The 12 Blogs of Christmas 2014 – #9

12 Blogs 14

photoMy guest writer today is Jade Shearstone (@JadeShearstone) who was a recruiter with Xero when I first connected with her on Twitter. When I drew up my list of who to approach for this series of posts, Jade was first on the list. This last year has been something of a personal journey for her and I was intrigued recently by some of her tweets about something called LifeHack Labs she was participating in. I wanted to know more so here is her story.

Getting out the building
Twelve months ago I decided to scratch an itch. I left the familiar and the comfortable for the unknown. From recruitment to coding. Why? Because I had drunk the Kool Aid.


I had spent the previous year working for a software company. It was my first foray into the world of tech and I was hooked. I was inspired daily by our development and design teams and I was frequently having conversations about things I didn’t fully understand. It was a whole new world that had previously seemed inaccessible. My brain was invigorated. I wanted to create. I wanted in.

What happened next?

I signed up to an intensive 12 week front-end web design bootcamp. True to it’s word, it was intense on a number of levels but I survived. This is not my story though.

SPOILER ALERT: This isn’t a fairy tale (although some magic may have been involved). I didn’t become a developer and I am not going to teach you how to code.

Where this new path did lead me however was somewhere even better. I stumbled across Lifehack Labs on the Twittersphere, a 5 week social innovation lab blending concepts from lean startup, UX, design thinking, with team development, leadership, technology and social innovation to tackle youth wellbeing issues.

To sum that up, it was good people doing good things. The best people in fact. I am so humbled and privileged to have had the luxury to spend 5 weeks learning from and with such an amazing group of humans.

The lessons I didn’t expect to learn.

At many points during the year my mind was blown.

But for the sake of legibility, I will attempt to curate some ideas here, because this is the good stuff. This is the stuff I didn’t realise I wanted to learn when I started to peel back the covers of a website and wrote my first line of HTML. This is the stuff that I think everyone needs to learn**, and why shouldn’t HR make sure they’re leading the way.

**I want to differentiate between knowledge and learning in this context. Some of these concepts may not be rocket science. They may not even be new. You may know them. But are you still learning how best to use them?

1. Ask why? Rinse and repeat.
If you want the real answer, ask why. And then ask it again. And again. And again. And again. Only when you truly know what the issue is, then can you understand it and figure out how to solve it.

2. Bring your whole self.
This sounds simple, but the reality is people hardly ever turn up to work as themselves. You always leave something at the door. But imagine if you didn’t. We’re all human, we all have good days and bad. What if you were a person first, and a job description second? What if you shared how you really felt? Working relationships would be so much richer because of this.

3. Leadership is not a job title.
It is easy to be a manager without being a leader. Leadership is displayed in actions. You don’t have to wait around 10 years to get your golden ticket to step up and lead. You can do this from day one. Every action counts. And it starts with you. Lead by example wasn’t just coined for fun.

4. Design thinking is not just for designers.
Taking a design thinking approach to any issue reinforces the need to get out from behind your desk and seek to (re)define the problem and answers from the people involved and to test your solutions. There is no reason for assumptions to survive when we all have the means to seek validation. Get out the building (not always literally).

5. Be well.
Wellbeing has been a central theme to much of my life this year. I’m not talking about the next fad diet or fitness craze. Nor is it just about being happy all the time. “It’s about learning how to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world. It’s learning how to flourish.” ~ Martin Seligman

6. Good people are doing good things.
When you start looking, it’s everywhere. Good people doing good things. On small scales and big ones. It’s not always easy to know if you’re doing the right thing but doing something is better than the alternative. Keep doing. Keep learning.

Bonus Discovery: Fluro post-it notes make every idea better.
Get it out of your brain and onto paper. Then cover the walls with it. Order it. Improve it. Validate it. Make sense of it. Iterate. You can never have enough post-it notes.

2014 was RAD. 2015 is going to be RADICAL.

Am I now a developer? No. Am I back to being a recruiter? No. But now I get the best of both worlds.

I’m super excited to be joining the team at Enspiral Dev Academy in the New Year to help the next generation of developers take the first steps in their careers. It’s also the perfect environment to remind me daily to never stop learning.

Here is my final thought for you.

“Imagine an organisation full of people who come to work enthusiastically, knowing that they will grow and flourish, and intent on fulfilling the visions and goals of the larger organisation. There’s ease, grace, and effortless about the way they get things done. People take pleasure and pride in every aspect of the enterprise….That’s a lot of energy walking in each day, accomplishing an ever-increasing amount of work and having fun along the way.” ~ Peter Senge

Now close your eyes, imagine that, and smile. Merry Christmas.

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