Episode 17

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Published on:

22nd Sep 2022

S1 E17: The Real World is Messy (Joe / @JoeNatoli)

Joe Natoli joins the show to talk about his origin story, how he started in design before the internet was a thing. How he jumped into designing for the internet early on and ultimately realized real fulfillment comes from helping people learn.

We discuss his passion for helping people learn, how the rules and processes in tech companies can stand in the way of achieving what they want, and about being the Tony Robbins of UX!

Discussed Links:

Transcript
Eddie:

Welcome to episode 17 of the web joy podcast.

Eddie:

I'm your host Eddie.

Eddie:

In this podcast, we interview guests about their origin story.

Eddie:

And what makes them excited and joyful to be part of the tech community.

Eddie:

I hope you enjoy.

Eddie:

Today's episode.

Eddie:

"The real world is messy" with Joe Natoli.

Eddie:

Welcome to another episode of web joy.

Eddie:

I'm excited today to have Joe join us, Joe, go ahead and introduce yourself

Eddie:

to the community who you are, what you do, where you work, brief introduction.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

My name is Joe Natoli.

Joe:

I am a user experience consultant, author, and speaker.

Joe:

I have been helping companies and individuals design better

Joe:

products, essentially for the better part of my career, which

Joe:

at this point is going on 30.

Joe:

There's been an interesting transition halfway through where I started out as

Joe:

a consult, working solely for companies.

Joe:

What I realized is that what I was doing in all cases was teaching.

Joe:

So that led to online courses, teaching.

Joe:

And quite frankly, now that is the bulk of what I do is, is teaching online.

Joe:

I've recently launched an academy and, um, I spend a lot of time helping

Joe:

people new to this profession and who are, you know, experienced veterans as.

Joe:

Navigate the territory in any number of ways from actually doing the

Joe:

work to just dealing with the ups and downs of working in business in

Eddie:

general.

Eddie:

How did you kind of get started on this pathway?

Eddie:

Obviously you're teaching people now you had to learn, it's a long story.

Eddie:

How to even do the stuff . Well, I guess maybe we can talk about

Eddie:

how you got started and then how you kind of shifted into teaching.

Eddie:

Maybe two smaller bits.

Eddie:

okay.

Joe:

I'll do my best to make this concise.

Joe:

I started out in graphic design before there was a thing called the internet.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

That's how old I.

Joe:

I was working in traditional graphic design and advertising.

Joe:

The internet came about, I was at an agency.

Joe:

Couldn't convince the men who ran it, that this internet thing as they

Joe:

called it, wasn't a passing trend or a fad oh, no, that I was here to

Joe:

stay and it was something they needed to pay attention to and they went,

Joe:

okay, go make me coffee or something.

Joe:

So I jumped out on my own and said, fine, we're gonna be a, a software

Joe:

slash web experience design firm, and we're gonna design for the internet.

Joe:

Now I didn't have any idea what I was doing.

Joe:

Nobody knew what they were doing at that point.

Joe:

This was new, it was all new.

Joe:

So timing and luck had a lot to do with this.

Joe:

So we got a lot of work really fast because like, again, like everyone else

Joe:

would, nobody knew how to do any of this.

Joe:

So we all learned on the fly.

Joe:

We built a lot of websites and a lot of, uh, web enabled software in.

Joe:

Quick period of time, that was in the two thousands.

Joe:

When the, the.com boom was in full swing.

Joe:

I started noticing that as I was doing project work with clients and with their

Joe:

internal teams as well, where you're working with companies development

Joe:

teams, in some cases, I was sort of always teaching one way or another.

Joe:

I had actually been teaching university part-time at that point as well.

Joe:

Design classes.

Joe:

And over time, what I realized is that what people would pay me for

Joe:

what clients would pay me for.

Joe:

And the times when everybody was most engaged and paying the most attention

Joe:

and the most reactive in any way was when I was in acting in sort of consultative

Joe:

fashion where it's like, okay, I don't just want to do this for you.

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I want you to understand why this is the right thing to do

Joe:

and how to do it and why it.

Joe:

And how you can do some of it after I'm gone.

