Paul McAleer

What I need

Paul McAleer

Last week I spoke about the best advice I got from a boss.

The worst advice I ever received from a boss, simply, was not to talk to people. The unfortunate thing is that several of my previous managers told me to not do this.

In one circumstance, I worked with other UX folks on a big team and was told specifically not to speak with the developers on the project. The developers were one floor down. When I asked why not, I was told, "Your work doesn't affect theirs. No one here talks to developers." This was true, and when someone else went ahead and did it anyway, he was lauded - but it took time and he faced struggles too.

Another example. I was informed that it was my role and the role of my teammates to create beautiful, wonderful designs. We were not to speak to clients; clients looked to us to solve everything for them. When I had questions only a client could possibly answer - mostly around requirements and technical limitations - my boss gave me answers (later proven incorrect) or avoided them entirely. I was left to guess. Sometimes I guessed correctly, sometimes I didn't, but it felt like I was working millions of miles away from the people I was making things for; in reality many of them sat close by.

Notably, at those stages of my career I didn't have the guts to ask for what I really needed or wanted - or just talk to the relevant people anyway. Company cultures just didn't support that type of initiative.

For a very long time I chose to be selfless - putting others' needs first - to the point of invisibility, not recognizing that being selfless can actually be detrimental to the self. That is, if I don't truly see my needs, understand them, and demand them, how will I ever be satisfied? And here we are.

There are times when others' needs will come first, but if I have a need, I try to make it known. For me that's easier to do at work. Sometimes it will be a burden. Sometimes it will be difficult. But I need to do it.