#GITCatalyst Speaker series: Q&A with Alysha Naples

  • By: sbrown
  • In: Uncategorized
  • Posted: April 20, 2018

Get to know your Catalyst Speaker Alysha Naples before you see her on the 30th of May.

Two years ago, Alysha Naples decided to make a change for herself. By that point, she had over 20 years of experience in design under her belt, starting out as a graphic designer, moved to San Francisco, became fixated on interaction and experience design and worked in companies like Method, HP Labs and Blurb. She then moved to Magic Leap and served as the senior director of user experience and interaction.

But in 2016, Alysha felt something many of us may experience in our career journeys. She felt burnt out and sought out ways to realign herself.

Today, Alysha is a life coach as well as the chief experience officer of Tin Drum –  a content collective that dabbles in cutting-edge technology. We caught up with Alysha to learn more about Tin Drum, her experience with her burnout and the advice she has for all of us.


What was the point in time when you moved from graphic design to interaction and experience design?

In retrospect, I cannot point out a specific moment and say “this was when I became an experience designer”. The move was organic, and to me, design is a holistic fabric. Yes, my background is in graphic design but as the industry changed, and with the introduction of the internet and interaction design, so did my role. It is nearly impossible for me to separate one aspect of design from its whole form; I needed to consider the entire experience. And as the role of a designer, and the industry at large, became more complicated, so did my thinking role.


Tell us more about the work at Tin Drum.

Tim Drum is a content collective and what we’re engaged in is the definition, production and exhibition of mixed reality. We leverage the power of human metrics capture to create genre-defining presentations and performance. At the same time, we’re building and testing the tools that we need to streamline this production process.

Our goal here at Tin Drum is to combine art and tech that will build bridges between performance and audiences, the physical and digital and the tangible and immaterial.

We are currently in the process of finalising our funding, and so consequently Tin Drum is not something I’m working on every single day right now. There are days within the week that I stay home and work in my pyjamas as a life coach.


How did you get into coaching?

As my career progressed and I moved into leadership and management roles, I realised the part of my job that I loved was working with and helping to develop young designers. I spent 12 years as a professor and a design educator. It was a similar thing. It wasn’t just the teaching it was helping each of my students understand where he or she is the shiniest.

To be honest, at the end of 2016 I was incredibly burnt out. I had spent 20 years as a woman working in and adjacent to the Silicon Valley and the tech scene, and I was just exhausted. Though I was fortunate to have standing offers at some notable companies, I realised that the thought of doing the kind of work I been doing did not appeal to me at the time. Interestingly, I hired my own coach. We worked through a lot of things regarding the work that I did, figured out which parts I loved and which parts exhausted me. And it became apparent that what I loved was the people aspect working with people and helping them to see their own beauty and strengths.

I asked my coach one day if she loved her job and she said yes. I then asked her “do you think I’d be good at it?”. She laughed and said that when she first met me, she wrote “coach” on the margin of her notebook.

Throughout this process, I extracted the parts of my job I loved and chose to focus on that and leave the pieces that were not exciting me behind.


That’s a really brave thing to do. How would you advise people who are facing a similar situation today?

The most crucial thing people need to learn is their values. These are not morals or ethics; they cannot be right or wrong. They’re simply what you value. Your values are the things that make you smile, that light you up.

Everybody has that one song, no matter how sad they are, it brings a smile to their faces. That’s an example of feeling that your values give you.

In general, even when the work gets really difficult when we live in harmony with our values, there’s a flow to it. This is why you sometimes hear people say things like “I went home for a year to take care of my mum while she was dying and it was really hard, but it was so wonderful”. The reason why people can say things like that when they go through some of the hardest and most emotional experiences of their lives, is because they’re living in harmony with their values. In this case, it would be family, service and care.

One other important thing that follows this is, remember that everything you say yes to, you’re saying no to something else. We have been so spoilt with technology. If we want something, we buy it online; it arrives the next day. If we need to find out about something, we search the internet, and the answer is there. The delivery of material goods is now streamlined and efficient. It’s the same things with digital things such as emails and chats. The thing that is the same is time.

We tend to think yes more and more, and we don’t understand that to do all the things we want to do, we have to let go of some other things.

When people are burnt out my advice is to get a solid understanding of your values. Figure out what really matters to you and let go of the stuff that isn’t on the list.

And in a lot of ways that was what the move into coaching and away from running design teams was for me. It was understanding that I value connection, relationships. I realise ultimately at the end of the day I cared a lot less about the business needs that are incumbent on the design team leader.


Hear Alysha Naples speak at Girls In Tech Melbourne’s Catalyst Conference. Head over here to view the agenda and to purchase tickets. http://catalystmelbourne.girlsintech.org/

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