Joe:

So again, I realized that, okay, this is kind of where the attention

Joe:

and the money and the respect and the joy is quite frankly, because

Joe:

I also found that I loved doing it.

Joe:

I loved being that person in the room to try and sort of lift everybody

Joe:

up and help everybody along and help them to see what they were capable of.

Joe:

So fast forward to, I wanna say 2013, maybe 14, my wife, who has

Joe:

always been my business partner.

Joe:

Said to me, there's this thing called U Tomy, where people teach via video and you

Joe:

have like 40 million client presentations.

Joe:

That would probably lend themselves to courses.

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And I went, okay.

Joe:

That makes sense.

Joe:

So we gave it a shot, put together a quick course on the fundamentals of user

Joe:

experience design, threw it out there.

Joe:

No expectations whatsoever.

Joe:

In really short span of time, we had like a thousand people oh, wow.

Joe:

Took it.

Joe:

And then it was 3000 people and then it was 8,000 and then like,

Joe:

okay, what's happening here?

Joe:

so that was the.

Joe:

Fast forward now to 2022, over 266,000 people have taken my courses online on Ute

Joe:

me on Skillshare and on my own platform, which is, um, the UX 365 academy.

Joe:

So I could have never predicted that in a million years.

Joe:

There's no possible way, but it all feeds into even the

Joe:

consulting gigs that I still take.

Joe:

And I do speaking, engage.

Joe:

Keynotes to different conferences around the world.

Joe:

It's all teaching.

Joe:

I mean, it really is.

Joe:

It's all, here's what I've learned along my journey.

Joe:

and here's, what's worked.

Joe:

Here's what hasn't, and here's how I think it could help you.

Joe:

And I find tremendous, tremendous joy in that, especially when no more so than when

Joe:

people come back to me and say, I saw this thing you did, or I took this course, or

Joe:

I read this article or I saw you on stage.

Joe:

And I can't tell you how much this helped me.

Joe:

And they'll tell me a.

Joe:

As that, how they took something that I, I threw out there and they

Joe:

did something meaningful with it.

Joe:

There's nothing better.

Joe:

There's absolutely nothing, nothing better.

Joe:

All right.

Joe:

It reaffirms the reason you get up in the morning, , you know, and the older

Joe:

I get, the more important that is that the helping people, part of this is

Joe:

by far the most important piece, being

Eddie:

that catalyst for transformation, having them be in one place at

Eddie:

the beginning and having them be in another place at the end.

Joe:

I love it.

Joe:

And what I love about that.

Joe:

Is that I love people seeing their own strength and seeing their own

Joe:

capability and fully realizing the things that they're more than capable of.

Joe:

But up until that point, then convincing themselves one way or

Joe:

another that, ah, I'm not good enough.

Joe:

I'm not smart enough.

Joe:

I didn't go to the right school.

Joe:

I can't do this, whatever the case may be, because I think we all have some of that.

Joe:

Some of us worse than others and high achievers, especially people

Joe:

who are excellent at what they do.

Joe:

Doubt themselves the most.

Joe:

They have the biggest imposter syndrome I've found.

Joe:

So, yeah, I love that.

Eddie:

I guess if a lot of what you focus on is helping shift people from

Eddie:

one spot to another spot and helping them understand what they can do.

Eddie:

Is there any specific, I guess, focus or way that you teach that you're

Eddie:

trying to help kind of them see that?

Eddie:

Is there anything particular there besides the subject matter?

Joe:

Yeah, I think so.

Joe:

And there's a couple pieces to that.

Joe:

The first is within the design and user experience industry with

Joe:

how software and web design is.

Joe:

There are like everything else.

Joe:

The software development, right?

Joe:

There are lots of rules.

Joe:

There are a lot of processes.

Joe:

There are a lot of protocols and a lot of them are very rigid and very perfect.

Joe:

And you look at them on paper and we, we look at these wonderful diagrams and we

Joe:

go, wow, that looks, that's brilliant.

Joe:

It's a great process.

Joe:

It looks, all things are considered here.

Joe:

The real world is messy.

Joe:

Organizations are messy.

Joe:

You have people, politics, personalities, emotions, all that perfect world

Joe:

stuff falls flat on its face.

