Hello! I’m Rob Pezet, Associate Product Designer in the Experience Design (XD) team at Immersive Labs. In a nutshell, my role is to make sure that digital products – in this case, certain parts of the Immersive Labs platform – look and feel the best they can to help people achieve their goals.
Now, I’m going to talk you through a day in my life at work. This particular day wasn’t an average day, but a special event that took place last week. We called it XD Day.
XD Day was an event for the ever-growing design team to come together in person for the first time since the pandemic. Our goals for the day were to bond as a team, discuss our design practices, and think about the future of the Immersive Labs platform.
Since joining Immersive in April, I’d met the majority of my team. But there were still a few people that I hadn’t yet met in person (despite speaking online almost daily), so I arrived at the office feeling slightly nervous. Not only did I have to meet new people, but I was also scheduled to give a talk in front of the entire team. I’d never presented anything before, let alone a talk about design to a group of design experts. I was definitely feeling the pressure and felt pretty anxious when I arrived at the Bristol office.
The day started with a live version of our morning catch-up, accompanied by the social lubricant that is freshly baked goods – a great way to start any day in my opinion! The stand out element from that morning was to see how easily our online relationships transferred into real world conversations. Thankfully, my nerves quickly subsided as we laughed and joked over croissants. One of the strange things about the blended working environment we inhabit now is that I often forget people have legs! When all you see most days on Zoom is people’s faces and shoulders, it’s easy to forget!
Leg chat settled and pastries finished, our morning agenda kicked off with a selection of talks from members of the team. The delightful Pamela Smith started things off with an amazing talk on her journey with anxiety and some tips for tools she uses when she feels anxious.
During Pamela’s speech, my anxious feelings about my imminent speech returned. Soon I’d have to stand in front of everyone and give my talk. A lecture about anxiety was both the best and worst thing to be listening to just before my turn, as it simultaneously focused my attention on the anxiety and nerves I was experiencing, while also giving me some techniques to overcome those problems.
One of the amazing tips Pamela shared was the “box breathing” technique. Essentially, this is breathing in for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 4, breathing out for a count of 4, then holding again for another count of 4. The idea is to repeat until you feel re-centred and in control. I found this technique to be incredibly useful; in the few minutes before my talk it helped centre me and kept me from running straight out of the room.
My talk was a blur. I raced through a script that I’d frantically crafted in the preceding days, and before I knew it my slides were finished and I realised it was over. I’m sure the relief that washed over me was visible to those in the room.
My talk was centred around sustainability and what design practices we need to adopt to help solve the challenges around climate change and global warming. What I hadn’t anticipated when planning this talk was the awesome discussion we had as a group afterwards.
It was liberating to share my thoughts about something that I’m really passionate about and to have the whole team react really positively and engage in a progressive discussion.
Up next to speak was Dave Lovemartin who gave a fascinating talk about the importance of accessibility when designing digital products, which although not the sexiest of topics, is an incredibly important area for all businesses and a key focus for Immersive and our work in the XD team. Accessibility in design is something I’m particularly passionate about, so I took the opportunity to ask Dave and the wider group questions to learn and absorb any pieces of knowledge they could share on the topic, no matter how small.
Our morning concluded with a discussion led by Adam Babajee-Pycroft, who shared a future vision for the platform and all the exciting problems we as the XD team will have the privilege to help solve in the coming years.
After lunch from the hallowed grounds of St. Nicholas Market, the second chapter of XD Day consisted of the team breaking into small groups to analyze and ideate solutions for the key challenges around the future vision for the Immersive Labs platform.
I can’t tell you how great it feels to be able to do this kind of workshop in person. Being able to bounce ideas off colleagues around a table is not an experience that can be replicated online, no matter how hard Mr. Zuckerberg tries.
By this point in the day, I was feeling confident to present and discuss the ideas we’d come up with in the smaller groups. It was a stark contrast to the bundle of nerves I’d been that morning.
I was surprised when I realised 5:30pm had arrived and the work portion of XD Day was over. But the night was young and the next destination was The Stable, providing great pizza on Bristol’s trendy Harbourside. The final chapter of XD Day was the exciting activity of axe throwing. Let me tell you, the sight of colleagues throwing axes at a wooden target will not leave my mind quickly! Scarring images aside, the axe throwing was spectacular fun and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants a laugh and to blow off steam.
So there we have it, that was XD Day. My main takeaways from the day were the pride and sense of belonging I felt, both in XD and the wider Immersive community. The experience really built my confidence and I hope that we have many more days like this to come.