I've reached four years at Martiancraft today, which means it's almost five years as a full-time remote designer.
Thinking back to the times when my hair turned grey, I can't believe I'm still chugging on. I can't forget the moment when I left last last job and stared into the skies at Bryant Park, wondering...what will I do now?
I've made some interesting revelations recently. In the past four years, I've been a turtle. ? I shrunk my head into the shell and focused on design. I breathed, lived, and worked on projects in hopes that will fill me with purpose. I searched to only do what made me happy. I challenged myself to improve every day because it was the only thing that made sense.
Somehow along this journey, I've lost my voice. I'm no longer confident in sharing thoughts because I don't see the value in myself. The more I thought about doing something, the more I realize that I might not be able to do it well. I was never afraid in the past. I am now. What happened to me?
It's possible with age, the fog of ignorance slowly lifted. The more I want to share a bit of writing, the more I thought people will be picking apart the grammar, sentence structure, or the lack of narrative. The more people pay more attention to what I say, the more I felt the burden of making it bulletproof. Every idea that I wasn't a hundred percent certain, I've hidden it away. Pretending to be an expert when I can only call myself a fraud.
I've lost confidence in myself through these years. When adobe first asked me to attend a UX/UI live back in September, all I thought was... Why me? What do I have to offer that people don't know already? No matter what type of great feedback I got, I couldn't accept them in my heart. After being asked back again this past January, something in me changed.
I do have something to offer. I can teach people things that they don't know.
Most of the time, I have reasonings for everything that I do. If I don't, I'm authentic about it. I don't strive for perfection, I don't expect people to think I have a mind-blowing thesis. I make mistakes. Thoughts I have today, maybe they are rebuttaled and it's completely different tomorrow. It's always an open dialog, I'm endlessly searching for viewpoints, stories, and opinions that people have to understand deeper.
I am not sure what's the right approach to share these fleeting and transient thoughts. Haven't we all looked back at the things we've done in the past and go "EWW?" How scary it is to face your own past and see what an idiot you were.
I guess I'm scared of myself and of my own inevitability to be stupid.
I've come to terms that I will hope to revive my long lost confidence by sharing my views in efforts to overcome these self-conscious negativity. I hope I can look back and see this as personal growth as a person for myself. Sometimes, all it takes is only one person to believe in you and one moment to point out the things you missed and how you can be that much better.
Just two days ago, I was looking at my Behance profile at the thumbnail images. For the first time ever, I noticed "they kinda look the same." It was really an ah-ha moment for me, and this is going to sound absurd since I'm the person that made them.
I can't believe that subconsciously when given chances to talk about a subject of my choice, I made the designs high contrast and bold, completely opposite of minimalism. In this moment I smiled to myself, because for the first time in my life, I noticed that my style was clearly defined.
No matter how much I think I've lost my voice in the woods, it's there where I've left it. These styles define me and tell my own story and I'm not sorry for it. Thank you for believing in me.
World's Best Bride? or
World's Most Controlling Bride?
Wedding planning is the biggest project I’ve ever tackled. ? Assuming you only get married once, there really isn’t anything you can do to be prepared for this. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions because this event is so personal.
A little background story… getting married was never a priority in my life or something on the top of the list. It’s something that I knew would happen someday and I would figure everything out when it comes. My only experience for weddings are from a designer’s perspective where I helped out with the decorations. I’m pretty much starting from ground zero.
To start, everyone tells you to get ideas from Pinterest. Let me break it to you, Pinterest is the one of the worst places to look because it's basically a catalog of unrealistic expectations. With unlimited selections of styling, one thing more expensive than the other, ideas more over the top than the previous, it spun me into an anxiety tornado of “what should I do?”
? This process was made even more difficult, because I’m a designer. ?
As a designer, when you design something for yourself, it’s a gift and a curse. You have complete control and there’s a lot of pressure of making it great. If things go haywire, there’s no one to blame except you. I was nervous about what people would think about the overall vision, even though I knew I shouldn’t take it to heart.
From figuring out the right budget for food, music, flowers, to the cake. The task lists were daunting to say the least. I decided if I was going to be both the client and the designer, I should really project manage myself.
