My guest in this episode is Tanarra Schneider, previously Managing Director of Fjord North America and now Head of Design for Accenture Interactive – Midwest. Tanarra talked about her journey into design, her experience as a black, female design leader, the design discipline growing up, and the responsibility of all designers to ensure we take the time to dismantle structural bias in our work and the world.
N.B. This transcript is mostly AI-generated. There may be a few errors.
Andy Polaine: Hi and welcome to Power of Ten – a podcast about design operating at many levels, zooming out from thoughtful detail through to organisational transformation and on to changes in society and the world. My name is Andy Polaine – I’m a service design and innovation consultant, coach, trainer and writer. My guest today is Tanarra Schneider, who I knew as Group Director and then Managing Director of Fjord North America and who is now Head of Design for Accenture Interactive Midwest. Tanarra, welcome to Power of Ten.
Tanarra Schneider: Hi, it’s nice to be here. It’s good to see your face again too.
Andy Polaine: Yes, we haven’t seen each other for a while. So first of all, I you know, want to make space for this. You know, how are you doing? It’s been a crazy time everywhere right now, because of COVID. But it’s also been crazy, particularly the, I don’t know, emotionally hopeful? Draining? To be a black woman in corporate America. We all know that machine never stops right now.
Tanarra Schneider: How am I doing? I was talking I was talking with, with a friend yesterday about this. And she said, I’m taking it one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time. And right now in this moment, I’m good.
Andy Polaine: Right.
Tanarra Schneider: So I think I will I will steal that from her and say right now in this moment, I am good. Yeah, there’s there’s a lot to unpack in that Andy. So…
Andy Polaine: I know what was spent up to the next the rest of this episode talking about that, really. But look, before we do, you know, I know from my time at Fjord, but I realise I don’t really know your journey to there. And so I know you’ve been, because I’ve been digging around, you’ve been a dancer, a cook and event planner, instructional designer and executive producer. But you know, tell us who is Tannara Schneider and what was your journey to where you are now?
Tanarra Schneider: Mm hmm. Those are two wildly different questions.
Andy Polaine: In five words or less… No, I’m joking you can take as long as you like.
Tanarra Schneider: Who am I? I am a daughter, a mom, a friend, sometimes a cook, sometimes a short order cook, because I live with my daughter and my parents. Okay, so, you know, there’s there’s a lot of that. But the journey in and of itself probably starts. You know, I think like many of us do, I went to college thinking I wanted to do one thing. I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist. I had been a dancer growing up an athlete growing up and, you know, I end up at a big university, went to University of Illinois, downstate and really thought I wanted to do something with sort of physical bodies, etc. I knew I was never going to be a professional dancer. And about halfway through that first year, I realised that you know, a biology class of 120 people in the dark lecture was not was not for me. This was not, that was not where I was going. And so I stepped over to something that I knew I loved and could do four years of which was literature and English and writing. And so I think that degree in humanities gave me opportunities to find a path that you know, in the, in the 90s I think a lot of us were winding into what would become kind of the technology and digital revolution.
Andy Polaine: Yeah.
Tanarra Schneider: Right. So I, you know, winding story, leave there, go to grad school for a hot minute, have a miserable experience and ultimately find myself in the corporate world as an instructional designer and corporate trainer, and I did that in a few different ways for for a collection of years, and found myself firmly in the centre of the ERP world doing PeopleSoft implementations for HR and financial services offshore.
Andy Polaine: And how was that?
Tanarra Schneider: Oh God, miserable, absolutely miserable. But it all has a common thread, which really brings you like through my entire career, which is helping people unravel really poorly designed systems. Right. So teaching people how to use Microsoft, teaching people how to use SAP, eventually leading implementations and re-blueprinting the software so that it is usable for humans, because humans have enough fear to deal with, especially at that point in time going from like green screen terminals to, you know, client server environments and windows and everything else. So, you know, really spent the first half or so of my career doing that and took a sizeable break, went to culinary school, because I was just exhausted and spent a little bit of time cooking and eventually You know, like many of us do move to New York probably 10 years too late, that I moved there in my 20s it would have been amazing moving there in my 30s was a whole different situation. There was no romance of living like you know, for to an apartment that was way too expensive. It was really just hustling. But it was cool. That was my transition from you know, being sort of internal I worked at JetBlue for three and a half years doing e-learning and set up there helps really established juggle University as one of the first sort of met like big faculty members working on e-learning and focused on that. And then when agency side in New York, so that was where I really found my way into what I would say is sort of this version or this side of my my career for the last 25-ish years 24/25 years. really sort of understanding consumer needs and digging into that and so that’s where I was an executive producer because I kind of did everything. My first agency, I was the pm I was the account person. I was doing, you know, information architecture and wireframes really trying to shape out what was fairly new for a lot of agencies then, and we were doing some cool stuff in the fashion world and things like that, because it was New York, and some financial services work. And eventually made my way back to Chicago through what was supposed to be a short contracts, working without agency that I have left to do freelance work, but came back to Chicago to work for Playboy did that for two and a half years. Yeah, yeah, that was that was fun. It’s, that company’s got a real it, I mean, obviously an iconic brand, but has some really interesting stories that go with it.
