Graffiti & Figma

Mary Scotton
4 min readFeb 27, 2023

I’m not very good at making a graffiti tag. Or using Figma. Or skateboarding.

If you are, then you probably learned to do these things, and then perfected your craft.

Jamie Lee Curtis at the BAFTA awards saying “As you all know, and can tell, I’ve been in this business a while.”

For some reason, some people (i.e., me) think that if they aren’t good at something immediately, then that’s it. They aren’t good at it, always.

I hear this from folks transitioning into tech:

“I don’t know how to code.”

“I don’t understand how an IT department runs.”

“What the heck is a workflow?”

It seems like everyone else already magically knows the things. But they don’t. None of us are good at something we’ve never done before (ok, well, some people are, and that’s cool for them, but I’m talking about the rest of us).

How do we learn?

In 2021, when I joined ServiceNow, I had to learn a new application development platform. (After FIFTEEN YEARS of designing and then evangelizing a different one.) Full of hubris, I spun up a developer instance and starting banging away, trying to build an app. Oddly enough, I couldn’t do it. 🤷‍♀️

I tried the online training. That didn’t work — I was too easily distracted.

I tried watching a video. That didn’t work — I couldn’t sit still that long.

I finally found two things that worked:

  1. In person training (another human telling me what to do and keeping me on track)
  2. Listening to a podcast (taking in audio info while doing something else like dog walking or driving)

These two modes of learning work best for me. Other folks do best with videos, or reading, or hands-on trial and error. Figuring out your preferred learning style is a key step when you’re pivoting to a new job role, or leveling up in your current role.

In my ideal future, all learning experiences would start with a quiz and end with a curated playlist of content that matches your level, your goal, AND your preferred learning style.

Painting should be fun*

Being on an innovation team does have its upsides: this year, our team committed one day a month to “Development Days.” On these days, we do something that feeds our creative side: art, music, nature, or learning a a new tool. My first Development Day was stressful — I worried all month about WHAT TO DO? I’m NOT ARTISTIC. How will I unlock my CREATIVITY? Aaaaaaahhhhhh.

After much churning, I went way back to middle school — when I wrote a paper about graffiti art and thought it was super cool — and signed up for a Graffiti Art workshop!

I admit, I was disappointed that I wasn’t better at it. 🤦‍♀️ I’m also not sure the “go out after dark in a hoodie and bandana” lifestyle is for me. BUT, it was a fun experience and a great stretch to get out of my comfort zone.

This month, I started a course on how to use Figma. (Note I said “started” not “finished” … it’s an online course. Start placing bets as to whether or not I finish it! 😜)

Letting myself dive deep into something new was exciting and fun! Each new trick I learned (DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN HOLD DOWN THE Z AND THEN DRAG THE CURSOR TO ZOOM INTO A SECTION OF THE VERY LARGE AND CONFUSING FIGMA CANVAS?!? 🤯) made me laugh out loud like a super villain.

Jamie Lee Curtis laughing manically, holding a big knife, over a jack-o-lantern to promote the movie Halloween.

Seek the joy

I think it’s that child-like (villain-like?) joy that we’re seeking when we learn a new skill. That shift from “no idea how to do this” to “woohoo, look at me swinging on the swing all by myself!” Yes, there’s also the new job or promotion — that’s the long game — but the in-the-moment satisfaction of drawing a straight line with spray paint (or hopefully, next month, not falling off a skateboard) — that’s what keeps us going.

Especially in tech, that joy of learning better be part of you because things are always changing. Even if you don’t know what a “workflow” is, jump in! Figure out your preferred learning style, perfect your super villain laugh, and have some fun! 💃🏻

*ICYMI, this is a nod to my dad, and his favorite creative, Harry Chapin. 😊



Mary Scotton

Technology industry leader, evangelist, and connector who cultivates inclusive communities. She/her.