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MailChimp is a Center Centre Partner Company

By Jessica Ivins

MailChimp is a Center Centre Partner Company

We’re thrilled to announce that MailChimp is joining us as a Center Centre Partner Company!

MailChimp is a fantastic company with one of the world’s most talented user experience (UX) teams. Our students will improve their skills under the MailChimp team’s mentorship. It’s a perfect match.

We love that MailChimp’s Atlanta offices are only a two-hour drive away from Center Centre in Chattanooga. We expect we’ll see the MailChimp team frequently at the school. They’ll enhance their own skills as they participate in the students’ classes. They’ll share their expertise with frequent reviews of the students’ ongoing project work.

It will be easy for our students to make the journey to MailChimp’s HQ. Our students will see how MailChimp’s work environment supports a productive and creative culture. Students will observe the UX team at work, seeing the wide variety of activities that go into shipping a top-quality product. All this direct exposure with working professionals will show our students what lies ahead in their careers.

MailChimp has supported Center Centre from the very beginning. Aarron Walter, who is MailChimp’s Director of User Experience, built their UX team. Aarron told us:

Center Centre is addressing a significant challenge in the web industry: Today’s students are graduating without the training or skills needed to succeed in design and technology. Center Centre’s curriculum takes a fresh approach. It’s grounded in real-world concepts, and it gives students the opportunity to work with industry professionals before their career begins.

We’re excited to contribute to the learning experience at Center Centre because it’s a program we believe in. We’re looking forward to working with students in the Center Centre classroom and in our offices in Atlanta. There’s no better way to learn than by doing!

MailChimp’s culture embraces UX design

More than 7 million people use MailChimp to create, send, and track email newsletters. You’ve likely received emails sent with MailChimp. Or maybe you’ve sent emails through MailChimp yourself.

MailChimp’s UX team makes their product easy to learn and simple to use. They’ve produced an industry-leading online service with a delightful user experience.

The UX team’s culture is about sharing, and it shows. Aarron Walter wrote Designing for Emotion, a book on how to bring delight into every design project. Kate Kiefer Lee, who is in charge of MailChimp’s content and communication efforts, co-wrote Nicely Said with Nicole Fenton—a book we love. I used Jason Beaird’s book, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design, when I was a university professor. We’re big fans of MailChimp’s The UX Newsletter and The UX Reader, two inspiring resources they share with the entire UX community.

As MailChimp’s Chief Culture Officer (yes! Culture is so important, they gave it a C-level position), Marti Wolf told us:

At MailChimp, we believe in empowering people through education and professional development opportunities, and we’re so excited to support an organization that gives students hands-on experience working in user experience design. We look forward to sharing our knowledge with students at Center Centre, and know we’ll learn a lot in the process, too.

We’re so excited to have MailChimp join our Partner Company Program. Working with a company who understands the value of UX is an excellent way to prepare our students to join the workforce as industry-ready, junior UX designers.

Become a Center Centre Partner Company

Our partnership with MailChimp brings us closer to starting the first cohort of Center Centre students. Would you like your organization to become a Center Centre Partner Company? Learn more about the Center Centre Partner Company program and get in touch with us.

Become a Center Centre student

We’re looking for students that are tenacious learners, passionate about helping others, and curious about technology. We don’t require prior design or development experience. Learn more about our program and apply now to be a student.

Stand-ups as learning opportunities: The fifth question

By Jessica Ivins

Stand-ups as learning opportunities: The fifth question

At Center Centre, we’re not just focused on teaching, we’re focused on learning. We’ve embedded learning techniques in our organization’s DNA. We’re always learning, and we’re always sharing what we learn.

As we’ve been creating Center Center, we’ve had to make millions of decisions, and we’ve learned a ton of new things. We surface what we learn through our daily routine. At Center Centre, we dedicate the greatest, non-replenishable resource we have—our time—on sharing what we’re learning.

Every day our team has a stand-up meeting. Like many organizations, we use this time-boxed meeting format as a way to communicate the challenges we’re facing and the progress we’re making. Everyone on the team answers these four stand-up questions:

  1. What did I get done since the last stand-up?
  2. What are my goals to accomplish before the next stand-up?
  3. What’s preventing me from getting these things done, if anything?
  4. What’s the highest risk/most unknown thing right now about what I’m trying to do?

But we don’t stop there. We use our stand-ups as opportunities to reinforce that learning every day. We’ve added a fifth question:

  1. What is the most important thing I learned since the last time we met and how will what I learned change the way I approach things in the future?

(Okay, it’s really two questions, but we combine them for efficiency.)

It’s a challenge to come up with an answer for this question every day. It forces us to reflect on our actions.

The first half of the question focuses us on something new we’ve learned in the last 24 hours, whether big or small. The second half forces us to reflect on how we think this new knowledge will influence our behavior going forward. Many times, I’ve surprised myself on how much influence something small can have.

Along with everyone else, Jared and I share what we’ve learned every day. Sharing something new with the rest of the company every day shows our dedication to constant improvement. No longer are we seen as perfect know-it-alls. We’re just like everyone else, working to improve.

Here’s an example of how I answered the fifth question earlier this week:

I was totally stuck on writing a blog post. I just couldn’t get it started. I was really frustrated (which wasn’t helping my writing process). I remembered how successful Jess and I were last week when we combined our efforts and tackled a piece of content together. I asked her if we could do the same thing with the blog post. She said “yes” and that’s what we did.

It’s nice that we have a safe working environment and work with really excellent (and helpful) people. I can be vulnerable, admit I need help, and it’s okay. In the future, when I get stuck, I’m going to remember to ask for help.