Without taking advice from numerous wedding articles stating I should figure the venue before anything else, I put dress shopping first. I figured it was a one woman committee, funded by myself, so I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. Not like anyone can tell me what to do. ??? Plus I was getting married in Boston, so I had to schedule my weekend travels to check out venues. It wasn’t going to be easy.
The Dress ?
I had no idea what I wanted in a wedding dress, and I am very open-minded to trying anything. My first ever bridal shop visit was a discounted, bargain warehouse (https://bridepower.com) that allowed you to browse through their immense selections of hundreds of dresses. I was hit by massive choices of texture, style, color, neckline, length, sizes. My head was spinning with the words of “ballgown, A-line, trumpet, off shoulder, cap sleeve, lace, mermaid.”
The sheer massiveness overwhelmed me after trying on a bunch of unflattering dresses. I went alone, and I never felt more alone in this search. I bawled my eyes out. Big hail-sized tears hit the pavement outside the store. I was overwhelmed by the search, and what this whole thing meant.
After that horrible experience and a bad start to wedding planning, I realized I've made a mistake of starting this project without thinking about what the project is about. I shouldn't of showed up to the store without any research. On hindsight, this sounds like total common sense, but I was just passing by this store casually and didn't think I would have this reaction.
This was a point in my life that I’ve realized that I wished I had more women friends in my life that would understand me. My mother isn’t someone I can talk to about this because her opinions typically are opposite of mine, in a non-supportive way. I didn’t know this would inevitably be a theme for the year, where I felt I wanted support from people who would lend an ear. Thinking back, I really didn’t tell anyone I was struggling through this, because I didn’t want to bother people with my problems. In a way, I wanted someone to take an interest without me saying it out loud, but yeah.. it was my fault too.
I’ve decided to go back to square one. Without looking at Pinterest and bridal magazines, I thought to myself what are some of the dresses that really stood out to me? There was this one dress made by Zach Posen for Claire Danes at the Met Gala that I was amazed by. ? It was a collaboration with IBM during their technology theme where threads of LED’s where woven into the dress to make this dress LIT!
? Zach Posen's L.E.D. creation for Claire Danes at Met Gala 2016?
I’ve realized that I just needed help. More like… PROFESSIONAL HELP. I decided to go to the mother of all wedding shops, Kleinfields (From the hit TV Show "Say Yes To the Dress"). The experience was great and the store was beautiful. It really helped me narrow down what I was looking for, and they brought out the Reem Acra, which was my top pick at the time.
The ask was: I wanted a dress that has a classic shape, no lace, that has something special about it that can only be noticed when someone is up close. I want the dress to have a classic silhouette from afar, but have special ‘something’ up close.
Looking back at the dresses that I’ve tried on, unconsciously, I really wanted the Zach Posen dress. I thought I wanted an A-line dress because I didn't want the weight of a ballgown, and the Reem Acra was my top pick.
The problem was that, it was too expensive for what I wanted to pay for in a dress. One day while browsing on Instagram, I saw a dress that was more similar to the Zach Posen, the Lazaro #style3662! I went to the store on a Wednesday alone, did 1 Facetime with a friend to validate my craziness… and my dress shopping came to an abrupt end.
At this point, only three friend's know I’ve purchased this dress, but never seen it in real life. I was pretty terrified of what my parents would say since I made this decision without their opinion. The dress took about 6 months to arrive to the store, before the start of the alterations process. Don’t think anyone’s seen this dress in real life except myself ?
I didn’t want to keep going to stores and trying on new dresses. I wanted to do the 3 strike rule. Make a decision on the 3rd try and end it at that. I didn’t regret my decision, this was what I wanted. From that point on, I realized I should have a plan of attack for the rest of the planning elements.
Things I thought about:
How can I make this entire process better? Are there ways I can hack through wedding planning?
How do I figure out what I want? What are the criteria of success?
How do I manage my own expectations? How to remove the emotional factor of this project?
How do I communicate my ideas effectively with vendors?
When do I call it "Done" and "Good" for deliverables?
How do I decide that I am happy with what I’ve made and let the rest go?