Joe:

The minute you try to follow that recipe and what happens.

Joe:

You get sort of a shot to the face and you go, okay, it must be me.

Joe:

I can't do this.

Joe:

And it's not really true.

Joe:

So the first part of a big part of what I teach is that there's,

Joe:

there is never one, right?

Joe:

Single way to do anything in any process and protocol and

Joe:

method that you've been taught.

Joe:

You have to take it as it can and should be adapted to your reality.

Joe:

You take the parts that aren't working and you throw them away and

Joe:

you don't look back twice about that.

Joe:

No matter what any expert says about how you're supposed to do this, I don't care.

Joe:

I wanna deal in reality.

Joe:

What's holding us back.

Joe:

Let's get it the hell out of our way.

Joe:

So that's a big part of, of this because when people realize they

Joe:

have the leverage and freedom to do.

Joe:

Then they see that it wasn't them mm.

Joe:

It was trying to pound a, a square peg into a, a round hole.

Joe:

The other part of it is quite frankly, is I spend a lot of time talking about

Joe:

the fact that we're human beings and I do this with development teams who aren't

Joe:

used to all this touchy, feely stuff.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

But it comes out , there are personality things going on here.

Joe:

There's emotional things going on here.

Joe:

There's past emotional issues going on here.

Joe:

We have to get real with each other to some degree, right.

Joe:

In order to overcome any of this.

Joe:

So someone told me two years ago was a client said you're

Joe:

like the Tony Robbins of, of UX.

Joe:

And I laughed.

Joe:

I mean, I laughed for a long time actually about that.

Joe:

because I would've never made that comparison, but, but I get it now, a

Joe:

lot of what I do is therapy in some ways for clients, for people, for

Joe:

individuals, because part of it is.

Joe:

Just getting real with yourself and saying, why am I insisting that I

Joe:

have to be perfect at everything?

Joe:

Why am I insisting that I can't show my emotions here?

Joe:

Why am I insisting that someone else gets to dictate what I

Joe:

can say and how I can say it?

Joe:

We're all just people.

Joe:

So a lot of what I do is, is quite frankly, trying to help people empower

Joe:

themselves and realize that these limitations, that other people place on.

Joe:

they're not bound by those things.

Joe:

You're not required to, to adhere to someone else's idea of who you're

Joe:

supposed to be at work and life in

Eddie:

general.

Eddie:

I love that.

Eddie:

Taking the kind of burden of expectations, especially, I feel like

Eddie:

in the tech industry, like you said, there's a lot of processes, right?

Eddie:

Design processes.

Eddie:

There's waterfall versus agile, right?

Eddie:

Like in the tech industry.

Eddie:

We feel like processes make us fast processes make us sufficient

Eddie:

processes make us right.

Eddie:

As if

Joe:

they were the answer to everything.

Joe:

That's right.

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

They become the answer.

Eddie:

And I love that idea of just saying, Hey, they're not the answer.

Eddie:

Like maybe you could do waterfall.

Eddie:

And do it perfectly fine in a specific scenario, you know, like

Eddie:

we like to vilify things I think, and that attaches to who people are.

Joe:

Right.

Joe:

And for example, I mean, I talked to a client a month ago.

Joe:

They're going, our efficiency is just garbage.

Joe:

We're right up against every deadline we have or we're blowing past it.

Joe:

And our backlog keeps growing exponentially.

Joe:

We've got all this work that we can't get to and we cannot

Joe:

get to the bottom of this.

Joe:

And I started having conversations with them about how much time they were spend.

Joe:

In meetings and conversations.

Joe:

And one of the things that came up was they would go through their user stories

Joe:

and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out level of effort

Joe:

using something called story pointing, which is a whole thing with agile

Joe:

process, you assign points to stories, whatever it's a tremendous in their

Joe:

case, it was a tremendous waste of time.

Joe:

They were quite frankly, just throwing away three to four hours out of

Joe:

every day, screwing around with.

Eddie:

Every day.

Eddie:

I thought you were gonna say like every week or every other day or every other

Joe:

week or something.

Joe:

No, it was literally every day they were having these meetings every day.

