Surprises from 12 Weeks at ServiceNow

September 30, 2021
Two weeks ago I shut off my work laptop for the last time, marking the end of 3 months as the ServiceNow design technologist intern. I feel lucky for the opportunity. While I don't have everything figured out, the experience did expand my curiosities, and in none of the ways I anticipated.

I designed and coded a Figma plugin to support designers’ creative processes.
No, I do not type that furiously (...though I wish 😅️)

Takeaway #1 . Businesses are Complicated!

As a newcomer I came to appreciate the processes of people that underlie products. Factors like product maturity shaped the nature of work and collaboration — from team size, to timeline speeds, to space for exploration — in ways that student projects hadn't explored. My team also brought a foresight for future scale, and a consideration for the product's past design patterns, that inspired me.

Another surprise was the real role that values played in the process. Whether they were the company-level values that molded the product (e.g.: innovation, versus consistency), or the personal values that molded community culture (e.g.: "Honest conversations over easeful communication").

These realizations prompted questions of which values, deliberate or accidental, my own actions reflected, and how they surfaced in the way I showed up. I felt inspired by those who drew on professional challenges to elevate personal skills. Skills like: listening, conflict resolution, boundaries, project scoping, saying no, honesty, fear of rejection, and other values.

There are many skills I want to work on — a process I suspect will look slow, difficult, and endlessly ongoing. But most of all they underscored the human efforts behind products.

Some writers I stumbled on the topic include: The Overlap, David Hoang, The Manager’s Path, A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide, and (my favorite!) &yet

Takeaway #2. The Empowerment Dynamic!

Moments that challenged me this summer included: navigating a housing crisis, pushing to maintain personal projects outside a 9-5, and other smaller, daily battles.

As much as I wish I could claim to slice through setbacks cool as a cucumber, the truth is stress drives many of my reactions. This summer I felt I stumbled upon one slice of an answer, in a psychotherapy framework called the “Empowerment Dynamic.” One principle of the framework emphasizes a shift from a ‘victim’ role to a ‘creator’ role. Which in a nutshell boils down to: in response to situations that initially feel beyond our control, we have the option to brainstorm possibilities, select one, and take baby action steps towards our desired outcome.

Though it sounds simple, the empowerment dynamic granted me a sense of, well, empowerment! I may not be a perfect practitioner, but even so, a sense of pride blossomed when things that used to stump me transformed into opportunities to discover practices — practices to handle similar patterns in the future. The concept stuck with me deeply.

I wish I could dive much deeper into the topic, but for the sake of brevity some resources include: 3 Vital Questions (disregard the clickbaity title, the lessons apply beyond work), and Heidi Priebe (Video 1, Video 2)

Takeaway #3. Coffee Chats!

Lastly, my favorite surprise was the unexpected joy of coffee chats. 

For context, I am an overthinking introvert. I wondered if there was an invisible culture around professional chat (do I ask about work? Life? Do I bring an agenda?). I resisted the idea of “networking.” And perhaps most of all, I feared wasting others’ time.

Those coffee chats I so worried over turned out to be my favourite parts of the week. I’m embarrassed to admit I had expected more “corporate” answers because in the end I looked forward to how real, funny, thoughtful, and human people were. It was a real pleasure to glimpse into folks’ experiences, insights, and personalities. That’s not to say I was without my awkward moments (those are part of my nature 😆) but it felt great for excitement to outweigh intimidation. For me it was a big leap forward.

One initial difficulty for me lay in defining the questions I wanted to open these chats with. I settled on mentally framing these conversations as “studio chats” on practices around projects, human dynamics, and collaboration.

These conversations coloured an otherwise remote internship. I’d like to thank all the great people who were so generous with their time.


Thank You <3

I certainly have a lot more to learn, but I did walk away feeling like a stronger designer, technologist, and collaborator. I seriously want to thank everyone who was so awesome as to put in the work to make my internship a meaningful one, in particular:

Dave, Nolan, Jen

EIC Team, EO Culture Team (shoutout to Liz!)

And many, many more...

Thank you!