Design has not been my number one passion over the past nine years. Once my son came, he took the place of most other things that occupy space in my mind as well as in my life. I’m a single parent still learning to navigate how to best raise a child in this fast pace changing world of ours. Dexter is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He learns things differently and constantly offers alternative ways of looking at the world. We should all be as sensitive and inquisitive as he is.
When I do have time to myself or to work on career goals and aspirations some passions of mine include:
Habitat for Humanity, NC State University School of Design, the IBM RTP Design Studio, public speaking engagements. and patent work.
Habitat for Humanity. Global Village
Habitat for Humanity. Global Village
My experience with Habitat Global Village I owe to my youngest sister Kristin. By the time we went to India together, then Poland, she had already completed two previous trips. She was the leader for our Poland trip.
When she returned from her first Habitat trip to India, I could see a change in her and was immediately jealous of the connections she’d made not only with her American team members, but with the Indian village people.
Yes, we are helping to build a new life for those much less fortunate, but for me the appeal is almost selfish. Being on a trip puts you outside of your normal routine. It lets you forget about the minor stresses of your life back home. Mostly, it puts the important things back into perspective. The challenge is to maintain the new perspective after returning home to your minor stresses and first world problems.
Global Village allows the opportunity to combine a love of travel with an opportunity to provide a new life for people who drastically need it. For me, the best part is being with the children who will benefit from your work. Even when they are too young to know the change that is about to come, you know, spending time with them, that you’re making their future brighter. And that’s why you go.
Habitat for Humanity. Global Village
6. India. making concrete. me at left.
7. Poland. youngest of family.
8. Poland. family portrait with our hardhats (oldest son not pictured).
9. Poland. family of eight’s current bathroom.
10. Poland. current home at left. new build on right.
1. India. at the well. me. far left.
2. Poland. build site.
3. India. school house.
4. India. village huts.
5. India. little Arun.
NC State University School of Design engagements
Over the past six years, my work with Watson has earned recognition from students, professors and the administration of NC State University. They all share our interest and curiosity in artificial intelligence and how it can benefit humanity.
Working with State is something near and dear to me as my father is an alumni, I was born in Raleigh and currently live next to the campus.
Accessible healthcare technology project
Helen Armstrong (pictured in 6, far right) contacted our studio at IBM. She was interested in building a curriculum around how to combine accessible medical devices that enable artificial technologies. First, I worked with Helen to design the curriculum. Helen is an accomplished professor and author. I felt honored to work with her on what was a new adventure for me; teaching.
Once the class assembled, I was immediately blown away by the talented young people interested in design and everything they brought to the table. Although I often found myself learning more from them, I made myself available to comment on how AI can aide patients in the healthcare industry. I tried to help the students see alternate views of where they could take their designs and offered helpful critiques of their work.
Design it Forward
Design it forward is a class that IBM offers at NC State. Six designers from the studio are asked to instruct the class. Before the class begins we do a call for entries of local non-profits who need to solve a problem. Each non-profit pitches to the instructors (me and five of my colleagues), and we choose two from the group.
This year we chose Marbles Kid’s Museum and Greenchair. I’m instructing the Marbles team, also an organization near and dear to me as my own son has been going there since before he could walk. He now attends summer camps there. Marbles needs a way to create engaging signage and wayfinding.
Green Chair is a non-profit that really tugs at the heartstrings. They offer furnishings for needy families. In partnership with county social workers they provide furnishings for entire family homes. Their clients include victims of domestic violence and homelessness.
We have completed the Research and Mid-term playbacks for Design it Forward as I write this today. Again, I have learned as much from our students than they have from us.
4. Graduate class at State. Accessible healthcare technology project
5. Graduate class at IBM. Accessible healthcare technology project.
6. Graduate class at IBM. Accessible healthcare technology project.
7. Lecture. Design it Forward at State.
1. Lecture. Design it Forward at State.
2. Lecture. Design it Forward at State.
3. Graduate student at State. Accessible healthcare technology project.
Representing our studio and giving back
Our design studio in RTP is a small one. Less than seventy people. I’ve enjoyed being a part of our tight knit community since the studio opened in 2015. Probably the best part of being in the studio is the opportunity to host events, network and represent the RTP campus to IBM Design “Core.”
Studio Events and Workshops
The studio has a Maker Space where we host clients from all over the world. Our space is utilized to conduct Design Thinking workshops where we strive to find the best solutions for our clients. One of my favorite things, however, are the local events we hold in the studio. Some examples include “Bring Your Kid to Work Day” where we create a fun activity for the kids that teaches them Design Thinking in a manner they can absorb and have fun with. Another example is the JumpStart program. JumpStart is for new developer hires. It’s crucial that design is embedded with development and that our development community understands the principles of good design. This programs allows young developers to be integrated with Design as soon as they start their job at IBM.