Because learning is in our DNA, our students will understand that learning doesn’t end on graduation day. Our students will see how learning is a lifelong pursuit. Incorporating lifelong learning techniques helps our future graduates have the skills they need to be assets to hiring companies.

Become a Center Centre Partner Company

Would you like your organization to have access to graduates who understand the value of lifelong learning? Learn more about the Center Centre Partner Company program and get in touch with us.

Become a Center Centre student

Do you constantly push yourself to learn more? We’re looking for students that are tenacious learners, passionate about helping others, and curious about technology. No prior design or development experience required. Learn more about our program or apply now to be a student.

What writing taught me about learning how to learn

By Jessica Ivins

What writing taught me about learning how to learn

MailChimp originally published this article in issue 34 of their UX newsletter.

To become a better writer, Center Centre’s facilitator, Jessica Ivins, is reading books and working with a writing coach.

A learning-centered culture

At Center Centre, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know how to do something. It’s not just okay—it’s encouraged. No one holds it against you if you don’t have a solution to a problem or an answer to a question. Instead, we rally to support each other in our learning.

Center Centre is the user experience design school creating the next generation of industry-ready UX designers. Learning is at the center of everything we do. We’re not only a place of learning; we have a learning-centered culture.

When I first started working at Center Centre as a facilitator (full-time faculty), I told Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, Center Centre’s co-founder and institutional director, that I wanted to improve my writing. She was completely supportive of this goal. She asked me how I learn best.

I learn best by reading books. Together, Leslie and I made a plan and we figured out what books were best for me to read. I started with On Writing Well, as well as Everybody Writes, Nicely Said, and The Elements of Style.

While reading these books, Leslie worked with me as a writing coach. She reviewed my writing and made edits when necessary. Her feedback was honest and consistent. She pointed out what worked well and what didn’t. When I was stuck, she encouraged me to persevere, and she shared more writing resources.

By reading books about writing, by writing, and by working with a coach, I learned things about writing that I never learned in grade school or college. For example, I learned when to write with active voice, not passive voice. I learned techniques to get past hurdles like writer’s block.

Leslie and I worked together on writing for about five months. At the end of five months, my writing was significantly better. I even developed my editing skills to the point where I’m able to help Leslie write stronger content. We continue working together on writing. Learning is an ongoing process.

Ways to learn new skills

At previous jobs, I didn’t have many opportunities to learn new things as part of my work responsibilities. I had to work a certain number of billable hours, and I had to focus on client deliverables. At Center Centre, learning how to learn, and making the time to learn, are at the core of what we do. I’m grateful for the time I have to learn because professional development is critical to user experience.

As UX practitioners, we’re always learning new things. Technology constantly changes, as do user needs and behaviors. We must adapt to these changes by learning new techniques, tools, and methods for our work.

Lobby your boss

A former boss once told me, "It’s our job to keep up with the industry outside of work hours." I understand why he would say that. From 9 to 5, we have a lot of work tasks to accomplish. As a manager, it’s his job to ensure these tasks get done.

I wish I could go back in time to continue that conversation. Investing time in learning a new skill now transforms you into a more effective team member in the future.

It took me about five months to improve my writing. Because I invested time up front, I’m now able to communicate clearly and quickly. I’m able to express my thoughts more effectively to my colleagues, my boss, and anyone who wants to learn more about the school.

If you work at an organization like Center Centre, where learning is considered a part of your job and where your boss realizes the long-term value of professional development, take your boss up on opportunities to improve your UX practice. Learning a new skill or improving an existing skill can often fall off to a to-do list. Do your best to make learning a priority.

If you work at an organization that doesn’t allow for professional development during business hours, you may have to lobby your boss for time to learn. Perhaps learning something new is as simple as dedicating three lunch hours to learning every week. Maybe you can also devote three hours of your weekend. That’s a solid six hours of learning per week. Imagine what you can accomplish after six hours per week over the course of a year.

Keeping your boss up to date with what you’re learning, and how you’re applying it to your job, may help make the case for continued education. If your boss sees how learning something new with just a few hours a week helps the organization, it will be easier to get the time you need for learning.

Ask for help

Recently, I wanted to know the best way to learn about information architecture (IA). I was hesitant to ask for help. Imposter syndrome reared its ugly head. I felt vulnerable, and I didn’t want to look incompetent. I thought to myself, "I’ve been in the field for 10 years. I should know this already."

Then, I remembered my experience of learning how to improve my writing: I had to ask for help to become a better writer. I told myself that it was okay to be vulnerable, and I had to be comfortable with asking for help. I reached out to accomplished UX practitioners like Christina Wodtke, Lou Rosenfeld, and Abby Covert. To my relief, these folks and others made lots of recommendations, and I’m now up to my ears on books about Information Architecture.

Asking for help is the first step toward learning something new. Without recommendations from the UX community, I may have wasted time on books or resources that weren’t what I needed.

Find someone who has experience doing what you want to learn. Ask that person to help you meet your learning goals.

You might think, "Everyone’s busy, and no one has time to help me learn." Coaching, however, doesn’t have to take a lot of time—it can take five minutes a day or five minutes a week. The UX community has a lot of smart and kind people who are willing to help you achieve your goals.

Lifelong learning

Learning how to write taught me how to become a better learner. By learning how to learn—and by being open about my process—I’m modeling the behavior of a lifelong learner for Center Centre’s students.

When our students graduate, I don’t want them just to be proficient in UX. I want them to be confident in their ability to learn. By knowing how to learn, our students will be an asset to hiring managers from day one. In the meantime, I look forward to experiencing the process of lifelong learning with Center Centre students.