The NOT-CODING skills

14,000+ people have looked at this tweet and there’s a very specific reason why I asked this question.

Currently, in tech, we focus SO MUCH

We focus so much on learning code, syntax, and the different pieces of tech. This is great, but it also means we are starving ourselves of many of the skills we need to build complicated systems.

Visual Communication

Even when we think of what we need to learn to advance in our careers, usually it’s the next programming language or web-development framework.

An abundance of oxygen

There is a nourishment in learning these non-coding skills. Just as sitting in a greenhouse floods our lungs with rich, nourishing oxygen, learning how to

  • connect with someone
  • find empathy with your team
  • communicate in a different style

Provides the oxygen of understanding and alignment to a team of diverse people working on a complicated problem.

This might all sound like luxury, but oxygen IS a requirement for us to live. In fact, if we want to do something strenuous, we need an abundance of it. (Try walking uphill in your Covid mask!)

Just as we require an abundance of oxygen for peak performance, we need super-powers besides just writing code fast to build complicated systems. There’s no coding it alone!

In particular and surprising no one, I’ve been reading up on the link between our brains, how we learn and communicating through drawing. There is science there!! Did you know that spatial thinking is the foundation of abstract thought? [Hat tip: Mike Jelinek who turned me onto Barbara Tversky’s book, Mind in Motion through his talk, “The Science of Sketching].

In the meantime, are you missing the white board? There are good reasons why we reach for sketching when we are trying to communicate something complicated just as Leonardo da Vinci turned to sketching as a tool for studying the human heart.

Anatomical drawings of the heart and major blood vessels, Leonardo da... | Download Scientific ...
Leonardo da Vinci sketches the heart

However, you don’t have to be Leonardo to communicate effectively using sketches. In fact, you don’t have to be an artist at all! This is a skill you can totally learn, and it’s the foundational reason why I started the Let’s Sketch Tech! community in 2018.

Join me on this journey in my half-day workshop, “Sketch the Tech.”

I can’t guarantee you’ll be making sketches just like Leonardo afterward, but I can promise, you’ll be ready to share a sketch of some complicated ideas with your teammates.

August Art Therapy

August ARt therapy (1)

Hey fam. How are you?

It’s August, and we are feeling the burn of the ongoing pandemic along with other disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires and explosions hitting different parts of the world. If you are feeling like we are, there are some tough days happening. We are not therapists, but we know the healing power of art and community.

This month, we bring you 3 exercises to take a quiet break for yourself. If you’d like to work through these with other people, we are hosting an art therapy meetup next Tuesday.

Exercise 1 — Your Circular Shield (15 minutes)

Using a glass or cup, outline a circle on your paper. Color it in from the inside out. 

You can choose to keep your design inside the shield or draw outside of it as well. 

Which did you choose and what does it say about your personality? Can you think of a title for it?

Exercise 2 — Peace and Serenity (15 minutes)

Draw a design that represents peace and serenity. Use colors, shapes, lines and images that resonate for you.

What does your peace feel like and like? Is there a way to attain some of the peace in your design?

Exercise 3 — Loving Breath (30 minutes)

This exercise has 2 steps.

Step 1

Listen to some soothing music. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Imagine you are being bathed in love, peace and warmth. Imagine yourself breathing in compassion/calmness and breathing out anxiety and stress. 

Step 2

Draw yourself being embraced by someone or something you love (It’s ok to write in addition to or instead of drawing).

Who is embracing you? When was the last time you felt supported? How can you support/embrace yourself? What can you do today to show yourself some self-compassion?

It can be a challenge to take time out for yourself. Join us next week for some company and sketching together.

It’s ok to feel.

There are good reasons why many of us are experiencing more depression, anxiety and stress. These exercises can be completed on your own, in your own time or, join us next Tuesday to connect and recharge a little.

These exercises are from “250 Brief, Creative & Practical Art Therapy Techniques,” by Susan I. Buchalter.

Follow the Leader

Prefer to listen? Try the audio version. Listen on your phone while you get things done!


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Do you want access to this headspace of feeling like what you are doing is enough? Learn how to use basic drawing in Procreate to tap into your own creative value and share your thoughts visually. Click here to get drawing!


In college, I took a painting/art history class where we were supposed to copy paintings produced in different styles during the 20th century. Mimic-ing ÇezannePicassoMondrian and Mark Rothko drew me into a new world of color, line and creative messiness. I worked hard at reproducing paintings that were as similar to these artists as I could make them. I made an A in the class and continued painting even after college was over.


Eventually, I decided to reproduce a Picasso for my Mom for Mother’s Day. I worked at this for weeks, painting, repainting, going back and reworking different parts of it, but the edges of the painting were causing problems because they weren’t lining up like Picasso’s. I saw this as a failure and was beating myself up for not being able to get the lines at the edges in exactly the right place.

Defeated, I took the unfinished work to my night-time, continuing-ed drawing class at the local art institute.

“You are ready to fill in the edges on your own,” my drawing teacher said. “Eventually you have to recognize that you are working your own canvas and that it’s not going to be exactly like Picasso’s or anyone else’s and it’s still going to be wonderful.”

I had reached the end of my journey with Picasso without even knowing it.

My version of Picasso’s “Woman with Pears”

Although I obviously won’t ever meet Picasso, the effort I put into mimic-ing his work could just as well have been writing javascript or building a web app. Picasso, although dead, could have been any of the fearless leaders, self-anointed or otherwise on the internet or conference speaker circuit. In fact, even though Picasso is about as far removed from me personally as anyone could be, the moment when I was ready to start doing my own thing slipped past me as these moments often do.

