Future thinking: The Rural Adept

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It’s been decided that Aurora will help Renaissance, a healthcare startup in Toronto, build internal design culture and coach its design team. After facing challenges of updating and maintaining their mobile and web apps on a regular basis where the main focus of these updates was often the user experience, the company of 200 employees decided to hire an internal design team. From what Aurora learned, even though the advantage of having an in-house team was obvious - the updates were shipped faster, the quality of design has risen, the company saved resources on contractors’ services - yet new challenges began taking place. The design team was still in the phase of forming, they were learning how to work with each other, debating about the right design methodologies and frameworks applicable for a healthcare product, and what’s more importantly, they were facing challenges of explaining the significance of their chosen processes and decisions to other disciplines and stakeholders within the company. As of now, they were in the early stages of gaining trust, from each other and others.

This is when the CEO of the company contacted Futura, an agency where Aurora worked as a design advisor. Well, she wasn’t exactly working there as a full-time employee, no one in the agency did, they all were contractors. Rather a community of highly skilled design experts that Futura engaged with on an on-demand manner offering small and medium-sized companies design services and providing design experts’ assistance on a wide spectrum of topics. Futura was a trustworthy and well-known agency among organizations, they made their name by building a decentralized design network that operated virtually, allowing them to offer various design services widely across the globe. Aurora liked her job here, she could choose how she works, when she works and where from. It was like being part of the agency but completely autonomous. She also liked other designers here who weren’t only motivated to do their job to receive another gig, but more importantly, they all were types of people who enjoy generating creative solutions, fostering innovation, and maintaining high standards in design culture. Often they did workshops together or simply hung out in meta-Slack, chatting about their projects and sharing experience.

It felt a bit lonely sometimes to work completely remotely and see people only distantly but it was the way they lived now. Ten years of fighting the global pandemic will certainly remain in history books, Aurora was sure of it, as one of the most pivotal moments for humanity. Many things have changed: the way people work now, the way they live, the way they connect. Not long after the global pandemic started, there was a wave of movements that people gave names to, like the phenomena of great resignation, rural migration, automation, and many others. People started seeing the world differently, began reevaluating their values, embarked on new journeys of fresh ways to live and work in the era of the speedy rise of virtual tech. Aurora’s personal life has changed too. Facing loneliness and a good deal of stress at work, and then the loss of her father drove her to take a break. She resigned, took a year of sabbatical, and moved out of the city to a small town in the county. Finding a new place to live wasn’t easy, it looked like real estate bidding wars relocated to rural areas as people started to abandon big cities. However, her work in tech as a product designer for the past few years allowed her to put a considerable sum of money aside, so eventually, she was able to find, although a little bit overpriced but nice house in a friendly neighborhood, situated among beautiful trails and lakes. And the house had a stable and fast internet connection, exactly what she needed.

After everything, finding a new job wasn’t too difficult. Being a highly-skilled, well-educated, and experienced design professional with deep theoretical knowledge and years of practical competence gave her the luxury of taking time and choosing the best option. When she was contacted by Futura and learned about the ways the company operated, she saw an interesting and well-fit opportunity for herself there. Needless to say that Aurora’s experience was generalistic, accompanied by a broader set of skills, one of her strong sides was her ability to explain and teach, to listen and understand problems, and to offer creative advice. She was a good coach and mentor to designers in her previous company and, being an immigrant herself, was a beacon of support and inspiration for those who needed it most. That’s why, after she learned that Futura’s main focus was to help small and medium businesses - primarily run by underrepresented groups - establish design processes, she decided to give it a chance. Anyway, design was so widely popularized now and available to anyone through all these easy-to-use apps and tools, that the market barely needed another design crafter. What was really in demand is a strong design advisor and educator, a mentor and influencer, as one might say a “guardian” of logical and aesthetically pleasing design. And Aurora has all the features to lightly step into this new role.

After a long break, the first few weeks at Futura seemed a bit weird but she was happy to get back to what she enjoyed doing. And now she was matched with her first project - to help Renaissance establish design culture and integrate design processes. She already set up a few meetings with them, where she learned about their story and challenges from different parties involved. Part of their problem was a wide distribution of their teams, even though almost no work was happening in real life now and everyone seemed to be fine with that, there were places where people still struggled with remote and asynchronous communication. So now it was time for her to design a holistic approach to set the Renaissance’s design team out on a journey of effective collaboration and through that, influence the whole startup to operate sustainably, foster innovation and high design standards. .