Ivanka, quo vadis?

On the 1st of June 2011 I will be departing these shores on an extended honeymoon with my husband of almost 3 months!

I am taking what I believe is officially called ‘a career break’.

We will be traveling from the top to the bottom of the world on a motorbike. (Yes, one motorbike. No, I don’t ride.) From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

My 2 years and 3 months at Canonical have been amazing. Amazingly hard, amazingly rewarding, amazingly productive, amazingly challenging and amazingly enjoyable. Everything in extremes. No time for moderation. I don’t mind admitting that a break is very welcome.

I accepted the role of Creative Strategy Lead 3 weeks after I joined having been initially hired to set up a user-centred design practice. I began hiring even before I joined when I introduced Marcus Haslam – our Brand Lead – to my predecessor and, since then, I have been on an almost constant quest to hire outstanding talent.

Bringing design in terms of branding and user experience to any technology-driven organisation is always a challenge. When that organisation has such ambitious goals and the core product effectively ‘belongs’ to a community of contributors the challenges are greater.

I remember hearing of the CEO of Marks and Spencer saying that the best and worst thing about the brand was that everyone *feels* they own it. In the case of Ubuntu, everyone does own it!

I have been very lucky to work so closely with a visionary stakeholder and have had a unique opportunity to work with him to refine and deliver his vision.

Mark Shuttleworth sets high goals and Canonical Design aims to attain the very highest standards.

Thanks to a most wonderful and talented team we have created a visual identity for Ubuntu and Canonical that supports the brand vision, we have continued to evolve ubuntu.com and set solid foundations for canonical.com. Ubuntu tested extremely well in our recent round of market research and the results of our latest usability benchmarking were excellent. Ubuntu is no longer the smart geeky kid sitting quietly at the back of the class; now it can strut through the playground with its head held high and it can be noticed.

As a team we speak in terms of user experience which combines usability, branding and effective design that can deliver on the vision for the product. While there is such a thing as a design gut feel – for some people based purely in talent, for others in experience – it is a dangerous modus operandi when resources are scarce and the job is vast. Good design thinking and data transform gut feel into a credible direction. There is more work to be done but the direction is firm.

My whole experience at Canonical has been supported and challenged by a very active and engaged community of contributors. I am not going to pretend that doing anything design-related in an open-source community is anything other than a challenge. Thankfully, for the most part, the right sort of challenge – the type that helps you progress.

Imagine walking into a room where a few hundred people are talking to you at the same time. You can’t hear, you don’t know where to start, the noise is overwhelming and you are just about to put your hands over your ears and scream when you notice someone catch your eye and smile; you notice another person pick up something you have dropped and put it where you can see it, a cup of tea appears in your hand and someone else starts quietly answering one person, then another. The desire to scream will come again, but the support is invaluable. What starts as a feeling that everyone is telling you what to do evolves into the sure knowledge that there are people who will help you catch a dropped ball. A massive thank you to all those people.

My return date is not fixed but I know I am leaving the design effort at Canonical in the hands of people who care deeply about the project and the company, and who have the talent and the sheer force of will to deliver.

To life, love, and experience. Cheers!

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22 Comments

  1. Posted 25 May, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Have a good, safe trip, enjoy your three months of well-deserved break!

    Without the outstanding work of you and your team, Ubuntu would never have been in such a favourable position as it is today. Although there are many people we ought to be thankful to for their important contributions to core parts of the distribution, it is your team that has made Ubuntu stand out in the large, screaming crowd of Linux distributions.

    You can be proud of yourself for achieving this and also for your persistence in supporting the effort to bring real, empirical design to the Linux-world. Good luck and I hope you will return to the UK with new energy!

  2. Posted 25 May, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations, I’m sure it is a well deserved break. Honeymoon is unforgettable and according to your plans it will be 10x that :-) There are beautiful places here in South America that you’ll be seeing.

    Cheers!

  3. Posted 25 May, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Ivanka for all the wonderful job you’ve done in Canonical! While you’re in Central America, please stop by to have a beer and chat with the Nicaraguan community. Good luck and have a safe trip!

  4. Posted 25 May, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m in Argentina and Brasil next few months… Hope you have a great time :)

  5. Posted 25 May, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Have an awesome honeymoon!!!!!

  6. Anonymous
    Posted 25 May, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Be safe when going south of California. Our au pair is from Mexico City and has been very scared due to how dangerous it is the few times she has returned to Mexico.

  7. Posted 26 May, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Congratulations! Have a great time :) .
    Encouraging to see someone taking the time out to enjoy life (and marriage) =)!

  8. Benny
    Posted 26 May, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Have fun… although if you’re going top to bottom, Helsinki to Cape Town would probably have given you rather more variety than ‘one bit of America to another bit of America’!

  9. ivanka.majic
    Posted 26 May, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    @benny Marked as opinion. ;-)

  10. ivanka.majic
    Posted 26 May, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    @mairin Thank you! Am very excited :-)

    @dave Reckon our paths will cross? That would be quite cool!

    @roland It is rather important, don’t you think? :-)

  11. ivanka.majic
    Posted 26 May, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    @leogg Most definitely! See you there!

  12. ivanka.majic
    Posted 26 May, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    @sense Thank you! It has been lovely meeting you and working with you on Paper cuts and UDS sessions and seeing you at Guadec and everything else. A real pleasure and I look forward to our next opportunity to work together!

  13. ivanka.majic
    Posted 26 May, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    @Anderson I can’t wait!

    Cheers!

  14. Posted 26 May, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Have an amazing honey moon!
    Safe travels!

  15. Posted 26 May, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Wicked to think about how things where 2 years ago :)

    Bon voyage!

  16. ivanka.majic
    Posted 27 May, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Thanks for all the input and support Thorsten. See you soon!

  17. ivanka.majic
    Posted 27 May, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Thank you Andreas. Enjoy all your projects and see you on the Interwebs!

  18. Paul d'Aoust
    Posted 28 May, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Best of luck to you! My wife and I just came back from a six-month honeymoon — we did a road trip around New Zealand, only we weren’t quite as cool as you guys, because we bought a Toyota minivan instead of a motorcycle :-)

    I’m sure people have told you this already, but I’d definitely recommend the western chunk of Canada, rather than the prairies. The prairies do have their charm, but it wears off after the 500th kilometre of wheat :-) The coast is nice, but the Rockies are nicer — and then you have to come through the Okanagan, where I live, because it’s wine country!

    Have fun, drive safe, and do what we did — only plan a week in advance. It’s more adventurous that way :-)

  19. Posted 28 May, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like an excellent trip – hope you have a super time.

    If you get a chance, come to Bonito in Brazil and stay with us. We have a pousada (small hotel) and there is lots of attractions around here.

    Cheers,

    Tim Barnett

  20. msx
    Posted 30 May, 2011 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Hey, let me know if you happen to pass by Mar del Plata, it would be pretty to meet someone who worked at Canonical Ltd :)
    Have a nice trip!
    Cheers,
    Martín Cigorraga

  21. Hendra
    Posted 30 May, 2011 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    Will you blog about the journey as you go?

  22. John Kerr
    Posted 2 June, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Thank you for all of your efforts at Canonical.
    Have a great trip, drive safe (assume that every other driver on the road don’t see you at first glance and you will most likely have assumed correctly 95% of the time).

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