I was 11 years old when my mom finally agreed to sign me up for a jewelry workshop for teens that I had been begging her to take me to. Once I was there, I quickly found a later class for senior citizens that was more professional than the teen class. When I told my mom about it, she was pretty skeptical about letting me stay late for a workshop that wasn’t even close to my age group, but I was determined to go on with my plan.
I showed up for the second workshop, and told the teacher that the secretary said I could stay to finish my work from the teen workshop. Needless to say it was all a white lie, but the teacher couldn’t care less and I cared way too much. And so from then on, every Sunday, me and a bunch of grandmas soldered gold and silver into the night – and I was the happiest girl on earth.
Flash forward to 20+ years later, and for the past two years I’ve been leading the Design Development team at Wix Design Studio. We’re in charge of maintaining high level design throughout Wix as a whole, meaning sometimes we spend long hours together working on major company-wide projects and getting to know one another.
Listening to other people tell their life stories at work made me realize that throughout my childhood, I was told by grownups that I was rude, loud, stubborn, on edge and so on. At 11 or even at 18, I was made to think that I was a badly-behaved kid. It wasn’t until working with my team that I realized speaking my mind and not taking no for an answer is the most precious lesson I can teach myself and my colleagues. Everything I proudly achieved, in life and at work, I owe greatly to being a bit ‘rude’ or ‘stubborn’ or to the fact I can’t process the word ‘No’ like other people can. It’s like a food allergy for me. My body cringes to the sound of it.
Not too long ago, Wix did an ad with Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq (he’s my buddy now) was promoting a Wix user and his small business for beard grooming products, and for that ad, we needed Shaq to wear a specific striped shirt with an 80’s flare. Two days before shooting, and I get a text message from his stylists saying they can’t find the right striped shirt anywhere. I was passing through Manhattan on my way to the set in Atlanta, and my team suggested I should let go of the striped shirt. When I heard that, my mind went straight into determination mode. I immediately took a cab to Mood, the famous fabric store in NYC, grabbed 25 pounds of striped fabric – and the successful result can be seen in the ad.
On set, I noticed Shaq’s fake beard was a bit off. Now, the last thing you do on a commercial set is approach the star and interfere with the work of the amazing professionals. But me? All I saw was this hair sticking out of his beard and I just couldn’t take it. I grabbed the scissors from the stylist’s kit and ran toward a much-surprised Shaq, waving the scissors in the air. And you know what? All was good in the world and Mr. O’Neal was happy with my final touches.
What I’m saying is, sometimes a little audacity goes a long way. Like that time a colleague of mine decided to launch his own conference for front-end developers, and sought out advice from my team and me on the event’s look and feel. It wasn’t a work project, so he was expecting a few ideas and maybe some material to work with – but the minute he got us involved, he couldn’t shake us off. We already imagined our vision for the branding and design, so we pushed to be deeply involved, and the result was fantastic. Not only did the event kick off a big international code conference based in Tel Aviv, but our design also was covered by Awwwards and Muzli. And not to mention, the guests and speakers from all over the world were very impressed with the overall look. Could I have been less pushy about it all, say a few words and move on with my day? Yes, but why should I?
Now I’m not asking other designers to be rude. Don’t do that people, that’s not nice. But from my experience, it’s easy to fall into your insecurities and assume other people know what they’re doing. And they probably do. But that doesn’t mean you don’t, and speaking your mind and showcasing your unique talent is how you win respect. Why call it ‘rude’ when it’s actually ‘driven’? Why go for ‘stubborn’ when all you’re doing is paying attention to details? Change your vocabulary and deconstruct these words into something positive, because ‘rude’, ‘loud’, ‘stubborn’ – these are all better than ‘mediocre’, ‘mundane’ or ‘lifeless’. Speak up, designers. At work, and in life, and keep on making the world a beautiful place.