In Her Words
As design leaders it’s important to take time to check-in with ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. A time to reassess what’s most important to our work and to eliminate what is taking up unnecessary space. We call this a values check-in. However with the normal hustle and bustle of our schedules it’s easy to overlook this essential practice.
At Within, we believe in affirming you and your values and it’s why we thought our next guest for Quarantine Diaries with Sabrina Hall would be right on time. In our conversation, Sabrina, a Senior Product Design Manager reminded us that her anchor during uncertainty has always been her values. She is the example of a design leader who understands that consistent change comes in the form of three things: outcomes, process, and identity.
As you read Sabrina’s words, be reminded that you may need to recommit your values through uncertainty to make 2021 truly your best year yet.
Finding Design In Unexpected Places
The Bronx bred, 1st generation eldest of two, received her start in design in what she calls her tipping point. “I will never forget it, I was attending the Bronx High School of Science and had the intention of becoming a journalist. That all changed when I took an AP Art class.” Her teacher Ms. Ash encouraged Sabrina to pursue design as a career.
That moment changed everything. That morsel of information showed Sabrina two things:
1. Design wasn’t only for starving artists, it could be a career. (This was her perception as a teenager.)
2. She had the ability to see the world for what it was, but create the world she wanted to see, with her hands.
Like most of us who have entered into the field of design we often need to be reminded that design, and the pursuit of it is often found in the most unexpected places. For Sabrina it was in her high school teacher, for others it could be from a book, or an online forum.
As Sabrina’s path continued she graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a print focused portfolio. From there she landed a prestigious paid internship at Carnegie Hall in NYC. She later went on to hold various positions in the industry from branding, design education, publishing to owning her own company. While her journey was varied, what she loved most about design was it’s ever changing nature. “I watched the industry move from print, to e-publishing to teaching myself to code.” As the industry changed, “I changed with it.”
Being nimble just like the designs we create is another tool in Sabrina’s toolbox of looking for and finding design in the most unlikely places. Even in her work today as a senior product design manager at Justworks, Sabrina allows her experience and joy to lead her in finding design in the places we least often look.
Finding The Value In Values
Values. It is something we all know we need to be reminded of from time to time but in moments of uncertainty our values often are placed by the wayside once our flight or fight instincts kick in. When asked about how she was leading in so much uncertainty Sabrina centered the conversation on her values.
“What anchors me to my values is trying to be a thoughtful leader and person. I remember that we are all people going through various things and what binds us together are our connections with one another. I make sure I made space for my team to be creative, to grieve, change and find new work cadences and to just be if needed. What has helped me the most is knowing that each day I am doing my best and making space for my team to do their best too.”
As leaders we have the unique opportunity to remind our teams of how their own personal values can create impactful change in our organizations. When others show up together with their values at the forefront we can make our products better for customers and make tough decisions when necessary.
“I always come back to my values of leadership as service and honesty. These principles ground me and help me show up at my best.”
Lessons From 2020 To Take Into 2021
After the dumpster fire that was 2020 Sabrina shared some of her top lessons from 2020 that she is taking into 2021:
- Continuing to actively listen and creating space to listen. “That was one of the best things to come out of 2020 for me.”
- Having clear communication and follow-through. “I want to be honest with myself and my team about what I can achieve and what I’m able to do. I want to lead by example in that way.”
- Being Grateful.
Thinking Big… and her Next Leap
My conversation with Sabrina reminded me of the importance of pushing ourselves and our teams to the next level. What new boundaries can we push and how can we challenge ourselves to think past the obvious?
“What’s really exciting about this year is thinking about what we [her team] can do and then pushing past that. Exploring how we can create new experiences for our customers and thinking about how accessibility can be embedded in every part of our experience is exciting.”
Big thinking doesn’t just start at the top either, Sabrina reminds me, creativity is something we each bring to the table in our own way. When chatting about her own inspiration Sabrina shared her love for community building.
“I am so interested and inspired by how communities are designed and built especially within the spaces of education and equity work. Working in the education space as an adjunct professor makes me so aware of the importance of how we approach design education.” Outside of that you can find Sabrina curating her writings, advocating for accessibility, and painting with her watercolors! Fun fact: she also has 21 plants.
Making Space… For Self Care, Inspiration and Hope
In a society that consistently tells us to hustle we realized it was high time we prioritized ourselves on our to-do lists. When creating space for her own self care rituals Sabrina takes a few minutes each morning to meditate and move her body. “I try to move each day as a way to connect with myself and my body. That plus my meditations each morning have truly made a difference in my days.”
That same space for self-care has not only left Sabrina with a renewed sense of creativity but made her even more hopeful for what’s in store in 2021.
“I’m hopeful that I can continue to create spaces for others to succeed. I’m hopeful that people will continue to advocate against the injustices we saw in 2020 into 2021. And most of all I am hopeful for more community building and honest conversations.”