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Chanel Diep: from bra fitting to Content Designer

Social media handle(s): LinkedIn: /chaneldiep

A few words about me:

Chanel, a Vietnamese and Chinese woman, is smiling at the camera. She has dark hair that is partially visible under a pink hat and scarf. She is also wearing a pink jumper and coat.

I do content design for public sector projects. That means thinking about people, what they need to do and how to make things make sense to them. I love it. It’s a lovely blend of learning, problem solving and working with words.

The rest of my time is divided between cackling at silly things, drooling over dim sum and helping my dog manage his big feelings better.

I live with two boys: four-legged Rudy and my partner, two-legged Jordan.

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

I was a bra fitter for a couple of years. No measuring tape, just a good old consultation.

It taught me so much about treating people with empathy, asking the right questions and diplomatically challenging people on what they think they need.

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

Things were good between me and STEM until we had a falling out when I was 16. I failed Maths. I failed Physics too, but retook every test I could until I ended up with a D. (Thanks Mr Spiers for not giving up on me.)

Even now, the word ‘technical’ makes me a bit nervous. Saying ‘I work in tech’ feels like I’m being misleading.

But I do love learning from people who are gifted in STEM-related things. Special thanks to the developers who have put effort into explaining a technical term to me. And then explaining it another 1 or 2 more times.

Where did your professional journey start?

My first paid job was a summer contract, grading Maths exam papers. Irony, I know. But they gave me the answers so it was more of a spot the difference exercise.

There was bra fitting, then content roles of various shapes and sizes. A magazine internship, a barbering school, a travel company and a digital learning app.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

My first role in tech was writing learning content for an app. That was where I was introduced to Agile and other techy things. I also got to know some developers for the first time and think about UX content like button copy.

Then, just as my private sector disillusionment was coming to the surface again, a wonderful colleague told me about Sarah Winters’ book, Content Design (now in its second edition).

After years of writing copy to persuade without knowing if what I was doing was working, content design’s evidence-based and iterative (revisiting work to improve it) approach felt exciting. I worried a little bit about being bored writing very practical content. But it turns out that I find problem solving interesting enough to say goodbye to creative writing.

I considered what kind of tech I would be happy to work in. Now I work on public sector projects, trying to make things better for people working for and served by the government.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

Thankfully, I’ve not been aware of anyone holding any stereotypes against me based on my identity.

There was one time someone told me to ‘be more confident’. I’m sure they had valid reasons or concerns. But I felt that feedback was really vague and I didn’t know how to act on it. Do I just need to create the illusion of being more confident or do I need a personality transplant? Perhaps I could have used some confidence to bring it up with the original feedback giver again … I feel like I could question it if it happened now. I don’t mind that it took me a few more years worth of achievements and more specific feedback to get here.

There’s also a common feeling among content designers that our profession is often overlooked. So we, the people doing content design, can sometimes feel that on a personal level. Maybe one day everyone will know the value of content design but for now, it’s part of the job to show it. It’s energy that we’d probably rather spend content designing. But accepting that part of my role has probably been the thing stopping me from burning out.

If you’re a content designer who could do with some support or advice, I’d recommend:

- Stop talking about content design (recorded talk and transcript) by Alysia-Marie Annett

- joining content communities on Slack like We Are Content Club (free) and Crocstar Content Community (paid)

"Know that there are a whole lot of ways to work in tech. You don’t have to aspire to work in tech to find a job in it that you happen to love. And if in doubt, ask lots of questions. Especially to people who do something totally different to you."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

I wish I had known that there isn’t one kind of tech. Knowing that it wasn’t just bros coding would’ve made it all less intimidating.

As I moved closer to tech, I found things and people that resonated with me. People who recognised the need to do things with care, not just “move fast and break things”. Whole organisations that prioritise people over profit. It’s easy to complain about tech because so much of it sounds terrible to work in but tech is very big. I think I was just lucky to find the right spaces quite quickly.

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

I love seeing all the approaches you can take to solve a problem together. When you’re a content designer working with interaction designers, user researchers, business analysts, performance analysts, developers, delivery leads and product managers, how could you not learn something new most days? It’s fascinating to see how different people’s brains work when thinking about the same thing.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

Things like replacing pen and paper services that are prone to errors make a lot of sense to me. It’s nice to think we can make processes easier, quicker and often cheaper.

I’m still sceptical when I hear people pushing to do things as fast as possible. ‘Quick wins’ is a bit of a dirty phrase among my peers because the people saying it are often not the people doing the work. And those doing the work are the ones who can tell you that it’s not going to be that quick, actually.

"I wish I had known that there isn’t one kind of tech. Knowing that it wasn’t just bros coding would’ve made it all less intimidating."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

There have been so many memorable moments. Getting some really lovely feedback from teammates in my first content design role was so validating.

Getting to nerd out with other content designers is another highlight. I assume most people would tune out when I point out how a bar could improve the content structure of its beer menu … but I’ve now got a little community who love talking about the user experience of content as much as I do.

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

Know that there are a whole lot of ways to work in tech. You don’t have to aspire to work in tech to find a job in it that you happen to love.

And if in doubt, ask lots of questions. Especially to people who do something totally different to you.


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