Joe:

This is an enterprise organization, right.

Joe:

Huge team.

Joe:

And I said, okay, first of all, that has to stop . Yeah.

Joe:

If, if you need to get a handle on duration, you need to start with

Joe:

where this list is coming from in the first place, you need to

Joe:

qualify some of this stuff before it ever makes it to this repository

Joe:

where all these stories are kept.

Joe:

You need a qualifier a week ago.

Joe:

you know, not now you've got too much to deal with, but the, the law of

Joe:

process says we have to do it this way.

Joe:

And as crazy as this sounds teams and people and organizations will

Joe:

go limping along with these things, until somebody with a clear outside

Joe:

perspective says, why are you doing this?

Joe:

Mm.

Joe:

And everybody goes, I, I don't.

Joe:

And everybody has a, I feel really dumb moment, but it's hard.

Joe:

It's just very hard with this kind of work, given the level of detail and

Joe:

the level of focus that it demands and the pressure that everybody's

Joe:

under and a million things happening all at the same time, all the

Joe:

time, new requests all the time.

Joe:

It's very difficult to have the mental bandwidth to step back and take a look and

Joe:

go, okay, wait, what are we doing here?

Joe:

and does all this really matter?

Joe:

Is it all worth.

Joe:

So that's, I see that as part of my job, right.

Joe:

To help people and teams and organizations get clarity, because that's why.

Joe:

Products suck.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

When something on this device is not performing as expected from a business

Joe:

bottom line perspective or from, you know, users are, are like, we hate this.

Joe:

It sucks.

Joe:

The, that lack of performance is very rarely people not

Joe:

knowing how to do their jobs.

Joe:

Hmm, what it is is a lot of organizational dysfunction.

Joe:

That's in the way of them doing their jobs to the best of their ability.

Joe:

so the task becomes, if we're gonna improve designer improve

Joe:

user experience, we also have to improve that dysfunction first.

Eddie:

That's great is really about getting clarity as to why and how you're

Eddie:

doing things like asking those questions.

Eddie:

Like you said, why and asking yourself, like, who said to do it that way, right?

Eddie:

Like, is this.

Eddie:

Is this something the company decided, is this something that the company yeah.

Eddie:

Adopted that someone else said, like what's the source of that decision?

Eddie:

Yeah.

Eddie:

And sometimes

Joe:

it's in a rule book somewhere.

Joe:

Mm there's.

Joe:

A million flavors of agile.

Joe:

For example, there people follow the scrum handbook.

Joe:

religiously, even though it's, it's wasting their time to inordinate degree.

Joe:

So somebody has to, and I can do this cause I'm a consultant.

Joe:

I don't work there.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

I can't get in trouble for anything that comes outta my mouth.

Joe:

they've hired me to tell them the truth and that's exactly what I'm doing.

Joe:

So it's easier for me to say, look, this is stupid.

Joe:

The fact that you're wasting this much time on this is just dumb.

Joe:

It makes no sense you're killing yourselves for no reason.

Joe:

I can say that , it's a lot easier for me to say that than it is for other.

Eddie:

One thing we like to do in every episode is to just talk

Eddie:

about, Hey, like as a community, we love to support each other.

Eddie:

And so do you have anything that you're involved in or anything that you're

Eddie:

passionate about or that you've done recently that you wanna share with

Eddie:

the community that, you know, they may be interested in checking out.

Eddie:

Yeah, a

Joe:

couple things.

Joe:

I mean, number one, I started offering personal one to one

Joe:

coaching for UXers and designers.

Joe:

And that was something that I wasn't able to do for a long time because

Joe:

my schedule just wouldn't allow it.

Joe:

So now I've purposely carved out time for that kind of stuff.

Joe:

So if you go to give good ux.com/coaching, you'll find out more about that.

Joe:

And the other big thing is that a year ago, I launched what I

Joe:

consider to be an alternative to.

Joe:

UX and design boot camps, overpriced boot camps.

Joe:

Now it's not exactly the same animal.

Joe:

This is all self-paced learning.

Joe:

So it's, you don't necessarily have the hands on instructor part of

Joe:

it, cuz there're too many students.