Tanarra Schneider: And, you know, navigated my way out of that into, you know, what we’ve now come to think of as more sort of UX digital design kind of agency worlds and eventually landed at Accenture. About a year post the acquisition in came in through Acquity. So Acquity had been acquired about a year prior to my arrival as well. But I knew some folks who worked there and came in to lead service and interaction design and have been there for six years now.
Andy Polaine: And so the recent, the recent shift, you’re now in the Accenture Interactive pillar, and out of Fjord. How’s that? How’s that been? That is really recent actually, isn’t it? Congratulations on the promotion.
Thank you. It is recent. It’s, um, I think it’s still forming. It’s in transition, like so many things are right now. We saw Accenture introduced this new growth model in January. Yeah, really. The announcement was January, which was about a month after I took over Fjord North America. So it all sort of happened at the same time. Yeah. As many things are want to do, and we are still figuring a lot of it out. It’s gotten much more settled over the past month or so I would say. And so now my my quandary and working with some of the other leaders inside of Fjord, because we’ve got some new, we’ve got some new leaders who are going to be leading Fjord globally as of the turn of our, our year, which will be here at the end of August. And I’ll actually pass my North America torch to, to my compatriot, to Nick and he’ll, he’ll take over for North America and I will jump firmly into the Interactive role and design. So it’s, you know, it’s it’s I think it is really it’s been really interesting to watch design grow up in Accenture. Yeah. And see what that means.
Andy Polaine: And what does that mean? I mean, I’ve been inside it too. But what’s it been meant from your perspective, because I think I, I wrote this thing about the Design Leadership Dip a little while ago, people kind of transitioning from being it’s more about their identity being really kind of attached to their craft skills and moving and letting go of some of that and kind of moving into this leadership role where they maybe do less or no craft work in that way. But I also kind of realised that agencies and different internal departments go through a similar thing. They also kind of go through this. It’s a rollercoaster right, or it has a kind of up and down cadence where they change and so in many respects, you know, I know Fjord within Accenture being you know, much further along the journey than you know, many other especially the large consultancies. So what does it meant for you to watch design grow, what does it look like?
Tanarra Schneider: You know,I think it.. I think where we are right now, we if we think about the the sort of metaphor of growing up I think we are designed inside of Accenture is finally sort of landed and it’s it’s post like its initial post college years like, you know, It’s like, we’re in our, you know, not in our super early 20s. We’ve sort of gotten our binge drinking out of the way. And now we’re like, you know, we’re… and I say it like that, because I think when I, when I landed here six years ago, we were kind of in this awkward teenage space where we kind of had a seat at the adult table, sometimes, depending on who else was around. Right. So it’s sort of depended on whether or not the party was really a big family party. Did we need to go sit with the kids? Or could we sit with the adults? And I when I say that, it’s, I think it’s because people were really unsure of us, they were unsure of how we would behave, what we were going to bring what our value was. And I think like a lot of teenagers, I’m surrounded by teenagers right now in my life, by the way, like a lot of teenagers, you’re sort of fighting for your voice and you’re trying to figure out who you are in this new space. And sometimes it comes out as like brilliance, and people are like, “Oh my god”, you know, “She so smart”. And then like, two days later, you have like this strange temper tantrum because you’re not being heard and no one’s listening to you. And so I think we had to figure out how to really claim our a space that was ours how to add value, how to approach client problems in a really big space.
