Shadow My Day as a Digital Strategist at IDEO’s Teachers Guild in San Francisco

 

Brett Brownwell  |  @BrettBrownwell
Hi there. I’m Brett and I’m part of IDEO’s team who runs The Teachers Guild, a professional community for teachers to learn and do design thinking together. As you’re reading this, keep in mind that each day at IDEO for me is exciting and wildly different. Some days are about meeting dozens of new people, some days are about writing all day, and some days, like the one described below, are about our team preparing to host a workshop at The White House! 

 

6:30 am Wake Up in Oakland — My wife and I have lived in the East Bay for about three years and we travel to work together each morning. I always wake up first, and like all good people, I start by pressing the snooze button when my phone goes off. But one hit is all I can afford because she’s got a timed bus to catch from downtown.

One of my morning freestyle drawings.

One of my morning freestyle drawings.

After a mandatory shower and cup of coffee, I’ve recently been trying to draw in my notebook for ten to fifteen minutes. Sometimes it’s just abstracts, sometimes it’s scenes, sometimes I find myself trying to impersonate Ed Ruscha. It feels better to start my day with this pen-to-paper exercise, rather than immediately jumping into technology. Of course some days, like today, are extra busy. So I “cheat” and take a few minutes to check email after putting down my pen.

We love Stephen Curry here in Oakland.

We love Stephen Curry here in Oakland.

7:30 am Head Out — We drive to the bus stop and - if we’re on time - take a few minutes together to share our plans for the day and what we’re most looking forward to. Then I park and walk to the BART for a ride into town.

8:00 am Bart to SF — During the commute, I aim to continue with an analog/offline lifestyle as much as possible. I really do believe it makes the highly-digital time spent during the rest of the day more productive and focused.

If we’re not packed in like sardines, I’ll read a book (just started Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me), explore Spotify’s Featured Playlists, listen to a podcast (Season 3 of Startup just launched!), or continue my long-standing obsession with the bands Junip and The War on Drugs.

My teammates Molly and Emma, outside the IDEO SF office.

My teammates Molly and Emma, outside the IDEO SF office.

8:45 am Arrive at IDEO — Once at IDEO, my first stop is our Teachers Guild space, also known as Project Space K. I’ll unpack, say hi to my teammate Emma and check in with her, then head to one of the open areas of the office for some natural light and open energy. I like to grab a cup of decaf coffee because it’s a chance to run into other IDEOers and say hi without getting over-caffeinated.

9:00 am Catch-Up — I usually start the day by checking our Teachers Guild account for messages that came in overnight. 

Teachers at our Facebook hackathon.

Teachers at our Facebook hackathon.

We’ve been organizing an upcoming hackathon event at Facebook for about 75 teachers from our community, as well as students. It’s an opportunity for them to work with Facebook employees and build solutions together that developed on our platform. Some teachers are even flying in from around the country! So there are lots of moving parts to keep organized. It’s been exciting to build and see how thrilled everyone is to have this unique opportunity to work together.

I may also spend this hour connecting with our engineer James about priorities and plans for how we continue to improve the site. Today we’re focusing on installing a new CMS to give us more control over site content. So we create some Asana items together.

The Teachers Guild homepage

The Teachers Guild homepage

10:00 am Team Huddle — Our team will often rally together around this time to align on our goals.

The First Lady's Reach Higher Workshop at the White House

The First Lady's Reach Higher Workshop at the White House

We have an upcoming workshop at The White House as part of our partnership with the First Lady’s Reach Higher and Better Make Room initiatives, so preparing materials for that event is our main priority today. We’ll look at drafts of the deliverables with our project lead Molly and designer Matt, then iterate together about the content and designs.

Sending Twitter love from @TeachersGuild.

Sending Twitter love from @TeachersGuild.

11:00 am Social Media & Writing — Our community of educators is very active on social media and we want to create opportunities for them to connect, collaborate, and be inspired. So I try to check in from our Twitter and Facebook accounts at least twice per day around this time. I’ll use this time to share great ideas teachers have posted on our site, relevant articles, inspirations, or retweet our community members.

