I sat by myself on the floor in the living room of my friend. It was the middle of winter, 1987, and my friends and I were doing what all Alaskans love to do most in the middle of winter: stay inside and watch Star Trek episodes.
Back then, you didn’t have to qualify that with “TOS” because there was no other Star Trek series. TNG was still 8 months away from broadcasting its first episode. We were doing a marathon of Season 1 episodes and in the middle of a much-needed break, for more pizza and Jolt (“All the sugar, twice the caffeine!”), I picked up a book.
It was a Star Trek compendium book, sitting on the coffee table. I opened it to a random page and was presented with a picture (essentially the one above) and beneath that, there was text explaining the idea of “Let me help” replacing “I love you” as the three most important words you could say to someone.
That has stuck with me for the past 34 years. I thought of it again today and had to remind myself (it’s been a while) that it was referencing The City on the Edge of Forever.
EDITH: Why does Spock call you Captain? Were you in the war together?
KIRK: We served together.
EDITH: And you don’t want to talk about it? Why? Did you do something wrong? Are you afraid of something? Whatever it is, let me help.
KIRK: Let me help. A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words even over I love you.
In March 2018, I wrote a post where I mentioned a bit about not knowing how to talk about what I do. More accurately, I don’t think that most of the UX and related disciplines have job titles that fit what I do. If you didn’t click the link just above, here’s what I said about it:
Personally, I don’t really care what my title is or what your title is. The best title I can think of for what I do, what many of us do, is “Helper.” But that probably would cause too many responses of “say what now?” I like to help. Doesn’t matter too much to me what I’m helping with as long as it is moving people forward and/or giving them more time. Time is very important to me right now. Doesn’t matter if it’s a process, a digital product, a physical product, a service, or a career … I like to help.
I’m at a point in my career, and partly because of how I live my professional life, where many people want to meet me for coffee and ask for advice on either entering UX for the first time or changing their focus. That’s one way I’ve been helping.
I started PDXHCD because I believe there’s more that aligns and overlaps the seemingly disparate disciplines than divides us. We (collectively the disciplines related to human-centered design) have spent the past 25 years trying to break down the silos that separate Design from Business and from Building/Development. We know that things work better when all of us who are cross-discipline work more closely together.
But within our profession(s), it is another matter; by-and-large people seem to like their silos. You can see it in the never-ending-parade-of-infographics that put the darling of the moment (Design Thinking) at the center to show how the other people revolve around and reply upon the middle. Whomever is a the middle depends on who made the graphic.
I see what I am trying to do with PDXHCD as one way I’ve been helping. In 2021, we’re shifting most of our focus (“our” = me and Peter Russo) to supporting Senior practitioners as well as Managers and Directors. We aren’t abandoning people who are in the “trying to break into UX” stage; there’s plenty of opportunity still available for that. There isn’t a lot of opportunity for those others.
We’ll be spending the next few weeks reaching out to people and I hope to connect with those who get what we’re trying to do (create professional development opportunities for people who are well-advanced in their practice). I felt like the original point of PDXHCD connected with people, but it never quite came together. Event runners wanted to do their own thing. More silos.
It’s kind of my way of saying I believe in you. I care about your health and well-being. I love you.
Let me help.