Tanarra Schneider: And Chicago was unique. So coming into coming into Accenture and into design in Chicago was different because we didn’t have legacy Fjord. We had Acquity and we had the Accenture experience agency. Yeah, we didn’t have any fjord. So we kind of had to make it out as we went along to. So I think that also did a lot for me to feel free as one of the leaders to kind of say, “Okay, I think this is who we want to be. Let’s take this from, from our roots as Fjord and let’s take this from what we know of, you know, this piece over here from what we know of Accenture and how we see our consultants being successful and working. And let’s figure out how to mash that together.” And it wasn’t seamless for sure. But I think ultimately where we have landed now, as we’ve grown up, we’ve had some some great wins. I think people have really seen the value of the way that we think and the way that designers think and approach approach problems, especially ones that feel like they’re obvious. But ultimately, when you really start to dig in to them or not, and have have really great value when you unravel them. And I think we have stopped in some big cases, just sort of fighting battles that aren’t worth fighting. And whose whose label is on the PowerPoint, right? You know, who’s, whose mark is where, and we’ve started to, we’ve started to really show value through the work show value through things like you know, Fjord Trends, stuff like that. And so now as we step into this next realm, where design really is a container, dependent on the market you’re in for a number of folks. It’s no longer just Fjord representing that, there’s other brands because we Accenture is such a, you know, an acquirer. We end up in this space where we’re now learning again, how to bring people in and how to be really generous and how to accept that there’s multiple ways, again, to think about the work that we do and open that up. And so I think we’re in another formative space, which will be really great. But I do feel like at least I have a really great seat at the table with the team that I’m working with in the Midwest. And so I feel both respected and seen as a design leader but also as a black woman, which is kind of nice. Those don’t always got together.
Andy Polaine: No, no, well we can talk about that in a second. There’s one thing I want to kind of wind back to which you know, one of the things about, you know, so I do a lot of design, leadership coaching and one of the things that comes up all the time is—or really the whole aim of it— is to get people comfortable with the fact that they’re making it up. That part of being a leader is going “Well, there’s nothing here. And I have to decide what this is going to be.” And when you kind of talked about that about Fjord, not, you know, being pre legacy, non legacy Fjord there and thinking, well, okay I’ve got the kind of freedom to, to build this up. Where did, you know, what were the what was the inner chatter? And where did the… your LinkedIn profile says leader by design, badass by nature, I sometimes wonder if it’s the other way around, actually, but where does it where does it come from? What what kind of things were going through your head of like, “Okay, well, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to create it”, what were you drawing upon to think about what that should be?
Tanarra Schneider: So I think I’m really fortunate to have spent the early part of my career and probably my formative years in, like, sort of baked in organisational design and learning, right? So I actually got to watch from the inside. How you move people through change, how you help people sort of accept that something different is coming. And so I think I focus less on me. Like, what’s the end state? Because I think there’s, you know, there’s multiple end states, right? It’s all at some point, it’s all a journey. So you got to try something. And I have a little bit of that that improvisational nature anyway, I think my dance background helps with that. So I understand… and actually cooking probably helps with that too, right? I understand the ingredients, understand the steps, put it all together in different ways and you see what works. So I think those two things help they helped me, like just feel a sense of confidence in being able to do something completely straight. screw it up and recover. Sometimes recover with jazz hands, depends.
But I think the things that were going through my head early on where I understood I know how to do this work. The people here are talented. We have projects in front of us. Let’s figure out what has been working and what’s not been working. And then let’s start with just small changes to rotate towards something that feels like it is working better or differently in a way that makes sense. So I don’t think I had a huge like a clear picture in my head and I’m there again, like I don’t know what design is at Accenture right now. We don’t have a blueprint for this. We’ve we’ve mapped we’ve mapped some stuff out certainly I have, you know colleagues who are brilliant at what they do so we lean on each other and but all of our markets just a little bit different. The you know, the the market in the northeast has a slightly different complexion of talent than the Midwest than the west and the south and Canada, right? So when we… and Europe certainly feels different because of the the brands that were acquired there, so we’re all trying to triangulate, I think around the work that needs to be done right - jobs to be done. But what are our clients needs? And how do we, how do we use everything we have in our arsenal to meet those needs? And the best way we know how.
Andy Polaine: So through that, you know, there’s, again, that’s talking about this inner chatter there is, you know, as a woman, let alone being a black woman in that corporate environment, there’s often a lot of socialised inner chatter of like, “I don’t deserve to be here. I’m being too bossy”, or you know, “I’m being difficult”. That’s another thing that I kind of, I hear a lot. And my question always back is, “do you think a man would be saying that to me?”, you know, and the answer is always no. How much of that was going on in your head? Or how much was that going? Not not just in your head? How much was it actually sort of being expressed externally? How was Is it difficult to navigate that space? Or is your natural badassness managed to navigate that easier than others?
