It’s not very often in your career that you have the opportunity or unfortunate circumstance of having an extended period of time off of work. Only once in my career have I ever had the confidence and courage to leave a job with nothing else to go to just so I could take some time off and recharge my batteries.
In 2015 I decided to leave my job at DigitasLBi after a long stint of living and working in London.
I was so burnt out, frustrated and missing my friends and family in my hometown, Brighton. I had some savings to fall back on and thought this was as good a time as any to take a sabbatical. I was scared shitless to hand in my notice without anything else to go to but deep down it felt like the right decision — I had to go.
I not only used that time off to reflect on the last five years and reassess my career, I also went on a couple of holidays with my girlfriend (now wife), started a business and invested some proper time into a real passion of mine, running.
I had always wanted to start a business, there is something innate in me that loves creating something from scratch and learning something new and I thought this would be a fulfilling way to spend my time off.
UXClub.com went on to be a great success and helped thousands of people learn about User Experience Design. I made a great friend in my co-founder, Kaspar and I learnt an incredible amount about product strategy, user research, business operations, video editing and so much more. Without that experience I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Fast forward five years
Five years later I find myself in a similar situation of having an extended period of time off work, however, this time the choice was completely out of my hands.
I had never really thought about the risks of working for an airline, I just thought it sounded awesome, I mean what’s not to like about free flights!?
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis, however, is very real to every company operating within the travel industry and a few weeks ago everybody at Virgin Atlantic was asked to take 8 weeks of unpaid leave.
To begin with, I felt very frustrated & useless. What on earth am I going to do for 8 weeks!?
I hadn’t been feeling an urgent need or desire to take an extended period of time off of work but my journey to this point at Virgin Atlantic had, at times, felt very stressful and some time off didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Much like my sabbatical that I had taken after working & living in London I wanted to use this time off wisely, take stock & reset.
When things are stressful & anxious at work I like to think of simpler times and of the things that still excite me about the industry I work in.
I used to love to skate and did so for eight years of my youth! But, what I enjoyed the most was recreating the artwork on the skateboards. I used to buy blank skateboards and copy what I’d see from companies like Toy Machine and Zero. I just loved the energy and the rawness in their artwork, it really sparked a sense of creativity & personality in me.
It’s easy to lose sight of those moments that come to play such a significant part of your life but it’s something that I have had the opportunity to reflect on over the last few weeks and that has been incredibly therapeutic.
Starting something new (or kinda old)
Years ago, I had started a website called, Hub Interviews. It was a series of interviews with designers, musicians, artists and tattooists who had all inspired me personally at some point throughout my career.
Since I hadn’t had time to continue maintaining it I shut it down a few years ago and never thought about doing anything with it — until now.
The branding was kinda old and crappy so this gave me a perfect opportunity to create a new brand from scratch, which is what I enjoy the most.
I spent a lot of time & pleasure looking for inspiration from the classic editorial publications like, Vogue, Elle, Monocle and Vanity Fair. I love the elegance and simplicity in their design and it fits perfectly into this project.
Alongside my passion for design I also really enjoy bringing my ideas to life and coding it myself. I thought this was as good a time as any to try a new development framework so I started to learn how to use a static site generator called, Hugo. It’s a great tool that is easy to learn, maintainable and has plenty of support documentation.
Working on this project over the last few weeks has been a real treat. I hope that when it is finished, people will find it interesting & inspiring for their own careers like I have with mine.
It’s been so fun to design something with complete creative freedom, no boundaries or deadlines and no technical constraints. It really has taken me back to the good old days of designing my own skateboards!
Crisis empowers creativity
In times of crisis people can often regress to their true self.
I love design. I love creating something new & fun. I love to help people. Doing these things is in my DNA and is part of who I am.
None of what has happened to anyone over the last couple of months is ideal but if there is some vague opportunity in amongst all of this to create something unique that will inspire or help someone then this is the time.