Joe:

Number one, but if you enroll in a boot camp right now, okay,

Joe:

you're gonna pay 13 grand, 15 grand, six to eight month program.

Joe:

Yeah.

Joe:

To my eye and to a lot of other folks who I know and respect in this industry.

Joe:

What students get for that price is really unbalanced.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

They don't get nearly mm-hmm enough of what they need.

Joe:

They don't have enough practicality.

Joe:

They get a lot of perfect world stuff that is absolutely unusable.

Joe:

Once they get outta there and they paid a ridiculous amount of money.

Joe:

To do.

Joe:

So there are all these things about job guarantees, which are all very

Joe:

shady and the qualifiers for meeting that thing, because some places will

Joe:

say, we'll guarantee that you get a job or you get your tuition back.

Joe:

If the job pays a dollar an hour, you know, the guarantee

Joe:

is, has been met in some cases.

Joe:

So it, it's just all very underhanded and it makes me angry.

Joe:

And I thought this is just stupid.

Joe:

What I did instead is I, I, I'm creating a self serve version of a bootcamp in,

Joe:

in all the different areas of doing this work that I can think of from

Joe:

the emotional stuff that you and I talked about to dealing with difficult

Joe:

people, different stakeholders, difficult clients to process.

Joe:

To designing to all aspects of your experience to presenting

Joe:

your work, to learning how to, uh, deal with job interviews,

Joe:

portfolios, all that kind of stuff.

Joe:

So it's, it's every course I've ever created.

Joe:

It's training videos that I've only done with clients up until this point it's

Joe:

eBooks cheat sheets, downloadable guide.

Joe:

All sorts of stuff.

Joe:

I published new content just about every month there.

Joe:

So it's this growing repository of stuff and the price.

Joe:

Tag's a hell of a lot lower.

Joe:

It's $168 a year for basic membership.

Joe:

And it's 2 28.

Joe:

If you want a live monthly VIP mastermind session with me and a group of people.

Joe:

Who all help each other.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

$228 is a far cry from 13,000.

Eddie:

Yes.

Eddie:

That is different

Joe:

worlds.

Joe:

And as arrogant as this may sound, I get some people are gonna be

Joe:

like, okay, whatever the quality of instruction is the same, if not better.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

I don't teach anything that I haven't experienced personally

Joe:

myself, that I haven't seen.

Joe:

Inside an organization.

Joe:

I don't waste time with things that I know are never gonna fly inside a company.

Joe:

I've been consulting with org enterprise organizations for 30 years.

Joe:

I have current clients right now.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

I had a meeting with one of them before this one.

Joe:

So this is all based in reality.

Joe:

It's not pie in the sky theory.

Joe:

It's not one person's opinion.

Joe:

It's fact it's accumulated fact.

Joe:

And I just don't believe.

Joe:

That it has to be out of reach for people from a price perspective.

Joe:

So I see this as a, as a mission, as you could probably tell , by

Joe:

the way, I'm talking about it.

Joe:

it's here.

Joe:

The money part is, is secondary.

Joe:

My, my mandate from day one was how do we make this affordable for people and

Joe:

how we make it affordable is I can't be there at 24 7 for thousands of students.

Joe:

It's not possible, but self-serve works.

Eddie:

I love that because I think one of the big challenges with

Eddie:

boot camps and things like that is that who are the instructors?

Eddie:

Like, I'm sure they've, they've done some good things, right?

Eddie:

Like I don't wanna undermine them, but like someone with a lot of experience,

Eddie:

doesn't have the time to spend full time with these boot camps, nor

Joe:

are they being paid properly to do.

Eddie:

Mm.

Eddie:

Yep.

Eddie:

So that's another thing

Joe:

I know of three bootcamp programs right now where your work cuz the, the

Joe:

big selling point is you're gonna do your work and it's gonna be reviewed.

Joe:

Right.

Joe:

And you're gonna get advice and you're gonna get guidance

Joe:

on the actual work you do.

Joe:

It's peer reviews.

Joe:

Your work in many cases is being reviewed by other students who are

Joe:

forgive me for saying this who may be just as clueless as you are in terms

Joe:

of whether this is appropriate or not.

Joe:

Yeah.

