Be a global citizen by staying creative and curious

Hey! Lauralee Sheehan here. I was born and raised in Canada’s largest city, and love calling Toronto home. I’m a design thinker, digital addict and — above all — an artist. I used to be an indie rocker but now I run my own experiential design and interactive media firm called Digital 55.

Thirteen years ago, I wanted to be a rockstar. In those days, I was fully immersed in band life. We had some record labels courting us. We had started our own indie label to release and curate music and to evolve with the disruption the industry was experiencing. It was changing rapidly at the time, and it wasn’t just about creating music anymore, it was about building a brand using all sorts of digital assets — putting your music up on online platforms (MySpace, iTunes, Facebook), making your own videos, and so on. We would design these live sets with videos that would change when my bandmate Ryan played the kick drum. I didn’t realize we were actually doing experience design. And I definitely didn’t realize that it would lead me to become the tech entrepreneur I am today. I was shocked by the transferable nature of my experience. It was an important lesson that we have to stop undermining the value of our past experiences, even if they’re in different fields. In 2018, the company I was working for went bankrupt. They gave us three weeks to wrap up before the company folded.

I was already running Digital 55 as a side hustle, but getting laid off pushed me to mobilize quickly and take my own business full time. I haven’t looked back since.

I remember back in my band days, when I was very active in the music scene, I would go to shows almost every night of the week. People thought that was just the “rockstar lifestyle” but, in my mind, it was actually for learning and community building. I would go and listen to every detail of the sounds, pay attention to what equipment and gear people were using and why, take note of the visuals and notice what sort of performances made me feel connected to the music as well as to the full scope of the experience. Going to shows was something I loved, but I was on a learning journey too. It wasn’t just entertainment, it was edutainment.

Curiosity is what helps us acknowledge the needs that exist in the world, and leads us to innovation.

Through technology or any medium that supports it, we have a responsibility to keep learning about the world around us and to lean into the 21st century skill of global citizenship.

Global Citizenship is defined as the awareness of other cultures, and also entails contributing and working toward community improvements. The most thorough way to partake in global citizenship is undoubtedly by learning through experience.

Being a lifelong learner, you begin to practice empathy in everything you do, which is a huge connector. I don’t believe the sustainability movement and social purpose movement would be so prevalent right now without curiosity, empathy and the desire to learn.

The great thing about learning is that it can take many forms. It can look a lot of different ways.

One reason I find tech and digital so cool is that they present us with so many opportunities to learn more… and they’re all right at our fingertips. Even hopping on Spotify can be a learning experience full of endless potential for exploration if you’re curious enough.

My company happens to work in four intersectional industries — design/tech, media/film, music and education — so we invest our time in supporting those industries whether that’s watching films, going to see live music, reading or exploring experience design online.

If you want to succeed, you have to keep learning. You have to stay curious. That never changes — no matter how far along you are in your career.

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