The Accidental (Or Not) Design Thinker

“It’s the weirdest thing. I feel like I’ve been in a coma for about 20 years, and I’m just now waking up.”

That’s one of my favorite quotes from the movie American Beauty. Why? Well, it perfectly summarizes the way I used to feel. While I was in a “coma”, I spent a decade ideating and trying to identify a viable career path. I studied graphic design but realized the industry became overly saturated. The era of 99 dollar logos was in full swing and I didn’t know what came next for me.

I’ve always known that I was a creative individual with strong analytical capabilities. But I could never articulate what these qualities could translate into. A career services advisor in college failed to recognize these attributes and guide me in the right direction. I ended up getting my Bachelors in History because I liked the topic and enjoyed the tutelage of the professors within my program. After graduating from college, I spent a good deal of time in the professional wilderness researching different options while working in the management consulting field never quite satisfied with the methodologies that I came across. Three years ago, a monumental event shook me to my core and heightened my sense to take drastic action. I settled on a MBA in Management but knew deep down that my concentration was too broad.

About a year into my MBA program I discovered Design Thinking. I’ll admit it: The first time I heard the phrase, I chuckled. Design Thinking? Huh? What on earth was that? A classmate mentioned it to me while describing a project she was working on. The next time I encountered Design Thinking was when a friend took a picture of herself at an interesting event by Design Thinking DC (DT:DC). I was intrigued and destiny didn’t stop there. My MBA program published an article on the growing popularity of the methodology and how the school was offering a class on Design Leadership. Now my full attention was caught. After I read the article and did further research, I was sold. Period. It was that simple. Design Thinking felt very much in sync with how I would want to tackle a project or solve a business challenge. The use of empathy within the Design Thinking framework was also a huge draw. I consider myself to be a highly sensitive individual; I frequently put myself in the shoes of others. For 10 years I looked for something in sync with my personality and it was such a relief when I discovered Design Thinking. It felt as if I had found a long-lost friend. Since then I’ve become an active member of the OpenIDEO DC chapter, DT:DC, Design for America, and started attending events that increase my knowledge of the methodology and industry.

My name is A.J. I’m a Management Consulting professional and a MBA student. And I want to learn more about Design Thinking, Customer Experiences, and the industry as a whole. My aim for this blog is to share my journey and discover what makes Design Thinking so unique. Why do we need it? Do people need to be taught something so basic as empathy? Aren’t we all capable of putting ourselves in the shoes of others? Learn. Apply. Blog. That’s my motto. It may not be always in that sequence, but you get the gist. At the same time, I would like to provide constructive feedback on customer experiences that are in desperate need of attention and re-examination. I hope there is some meaningful value in my observations and look forward to your feedback.




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