Saying goodbye to Virgin Atlantic 👋
In June I was made redundant from my role as Product Design Manager at Virgin Atlantic. The writing was on the wall as soon as this pandemic started and whilst there are no hard feelings and no regrets, I can’t help but feel like one of the lucky ones.
Never mind empowering design teams to challenge the status quo or helping shift mindsets from delivery to outcomes. Nope, the challenge for Virgin Atlantic and aviation as a whole is a lot more immediate than that — survival. Accepting this harsh reality helped me realise that this isn’t the time or place to help build and nurture a user centred design mentality and thus not a place where I see my career continuing. It was a blessing in disguise and definitely felt like time to move on.
Before the pandemic had even started an old colleague/friend had reached out to me and had suggested that I might be interested in a role at BT. He went on to explain that BT are in the process of a massive digital transformation project, where user centred design is at the heart of everything they’re trying to achieve— driving every decision.
“If you’re interested, why not take a look?” my friend suggested.
As I began to read more about BT’s lofty ambitions, more and more notable designers & researchers from within the community were jumping onboard and starting their own journey’s at BT. This would be an awesome opportunity to work with some truly great people and I wanted in!
Eight months later after unrelenting anxiety and stress it seemed fate was on my side as my contract for Senior Product Design Manager at BT had arrived through the letterbox on my birthday 🎉. Putting pen to paper also meant that my wife and I could complete on our first house which for months had been put on hold, delayed and almost fell through.
🙌 Happy days 🙌.
Facing self-doubt & getting ready for work
After serving my notice at VA, the idea of returning to ‘work’ felt quite novel. I hadn’t been into an office (except to return my work laptop) for almost six months and quite frankly my brain felt like a squashed banana. Because of this, an unexpected bout of self-doubt hit me. This was weird, I didn’t normally get this 🤔. It was awesome to be joining BT, don’t get me wrong, but I suddenly felt surprisingly inadequate and I desperately didn’t want to let anyone down or lose face.
Never one to sit on my hands, I decided to take some action to help tackle this existential funk 👇.
- Revisiting some old books
‘Making a Manager’ by Julie Zhuo, ‘The Coaching Habit’ by Michael Stanier and ‘The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team’ by Patrick Lencioni are all books that massively helped guide my leadership style and re-reading these gems helped snap me back into things, remembering the importance of leading with empathy and building trust with those around you.
- Setting my expectations
Jotting down some of the challenges I’d expect to face at BT as well as some proven techniques I’d tried before helped me frame my expectations and build up my self confidence.
- Reaching out to an old mentor
Reaching out to an old mentor who knows me well helped give me reassurance and confidence in my abilities, it was nice to hear a good pep talk!
Starting a new job from my spare room
Finally, it was time. Day one at BT and by this point, the thought of starting a new job from my spare room really didn’t bother me at all, I was raring to get back to work and sink my teeth into something different.
The feeling of working from home five days a week was kinda cool to begin with but it didn’t take long for me to realise that along with this new way of working I’d also have to adapt my own routine and habits to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Here’s a few things I’ve learnt along the way so far:
- When it hits 5pm, shut the laptop. No excuses!
Without a train to catch or colleagues around you leaving the office it’s hard to remember to down tools at a sensible time. So, when my alarm hits 5pm, I make sure to close the laptop, turn the light out and leave the room until tomorrow morning.
- If you can, sit by an open window
Try and get fresh air into the room as much as you can. This helps me feel more energetic and connected to some sort of nature/normality outside of the house.
- Block out your lunch break
One I learnt from my time at Virgin Atlantic, book out your lunch break! I block out 12–1pm everyday and set my status as OOO. Any meeting that is sent over this time, I’ll decline.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise!
On my lunch breaks, I try to get outside, get moving and get some fresh air. I try and go for a run most days or if I can’t be bothered I’ll go for a walk, anything that gets me out of the house.
- Put the radio/music on
Working from home is convenient but can also be very isolating. If my wife is out of the house then I’m on my own for 8–10 hours of the day! 😩 I try and listen to the radio or put some music on to help me feel as though there’s people around and when I can I’ll call a friend/family to have a natter.
I’m two months into my new job at BT and thankfully, I’m now in a position to look back and reflect on what has been one of the hardest years of my life and I consider myself lucky.
At BT there is a genuine environment of support for both mental & physical health during this pandemic (and beyond), all the way from our CEO to the people you work with every day. We discuss these topics openly in our company wide announcements, our stand ups and 1:1s, our retros and show & tells, our planning sessions and reviews. It’s everywhere and it’s awesome.
I’ve not just got another job, I’ve managed to find a job at an organisation that shares the same values as I do and I feel lucky to work with such kind, generous & supportive people.