No, my natural badassness has not navigated that easier than others. It’s always there. It’s it’s been there my entire career. I’ve always… and I actually believe I’ve had it easier than than many. A friend of mine a couple years ago called me non-threatening black, which I thought was a really interesting way to put that. And she meant it—and I’ll explain it—but she meant it in a really interesting way, which is, I am well educated, I am fairly light from a complexion standpoint. I am very easy to put in front of audiences and on the surface not be terribly confrontational, right? I mean, I have had conversations within my own community of, alright, like you’re not black enough, right? Like I mean, so there’s there’s a whole spectrum of conversation to have there. So when we talk about me being non-threatening black, there are she does not mean that as an insult, I think she’s like, there is a way to interpret the world that says, like, what is your threat metre with this particular group of people, right? So, like, in the same way that, like, if I was somewhere with my mom, who is white, when I was a kid, people identified me very much with her. But if I was somewhere with my dad, who is black, suddenly the way that I was treated was very different.
Andy Polaine: Yeah.
Tanarra Schneider: So and I’m like squarely in the middle, right. But what I recognise is there’s there’s been a moment and just about every key sort of segment of my life in my career, where I have been surprised by somebody’s willingness to say something to me that I feel like is wildly inappropriate and would never have been said to a man. So I had a boss a few years back and say—and I was I was about six months into my tenure—and I asked for feedback as you know, what can I be doing to improve? How can I…? And he said, you know, one of the things I think you should consider is it sometimes it’s better to be seen and not heard.
Andy Polaine: Wow, that’s what Victorians said to their naughty kids.
I was like, Wow, so, one I’m not a child. Two, I recognise that he came from a military background and I felt like I should be somehow, you know, consumed in the chain of command. But one I didn’t grow up that way, two that’s not where you hired me. And I am what I said to him was you knew who I was when you hired me. And the work that we’ve done in six months is more than you managed to accomplish in the two years before I got here. So one of us has made a difference here, and I’m pretty sure it’s me. And so I have the way that I’ve responded to that as in… as I’ve grown up, not always, not always responded well, sometimes, you know, you go into the bathroom, you cry. Because it’s offensive. It’s offensive to think, whether it’s as a woman, or as a black person, or the combination of the two that somehow somebody feels like, I need to check my behaviour, which is no different than any other white person around me and certainly most most men around me. But as, as my client told me last week, I am not a shrinking violet. And that’s a good thing. And I’ve learned part of that is recognising that if I’m not gonna stand up for myself, no one’s gonna stand up for me. So I have to do that. And I have to stand up for myself. And now for plenty of other people who are coming behind me because I want especially women of colour to know that you don’t… one you don’t have to take that crap and two you have as much right to be anywhere as anybody else. And I need them to see examples of other women standing up and saying, “Hell no, absolutely not! You will not talk to me like that.” And I’ve confronted some of that at Accenture. I had a surprising, surprising review from somebody who I respect greatly. And we are we are good friends. And we’ve talked about it since, but the feedback I got from him was, you know, sometimes you make other people feel like they don’t need to be in the room because you have all the answers. And I was like, are you pissed, because I’m smart? Or are you mad, because of how I’m saying it? Like, do I need to make everyone else feel really good? Because I don’t ever see you say that to the men in the room like, “Oh, well, you shouldn’t be like, you should hold that answer back because everyone needs to feel like they’re really… really?”
Andy Polaine: Although quite a lot of men really do need to hold that answer back. And that’s, you know, the frustrating thing that it costs… you know, I’m a white middle aged male. I’m the kind of, you know, I went to private school in the UK. I’m as structurally privileged as it gets right and it costs me nothing, absolutely nothing to say in that moment, “Hey, you know, that’s that’s out of order” or whatever it is to check other white men to check other men, whatever In the room, and the kind of bleating about that drives me nuts because I just think it’s just, you know, I don’t… it doesn’t cost you anything to do that. And to start to kind of change that dynamic, and like anything, you know, systemic change is lots of small things, and kind of changing nodes in the system and not not just the kind of the big thing. I said that thing about, you know, your tagline is leader by design and badass by nature. And I said, I wonder if it’s the other way around? Because I wondered if there’s actually more of a kind of leader by nature and badass by design, in the sense of how much do you feel you have to kind of put up, not just armour, but kind of weaponry as you went through that path?
