Shadow My Day as an OpenIDEO Community Manager at IDEO in San Francisco

Shane Profile Photo

Shane Zhao @shanexzhao
Hi I’m Shane and this a day in my life as the Community Manager of OpenIDEO - an open innovation platform and community that enables people everywhere to design solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges. This is a typical day in my life and doesn’t reflect what other folks experience at IDEO. Not every day is made the same.


7:30 AM ... Or is It? — I’ve been a habitual snoozer ever since my college days. To preempt my snoozing tendencies, my bedside clock is intentionally set a full hour ahead. For example, if it reads 7:30am on my clock - it’s actually 6:30am in real-time.  This might sound odd but it’s a hack I’ve picked up over the years to prevent myself from snoozing till eternity. 

After hitting my third snooze at 8:30am (or 7:30 in real-time) my half-awake mind starts to panic. Thinking I’ll be late, I convince myself to finally get my butt out of bed. I do some quick stretches and then hop into a hot shower. Feeling much more awake after the quick rinse, I sit down to jot down some to-do items in my notebook before heading out.

8:30 am Morning Musings  —  Stepping out the door, I cue up a podcast on my iphone. The 30-minute commute from my apartment to IDEO is typically a time I use for passive learning. I’m big on listening to podcasts on the Muni to get inspired before the day kicks off. Shows like Radiolab, Invisibilia, Mixergy and the Tim Ferriss Show are some of my favorite programs in the morning. 

9:00 am Coffee and Yogurt — After getting into IDEO, I head straight to our OpenIDEO teamspace. Before settling down, I walk over to the kitchen area for my morning cup of coffee and bowl of yogurt. The kitchen area, or more affectionately known as the La Cocina, is a mixing space where folks in the office would bump into each other and spark up conversations over our love for food. 

OpenIDEO Team Space.png

9:10 am Download  — Back in the team space, I sit down to go through my emails and Slack notifications with my coffee and yogurt. Much of IDEO SF is laid out in an open floor plan with a variety of spaces for collaboration. Our OpenIDEO team has a dedicated project space where we huddle in between meetings throughout the day. Mornings are usually the best time when you can find the whole team in one place before we each have to run off into separate meetings and calls.

9:30 am Community Management  — Typically, I dedicate my hours before noon to go through new content and discussions on the OpenIDEO platform. With multiple challenges live on the platform, I’ve been splitting my time between the Higher Ed Challenge and the Amplify Urban Resilience Challenge. 

The first thing I do is cue up a new daily feature on the challenge page. Then I spend the next two hours reading through new submissions on the OpenIDEO platform. During this time, I focus on facilitating collaborations in the community by cross-pollinating comments between like-minded posts. Being a community manager is not unlike being a dinner party host — it’s my role to facilitate conversations and a healthy mingling between the guests.  

12:15 pm Share Highlights — As I read through the new content, I keynote interesting updates from the platform into a Google Doc of highlights to share with the rest of the team. In our team Trello board, I create cards for noteworthy OpenIDEO community posts and tag our Marketing Manager Sarah so she can share the content via our Twitter and Facebook channels. 

IDEO SF Grand.png

12:30 pm Refresh Two days a week, I would make an effort to head across the street to Crunch Fitness for a quick calisthenics workout. Today, I stay back for a share-out from IDEO writers about storytelling. Plus, I just can’t pass up on free catered lunch!

1:30 pm Check-in After lunch, I sit down with our Amplify Challenge Manager, Chioma, to go over some highlights from the Urban Resilience Challenge. We exchange notes from a recent call with the challenge sponsors and touch base on the outreach strategy for rest of the Idea phase.

2:00 pm Team Huddle    Collaboration is a core value of how we work at IDEO. While we each have our dedicated projects, we frequently support each other during team brainstorms. Over post-it notes and coffee, we huddle in the team space to generate ideas for the new Accelerate program — a series of new challenges we’re building to bring design thinking to climate change innovators. 

3:00 pm Community Call The OpenIDEO platform is facilitated by our community as much as it is managed by our core team. For each challenge, we have have dedicated OpenIDEO community ambassadors take on leadership roles to help guide online interactions. Via a Google Hangout call, we check in with our Community Champions to learn what insights they’ve gained from the past week.

4:00pm Tea Time    There's a weekly ritual in the office called Tea Time where folks would bring in homemade pastries. Today, the IDEO Food Studio is hosting the session with an assortment of fresh fruits and their latest healthy snack experiment: Blueberry Almond Pistachio Bites.

4:15 pm Compose — Back in the team space, I find time to finish crafting a blog post of recent highlights from the Amplify Urban Resilience challenge. This is also a time when I'd synthesize what's been going on and sketch out new community engagement strategies to improve interactions on the platform.

6:00 pm OpenIDEO Chapters   OpenIDEO is an online community, but we also have a global Chapters program where local communities can gather in person to collaborate on ideas associated with our online challenges. Today, we’re hosting a Chapter event at IDEO for the local San Francisco community. Folks are meeting in person to brainstorm for the ideas phase of the Higher Ed Challenge. After making a brief intro about the challenge, Joanna and I walk around to answer questions while our rockstar team of volunteer coordinators facilitate the brainstorms.

8:30 pm Unwind  — Getting home, my girlfriend and I have chat about the day’s musings over a late dinner of Thai takeout. After the meal, she convinces me to watch the latest episode of The Bachelorette with her on Hulu:)

10:00 pm Passion Project    This is when I set aside time to work on passion projects — and by passion projects I mean ShadoMe. Since launching the ShadoMe site, we've been working to seed content from our personal networks. Each night, we take the time to email, call, and text people we know to get them onboard.

12:30 am Lights Out    There’s a reason why I’m not a morning person. I’ve been an night owl for as long as I’ve been a habitual snoozer in the mornings. Nighttime tends to be when I focus the best. Even though I can continue tinkering into the wee hours of the night, I’ve made an effort to put a hard stop to everything at a reasonable hour.  

Once the clock hits 1am, I power down all the electronics, jot down some last minute thoughts in my notebook and turn the lights off.