Paul McAleer

IA Summit changed my life

Paul McAleer

Note: this article reflected my feelings on IA Summit at the time of attendance. As of 2018, I've learned of serious safety violations at the conference over many years. Please consider that when reading this, as my experience may not be typical. Until further notice, you should not attend the IA Conference (which is what IA Summit is now known as) or support the IA Foundation. – Ed.

Last weekend I participated in IA Summit 2013 and it changed my life because it changed me.

I got to meet people I respected and admired, familiar and not 

One of my favorite parts of SXSW last year was being able to shake hands with the people whose work has influenced and inspired me over the past 20 years. Those types of things happen in email and Twitter but are far more powerful in person.

There were a handful of people I wanted to meet at IA Summit really just to say hello and thank you. I got to meet Christian Crumlish, Karen McGrane, Lis Hubert, and Whitney Hess, amongst others. Some were familiar with my work, some weren't. But just to put a real face to the name and exchange hellos was invaluable. Totally.

But there were also all of the new people I met, whose work I hadn't heard of before the conference. (Really, check them out on my followers list - we exchanged follows, as you do.) I had truly fantastic conversations with them.

I got lots of quality time with my team

Marteki, Shelby, and I enjoyed meals and drinks together. We talked even more about the good and bad of our work and started planning how we could bring all of these new ideas in. We laughed a lot, too, and it only solidified in my mind how fortunate I am to work with them.

It was therapeutic

Being in a space with other people whose stories echo your own is incredibly supportive. It lessens the feeling of being alone - it is community building in the truest sense. Humbling. I recommend it.

It was emotional

On Friday I walked into the bloggers room and saw Whitney Hess there. I introduced myself and was blown away when she recognized me. (We'd exchanged a few messages on Twitter over time, but had not met.) We then got to talking for about 15 minutes before her panel and, I kid you not:




In that space of just 15 minutes I had one of the most powerful and emotional conversations I've ever had on the topic of work, life, and self. In talking with her it was clear to me why she is good at her work: she is an incredible listener and storyteller. One of the stories I shared paralleled one of hers. She told me of some of her grand, exciting, upcoming plans. I got to talk about the whole self, and centering one's self, and she got it. It was a shared moment of understanding and mutual respect, and it was transformative, as unexpected moments can be. Words are short on this, but trust me: it will stay in my heart.

One other unexpected one: Aviva Rosenstein and I talked at length about Agile and UX (a fun topic, a thorny one) and towards the end she mentioned she had checked out my blog. "I like your voice," she said. What an enormous compliment! (And now, the pressure's on!)

It was inspirational

The workshops, the talks, the conversations, the people... all of this has given me a big dose of inspiration to not just be a better experience designer, but to be a better person. I'm excited to share more of this all with you as I continue my own personal journey. It'll be fun.

And of course, I'll be at IAS 2014.