Stir Trek 2018 Conference Wrap Up & Sketchnotes

From their website, Stir Trek is:

Stir Trek is a one-day conference focused on teaching software developers, and others in the industry, the latest and greatest in technologies, techniques, and tools. The full day of content is always concluded with a screening of a blockbuster film on its (originally scheduled) opening day. Pretty sweet, huh?

The 2018 Stir Trek conference was held at the AMC theaters in the Easton mall in Columbus, Ohio. It was a welcome change from the thought experiment last year, where the conference was held at the Schottenstein Arena… Sound bleed and crowd management made that year less productive for me.

I missed the UX in API talk, which received both raving and super disappointed views from my co-workers; if anyone has notes they’d like to share, please send them my way! I was disappointed Kevin Holtz was unable to make it… I wanted to hear his talk about injecting developers into the business. Seemed like a super intriguing concept.

Per usual, I stuck mostly to the “Design” and “Soft Skills” at Stir Trek, though I did branch out into QA and other fields. See below for my notes with a quick summary of each.

Side-note: This will likely be my last conference sketching on my trusty Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. The pen is getting kind of jumpy, and the apps kept randomly switching colors on me (going from black to white so I thought perhaps the pen wasn’t writing at all). I’m looking forward to upgrading to the Note 10.1, both for conference and work purposes, and retiring the 8.0 to sit at home as a media device only.


Brandon Bruno’s talk about improving your inbox by improving your outbox was my favorite talk of the day. Bruno has a background in computer science with a minor in English (like me!) and it was obvious by the way he crafted his presentation. His narrative structure took us through the rise and fall of email and culminated with quick, easy to remember actions you can take to write a better email so you receive a better email.

He claims the goal isn’t Inbox Zero, but rather, craft your message so you receive a message you can do something about.

Kim McGill is an entertaining speaker, very compelling to listen to. I feel like I’d probably love being on her scrum team, but definitely dislike being on the wrong end of a pointy stick. She gave a nice overview about behavioral science with the appropriate disclaimers that this isn’t her field of study.

I loved her point that everyone should be a leader by behavior, rather than role. Don’t rely on the hierarchy to provide leadership, we should all be behavioral leaders of positive change in our own right.

Chris DeMars gave a nice reminder for everyone that accessibility is no longer a requirement, it’s a must do along with security and performance. I mean, unless you want to run the risk of a lawsuit for your company. He had super interesting statistic about how New York and Florida have the largest accessibility lawsuit counts (due to population size and larger older generation population, respectively). But hey, Ohio still had 8 lawsuits in 2016 (?), so it’s not like we’re completely off the radar.

This talk floundered a little, I think, because of the theatre set up. It was pretty clear that Agnel Thomas is used to a far more interactive talk, with attendees collaborating in the presentation. That said, it was a pretty great UX talk disguised as a requirements gathering talk! This was all about reading the words, tonality, and body language of your audience to determine whether you were getting close to their true need rather than their communicated want.

I could have used more action items to take away from this discussion. Something as simple as The Five Why’s would have really helped this crowd, I think.

Anna Heiermann’s talk about risk-based testing is probably the first QA-led talk I’ve attended in a long time (or ever?). I liked her idea of creating a Risk Assessment Matrix early in the development life-cycle so all stakeholders are aware of the key functions, priorities from the client and tech perspectives, any testing notes, and the overall criticality prior to actually testing the feature. I also really liked the idea of prioritizing test cases… Which test cases must pass because they’re the most critical for the end user or system (or both)? I know as a UX designer, I often have to prioritize feature designs, it makes sense to apply a similar thought process to test cases.

Ohio Diversity & Leadership 2017 Conference Wrap Up #sketchnotes

Thanks to OCLC being a corporate sponsor, I was able to attend the 2017 Ohio Diversity and Leadership conference in downtown Columbus, Ohio. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this conference… the website didn’t have a lot to go on regarding talks or themes. Both became very clear as the day went on: Everything was a panel, and almost every talk devolved into Millennials vs Baby Boomers. It was pretty frustrating, honestly.

Beyond that, there were some nice points made by the panelists that I captured in my sketchnotes. Shown below…

As you can see, there were plenty of great points made about how to be a great leader (regardless of role).


I really wanted to hear some actionable tasks one could take to have better work-life balance, but it really just focused on using your community to help you manage your family, or let your family know your work responsibilities by teaching them to be self-sufficient. This didn’t feel very work-life balance at all, rather, it was “let your family know you won’t be around and teach them how to deal.”

This panel devolved into a weird debate between Millennials vs Baby Boomers. It got to the point where the one Baby Boomer (who outed herself) felt she had to speak up to “defend” her worker generation. While I learned some great things to always keep in mind, such as Event + Response = Outcome, attempting to get this information was a little painful.

