Spencer Reynolds is a UX design at IBM design working on Kubernetes. He graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a degree in industrial design and soon made the switch to UX design at IBM. Spencer and I talk about the importance of multiple internships before doing the job search as well as the learning the “soft skill” of clear communication for effective UX design in corporate environments.
What was your path to design?
I started out as an Industrial designer and interned with Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). While in that internship, industrial design positions seemed to be rare. A few of my friends had made the switch to UX and were working at IBM. I didn’t think I qualified, but I took a shot and applied.
The design principles were essentially the same. The medium was different. I had to start thinking digital rather than physical, but ultimately I needed to keep it user-centered.
What did you learn from the job application process
Internships are critical. The doors they open are key. You can do coop studies at some schools where you can do a semester on and a semester off. I took extra internships when I went to school. BYU didn’t require it, but the most successful people I knew did a lot of internships. Do what you need to do to get the experience early on. That will set you up for the “official” job search.
Check out follow BYU graduate, John Challis’ interview.
Unpaid or Paid internships
In almost all cases, you should be taking a paid internship. I was in a unique situation in my Sophomore year where the company that brought me on as an intern realized that they could not pay me. I had to bump the time down to work in order to find a job to pay my expenses. At that time, the experience was important enough to make those sacrifices. Whatever you do just don’t go into debt to get experience.
What did you learn to navigate a corporate environment as a new designer
I had two internships at larger corporate entities with a design organization. But I realized there and at IBM that communication was key. I learned to reach out to people and to ask questions with other domain experts. At J&J I was working on surgical equipment. As an intern, there was no reason for me to be the expert. So, I had to talk to a lot of people.
This experience has worked for me here at IBM. I also learned this was a two way street. If I asked for help, I had to help too. Working with more experienced designers, when they asked for help on a project, I jumped right in.
Clear communication also translates to written communication as well. I remember writing on an issue in our project management board 1). what was the problem, 2). why it was a problem, and 3). a proposed solution. Next thing I knew, someone on the development side took that issue and fixed it. I realized that I can influence a lot. This opened my eyes on how you can be effective here at IBM.
How has leadership influenced your experience designing in a corporate environment?
I have had good leads and managers here at IBM. That was not always the case in all of my work experiences. In one of my internships, I had a manager that was not great. It was a growing experience where I learned clear communication was key. What I could have done better was to communicate to that manager’s manager about the situation. In essence I was receiving conflicting guidance from my manager and stakeholders, and at the time, I didn’t see an outlet to resolve the situation.
What are some of the difficult things about working in a corporate environment?
If there is a part of the product that has a lot of people involved, then it gets really hard to push something out to production. There are some high profile products that mean a lot for the company. So, there is a lot of pressure to deliver more with less time. That tends to increase the number of stakeholders, reviews, and meetings.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Watch this video by William Lidwell, “Becoming Leonardo”. He breaks down all of the heuristics from designers that society and history have deemed to be “great.” You can then walk away with a system to make you a better designer.
William Lidwell’s book,”Universal Principles of Design”
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