Source: thethreesisters on flickr

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

I’m still learning…

The last time I wrote, I started the conversation with “I recently told my friend I need to stop chasing new shiny things. It’s exhausting.”

Today, I’m writing to tell you I did it again.

It started with a well-timed coincidence. A company (and friend) I admire very much introduced me to a “friend of the family” in hopes I would offer a bit of advice on building out a customer strategy team grounded in research, data and empathy.

The offer to help was an easy yes for me. I am always happy to help others dive right into the deep end of “I’ve never done this before” especially when it involves humans, user-centered design and data. To make matters worse (better), I typically can’t resist diving next to them. Especially when the people you meet along the way are the best.

I did it again.

In June, I joined Valley Bank to build a research and service design team from the ground up. It was a (most likely) once in a lifetime opportunity to join a company with incredible leadership well on their way to transforming how the company works and the way the company thinks. Like my last role, I would have the opportunity to think about physical and digital experiences, as well as, front office and back office design.

It was also the opportunity to do it right. There wasn’t a “this is how we do it.” It didn’t exist.

“For digitization to work, we have to change culture,” the COO of Valley Bank said in January of this year. “It’s at the core of what we do and where we can have the biggest impact, but it’s also the longest pole in the tent.”

Did I mention you can pay $5 to wear jeans to work?

Wait, what?

The thing is, I make the biggest impact when I am putting systems in place that help others thrive — whether it be building a content management system for editors, helping interior designers spend their time doing what they love or rethinking the refugee admissions process — my goal is removing friction in the system through technology and design.

Now, I get to do that for an entire company across every touchpoint, physical and digital. Our mission as I see it:

  1. We need to create a shared understanding of who our customers are that transcends the individual business silos we live in day-to-day. Our customers do not care how our business is organized. They do not care if treasury solutions didn’t do their job right. Each interaction with Valley matters and contributes to their holistic view of how we support their needs and value them as a customer.
  2. We need to connect the dots across Valley to create holistic end-to-end experiences informed by data, research and empathy. And, moving from a reactive organization to a proactive one means we need to build a system for gathering, analyzing and shining light on actionable insights that inform the customer experience across every touch point.
  3. We also need to create safe spaces within the culture of Valley Bank for change agents to think innovatively and thoughtfully about the future products, services and processes.

I’ve always said the skills we have as researchers and designers apply to all aspects of life. This designer-ly way of thinking, or design thinking, is a toolkit you can apply to more than just the next mobile application you are building.

Every project the research and service design team at Valley will work on will be cross-departmental and cross-discipline, exposing the entire company to a different way of thinking and designer-ly mindset.

The impact our team will have will go far beyond the product or services we evolve or create.

Read More: Building a Research Practice Inside a 90-Year-Old Institution

Researcher. Designer. Human. Currently hiring!