And I think that’s a great observation, and it’s probably a little bit of both on both sides. But yeah, there’s a there’s a lot of armour there. And there, there are also really conscious decisions. So, not to give not to sort of give away secrets and things of that nature, but I have a pretty sizeable set of tattoos, especially on my upper body, my arms back, etc. And there, there will be more. I very deliberately wear sleeveless shirts and jackets when I’m in client meetings. And inevitably, in every meeting, I will take off my jacket. And I do it on purpose. Because it is, for me, it’s a way of saying, I am… one when you meet me and we talk and we start working through your problems. you recognise that when I’m here, I have a brain of a voice. I am here for you and with you. But it’s also a way for me to remind myself, I think, and others that I control what you see.
Andy Polaine: Yeah.
Tanarra Schneider: And how you perceive me should not be about my skin colour it should not be about my gender. It should not be about the the tattoos I have on my arms. But I’m also not going to hide things from you to make you feel comfortable.
Andy Polaine: Yeah.
Tanarra Schneider: Right. I’m not going to be uncomfortable because you know, to make you comfortable. I don’t think that’s right. I think we should all be able to be who we are. Making myself uncomfortable or shrinking or stepping back from the person that I am doesn’t work for me.
Andy Polaine: It’s slightly more badass than me wearing trainers deliberately. But I’ve done I’ve done the same thing for that reason, which is, you know, I was going to see someone and I knew it was quite a formal thing and really did nearly put on the smart shoes and stuff and I didn’t because I thought, well hang on a second. I’m kind of changing who I am here to go into this.
Andy Polaine: And I want to slightly kind of address or push back on the language around, you know, the sort of the adults and the children and the kids right and that designers designers are often labelled as, Oh, you’re the kid and now we’ve got a seat at the adult table and all that kind of stuff as if business is kind of more adult. I don’t know what your experience is. You’ve been in corporate world, as long or longer than I have, but I’ve often found the corporate world much more like a schoolyard, than, you know, than… because the EQ in many respects is kind of much, I don’t know if it is much lower, it’s narrower, I would perhaps a than it is perhaps in the design world. And, you know, putting on a suit and tie allows you to… it’s also putting on armour, right? It allows… I’ve watched people where they’ve, they put on their suit and tie, the whole thing of, you know, it’s business, it’s not personal. It allows them to kind of act in a way, use language in a way, that kind of, is armour and protects them and actually, you know, a lot of the journey into kind of… what I might in a Brené Brown kind of way call wholehearted leadership is, is actually taking that off and being comfortable with with who you are.
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah, and I, I agree, I actually have never, when I when I talk about sort of Design growing up, I don’t at all mean to say that businesses is any more grown up. I think the interesting thing that happens when you have any sort of acquisition into a company is that at some point you have this you, you end up with this strange parent child relationship for a while.
Andy Polaine: Yeah.
Tanarra Schneider: Right. It’s not to say that, you know, businesses is any way more adult than design. Frankly, I think design in many ways is far more adult because we are in many ways willing to say, I don’t know the answer, but I will go get it. I don’t I don’t have the answer to that. But let’s unpack this. Let’s, let’s open this thing up and look at its innards. And then we can figure this out. Yeah, right. It, I do believe makes room for many expertise, like many sets of expertise, many sensibilities in a way that sort of business and in sort of recent history, even has not. So I, I think there’s, there’s so much that design brings to business, right? I mean, we’re not talking right and we’re also not talking about art. Right? We’re not talking about art we’re talking about design. Design is a set of tools. It is absolutely fit for the business world.
Andy Polaine: But it definitely I definitely think it’s, you know, the teenage thing is apt in the sense of kind of adolescence right that it’s kind of neither one thing or the other. And, you know, to my, for my sins I always use this example. There’s a Britney Spears song. And there’s a line in it, which is “not a girl, not yet a woman.” And I always think that there’s there’s that sort of weird, awkward stage that adolescents go through that where they kind of want kids stuff and they also sort of, you know, want to be an adult and they can flip between them through those teenage years. The disappointing thing about becoming a growing up is realising adults don’t know all the answers, right? And you kind of think like, at my graduation someone’s gonna whisper, you know, when they give me my diploma, someone’s going to whisper in my ear the secret to life and it never happens, right? It’s just this lifelong journey.
