Meet Nicky Grunfeld
Please introduce yourself
I started my Kaospilot education in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. After my 1st year I moved to Aarhus to continue the education. Fast forward over a decade and I live in Copenhagen together with Maria (Kaospilot couples FTW) and our two kids Willem and Ayla. I’ve been enjoying a break from work this year focusing on family and personal projects, and I’m in the process of figuring out what to do next.
Which team and when did you graduate?
Team 15, 2011.
What have you been doing since you graduated as a Kaospilot?
After graduation I moved from Aarhus to Copenhagen, with plenty of ambitions and drive, but little clarity on what I wanted to do let alone how to get started. I did the odd-bartender and DJ-ing jobs, until I stumbled across Dark Matters; an art studio that welcomed me as their project manager. It was a very exciting time where I got to hone my project management skills, and try my hand at business development, and do creative work too
(eg. For the Sorte Skole lektion III tour – http://darkmatters.dk/den_sorte_skole/).
After that some more odd jobs. They were a financial necessity but also a great way to try things out without making big commitments. The most memorable was helping Bybi out with their Christmas sales. Selling honey at Christmas markets was totally out of my comfort zone, and thus a great learning experience (for a great cause).
Next I got my foot in the door at an early stage tech-startup thanks to Jostein, also a team 15 Kaospilot, and got my first design job. I knew my way around the Adobe Suite and was very familiar with design processes, but learned much about UX/Product design on the job. I’ve been on that track ever since, working on social gaming, on-demand mobility, and reviews during my gig at Trustpilot as Design Director.
I’m currently deciding between continuing to work with digital design, or shifting to a different role to keep expanding my horizon.
It was nice to experience that the world didn’t burn down without me doing a proper job
What is important for you in your job?
- A clear shared understanding of the purpose, opportunity and goals
- Being empowered to do the job, and have space to experiment and learn
- Working with good – and inspiring people
When working with others, a well defined brief that everyone buys into, often creates more freedom and a better work environment than a carte Blanche
What major learnings would you point out from your experience that have shaped you as a leader?
Some of these almost seem too obvious to share, please feel free to share your insights or get my perspective on them.
- It’s OK not to know or be the best at something. Being honest with yourself and others creates space for learning and good relationships. As Design Director at Trustpilot, surrounded by up to 20 talented designers – many with formal educations as opposed to myself – and many inspiring colleagues in other functions, it was something I had to practice daily. And admittedly I can still be a lot better at it. Additionally, and this is a little cliche but therefore even more true, make mistakes and own up to them. Try things out and fail publicly.
- I learned to focus on a small set of things that I/my team could impact, and say no to a lot of other stuff. To create and revisit clear priorities for myself, and keeping myself honest by periodically mapping out what I ACTUALLY spend my time on.
- Learning how valuable collective sense-making is, and how facilitation is an INCREDIBLE skill that enables (cross-functional) collaboration. When working with others, a well defined brief that everyone buys into, often creates more freedom and a better work environment than a carte Blanche.
What is your biggest source for inspiration right now?
A small year away from a day job. My nervous system is calm, I’ve rekindled lot’s of meaningful connections and found time to bake, do sports, and spend time away from the computer/out in nature. It was nice to experience that the world didn’t burn down without me doing a proper job, and it has given me lots of perspective and energy. It’s also a privilege and very exciting to look for work without being in a rush, and allowing myself to find the thing that’s right for where I am in my career and life.
What would would be an example of a learning or an experience from your time at Kaospilot that has been important to you?
Active listening and facilitation. I’m pretty sure that most of my successful job interviews were decided based on some sharp, critical questions that showed I had spend time thinking about the business/challenges at hand. On the job it’s enabled me to get the best out of everyone around me. Enabling/driving cross-disciplinary collaboration is a key skill that will get you very far in many different fields.
What is a piece of advice that you would like to give future Kaospilot graduates?
Get out there and (pretend) to be a little fearless – what’s the worst that can happen? Focus on work that enables you to continue learning; a boss that you trust and will allow you to fail, inspiring colleagues, challenging work where you can start applying all that you’ve learned so far. Then, find a mentor (nothing fancy, these don’t have to be famous industry experts) to continuously reflect, keep yourself honest and have a bigger perspective. You applied, and graduated from the Kaospilots so I’m pretty sure 9/10 times you’ll surprise yourself with what you can do, especially if you don’t forget to ask for help once in a while. Lastly, don’t forget to take a break from time to time and reevaluate your priorities 😉