Joe:

Which to me is grossly unfair.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

If you put a student in a position where they're meant to get advice, they

Joe:

need to be getting advice from someone who has been there, done that and can

Joe:

steer them in the right direction.

Joe:

Other.

Joe:

That's just wrong.

Joe:

Okay.

Eddie:

It's wrong.

Eddie:

Yeah, absolutely.

Eddie:

Because their peers also are paying money to learn the right way to do things.

Eddie:

Like if you are correct paying this kind of money to learn,

Eddie:

you don't have the answers.

Eddie:

Like that's just fundamental or you wouldn't pay the money to go there.

Joe:

of course.

Joe:

Absolutely.

Joe:

And again, when I was hearing all these stories, it's just all accumulating

Joe:

and I was like, okay, this is.

Joe:

So I knew I had to do something.

Joe:

I just, and I wasn't sure what, and then it was, so I made it a, an extension

Joe:

of what I was already doing, which is online video courses and okay.

Joe:

I thought, okay, we could take a run at this and so far so good.

Joe:

I mean, a lot of people come back and say, this really helped me.

Joe:

You know, I, I aced feel like I aced this interview because of what I learned.

Joe:

I feel like this prepared me.

Joe:

For what I'm doing in a way that nothing else has.

Joe:

I had one person to tell me this was more valuable.

Joe:

They said four months of this was more valuable than four

Joe:

and a half years of college.

Joe:

That's a hell of a thing to hear from somebody.

Joe:

Yeah.

Joe:

And despite how I may come off, I am not a person who thinks highly of themselves.

Joe:

I really don't.

Joe:

In fact, we, we mentioned imposter syndrome.

Joe:

Okay.

Joe:

Yeah.

Joe:

I have it in spades.

Joe:

Believe me, but without this kind of feedback, I don't think I would ever do.

Joe:

It would just be too difficult.

Joe:

The proof is there is not mine.

Joe:

It's working.

Joe:

It works.

Joe:

So anyway, that that's my big spiel.

Joe:

Oh, I didn't tell you where it was.

Joe:

it's the URL is learn dot, give good ux.com.

Joe:

Nice kind

Eddie:

of important.

Eddie:

Yeah, absolutely.

Eddie:

So yeah, if that sounds interesting to anyone listening, definitely go.

Eddie:

Check out both of those things.

Eddie:

And, uh, I'll have the links to everything in the show notes.

Eddie:

So you don't have to rewind the podcast, go type it in, just open up the show

Eddie:

notes and click on the link and nice.

Eddie:

You can go check it out and learn from Joe.

Eddie:

Well, Joe, I appreciate you making the time to Joe, us and

Joe:

talk.

Joe:

Thank you for having me that I really appreciate it.

Eddie:

Thank you for joining us for episode 17, the real

Eddie:

world is messy with Joe Natoli.

Eddie:

You can find out more about Joe on his Twitter @JoeNatoli.

Eddie:

Or his website GiveGoodUX.com.

Eddie:

You can find links to everything we talked about in this episode,

Eddie:

as well as a link to Joe's Twitter and website in the show notes.

Eddie:

If you enjoyed this episode, help others discover it as well.

Eddie:

Give us a shout out on Twitter and tag a friend or coworker that you think

Eddie:

would enjoy And don't forget to follow us on Twitter to stay up to @WebJoyFM.

Eddie:

Thank you for listening and have a great day.

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About the Podcast

WebJoy
Find your happy place
The WebJoy podcast is an inclusive community centered on celebrating the diverse origins, skills, and experiences that make up the tech industry.

Talking with guests about their origin stories, what they love about working in their roles, and what they find joy in keeps this an upbeat and rather lighthearted podcast.

We approach the world with optimism and hope, while recognizing the flaws and challenges within our own industry and the world at large. We believe that if we work together, we can all find our happy place.

About your host

Profile picture for Eddie Hinkle

Eddie Hinkle

Eddie's mission is to bring joy and empathy to the tech industry. He does this through engineering leadership, mentoring and podcasting. Eddie currently works as an Engineering Manager at Glassdoor, Mentors on ADPList and hosts the WebJoy podcast.