The Emotional Intelligence talk was interesting from how they made it clear that leaders think about more than just the operational “taking the hill” but also focus on “putting people where they can succeed.” That level of awareness for your team and yourself takes time and practice. I loved the point that you need to remain genuine to who you are, as people respond to sincerity. 

Stir Trek 2017 Conference Wrap Up & Sketchnotes

Quick recap of sketchnotes from my visit to Stir Trek 2017. This year the conference was held at the Schottenstein arena in Columbus, Ohio. It was a nice idea, but the sound bleed between the session spaces (since we were all facing into the arena) and the crowd management in the halls made for sensory overload. Here are my sketchnotes, hope they’re helpful for you!

MidwestUX 2016 Wrap Up

midwestux2016MidwestUX is a roaming conference raising the value and understanding of UX in the Midwest. Founded by one of my grad school mentors, Brandon Stephens, and Erik Dahl, this conference is a well-thought meeting of minds that just completed its sixth year. I love this conference, and have attended four of the six years because it always hits during the part of the year where I feel most discouraged and unsure I’m  influencing change in my company.

The 2016 conference was held in Louisville, KY, and the theme was “Craftsmanship & Hospitality.” In general, the speakers selected for this year focused on:

  1. User research: Meet your users where they are without a specific question to answer
  2. Storytelling: Share your research with your team in a compelling, humanistic way

As usual, I took sketchnotes of the talks I attended. I’ve summarized each one here, but feel free to also read in detail on Flickr.

Thursday Workshop

Humana’s “Design Studio” is a part of their Discovery & Framing methodology at the beginning of every new project. Get all the stakeholders in the room, debrief about the user and their problem, sketch and discuss until the room comes to a consensus and no one can remember who “designed” the solution.

Humana’s Design Experience Center utilizes “balanced teams” to work quickly and determine business investment into new solutions. Reduces overhead, and everyone is accountable.
1 designer : 5 developers.

Humana’s Digital Experience Center uses Pair Designing, taken from Pair Programming. A designer pairs with another designer, a product person, or a developer to co-design a solution. The navigator must keep the driver aware of user and business needs.

Friday Sessions

Design, Relevance, the Future, and Elephants keynote discussed Lean Startup thinking for business management. It’s about creating small things to test creator assumptions using customer feedback to reduce waste and business risk. Stop the “water-scrum-fall” nonsense.

Taming the Enterprise was about managing corporate acquisition culture and still influence change. Don’t aim high, aim high enough to see a difference, and work from there. Your empathy is not limited to your users, remember your product and technical stakeholders.

Everybody’s a Designer suggested that the UX Designer’s role is to usher in the best solutions to the product, regardless of who came up with the idea. Facilitate all ideas into a grid mapping the passion and knowledge axes to determine stronger solutions.

Busting Brain Myths chastised us for buying into things like “People don’t read,” “Right Brain vs Left Brain,” and other generalizations. People are complicated and require context if you’re going to design a solution to their problem!

Onboarding users to your product can happen once or many times. As a company, your problem statement is that your users don’t know how to use your services to solve their problem. Avoid the sexy, strive for clarity.

Ambiguity Management admitted people are hardwired for ambiguity and businesses are not. Use your creativity to serve the opportunity, not the bottom line. UX Designers are now tasked with managing the whitespace between products, not just the products themselves.

Ford Motor Company’s design team is all about “hacking away the unnecessary.” Learn to say no in favor of  functional reduction and simplicity. Remember that your product is part of a system, and the parts affect the whole.

Saturday Sessions

Story First reminded us that our users are accustomed to looking for stories, so why wouldn’t we make our product experience story-like? Don’t leave cliffhangers or make things anticlimactic; be deliberate with your functional pacing.

Accessibility & Usability wanted us to focus on the equality of experience. Rather than worrying about ARIA labels, use semantic HTML. Most assistive technologies are like keyboard navigation than anything else. Automated tools tell you something is there, not whether it was used correctly.

Expanding the Value of UX addressed larger companies with both a Customer Experience (market research: what) and User Experience (user research: why) team. Reflect where your UX team sits in your company’s perception and work your way up the pyramid.

Designer as Mapmaker settled a baseline of where we came from for mapping experiences (journey maps, customer maps, etc and asked the question “Are we mapping to understand or to communicate?” Sometimes the creation of the map is the important task, not the map itself.

Managing UX Debt gave us a checklist of tasks to help document and escalate UX debt as if it were technical debt so stakeholders have something tangible to react to.

Using Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing emphasized the importance of every word in your interface. If you don’t have content writers, do yourself a favor and memorize these rules. Except #6. Avoid #6.

Steve Baty gave a compelling presentation without a slide deck by talking about the importance of never forgetting we’re designing for PEOPLE. Establish their status before dumping them into your process. Treat them in their context, tell their story, and don’t do what’s convenient for your organization.