked very well, so I would adapt this into future presentations. Part of styles is authenticity — being comfortable in your own skin. Next time, I plan to wear black or jeans. Projecting an image is great, and I hate to sound cliched, but being yourself is much better.

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