I made a website
After thinking about this all, it made sense to create a style guide for the entire wedding. I would put pieces of every part of the wedding look and feel, and submit this to vendors for a quote. I got a lot of really positive feedback from all my vendors because I’ve essentially did their job! I was a more clear and concise in picking what I wanted and now it just has to do with negotiation of prices and time. Check out the real site: https://catwedding.netlify.com
Living in Google Sheets
I devoted my entire life on Google Spreadsheet. I had a budget tab that housed all of the estimations, costs, deposits, paid , gifts received, guest list + food preference, venue final bill, timeline of events, flowers, papers, photography, songs for the band, lighting…etc. I also put together the timeline and seating charts. Much thanks for Supria and Mai for sending me their versions of excel madness for me to organize everything.
!!! This was intense !!! ?
I was called the best bride of the year by Ritz Carlton. That’s cus I already did their job because I’m craaaaazy. ?
Five months have passed and all of my stress from wedding planning have been forgotten. Looking back, the day went perfectly and I’m grateful for every one that showed up for me and travelled so far. I was a complete zoombie and felt numb the entire day. It wasn’t until it was over for 3 days until all my bottled up emotions exploded and I was filled with happiness for the people that came.
I couldn’t have made it through this process without close friends by my side and on the day. Thank you a million.
With a blink of an eye, it's been over three years with the people at MartianCraft.
This is by far, the longest I've ever stayed with any group of people.
In my twenties, I was really competitive with myself. All I wanted to do is improve my skills, move up the rank, gain a higher salary, and be in management. I felt like I never found the right place where the company invested in the people's well-being and cared about the happiness of each individual. It was a lot of "what can you do for me today".
All that ended in a big bang when I realized I was doing everything for pride, money, and wanting people's respect. I wasn't sure what made me happy anymore until I can confidently say today, I know the answer.
These three years, I decided to start over. I just wanted to do good work, be more technical, improve my communication, pay more attention, more patience, more empathy, to slow down and listen hard, and to do more things out of the comfort zone. For the first time ever, I didn't have a written goal list, no plans of attack, zero organization.
I simply didn't know what I should do. The first year, I was really quiet. I listened and I took notes furiously. I felt like an imposter, listening in from the outside and only talk when spoken to. Agreeable, complacent, and safe. I felt like I was the dumbest person in the room, and that's exactly where I wanted to be. I wanted to be at a place where the people really challenged me but also respected my opinion.
As time passed, I was cautious, too cautious. I didn't want to make a mistake, so I always asked for validation. I didn't realize the process of over-validating made me look like I wasn't confident in my work. I needed to be stronger in my voice. One day, while talking to a senior advisor, she said to me... "Why are you saying SORRY for that? What did you do wrong there? Nothing! Don't ever be sorry. Don't use the word SORRY because you DID your job correctly. You explored all the options and don't apologize for something that you have given thoughts to. Do you see men apologizing? Why should YOU apologize because you're a girl?"
That struck a huge cord in me, gave me a lasting impression. I was startled by the cold honest truth in that phrase and all I had to do to fix it, is to put it to use. To think and say, what exactly do I bring to the table that no one else does? I may not be the best technical person in the room, but where do I belong in this? If I don't have a place, how do I carve a place that only I can fulfill and people will feel at a loss if I wasn't there?
This was a really important turning point. Everyone makes mistakes. No one can come up with the best designs in their life, every day, every time. It doesn't matter that the design sucks, it mattered if the design fulfills what the client is asking for. It was never about me, it was about them. I started paying attention to the people that I'm working with and figuring out what this group lacks and then be that person. Become the ever-changing chameleon that wears everyone's hats and shoes. Be the partner, not the designer.
Constructive feedback given through mentorship or peers is the most valuable feedback you can get. People who work with you directly, indirectly.. what do they sense and see about your performance? Why stay at a company that you can't learn a thing or grow with the people there? It takes a lot of skill to deliver the most effective constructive feedback, one that focus more on empowering in a positive way, not fear-based commentary.
Looking back and looking at the present. Without really thinking, three years have passed and I'm still here. Sticking with the people that work towards the same goals with curiosity and enthusiastic aspiration and same values. Without planning, I've found joy and meaning in a place I've least expected. Thank you for helping me grow and be on this journey.