Goodbye Big Blue.
It is with bittersweet emotion, that I announce I am no longer an International Business Man. I served the company for two years, one month in an array of capacities. The highlights include incubating ten new IBM products and services, producing a short film (to be announced soon), starting a quarterly culture magazine, creating a studio leadership conference, creating a global design news program, starting Design at IBM, and — the best thing of all — leading and mentoring one-hundred designers.
Not too shabby.
My best days at IBM were the ones when I lead teams of designers, researchers, and front-end developers. The worst days were the ones immediately following the end of design bootcamps when my teams disbanded and left for their permanent assignments.
In-between I had the tremendous opportunity to work with designers and studio leaders from all over the world on a daily basis. And the folks in Austin…they are a very special group. It’s only been a few days and already I miss seeing you all—Doctor.
If you’re not working with your users, you’re working towards unemployment.
To make this more meaningful to those of you outside of the IBM bubble, here are a few things I learned (sometimes the hard way) in the last two years:
- If you want to earn an MBA, don’t go to school. Instead, go work for IBM where you will end up with a better education than you will ever receive reading about business. IBM is an exceptional place to observe where the future of business, technology, and design is heading for some of the world’s largest corporations and enterprise-at-large.
- The old cliché holds true, especially at a company with four hundred thousand employees: Don’t seek permission to start or fix something so long as you delivered to your very best. It is my experience that big business loves spirited entrepreneurial individuals that can connect different parts of the business and deliver quality results — org-charts be dammed. You’ll know when you’re doing the right thing.
- Being a jack-of-all trades, especially when it comes to knowledge of business, technology, and design practices from multiple industries and business verticals have a lot of value. When you join a large company it’s important to dive deep into the culture, but not to the point that you lose touch with the outside world.
- Tools and process are less important than connecting people from different parts of the business and solving problems together. It’s still all about finding and working with the right people.
- It is possible to take a group of talented strangers who know nothing about an industry and turn them into an effective team who produce a mind blowing product. The secret, find the users and involve them in the process. It’s so stupidly simple and yet so many people screw this part up. If you’re not working with your users, you’re working towards unemployment.
Thank you Fahad Osmani, Nigel Prentice, Doug Powell, and Phil Gilbert for making my time at IBM a worthwhile challenge. I learned a lot in the last two years, and that’s mostly due to the trust that you afforded to me from day one. I won’t forget it.
Lastly, I’d like to end this with a friendly apology to all of my former co-workers in Austin and around the world. I don’t like saying goodbye, so I have to admit to slipping out the back door. As I’ve stated in the past, I’ll always be around for every one of you when you need perspective. Don’t hesitate to reach out and let’s keep in touch. Meanwhile, keep writing.