The week I was hired at Meta as a Content Designer, a recruiter had reached out to me to set up interviews. This had never happened before. I had spent almost 10 years teaching – mostly kindergarten to grade 8 English/Art. Basically, another world. One that exists without recruiters.
Wondering what Content Design is? The short answer is that we craft languages on screens. Content Design can almost be thought of as digital architecture for words. Our work is layered between the engineers and the everyday people, ‘users’ of the platform.
After 10 years in teaching, the mindset I had acquired was that my expertise could not translate elsewhere. I had even completed a Masters (MAT) at The Maryland Institute College of Art | MICA, yet only had a hint of a belief that I could find something else to do for work.
If anyone else relates to this, feel free to delete that notion. Sometimes patterns, loops, and routines take hold of us. Perhaps an inferiority complex is hidden there or messages from both society and my work environment that seeped in too deeply.
In my case, as in many stories, it took some destruction to build something new again. Determination and setting sights in a new direction also helps. A personal rebuilding ran parallel to a professional one.
After teaching, I took an exit route to education and set up a platform called “We Write Here” for students to have their writing published and awarded (gift card for books). I had gained some confidence to create this from taking a UX Design evening course while working.
Initially, I had no idea what to do next until some half-formed inspiration came. I went around to schools in Oakland to inform English teachers of this new website setup. Essays appeared in the inbox and suddenly dozens of writing pieces were submitted. Quotes went up on Instagram as the only other form of advertising. UC Berkeley and Open.IDEO are among the supporters of the project. That project still runs and encourages forty-eight students a year to write more. Highly recommend the reading.
One recommendation to anyone feeling in need of more professional navigation is to learn what deeply motivates your work. Study how all the interests and topics intersect. It's usually there to find. The documentation, teams, and technology move so fast. Only with a grounded base to return to, is it easier to not get lost in the noise.
All the years I practiced leading a class were useful in knowing how to navigate new work situations. I know how I best communicate, and where others are needed for their roles, and I have the ability to identify useful solutions. There is always some orchestration to make it all come together. Sometimes it works amazingly, and other times it's a lesson in what could go better the next round.
From that project, I was guided to get more experience in ‘UX Writing’. I joined three other startup projects to learn more (Souldoodles, Screenshotbot, and The Orange Market). I decided I would get the experience over pay although it's ideal to aim for both. I had a UX Design education but no work experience in this area yet. I continued to look for inspiration. I examined other portfolios and listened to podcasts on the topic of UX/UI until I had my own informed conclusions. I learned to let the writing bring clarity, and guide others to quick understanding and moving along. The parallels to my previous position were there, and I constantly learned to gain more technical insights.
When I joined, I was fascinated that Meta’s content design team was the largest in the world. I was eager to experience what working at a large company would be like. Now I am on the other side of that vast experience. In all its projects and at times intensity, (amidst layoffs, etc.) I return to my own pace, yet inclined to jump in and continue all over again. The work involves constant learning and curiosity about what might have a greater and improved impact.
The route we take can be shared, though it's usually not easily replicated. I find enjoyment in the process and collaboration as I keep moving along.
The route continues after spending one year working at Messenger and still uncovering where it will lead next. Behind the scenes, there are many amazing and smart people. The numbers are staggering; features are released to over 100M people. At that scale, large consequences and the inconsequential are wrapped up in it all. Some team members lead with analytics and metrics. Others bring artistic skills to the design work.
If you’re seeking your own experience there, or elsewhere, remember to bring along your best insights, questions, and expertise – make it come alive and meaningful for you.
Always glad to connect (via Elpha or LinkedIn).