Self-Directed Learning and Its Unexpected Challenges

Day 37 of working at Rule29. The days are growing shorter, the weather more bitter and I’m finally seeing my project come together in a valuable way. But structuring my own brand alignment research has been tougher than I expected. From defining objectives and creating interview questions to qualitative data management and analysis, it has been a true test of my agility and capacity to learn things quickly.

I’ve constructed the bulk of the project with a lot of guidance from Justin, Kelly, and the other account leads. Countless iterations of data management and client personas aside, I’ve been racking my brain over how to present my findings as a final deliverable to the team.

With this being my first time doing any semblance of a brand audit and my first term as an Experience Institute fellow, I’ve been feeling a bit of anxiety — anxiety about not having something to show for the end of my experience and anxiety that I won’t be able to hand over something useful to Rule29.

With the amount of the work on everyone’s plates, it gives me pause to reach out for help, which is a damn shame because the Rule29 team has a lot of knowledge that they’re happy to offer. This tendency to avoid asking for guidance stems from my internal fear of looking like I don’t know what I’m doing. A silly and unavoidable fear considering that’s the whole point of my year. I’m never going to know everything — ever in life, but especially this year — and I promised myself that I’d do my best to stay clear from my comfort zone and live in the nebulous learning zone.

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My comfort zone is pretty big, but I have a lot to learn too.

“Exploration” and “introspection” have been my mainstay guiding words for my Leap Year, but working at Rule29 made me realize that “testing” and “checking” my old habits and doubts will also need to be incorporated as I navigate my way through a year full of unknowns and many questions.

While adjusting to the work environment and culture at Rule29 has been smooth, I’ve been finding myself grappling with managing a self-directed project and hesitating to ask for advice. With this, I’m learning a lot about iterations, efficiency, impromptu check-ins, and gathering and sharing input to the team. Oh, and brand alignment.

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Iterations on iterations

The brand alignment project has evolved quite a bit since the outset. Its main purpose has always been to gather as much information about Rule29’s brand from both Rule29ers and their clients and harmonizing the constants of the agency as a cohesive brand. From employee and client interviews to defining Rule29’s motivations, core values, personality, and pain points, my understanding of the project has gone from murky to definite. I’m hopeful to share my final findings, any key insights, and confirmation of the workplace they’ve all cultivated until now.

My greatest moments of clarity, unsurprisingly, have been when I’ve simply sat down with Justin, Kelly and/or the team to hear their feedback, expertise, and criticisms. With that clarity, I’ve seen the project take on more meaning and life.

So note to self: be direct and just ask for help. Admit that you’re confused or lost. And know that it’s okay because there are people who have your back.