What are you most worried about? That’s the question Executive Director John Clark, Associate Director Sara Peach and Assistant to the Director Samantha Harrington have all asked us throughout the summer.
In the beginning, John asked us this question a dozen times a week. To be honest, having him repeatedly ask us the question worried me more than anything else. I wondered if I was missing something. Should I be expecting something bad to happen? After eight weeks of John asking what we’re worried about, I realize the question is the Lab’s way of checking in on us. Occasionally, John, Sara or Sam might try to allay our fears or show us a possible solution. Throughout the summer, however, my worries have transformed to broader, more abstract concerns.
When I was first hired to work at the Lab, my worries were narrow and concrete. They centered on whether I’d like coming to work every day. Since my passion is graphic design, I asked myself whether it was a good idea to take an internship position where I wasn’t strictly focusing on graphic design. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to use any of my artistic skills. The first two weeks at the Lab easily calmed these concerns. Between brainstorming ideas, creating prototypes and figuring out creative solutions to complex problems, the left side of my brain was exhausted but satisfied. My worries about the job description just stopped crossing my mind.
After the first couple weeks of brainstorming, my team and I switched into the desirability phase of the process, which consists of talking to potential customers and researching to make sure people actually want our product idea. Since I’m on the team tasked with increasing court transparency in North Carolina, I knew we’d have to talk to a lot of lawyers, journalists, judges, and other highly intelligent people. That’s where the new worry came in. Would our team be able to get in touch with the right people, ask the right questions and get the right information to be able to move on to the next phase of the process? I didn’t want our idea to falter because of our lack of questioning skills.
The thing is, I was picturing having to do all of this alone. I neglected to factor in the support of my two teammates, Jonathan Morris and Janell Smith. After the first few meetings and phone calls, my worries were completely gone. Whereas I would’ve been completely intimidated by the Ivy League-educated lawyers if I were alone, I was confident alongside Jonathan and Janell. Jonathan’s strength comes from his ability to listen closely and ask the questions no one else thinks to ask, and Janell can walk into a meeting confidently and get the conversation flowing. Since we go into all meetings and phone calls together, we’ve developed the skill to tag-team and get more out of each meeting together than we each would alone. I trust my team to fill in the skills that the others aren’t as confident in, so my worry about floundering in conversations with potential customers became irrelevant.
Currently, my worries have broadened out a lot more, and they are much more abstract. No longer am I concerned about personal preferences or team competencies. Now, I’m worried about whether we can get over some of the roadblocks that we’ve known were coming. As pitch day looms closer, we can’t continue to ignore the questions that don’t have a simple answer. The potential answers don’t concern me as much. Frankly, the question of whether we can answer these questions at all worries me more than anything.
My team and I have been pitching our product idea with the confidence that we’ll find solutions to the obvious problems, like our high annual expenses and lack of projected profits. We have less than a month left, so my worries could get stronger or weaker depending on what we figure out. Nevertheless, I prefer the wider, product-centered concerns that have emerged to the narrower, self-centered concerns that filled my mind at the beginning of the summer.