RTP Design Studio Chapter Head
Another way I’ve contributed is acting as Chapter Head to our site. Along with Jason Collier, I work to empower local IBM employees, designers and non-designers alike, to use design thinking in their business. The vehicle we use to drive this initiative is badging. Chapter Members can become badged in Design Thinking under several categories. The badges are valuable to everyone in that they are not tied to IBM. They are part of Acclaim. They can be added to your resume and follow you should you decide to leave IBM. Badges can be earned in many different subject matters. My focus, however, is to help my fellow employees earn those related to design.
Mentor at NC State Design School
Another partnership with NC State Design School is our Pathfinder program. I’ve volunteered as a mentor with Pathfinder since I started at IBM eleven years ago. There are always those mentees that make a special impact on me, not only as a designer, but as a person. I hope they’ll remember me when they’re famous. The two pictured on the right were hired on into the studio. I know, however, they are destined to bigger and better things. I hope they remember when they’re famous. And they will be.
4. IBM RTP Studio. Me on right. Workshop with JumpStart Program.
5. Listed as Enterprise Design Thinking Chapter Head for Raleigh, Durham, RTP
6. IBM RTP Studio. Me kneeling at left. Workshop for Watson Health Clinical Trial Matching
7. Alexandra Dean Grossi. My mentee. Graduate from NC State School of Design.
1. IBM RTP Studio. A talk about our Chapter.
2. Blythe Reinhard. My mentee. Graduate from NC State School of Design.
3. IBM RTP Studio. Me second from right. Bring Your Kids to Work Day.
Being an introvert, public speaking is not something that comes naturally to me. It’s something I really have to work at. The larger the audience, the more nervous I am.
Social imminence is an important aspect of becoming a senior designer and a leader at any large tech company. Luckily, I’ve found tools that help me feel more comfortable. First, know your material. One sign that I’ve been in Watson Health for quite some time (since before it was formed), is that I can speak to natural language processing, the origins of Watson and how clinical matching works off the top of my head. Having knowledge like that immediately instills a sense of confidence.
If I’m teaching a curriculum in the studio or at a University, I make sure I know the material. I can rattle facts on the Design Thinking framework, but there are so many intricacies and nuances, you really have to be ready to explain particular aspects of it and how it can change and mold the creative process and problem solving.
Another tool is humor. If you can insert humor into a presentation, everyone seems to become more relaxed, including me. I use this throughout other aspects of my job as well. Artificial intelligence, natural language processing, cancer and the diabetes epidemic can be serious subject matter. I take those subjects very seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously. I like my audience to know that.
Lastly is travel and enjoying people. I’ve done a few conferences in Las Vegas, but in 2012 I was able to travel to Singapore for InterConnect. While working the floor at that conference, I met IBMers and clients from all over the world. After the conference I rewarded myself by staying on an extra week and enjoying the sites of Singapore.
Check out my booth and the work I was doing for Service Management Connect.
Other talks I’ve done are at Watson 101, Women of Watson and many events in the studio. I’ve given presentations on Design Thinking to clients like MD Anderson, Pfizer, the University of Texas, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the American Diabetes Association and more.
During my career at IBM, I’ve gone before the patent board four times. Always with a small team of designers and engineers who I knew, trusted and loved to work with.
Patent work takes a lot of time and must be done “on the side” while still meeting deadlines for other projects and assignments. I’m proud to say, out of the four that went before the board, my team and I earned one application and one grant. All four applications were an honor to work on given I was in patent groups with colleagues I enjoyed working with the most. And they are all brilliant.
Out of the two patents that were filed, the one that was granted is Multiple partial-image compositional searching. My team and I started work on it around 2011 when online shopping was just ramping up to become what it has today. Sarah Plantenberg and I were both User Experience professionals. Andy Lavery and Scott Greer were both technical professionals, well versed in back-end development. Sarah and I thought, what if you could refine a search result made up of images by selecting an area of an image? This would eliminate the need to further refine your search through text.
This team and I had worked in Tivoli, which later became “Cloud.” We worked on networking dashboard applications, therefore many of our patent ideas seem to revolve around our every day work. We applied to the board for an idea around network search. When that was denied we moved on to search visualizations. That one is called Searching and visualizing data for a network search based on relationships within the data. The application was granted but not patented.
The last patent I worked on was with Watson Health colleagues. This one was exciting to me. According to my notes, it wasn’t granted because of similar prior art. But I felt like the idea was novel. It centered around using geo tags in social media posts about health related subject matter. The users of this technology could potentially be localized government or organizations like the CDC. The idea is to have a map that shows pins where there is a concentration of posts about particular healthcare data. So, for example, if families in St. Louis were posting about the influx of a pediatric virus, that would show up on the map. This would give users the locations of potential epidemics, food recalls, etc.
Patent granted. Multiple partial-image compositional searching.
Application denied. Smart Search
Application denied. Geo-health data analysis through social media.