Andy Polaine: So look we’ve talked about leadership, and we’ve talked about you being a black women in leadership, and we also talked about design and, you know, you were saying just before we’re recording, you know, how do we respond to what’s been going on? You know, certainly in the last ten, twelve weeks, as leaders in design not just as individuals, not just as black or white people, but as leaders in design. What’s your what’s your view on this?
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah. So it has consumed a lot of my time, the last bit here in a number of different ways. One, I will be very honest, I think when I look at my role as a leader especially one who leads a design practice, I have done my level best to really emphasise that what we do has to be done–whatever we do, however we react–has to be done through a sense of authenticity.
Andy Polaine: Yeah.
Tanarra Schneider: But also that in in the same way we would say to a client, trying to design something. This isn’t about campaigns. It’s not about fancy words. It is about involving the community around you to create systemic change, which requires a responsibility to look at everything you do, not just the things that you do when it comes to black and brown folks, right. And, and that is my big concern right now too.
Tanarra Schneider: So when I look at my responsibility to lead I very openly said to the team, actually to the entire North America team, I am not here to fix this for you.
Andy Polaine: Yes.
Tanarra Schneider: Right. And I’m also I’m also not here to teach you. I am happy to help guide this journey. I’m happy to have conversations. But please, in the same way that I think we would ask other people to come to a conversation, somewhat educated, please do some homework.
Andy Polaine: Yes.
Tanarra Schneider: Please come willing to participate. And please know that it’s going to be really uncomfortable. Like this is that moment where all of the stuff we have been talking about, I think as as designers in this notion of discomfort, being a healthy catalyst for change, it’s time for everyone to get uncomfortable. And I think the thing about us as designers, sometimes, especially designers inside of a corporate space, is we hold the keys. We’re always the ones who are constructing the workshops for our clients, right. We’re the ones who are control trolling the environment. So rarely are we uncomfortable.
Andy Polaine: Okay, so we’re the we’re the hosts and decide who’s invited and not and how it’s structured.
Tanarra Schneider: Right. And so we have, I think, a fantastic challenge right now to get uncomfortable again and to look at our own biases in the work that we do and to examine how what we might be doing the methods we might be using the the tools that we have access to, are creating potentially undue bias in the work. And are we really in a position to confront the kinds of things the kinds of challenges that our clients are going to come to us and ask us to help them with because and we’re starting to see it. Right. We’re starting to see people ask for support in constructing diversity, equity inclusion programmes.
Andy Polaine: Yeah
Tanarra Schneider: We are barely equipped to do that work, right. It’s just it’s not work that we do. It’s not that we can’t lead them through the process. But the other thing that I fear for right now–and I’m starting to see this as well–as a black woman, as a black leader in design is that everyone thinks I’m the one who should do this work.
Andy Polaine: Right. You’re responsible. You’re the voice of everyone, every black woman in America? Right.
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah. Right. So I’m, you know, I’ve been asked a couple of times to be the one who gives certain presentations to clients. So I was like nooo. No, no, no, no, stop. It’s not happening. We’re not we’re not trotting out every designer of colour, that you feel like the words are coming out of somebody’s mouth who either has agency authority or credibility, like, do your homework, gain your credibility and go give the same message because frankly, some of those messages are stronger coming from privileged white men than they are coming from me?
Andy Polaine: Yeah, no, I can see. I mean, it’s a bit like I was saying before, where it costs nothing for a, you know, privileged white man to say to bring up another [white male] short and actually hearing it from that person. You know, because we all, you know, it can have more impact because because that’s the that’s the nature of the structural priviledge, right, which is “I’m going to pay more attention to that person’s words than the other person who just keeps bleating on about this kind of stuff…” And, you know, then all of a sudden it’s, “Oh, no, no, I am the problem.”
Andy Polaine: I, there’s a question I want to ask around this, which is, you know, one of the things that causes bias and unconscious bias is the default setting problem. You know, and it’s one of the things designers, regardless of what they’re doing have to be really careful of, particularly when they’re doing synthesis and research, which is, you know, they can accidentally be narrowing their scope enormously. It tends to happen because of time pressure as well. The longer you have to spend on something, the more you can kind of open things up. And as we all know, the more under pressure and stress you are, the narrower your kind of field of vision becomes, as you and I both know, time pressure–anyone who works agency side knows that time pressure is the kind of big thing. How much scope and how much responsibility do designers and everyone else have to push back on that because some of this stuff is… I wrote a piece the other day. A lot of this is a marathon, not a sprint, right? This isn’t a kind of design sprint problem.
