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Author, Listen Like You Mean It. UX researcher, TWTR, PINS, etc. I write about the intersection of technology + society + personal growth.

Hello friends, welcome back to another edition of Letters from Ximena. This month I dive deep into the practice of paying attention.

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

Like many writers, as a kid, I was a voracious reader. When you read a lot of books, you start to think differently. Not just about the world and what you’ve learned about it, or about people and what you now understand of them, but in how you compose your thoughts. Observations shift from matter-of-fact to exquisitely detailed. Metaphors crop up when you least expect them. Even passing thoughts suddenly have color and texture to them.

For years…

Photo: Artur Debat/Getty Images

I have always felt summer to be particularly freeing — a holdover from childhood and blissfully long and unprogrammed summers punctuating the busy school year. Summers in New York, where I grew up, brought their own energy — erratic, electrifying, and unpredictable — where anything goes, for better or worse. The air is thick and humid but also laden with possibility.

So perhaps it is appropriate that only now, with summer fully underway, do I feel ready to emerge from my post-pandemic cocoon into my post-pandemic life. (I use the term “post-” loosely since the pandemic is in fact far…

Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

As the author of a book about listening, I get a lot of questions from readers about how to improve their listening skills. But the number one question I get isn’t about how to listen better to others — it’s about how they can be heard in conversation and ensure they receive their fair share of listening, too.

Creatives in Tech Interview Series, Issue #4: Irving Ruan

This interview series features creatives working in tech while keeping their passion projects alive. For anyone with a creative pursuit that may not align with their day job, I hope these profiles inspire you to keep going.

This week I talk to Irving Ruan, engineer at Box and humor writer. Irving’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Funny or Die, among others. In this conversation, we talk about how systematic, technical thinking can inform free-wheeling creative writing, the importance of finding your voice *and* the “house” voice, and more…

If you’re joining this newsletter for the first time, welcome. It’s been an action-pack few months since my book launched and I’m thrilled to be back with you all. This month, I write about the transition into a new phase of pandemic living and what’s at stake.

We’re not ready to go back

I’ve been thinking a lot about the work of Francesca Woodman lately. Woodman was a brilliant, young photographer known for her haunting self-portraits. Prolific until her final days, she produced over 800 photographs by the time of her death at the age of 22 — each an inquiry into space, identity, gender, and…

I recently had the chance to connect with author, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker Erica Dhawan about her new book, Digital Body Language. In a time where we are all being asked to communicate digitally more than ever before, Erica offers a useful guide to making our way through this changing digital landscape. We talk about how we can all improve our digital communication, below.

You describe yourself as a “21st century collaboration expert.” What does that mean?

I’ve studied human innovation and collaboration for over 15 years. What I’ve learned is that the key to innovation and success is connection. Teams (or even families) can look good on paper but fail to connect…

Photo by Brent Ninaber on Unsplash

After over a year of adjusting to our pandemic lifestyles, many of our relationships are suffering. Unable to socialize in all the usual ways, we’ve had to adapt and make do, cobbling together virtual escape the room activities with coworkers and weekly Zoom family reunions to stay connected. At a certain point, these activities may have begun to feel more like obligations than truly fun, but many of us stuck with them. We were at the mercy of our bosses’ ideas about what team bonding should look like during a pandemic, or feeling guilt-tripped into signing into yet another family…

After two years in the making, my book, Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection, is officially here! The book is an essential guide to becoming a better listener for anyone who wants to improve the relationships in their lives — at work and at home — and draws from my expertise as a user researcher and manager in Silicon Valley. I wrote it while managing my day job, becoming a mother, and navigating the new reality of a pandemic and I am exceedingly grateful and relieved to have made it to the other side…

Happy Friday, friends. Here are my March recommendations on ideas and conversations worth listening to, watching, and reading.

What are you listening to, watching, and reading? Drop a comment or reply to this email directly with your recommendations.

I’m listening 🎧

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I’ve never instinctively gravitated to audiobooks, not because I don’t like the format, but for the same reason I don’t typically read e-books — I like the feel of a physical book in my hands so much it never really occurred to me to try a different format. But since I knew I was going to be recording my own audiobook, I…

Tech It From Me

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

Welcome back to my monthly column: Tech it from me. Here, I answer questions you have about career and creativity in tech.

For advice, email with your question, name, location, and if you prefer to remain anonymous. Questions will be lightly edited for clarity.

This week: Why didn’t I get the job?

I recently started applying to jobs in the field of UX research. I’m a soon to be graduate of a prestigious PhD program, where I have been conducting research at our media lab for several years. I have also had several industry internships during summers and alongside my coursework. Recently, I applied to a Senior…

Ximena Vengoechea

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