That’s what happens when we follow a leader.

That pedestal tho.

It’s hard to believe in yourself enough to give up on the structure and stability of someone whose work you admire or believe in. Even if it’s someone we know or are close to, someone who believes in us and tells us we should believe in ourselves, it’s easier to keep clinging to the faux security blanket of someone else’s expertise. We put them up on a pedestal and, when someone questions us, all we have to do is point upward, nevermind the fact that this robs us of living our own lives.

I’ve also found that as a woman, what I know is questioned or I am flatly dismissed so often that our social system has trained me to always have a source I can cite, a paper I can refer to or someone, usually a straight, white man whose opinions others are willing to trust since they won’t believe what I have to say or in what I’ve learned through the school of experience.

This is ultimately how the system reinforces itself, paving over people of all colors and all genders. It has taken serious effort, many therapist sessions and a ring of people in my life who constantly reinforce a message to me that I am enough on my own to do what I need to do, to try something different and to work out my own edges.

In fact, I no longer follow “leaders.” Instead, I’ve taken leaders off of the pedestal and re-framed them. These are real people who have lessons to teach but who also have their own faults and imperfections. This means I also have a healthy distrust of being told someone is a leader and that I should blindly follow them. That’s how a community winds up in the grip of someone abusive who won’t let go.

There will always be people we follow, but it’s important to recognize your own value enough to know when you’ve gotten the lesson you needed. This way you’ll be ready to see that moment when it is time to take a risk and do your own thing, even if you don’t think you’re “ready.” After all, that’s how many of the people we follow got their own start.

This is how each of us creates our own masterpiece, taking the lessons of the people in our lives and filling in with our own brushstrokes around theirs.

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Do you want access to this headspace of feeling like what you are doing is enough? Learn how to use basic drawing in Procreate to tap into your own creative value and share your thoughts visually. Click here to get drawing!

Tech Doodle of the Month — BUGS!

Let's Sketch Tech!

We are so excited to kick-off our Tech Doodle of the Month Club, but first, do you have an iPad and Apple Pencil you wish you knew how to use for sketching and doodling?

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We are running a class, Digital Drawing Basics, on July 17 that covers the basic skills you need to draw and share a doodle using the award-winning iPad app, Procreate. Sign up as an individual or as a team to spend a Friday afternoon relaxing and discovering the power of sketching and sharing.

Sign me up!

Our July Doodle of the Month is…


Participate and enter our contest…

While it’s totally ok to participate in the Tech Doodle of the Month without entering our contest, we hope you’ll submit your doodle! This month, doodles are being judged by Denise Yu!

To participate, make your drawing and share it on social media with the hashtag #TechDoodleJuly2020 by June 15.

To enter the contest, submit your doodle through our 2 minute form. We promise, this is just to submit your entry, we won’t be sending you extra notifications or sharing your info from the form. We’ll announce the winner at the beginning of August when our next doodle-of-the-month comes out.

The contest winner receives a $25.00 credit in the Appear Works shop and will have their doodle featured in the next newsletter. If you don’t think you draw well enough, guess what! This is not about perfect execution. This is about getting your doodle out there!

Need some ideas?

Here are a few steps to help you create your tech doodle for July.

1. Pick a type of software bug, as we all know (sigh) there are all kinds of software bugs. Here are a few types:
User Interface Bugs
Security bugs
Performance bugs
Data Bugs
Error Handling Bugs
Syntax Bugs
And more…

2. What kind of literal bug represents your software bug? Is it a spider with lots of legs, weaving a web of software chaos and confusion? (Yes, we know that, technically, spiders are not insects, but let’s just go with it. Maybe your bug is a loooooooooong, long millipede or a sparky lightning bug. It’s also totally ok to make up your own imaginary bug that is a combination of some different bugs and creatures.

3. Draw your bug or bugs! Remember: this is not about art! We’re not looking for a masterpiece to put in a “hall of fame”. What you can draw today is totally enough.

4. Include a little bit of back story. Tech doodles are always more interesting when you share why you made them and why you made the choices you did. It doesn’t have to be a blog! A sentence or two is pear-fectly acceptable!

5. Include the #techdoodle hashtag in your drawing and share it on your favorite social and with a friend. Maybe get the friend to sign up for Tech Doodle Club too!

Sponsor next month’s doodle!
Tech doodlers are a thoughtful, creative and friendly bunch i.e. people you want on your team. If you’d like to see your company’s logo in our monthly email and receive a guest spot for someone at your company to help pick the tech doodle of the month, get in touch!


Juneteenth — Celebrate and Do the Work

Neon Green and Black Celebrate Freedom Instagram Post

Today, Black people of color are celebrating Juneteenth. For non-Black folks, it’s a day to focus on leveling-up on anti-racism and clearing the path for BlPoC to celebrate.


  • Ask your company to make Juneteenth a holiday/day of learning about systemic racism, especially if you have more privilege. (Looking at you white people with BlPoC teammates)
  • Make sure your kids know and understand what Juneteenth is about, especially if it isn’t taught in their school.
  • Call your local representative and tell them Juneteenth should be a federal holiday.




Donate your days wages or whatever you can afford to charities fighting to end systemic racism.

At Appear Works, we are preparing training and resources to help everyone skill up on what anti-racism is and how we can increase how this is part of our everyday lives. In addition, we are walking the walk by donating $500 to each of the charities listed above.