Tanarra Schneider: I think we have a huge responsibility to be vocal about what can be done responsibly in a certain amount of time. Right. And I think that’s where, where I’ve seen us struggle in the past when we construct approaches for clients, right? We know, we know we probably have eight to ten weeks. Let’s just say that to do something.
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah.
Tanarra Schneider: And everyone wants the world in eight to ten weeks, right? I mean, there’s just…
Andy Polaine: It used to be 12-14 right, as well?
Tanarra Schneider: And sometimes it’s four to six. Let’s be honest, like the window gets short. But I think we have to, I think we have to do two things. One, we have to respond, we have to say, look, if that’s the amount of time we have, there are a few ways we can approach this. It’s not just about no, it can’t be done, I think we have to be able to say, here’s what can be done in this time that you have, here’s what can be done. If you have the following prepared already, then this gets faster or this can be done that if you have people who can help support XYZ, then maybe this can be done right. So it’s, I think it’s understanding our work well enough, right, it’s the back to like sort of the ingredients metaphor. If I’ve got an hour to make a cake, I’m not going to make a three tiered you know, behemoth with like I’m gonna like you know, a single layer… muffins or like a single layer cake that sits in a pan and a little sprinkle powdered sugar. So know what you can make inside of the time that you have allotted. And be clear about the ingredients required to make that happen, and I think that’s where sometimes we, we just sort of look at it and go, I can’t possibly do that in eight to ten weeks or somebody says, “but I have to have everything.” It’s like, “Well, do you really?” Like, let’s meet in the middle as opposed to everything being a contractual conversation, let’s talk about what you really need to get done, because a lot of times everybody’s staring at is the process and not the outcomes. Outcomes, there’s roads to outcomes. Sometimes there’s no road when you’re just staring at the steps in the middle.
Andy Polaine: Yeah, there’s a kind of cascade of, of kind of anxiety as well, that comes down quite often where, you know, someone sets a deadline, this has to be done in in the next three months and someone else says “Okay, well, that has to be done in the next two and a half” and all of a sudden, by the time it gets to kind of a briefing, it’s “this has to be done in six weeks.” And actually kind of understanding what the real, the real deadline is, and what’s the kind of fear and anxiety about hitting that deadline versus the fear and anxiety about actually doing the thing that you want to do and the outcomes you want, but there’s also that kind of long tail of work right? Agencies, it’s just not affordable for any organisation to have an agency full tilt kind of working with them for years and years and years. And there’s, you know, for the baking metaphor, it’s a bit like, perhaps more like brewing or something where, yes, you can kind of crush the grapes. And yes, you can kind of put them in the, you know, in the barrels. But then you’ve got to kind of wait a few years for it to ferment. And, and there’s a lot and you have to tend to it and you have to kind of work you know, you can’t just kind of put it there and forget about it either. Right. So there’s there’s a kind of long tail that I wonder if we need to get better at explaining to our clients, you know, the work that they will have to do afterwards is actually more, just stretched over a longer period of time. That can be a bit scary, right?
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah, for sure. You know, I hadn’t. I think we all talk about the sustainability of work and leaving, you know, leaving our clients with things that they can carry forward, but I don’t know that we’ve put enough energy around this sort of post, you know, post engagement coaching, and really what it means to get people in the mindset of doing that. And, and even thinking about how do you? How do you responsibly check in, right, we sort of check in with our clients who were fortunate, I think, at Accenture that we’ve got client account leads who, you know, have the ability to do that. But how do you responsibly say like, I’m going to check in on you 90 days from now.
Andy Polaine: Without anything like it’s a kind of I want more work…
Tanarra Schneider: A sales call. Yeah. Right. Right. Without it being a sales call.
Andy Polaine: Yeah, it’s it’s a tough sale that stuff to you, right? Because I, you know, I think, you know, part of the… you know people talk about the upside of COVID, which, you know… but there is one in that sense that it actually has given people kind of pause in every single sense, but I think that idea of, “I just need to kind of launch this and I need this thing solved” and the sort of short termism seems to have kind of been rattled quite a lot, which I think is probably a positive thing.
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah, for sure.
Andy Polaine: So are you able to talk about your work with Chief?
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah. You know, Chief.
Andy Polaine: What is it?
