Every day is a different alarm. I have one for each Metra train into Chicago, and depending on the next day’s workload, I decide what time I should be at work the night before. This ranges from as early as 4:37am to 6:02am (I prefer to work early). When I work from home, sometimes I’ll sleep in until *gasp* 6:30am. Scandalous.
I live in the far west suburbs. As a result, Sonoma’s “SWEET” program is my favorite perk. It allows me to work from home or the office on the fly. I’m usually in the office 2 days per week, sometimes 3, depending on the necessity for face-to-face meetings.
When I’m in the office, I’m usually there by 6:45am, hook up the MacBook Pro to the massive 27” external monitor and proceed to the kitchen for breakfast. I grab some water, brew my first cup of coffee, and head back to my desk with some fruit and dry cereal. Frosted Mini-Wheats “Big Bite” has long been my favorite, although Kellogg’s made an incomprehensible decision to discontinue production, so I now resort to Cheerios. Tragic.
At this hour, it is quiet in the office – the perfect environment to hit the ground running. I plan out my day, respond to any urgent emails, and focus on tasks that benefit from a lack of distractions (review of detailed requirements, conceptualization of wireframes, etc.).
By 8:30 am, co-workers are trickling in every few minutes. It’s a different mix of people daily, and since many will choose to work from home, the office is usually only half full (or half empty?).
In any given week, I am working on 2-3 projects, all in different stages, and usually for different platforms or CRM systems. For example, it could be a series of mockups that define how non-native functionality will work within Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce, a custom design for a Universal Windows Platform or iOS application, or simply illustrating how a native CRM interface is the solution that best addresses a client’s needs.
As 9:00am arrives, there tends to be an uptick in meetings and internal communications. Weekly “stand-up” calls (taken while sitting, ironically) are an opportunity for a project’s team to discuss the latest status updates and plan next steps. Rarely are there any surprises, and like Palpatine everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
I interact heavily with Project Managers and Tech Leads throughout the day. In the early stages of a project, we collaborate to ensure the proposed functionality and wireframes adequately address the user’s objectives, can be executed within the project timeline, and fall within the client’s allocated budget. This is no easy task, and I have nothing but respect for Project Managers tasked with creating this balance – even if it means scaling back a heavily-customized design.
Lunchtime. I usually bring a sandwich to the office or select a random assortment of pantry items if working from home. On rare occasions, I engage in a lunchtime endeavor with co-workers, but more commonly I eat at my desk and continue to plow through the workload. This isn’t a result of being overworked, it’s simply because I am 100% “J” on the MBTI personality scale – I work before I play.
Time to shine. When a project reaches a point where we are ready to present wireframes or design compositions we usually present our creations via screenshare. I walk through the screens step-by-step as the user would interact with the interface. Depending on how the presentation is received, this can be the most gratifying or deflating moment in a project. More often than not, the presentation ends with minor tweaks and an impressed client. I’m not being egotistical, we simply tend to be awesome.
Mid-afternoon. By now, I have already consumed my second cup of coffee and am debating the ramifications of having a third. Do I really want my mouth to feel as if a dead animal had crawled inside? I decide to brave the drowsiness and consume an apple instead. It must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays. Thanks, Mr. Adams.
I do not have a manager in the traditional sense, I have a coach. At Sonoma, the employee-coach relationship focuses on mentoring and collaboration as opposed to direction and management. Every week, we touch base for a half hour to discuss ongoing or upcoming projects, company news, personal events, or even our fantasy football teams. The conversations always vary, but the underlying premise is simple: do I have what I need to be happy and successful at what I do?
As projects progress, my involvement turns from conceptualization to execution. I finalize the high-fidelity design compositions, generate image assets, create an interface specifications document and sometimes write HTML/CSS before passing it along to a developer. As the project nears completion, I eagerly test it to verify everything looks and functions as envisioned. I pat myself on the back. Or maybe I had an itch. Either way, it feels good.
There is one more component of my day-to-day life at Sonoma Partners. Almost every month, I travel to meet with a client for a series of “ride-alongs”. This is an opportunity to observe the client (sales representative, administrator, etc.) in their own working environment to better understand their day-to-day responsibilities and objectives. This experience helps to align our proposed solution with the client’s needs. Afterward, I create a ride-along findings document that is heavily referenced as features are conceptualized and wireframed.
As the day draws near to a close, it’s important to note that every day is different. Some days I switch from billable work to internal projects or sales initiatives. Some days I interview UX and design candidates as we continue to expand our team. Some days I’m glued to a specific project and others I jump from one priority to the next. Variety – it keeps me ticking. That, and coffee. Am I sure I don’t want a 3rd cup? Yes, go away, stupid temptation.
Depending on how satisfied I am with the day’s progress, I tend to close the laptop anywhere from 4:22pm to 5:52pm (there are specific Metra train times involved). I try to resist the urge to check my work email in the evening, usually fail, and peek into tomorrow’s outlook. Nothing crazy… good, now I can rest easy.
Looking back at my day, I consider it a success. Did I finish everything I aimed to finish? No, but I typically set an impossibly high target for myself. Did Sonoma provide me with everything I needed to give it my best shot? Absolutely. That’s how it is with Sonoma. The degree of your success is limited only by your own ambitions.