I may also spend this time drafting our email announcements to the community or schedule more social media updates for later in the day. I’ll admit, for being a human-centered design firm, I often feel conflicted about scheduling automated social media posts. But you have to live your life, right?

IDEO Kitchen

12:00 pm Lunchtime Hustle — Like clockwork, hunger kicks in around this time. You can usually spot leftover food from meetings in the IDEO kitchen, aka La Cocina. On busy days like this, I’ll grab what I can find and continue to hustle with work over lunch. Today I’m updating some of the metrics and data content we’ll be including in our White House deliverable. I may also use this time to follow up with Slack messages, check out new contributions teachers have made to our site, or visit new teachers’ accounts who have recently joined.

1:00 pm Check-in with Developer — James has a few questions, so we’ll meet for a check in, or hop on a call to problem-solve.

Gotta love IDEO's production department!

Gotta love IDEO's production department!

2:00 pm Design Review — For the upcoming workshop at The White House, our team gets together again to check out updated designs and hash out new stories to include in the content. It’s really coming together and exciting to know we’ll be presenting soon.

We’re also partnering with IDEO’s production department to create a collection of printed materials to bring to D.C. So we head over to their world and discover some bad news:

3:30 pm Social Media — Back in Project Space K, I’ll make time to send out email announcements, or another round of social media updates. Maybe we’ll have a quick party to celebrate one of our announcements going out!

We make sure to keep Party Poppers in our space because you never know when you'll need one.

We make sure to keep Party Poppers in our space because you never know when you'll need one.

4:00 pm One More Meeting — I have a quick Google Hangout with one of our Teacher Coaches. We would love her help at the upcoming Facebook hackathon, and thankfully she’s available and excited to join. So we begin some initial agenda-planning for the event.

 

4:30 pm One More Heads Down — After the call, I check our Slack channel and realize: OOPS! I completely missed a 3pm meeting with another teacher from our community. I’m disappointed, but after apologizing, we’re luckily able to reschedule the meeting for tomorrow morning.

I also like to make sculptures out of my discarded post-it notes.

I also like to make sculptures out of my discarded post-it notes.

5:00 pm Final Team Check-Ins — Time is now running short on the rest of the day, so we have one more design review and plan how to make the deliverable even better before we head to D.C. in a few days.

5:30 pm Final Developer Check-Ins — I’ve also been blocking out time at the end of the day to touch base with our developer once more. The CMS installation was a success! We test it out and prepare tomorrow’s priorities.

6:00 pm Exercise and “Personal Brand”— Occasionally, I’ll pack my running clothes and jog on the Embarcadero for about 3 miles. Sometimes I’ll do a few laps around AT&T Park, or head up towards North Beach. It’s definitely a luxury to have such a beautiful path so close to work. Then on the BART ride back to Oakland, I try to get caught up with the day’s stories by reading the New York Times daily digest and checking my personal social media channels. Holla at me @BrettBrownell!

7:30 pm Head Home — I pick up my wife at her evening bus stop and we’ll either make dinner at home (we’re big tagliatelle pasta fans recently) or meet some friends for dinner (Cholita Linda on Telegraph is my favorite recent discovery).

8:00 pm Bonus Time — After dinner, we might also have some extra work to catch up on. If so, we gather around our kitchen table, turn on some Neil Young or Ella Fitzgerald and finish off the day.

11:30 pm To Bed — Apple TV is a marvelous invention. We'll watch documentaries like CNN's The Sixties, pretty much any romantic comedy, or be sure to watch what everyone is talking about like FX's The People vs. OJ Simpson before calling it a day.

Fast forward: we had an incredible workshop at the White House and were joined by Charlie, one of our Teacher Coaches.

Fast forward: we had an incredible workshop at the White House and were joined by Charlie, one of our Teacher Coaches.