Tanarra Schneider: It’s so funny when, when I posted the thing on LinkedIn about Chief the number of messages I got that were like, “did you leave Accenture? What is happening? What did you do?” Including Baiju, who is my boss was like, “do we need to have a conversation?” So Chief is this really wonderful networking organisation for women at the VP level and above. And it it has a, it has a particularly lovely edge to it in that it comes with a coaching relationship. So you get a coaching cohort as part of Chief. So all I am with Chief is a founding member of the Chicago chapter. So they’ve got you know, they’ve got groups in New York and Los Angeles, and now in Chicago, and we’ve officially just launched as of this week our group in Chicago. So I am one of a small group of founding members. So we were just sort of the first cohort to found in Chicago to become part of Chief. And it is, we’re, like I said, we’re just getting going. But just in the meetings that I’ve had, the ability to have conversations with women who are in similar spaces in their career is fairly unique. There is… I have found it very, very difficult to find mentors and to find a peer group iInside of the organisations that I’ve been a part of where I really feel like I can, I can talk about business, I can talk about my personal life, what it feels like to be a mom, what it is like to be a professional woman what it’s like to be a black woman. I do appreciate and I did a lot of work to figure out which organisation to join. And chief has a really significant commitment as well to diversity in many ways, not just ethnic and racial diversity, but LGBTQ+, like really thinking about where people come from what their backgrounds are the companies that they work for. And it gives me an opportunity to think about not just this moment in my career, but also where am I going and have women who have done some things that I maybe want to explore doing in the future, and actually get access to talk to them and spend time with them in both social settings, but also learning settings. There’s lots of… we do workshops, there’s financial literacy workshops, there’s workshops around diversity and inclusion, as you might imagine, right now. There’s entrepreneurism and then there’s just lots and lots of ability to get together and spend time together. And when we’re allowed to, we do actually have a physical location, sort of clubhouse that we can meet in, and that kind of stuff. So that’s what Chief is
Andy Polaine: Sounds amazing. I was going to say, right now you must be just sort of… getting together is a big Zoom call right?
Tanarra Schneider: That’s what it is.
Andy Polaine: Yeah, like all the rest of life at the moment. So look, we’re coming up time. As you know, the show is named after the Eames’ film of kind of zooming in and out of the universe and how small things can have a big effect, an outsized effect. So I asked every guest at the end, what one small thing do you think is either overlooked or is well designed, maybe, that has an outsized effect on the world?
Tanarra Schneider: One thing. I don’t know if there’s something that’s well designed…
Andy Polaine: It could something that needs to be redesigned.
Tanarra Schneider: Oh, boy, that would be hours and hours.
Andy Polaine: Ask a designer that and you get hundreds…
Tanarra Schneider: Yeah, yeah. The thing I would say, is overlooked, and maybe we’re just starting to figure this out, again, is the true nature of community. And when I think about the, you know, the sort of Eames, you know, adage and thinking about your chair, house… I think one of the lessons that I have learned so beautifully throughout everything that has happened via COVID, or everything that is happening with social and racial justice, is we move through so many different communities and in our daily lives, but all of it is sort of landed very squarely in our homes and in our spaces and the people that we have kept close, whether that is through Zoom calls, or those are the three people you trust to see in person because you know, that they will tell you if they were someplace they shouldn’t have been.
Andy Polaine: The bubble.
Tanarra Schneider: That’s right. I think that the true nature of community and what, what it means what community really means how it gives us life. I think we are just coming back to understanding what that looks like. And I hope for all of us, that we really invest in creating community and connection, because I think there’s so much power in it.
Andy Polaine: I hope so too and I quite agree. So listen, where can people find you online? I’ll put some links in the show notes. Where are you online?
Tanarra Schneider: Where am I online? A few less places these days, if I’m honest, few less places, but I am on Twitter. I am on Instagram and I’m on LinkedIn and that’s about it. I’m not on Facebook anymore. And I’m floating around here there.
Andy Polaine: Okay. Well, people will find you. Thank you so much for being my guest on Power of Ten.
Tanarra Schneider: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Andy Polaine: As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve been listening to Power of Ten. My name is Andy Polaine. You can find me at @apolaine on Twitter, or polaine.com where you can find more episodes and sign up for my newsletter Doctor’s Note. If you like the show, please take a moment to give it a rating on iTunes. It really helps others find us. And as always get in touch. If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions for guests. All the links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time.