Throughout her two-plus years as a Lifeblue producer, Lauren Silver has seamlessly managed a number of projects and client relationships, including Vistra Corp., CORE Construction, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. It’s a huge undertaking, so we asked her to share how she grew into the role so gracefully.
My job is to help our team to do its best work, making sure everyone understands why we’re doing the project — and what success looks like. At any given time, I might be leading a meeting, plotting out our strategic direction, creating thoughtful UX solutions to business problems, responding to client needs or coordinating our work to make sure we hit deadlines.
When my friends ask me what it is I do every day, my TL;DR answer is that I split my time between high-level thinking and tactical solutions, plus a little bit of everything else. I don’t really touch code or put my hands on any design software, but I sure do know a lot about both at this point.
Because of the scope of my role — and my tendency to be a perfectionist — starting a new project can be daunting. There’s always a point where I feel super paralyzed.
I joke with J.D., a senior producer, that this point is my Kermit the Frog moment.
But because of the processes that Lifeblue has put in place — and the methods I’ve developed on my own — I’ve been able to move through those moments, fine-tune my own approach and dive deeper into meaningful partnerships with our clients.
When I started at Lifeblue, I was amazed at our talent. It seemed that my team could flawlessly translate clients’ visions for our designers and developers in record time, with clean-cut spreadsheets at every step.
I had to learn that I couldn’t expect to execute exactly like everyone else. And, after diving in, I can understand there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than building a polished presentation. Trying to start with the end product only led to overwhelming Kermit moments.
I learned my own process, then I blended it into Lifeblue‘s . My teammates also constantly invest time and mentorship to help hone my skills and bring out my best work, so I feel that I’m constantly growing in this role.
For an overwhelming task, like putting together a hefty project plan, I’ll start simply, by jotting down data points onto sticky notes without worrying about what it looks like. (In fact, it will be super messy.)
Later, I’ll try organizing them into different charts or flows until it makes sense.
It’s not as scary as telling myself, “OK, I need to block off three days to put a whole project plan together.” Instead, it’s more like, “You need to spend 15 minutes trying to knock out one piece of it,” and then it’s much easier.
I’ve taken that approach and merged it with the Lifeblue process, which always begins with Discovery — a series of meetings with stakeholders throughout a client’s organization to help us develop a working knowledge of them: their goals, their challenges, their operations and their brand.
When we started working with the Dallas Zoo, for example, I met with five or six different departments, including the education, development and financial teams. At first, I try not to even talk about the project. It’s more like, “What’s your day-to-day look like? What are you responsible for?” This helps me better understand how we can help the business overall.
Sometimes I’ll use Miro, an online whiteboarding tool, to facilitate exercises like brand positioning, word associations or asking participants to write tweets about their company that they’d like to see in the future.
It helps us better understand the brand they aspire to be.
After Discovery, I organize my notes into a repository that our team members can use as reference, including a knowledge bank, a sharable document that serves as the main source of truth. Along with a glossary of industry terms, it includes critical context, like the brand’s value proposition and top competitors, so that any Lifeblue team member who joins the project can quickly familiarize themselves with the organization and how they position themselves.
From there, I develop the client’s strategy — a big concept designed to help the client reach its long-term business goals, which should be able to live for three to five years.
I don’t unveil the strategy only at the beginning of a project. I routinely show it to both our client and our internal team as a reminder of our guiding North Star.
It’s the lens we look through for every single decision.
Depending on the project, I spend time developing the project plan and any structure needed, like an architecture map if the project involves building a new site. I’ll set weekly and daily goals for our team, assigning tasks to specific crafts in a shared Trello board so that we can actively keep track of progress.
Once we kick off internally, I make sure to create structured opportunities for exploration, like sketch sessions, where team members get time to brainstorm and draw possible designs that bring page objectives to life.
Every step of the way, I share our approach and progress with the client in a regular cadence of meetings so that they are part of the process, working right alongside us. I’ll include Lifeblue team members by making sure they know what I’m sharing with the client and asking them to share notes about their work. (My colleague Shmitty is really good about that.)
It takes a lot of effort and discipline to stay on top of the workflow, managing communication and expectations among so many stakeholders — not to mention keeping an eye on both the big picture and the small details at the same time.
Overcommunicating and being intentional about working inclusively has paid great benefits; I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built with our clients. I feel like I’m part of their team, and I think they feel that, too. It’s very rewarding.
Developing that trust required me to trust myself first, which was possible because of people like Jean, a mentor of mine who told me, “You’re the one who makes the role great.”
That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in what feels like such a big job: You’ve got to let yourself be successful.