Lessons Learned and (maybe) Remembered

Proactive Communication Saves Your Ass

I recently told a client I would deliver a document by “the end of this week/early next week”. Normally that’s a fine promise to make and easy to keep. Except this time the document I was delivering was being written by someone else.  I checked in on the progress every couple days, stressing that I had told the client to expect it.  In fact, I remember that little voice in my head being wary- and I did say something to the effect of “If I tell him we’ll have it, we better have it.”

Well, as you are probably guessing, we didn’t have it on time. It lagged, and lagged.  Although I was proactive in asking for it, I did not communicate with the client that it was delayed.  I don’t know why?

I take great pride in delivering what I say I will deliver, doing what I say Ill do, and generally being on time.  This is challenging and tricky.  I have to be pretty careful of what I promise and immediately inform the recipient if I can’t deliver.  Well, lesson learned again, hopefully remembered.

People Will Surprise You, Usually for the Better

Last year was my twelfth semester teaching Creative Web Design at Sacramento City College.  Its a fun class to teach and I met some great and talented folks whom I’ve stayed in touch with.  But, I’ve noticed that every semester, especially in the fall, around Thanksgiving time, the class just… lags.  Its the home stretch and not much is new and exciting, they’ve learned that basics and its just practice, practice, practice projects.

Not to mention that enrollment has steadily dipped since Ive started teaching this class.  I usually start with 30 students and pass about 12.  Mine is not an intensive and rigorous class, but the subject seems easy to folks (“my kid builds websites”) when it is actually incredibly nuanced and complicated taking years of practice like any other trade.

One day I walked into class feeling drained and worried.  We were giving presentations to our actual client of the redesign ideas for her site.  I had not actually seen much progress or innovation from my students in the preceding weeks and we were all concerned about the technical requirements and intricacies of actually producing our ideas. (Backstory: She is a Realtor on a templated site provided by the parent realty group she is a member of.  The site offers MLS searches, fairly advanced lead gathering, and a number of pre-made pages.  Most of these services are out of reach for beginners to reproduce from scratch.)

I had remembered to prime the students for this presentation:

  • Don’t read the text on your page/slide!
  • Describe your reasoning for your design choices, repeat what the client said they wanted and how you solved that request.
  • Have a leave behind so they can get in touch with your for questions or to hire you.
  • Be professional, this is an interview, someone will be hired to finish this work.
  • Keep it short and concise, practice your pitch.

It went really well!  The students had some great ideas and repeated much of the points that the client made.  Although the drafts were not all technically strong, the client was (or at least acted, graciously impressed).  She said something to the effect:

“The fact that you all LISTENED to what I said is just awesome!

I’m continually learning lessons (and forgetting them) and relearning them. But sometimes they stick!

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