The unicorn of jobs

At some point when I was little, someone (a distant relative?  a friend of my parents?) decided that I collected cat figurines. Event after event I would be gifted cat figurines. It isn’t that I had anything against cats, I just wasn’t sure what all the cat figurines were about. Eventually I even had a little shelving unit in my bedroom where I displayed my collection – proud but confused – why so many cat figurines in my life?

A couple years later, the cat figurines were replaced by turtles. I vaguely recall commenting that I thought turtles were cool and slowly my collection of dustables converted to turtles. I still have a few kicking around that have made it through the many purges between life chapters. Why people chose to gift me turtles, I may never know.

Lately it’s been unicorns.  I swear it started as a joke, because, you know, UNICORNS. They’re a bit ridiculous and more than a bit adorably mythical. They became my signature and I enjoyed working them into presentation decks like little prancing easter eggs – just to see who was paying attention. They’d flash between slides Fight Club style, just because I believe in having fun at work. Unicorns were fun! However, I didn’t understand what happened when one plays with unicorn power – they start showing up in life and now they’re tightly woven into my identity.  At the time, unicorns celebrated a renaissance and they were taken on in common language to identify that which is tough to find or believe it exists.

This summer I took a short term contract with a Gastown agency. I found that was really special – the people and their approach to business. When my contract was up, I didn’t want to leave, and I recently accepted a position there as Director, Project Services.

I’m excited because the role is the right balance of challenge with familiarity.  I couldn’t get this involved in a company without being an employee so here I go!

A big thanks to the clients I worked with while freelancing.  Thanks to my accountant and my lawyer for teaching me how to start and maintain a corporation. The business is now dormant because, you see, unicorns do exist.

Jessica Evans, PMP

Know when to fold ’em

No no, project management isn’t a gamble in terms of either winning or losing, but at any point after the initial planning phase, you’re continually measuring, gauging and thinking through options.  Most projects are longer than a poker game, so the cycle of evaluation repeats itself.  Do the goals we set at the outset still make sense?  Are we still going in the right direction or have we course corrected so many times that we’re in a trajectory perpendicular to the one we set out on?

… and know when to walk away.

I announced earlier on this blog that I was super stoked to be leading this year’s TEDxSquamish.  Now I’ve put this project to bed.  Within the two months that I was building the project, I met some really cool people in Squamish.  One of them was Craig, who is basically the godfather to TEDxSquamish – it was his blood, sweat and tears that brought TEDx to this town in the first place.  But then a series of Super Awesome things happened in his life and he had to leave the project.  I moved forward for another month but during this month things stopped flowing.

I had set a go/no-go regarding the team that needed to be in place in order for me to well, have a team to lead.  Especially in these volunteer roles, it’s easy to take on so much “cause I can”.  Yes, these are positions that I’m capable of doing but I can’t do them all.  A few people from the first year were available but most weren’t able to take on the commitment.

It was a tough decision.  I had spoken of that Go/No-go point so many times but I really didn’t believe that I’d be faced with a No-go.  Wow, I’ve announced this on my blog, I’ve affiliated myself with it on Facebook… but I know better than to continue with something just because I said I would.

Things stopped flowing.  My gut feel kicked in.  I knew that if I carried on, the work would pile up and I’d begin to resent the cause.  Nothing good can be born from a place of resentment… I’m not sure I have proof of that, it just doesn’t seem like something worth dabbling in!

However!  The Project Lead position for TEDxSquamish is now available.  If you believe you can build a team and see this thing through, I would love to attend.

Careful what you wish for

There are valuable lessons in project and client management everywhere in life.  Here’s the Tale of the Soggy Sandwich:

Every morning on the way to my client’s office, I would stop at the cafe across the street and order the same thing:  a cappuccino and a breakfast sandwich.

Included with the sandwich was a plastic bag, plastic cutlery, and a little container of salsa.  Since these things just went straight to the landfill, all I needed was the sandwich.  I started changing my order:  No bag, no salsa or that stuff, please.

This normally led to a conversation to confirm that I, in fact, did not want any of these accoutrements.  I saw the extended conversation as a time waster and tried to be more straightforward:  Just the sandwich, please.

This still seemed to lead to a verbal confirmation about not requiring the other things.

More efficiency was needed!  One morning I tried:  Just grill it, nothing else.

Right?  The sandwich comes from the cooler, then was grilled for my pleasure.  By giving them instruction on what TO do, I could achieve my desired outcome, right?

It was pretty gross.  Turns out there’s a brief cycle in the microwave to remove the chill, then it’s grilled.  I had instructed them to skip that step

As I sat at my desk choking down my soggy-on-the-inside, toasty-on-the-outside sandwich, I reflected on how I brought this on myself.  By telling the sandwich preparation expert how to do their job, I displayed my lack of understanding of what their process was and demanded they skip steps that would ultimately lead to my cozy sandwich of satisfaction.

Take the time to communicate.  Ask for what you need and allow the expert to determine how to go about delivering this to you.

Often, clients come up with interesting, sometimes bizarre requests.  It’s our job as the expert to draw them out, to understand the base need behind the ask, rather than to blindly deliver exactly what they’ve asked for.

Conversely, if you’ve hired someone for their expertise, trust that you’ve chosen the right person and give them the freedom to do their job well.

Stop Apologizing

Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

That was the first line of the email, responding to a note I sent yesterday. Really? Was that a long time? It seems that in this day and age of instant notifications, we often place pressure on ourselves to respond instantly.

Don’t do that to your clients and customers. Leading with an apology changes the feel of your message. It implies that you could have responded sooner and chose not to. Shame on you for doing that, but it probably isn’t how the situation unfolded. What probably really happened was that you saw the notification come in, were involved in something else and responded when you could fully focus on the request. That’s a good thing. Typing “sorry” is a waste of your time.  Reading “sorry” is a waste of the recipient’s time – they care to read and learn the information you sent. Apologize when you’re late for a meeting, or have missed another scheduled item.

For the first time in years, my active client list is entirely Canadian.   I don’t think this apology-thing is Canadian specific though —  I’ve had email apologies for non-immediate responses from team members across the globe.

Here I am, three years of freelancing, 2.5 years since I founded Jocosity and I am just now launching my website. I’ve owned the domain for so long that it’s close to expiry.

I’m not going to apologize.

Sure, I wanted to get my business online sooner but it’s only now that I can really accurately describe my services and can speak from my cozy niche.

Celebrate with me!  It’s great to be here.

Project lead for this year’s TEDx Squamish

I tried to volunteer to help out for a smaller TEDx related event approaching in March, and was offered the Project Lead role for TEDx!  What an honour.  Craig Davidiuk did most of the footwork last year to get TEDx off the ground and has left a great foundation for me to work with.

Currently, we’re building the team of leaders.  Next stop:  theme selection and venue rental!

Check out last year’s event reel:

Interested in helping out?  Send me a message –