“I used to have anxiety when handling a lot of data. I see now that I’m not the only one.”

With our Data-Driven Decision Making course on the horizon, we are pleased to share some insights into taking a course at Hyper Island by Denise Karakasis-Pires. She took a course at Hyper Island about how to use data in her work as Product Researcher at digital creative agency Your Majesty in Amsterdam.

Before Hyper Island

Hi Denise! Tell us, what did you know about Hyper Island before you signed up for a course?

Denise: “ The founders of Your Majesty Co. and a lot of my colleagues have attended courses at Hyper Island. We also use tools from the Hyper Island Toolbox for running workshops, so I knew bits and pieces about this ‘magical school’ where people learn by doing.”

Why did you take a data-related course even though you are an experienced professional?

Denise: “You never stop learning. The way I see it, you can always learn new concepts and ideas and with that broaden and deepen your knowledge in specific areas. Our field keeps evolving and with that also the need to freshen up your skills even now and then.”

What were you hoping to get out of it – both personally and professionally?

Denise: “Meeting new data friends, freshen up my knowledge in the field of qualitative and quantitative research, and learn new tools to collect data. I also wanted to understand the company I work at even better. I do that now after experiencing Hyper Island myself – even if it was only for three days -).”

Taking a course at Hyper Island

What did you do during the course?

Denise: “The first day was really special: we started out with drawing ourselves and presenting our Stinky Fish when it comes to data. Having a group of people that do not know each other draw themselves, unveil their secret superpower and share their fears when it comes to data had something special. It allowed us to be vulnerable in a safe space. And you know what, for me, it felt as if it was okay to feel vulnerable right from the start.

We started each day with a lovely breakfast and an intro, in which reflected upon our learnings from the previous day. We then looked into ways of collecting data, understanding APIs, mastering the Jobs to be Done theory. It was a fun mix of lectures and a lot of doing by ourselves. Every day was packed with information on collecting data, data scraping, data visualization, Google Analytics, and ethics. The balance between lectures and doing things by yourself was really good, allowing us to try things out for ourselves.

We were asked to reflect on our learning after each day to bring fresh new perspectives with us the next morning. I found this really helpful. Even now. I’ve been writing down things I wanted to bring with me to Your Majesty Co. and sometimes check where I’m at by going back to my reflections. That ties back to the last day: we were asked to create a canvas where basically we wrote down what we took away from the course and what action plans we had in mind for the following weeks. Making the circle complete -)”

Which emotions did you experience during the course?

Denise: “Energized, hyped, thankful for my boss sending me on this course, and curious to see how I could apply what I learned.”

Tell us about the other participants. Where they like you? Have you kept in touch with any of them?

Denise: “The group was quite mixed, from people who didn’t have any experience with data to UX researchers who run different types of research on a daily basis. It was fun to see how people mingled quite quickly and how the ideas started flowing early on the first day of the course. By allowing people to show their vulnerabilities and then have them quickly work on ideas with each other, you see people open up a lot more than you would see in a regular course. Since the course, we’ve kept in touch through Slack and we met up for dinner and some beers. This was a lovely way to get to know each other on a more personal level.”

After Hyper Island

Did the course help you overcome any significant personal challenges?

Denise: “It made me aware that I used to have anxiety when handling a lot of data. I seen now that I’m not the only one – that it’s normal to feel this way. Hyper Island is a ‘magical’ place where you go to to learn things by doing. You are equipped with a set of ideas and concepts, and it’s up to you and your creativity to use these ideas and concepts in a challenging way. It challenges you to go outside of your comfort zone and you feel safe to fail, and by failing you learn a great deal.”

Your Majesty looks really cool. Please tell us a bit about the company.

Denise: “Thanks so much! Your Majesty Co. was founded ten years ago by three Swedes (who all attended Hyper Island). We offer strategy, design, and technology. We take pride in crafting digital experiences that are on the front seat of digital design. A year ago, we started an Insights department which feeds our teams with insights from qualitative and quantitative data to optimize our concepts and ideas. We are now 27 people from 13 nationalities with offices in Amsterdam and New York. We work with a 4:1 workweek, meaning that 4 days a week we work for clients and 1 day a week we work on internal projects, exploring new technologies and concepts.”

Can you share some insights or anecdotes from working with V&A Dundee, Samsung Smartthings, adidas, Netflix or Spotify?

Denise: “One of the most recent projects I worked on was for the Victoria and Albert Museum. They’ve recently opened Scotland’s first design museum in Dundee. As V&A Dundee is part of the wider V&A family, we needed to keep the design and user experience consistent with other V&A museum sites, but still give it Dundee’s distinctive identity. That was a challenge that I feel that together with the Dundee team we managed to do quite well. From the start, we created an ambiance in which our people in Amsterdam could closely work together with the teams in Dundee and London. We launched the site right before the opening of the museum. It was a huge challenge that couldn’t have been done if our lines of communication and trust hadn’t been set properly from the start.

What are the common challenges your clients face?

Denise: “Understanding their needs clearly. Often we get a pretty well worked out briefs from our clients. But once we bring them into a discovery workshop that feeds our strategy and design process, a lot more becomes visible about why their needs are of a certain shape. In these workshops, a lot of those Hyper Island tools come into play to help crystallize the needs and priorities.”

Do you directly apply the things you learned at Hyper Island in your work?

Denise: “We’ve always had some of the Hyper Island DNA in our way of working. A few of the tools we use in e.g. the Discovery workshops stem from the early Hyper days. Other Hyper Island tools we apply during retrospectives, both internally and externally. As mentioned earlier, now it is easier to place these tools and understand where they are coming from and why we use them the way we do.”

You can follow Denise Karakasis-Pires on Medium and Twitter.