Experience Design (XD) is the practice of designing culturally relevant solutions within products, programs, services, and environments.

Learn skill. Apply skill. Monetize skill.

hero atlas

I experienced a rapid ascent during the first 18 months I was in the workforce. I built a business, had a monthly subscription business model, and it was probably a time in my life where I felt the highest level of confidence and self-worth. I didn’t even know that I knew how to build a business, but there I was setting up my own pricing tiers for yearly marketing packages, drafting proposals targeted at closing prospects, and being the CEO of a boutique agency.

Learn skills

I reached that beautiful place because of the hard work, mentorship, and perhaps an obsessive commitment to the process. I could see tangible outcomes based on how much time I was willing to invest in practicing my craft.

In recent years, however, I began to sense the status I once had in my domain had begun to wither. I no longer had the skills everyone else wanted because everyone else had caught up. Looking back, I can see one of the problems that prevented me from unlocking career potential was that I stopped learning. I wasn’t throwing myself into the ambiguous process of trying to learn the technical aspects of a new tool.

I found that I am able to acquire new skill sets rather quickly through realworld application. I do this simultaneously, as I learn a new skill from an in-person coach, an online course, or a blended learning experience of both.

Apply skills

Those early projects were the stepping stones and building blocks for the life I would make for myself.

The work wasn’t always gorgeous. Especially not in the first few weeks, or even months. I never had a problem with that. I just kept going. I listened to my gut.

This was the path I took as to become a maker, a creator, an innovator.

It was never about getting paid or finding fame. It was about using these new tools to make something that mattered. It was about finding new ways to leverage technology so that underserved people from my local community would have an opportunity to unlock their American Dream.

One of the challenging aspects of simultaneous application of a new skill that I would be learning and using in real world situations is the fact that I wouldn’t know what the hell I was doing. Eventually, I learned how to embrace this feeling of being a beginner at all times. The other person I am interacting with is expecting me to know how to facilitate them through a process.

What do you feel if you are asked to do something outside your comfort zone?

Do you seek these scenarios out for yourself?

Where does your zone stop and start?

Anytime jump into learning something new, there is still a flutter of ambiguity as I realize the magnitude of the problem: there is so much I did not know.

Eventually, I was able to design my own workflow unique to each project, considering any constraints, people involved, expected outcomes, etc. Reaching this phase is when monetization became possible.

Monetizing my skills

I hope that by laying out my story in these three succinct steps it provides you with an understanding of how to setup a similar flow for yourself. Many of us are actively learning new skills for our present jobs and some are learning skills for pleasure outside of work. To each her own. If you want to maximize your impact while streamlining the amount of time it takes for you to get from A to B then you will find value in the process I am referring to.

Skills-based volunteer projects for organizations in your local community is a great way to get noticed by the employer or the organization you hope to eventually be hired by.

Perhaps you might start with community based organizations for the first few projects you work on, and then start conversations with businesses to see if what you are doing might come in handy to future employers. Let her give you ideas and insights about how you might apply your new skills within an organization such as hers.

How would the process look for you if you mapped out a loose framework that takes you from today to tomorrow (community based projects) and tomorrow to the future (apprenticeship program for businesses and begin accumulating happy clients who pay you for your services.

Community first, you’ll see

At the time, I wasn’t interested in working for a company. I wanted to figure out how to make my own way.

On the road to launching a service-based business I managed to setup a few things which empowered me to evolve into the next phases and earn a living for myself.

I started building a community of listening ears and gazing eyes long before I was ready to be paid for my services.

The moment I started learning, I was applying the new skills on projects within my local community. I had essentially started marketing myself when I published my first-ever solo video to my Vimeo account in 2009. You know what, I would even say that I started marketing the moment I reached out to the list people who I wanted to interview on camera.

Sidebar: what are you waiting for?

Writing this post right now is bringing up a lot of important memories for me. I want to mention this quick side note because so many of you have not yet started to blog or journal.

The reflective nature of writing about my experiences and documenting the process of learning something new, is incredibly powerful.

I learn the new skill faster because I have to be able to talk to you about it in such a way that is easier to understand than it was for me to initially acquire the information from various sources.

Synthesizing the various resources and disseminating it to you in the most practical way I can come up with is an exercise that attracts more people to start making their way over to my little corner of the internet. By the way, welcome 🙂

It gets people ears to open up – it makes people willing to listen to the next thing I share or talk about because they know when I make something it isn’t something I did to entertain myself. I make things because of the value it will add to your personal and professional life. Hopefully!

Type your comment below

Get my next newsletter this Sunday at 8am

I've partnered and worked alongside of global leaders in design, innovation, entrepreneurship, and education.

Techstars logo IDEO logo WeWork logo General Assembly logo Rutgers logo