Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Room of My Own (sort of)

Two people at work have recently been promoted to a level that requires them to be seated closer to our company president. Both of these people have assistants that will be coming along with them so it was time for me to relinquish my front row seat watching how a company seeks to re-invent itself. Or so I thought.

Bob, my boss, is a mast-negotiator. He would never admit that; he is far too humble to ever toot his own horn. No matter - I'm happy to sing his praises as loudly and as often as I can. He deserves it. He hates the idea of ever being separated from his team at work and so he politely offered to have all three of us move to another area of the building. Nope, his boss wasn't having that. Bob's not going anywhere. So this week I moved across the hall with the third member of our team into a lovely office.

I hadn't ever considered the possibility of getting an office at my company. I knew they were reserved for people at a much higher level than me. No one else thought it would be possible either. Bob took the two of us downstairs to the cafe this past week to have a coffee and celebrate our new digs. "Place profoundly effects progress," he said. And he's right - already I feel myself moving more swiftly in almost every area of my life and I think the space is the catalyst.

In addition to moving into a new space, Bob also encouraged us to make new name tags to hang outside our office. It had never occurred to me to replace the boring grey placard that stated my name, rank, and coded space. "Operations Support" was my job description according to the tag, despite the fact that I have nothing to do with operations. I'm not sure where they come up with this stuff. I couldn't think of a less inspiring, or more inaccurate, job description if I tried.

A few weeks ago Bob sent me a job post from IDEO, a company we both greatly admire. I thought for sure this was the beginning of the end for me - I was being outplaced before I even hit the 6 month mark. In actuality, Bob was just trying to give me some structure and creative language to describe what it is we actually do in our very ambiguous jobs: we are nothing short of Human Factors Specialists. I proudly wrote that on my new office tag, and included a picture and poem by Brian Andreas, one of my favorite artists.

So what is a Human Factors Specialist you ask? It's a fairly simple concept: we develop and foster opportunities to create joy through design. On IDEO's website, they describe their human factors specialists as those who "apply their knowledge from psychology, anthropology, biomechanics, and related fields to enhance people's experience through design. As interdisciplinary design team members, they employ a range of observational and empathic techniques to understand the issues people face. They use this knowledge to frame design opportunities and to create scenarios and "experiential prototypes" to explore, test, and refine opportunities in context."

I don't know that our HR folks will go for this fancy language, and that's okay. While they may sequester me to a formal job description like "Operations Support", I'm working hard to make make sure my imagination doesn't fail me.

The above photo can be found at

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