Portfolio: Design Leadership

Throughout my career, I’ve consistently demonstrated design leadership and a highly team-oriented approach. I’ve occupied many leadership roles, helping to mentor my colleagues & grow my reports, as well as establish strong internal processes around the activities of product design and management. This article is the last of my four portfolio pieces, attesting to this aspect of my professional history. (You also might want to check out “Delving into Understanding”; “Defining Solutions;” and “Communication is Key” to get the full picture around my digital health UX design and Product Management expertise.)

In my experience, there is no real-world solution that is produced without extensive minds & hands on-deck, aligned around shared goals and working together to deliver meaningful customer & business value. Highly cross-disciplinary collaboration is particularly a hallmark of working in the domains of digital health, healthcare and medical devices, where we are tackling wicked problems and the stakes for users literally can be life-or-death.

Processes & Collaboration

Beginning with my tenure at Cooper, the world’s leading interaction design consultancy (but now part of DesignIt), I helped to formalize the persona creation process. Cooper had pioneered personas, but when I joined the company, identifying personas from ethnographic-style field research data was still an informal activity without a clear and repeatable method. Lane Halley and I were assigned to codify the process, and together we produced the “Great 8 of Persona Creation” to guide other designers in the way. After just a year at the company, I was promoted to Supervising Designer and I co-led a “pod” of eight other designers. I managed client engagements and mentored junior designers in the awesome apprenticeship model that Cooper used at the time.

In my next role at St. Jude Medical’s Cardiac Rhythm Management Division, I was titled a “Senior Human Factors Design Engineer”, and was the very first person in such a role at this Fortune 100 company. I helped to hire additional designers and grow our team, and mentored colleagues to transform them into HFEs. Five years along, we were a six-person strong team, each of us handling multiple projects.

Along the way, I authored a series of departmental guidances that helped us to comply with key regulatory guidance documents and requirements for medical device design and development. Some of the fruits of this work are evident in my whitepaper, Interaction Design for Medical Systems. Throughout this tenure, I practiced strong collaboration skills to work successfully with many cross-functional colleagues, including clinical engineers, requirements engineers, software engineers, quality assurance professionals, field clinical engineers, and product marketers. Yep, it takes a village to build a Class III medical device!

Example of design process from the European regulatory group for medical devices

One of the more fun ways that I’ve created some powerful collaboration opportunities is by running Design Sprints. I led great ones at Qantas Insurance and more recently, Ellipsis Health. This innovative method, as pioneered by Google Ventures, creates an astonishing amount of internal alignment and energy by generating validated design solutions for tough business problems in just five days. There’s nothing like pulling together as a tight team with a stiff deadline to create camaraderie and produce meaningful outputs!

My Qantas Design Sprint team reviewing sketches with a critical eye

Industry Leadership

I’ve operated my own boutique consultancy, Devise Consulting, off and on over the past thirteen years, in-between my in-house roles. Running a consultancy involves a range of skills, from pitching and scoping to managing projects and client relationships. I have a track record of client delight and tend to get all of my projects through direct referrals and former clients & colleagues.

One of my client testimonials

One of my professional endeavors that I’m most proud of was conceiving, founding and then quickly selling an innovative start-up called Find Wellness. This business came from my vision of expanding the reach and bringing patient quality measures to the natural health & wellness industry. The “alternative healthcare” market comprised a whopping 1% of total healthcare spending in 2012; basically this meant that it was $24 billion dollar industry that was almost entirely cash-based—but deeply opaque to outsiders. In the span of 2½ years, I researched the domain and customer needs, formulated a business plan, invested my own cash into the business (and pitched angel investors—we were one of just five Concept Stage Finalists for Angel Oregon 2012), built a team, created a brand, launched to the marketplace, secured customers and a marketing presence…essentially, I grew the business from zero to something, and then sold the firm. For the record, the business still operates today but in my view it’s been cash-starved by its owners, so it seems that it hasn’t demonstrated the real potential capitalization of this mostly-untapped market. New competitors like WellSet look to be taking off instead…but, it’s no longer my monkeys or my circus.

Mockup of a practitioner’s page on Find Wellness

Public Speaking

Over the past ten years or so, I have had the opportunity for a variety of speaking engagements that help demonstrate my thought leadership in the field of UX, and more specifically design for health & wellness. Some of these can be viewed here; I’m also involved in Women Talk Design. At Device Design Day in San Francisco, I sent out a clarion call out for UX designers to come work in the domains of healthcare and medical devices….

My final pitch to designers at Device Design Day

Additionally, I was one of the earliest Directors of the worldwide Interaction Design Association, and served as its Vice President for two years. During this time, I personally led the challenging project of designing our own website, coordinating a global team of dozens of volunteer interaction designers (!) and two different consultancies to achieve this work. Testimonials on LinkedIn from a couple colleagues on the project indicate its success — as did the many years of service that that website iteration provided the organization.

Announcing the launch of IxDA.org at the Interaction 10 conference

Management Roles

I’ve had the pleasure of managing entire teams and products as a leader in a couple different roles. At the insurance giant CIGNA, I was a Director in the Clinical Integration Services team. In this role, I managed a team of business analysts, system analysts, and interaction designers working on innovative solutions for customers and clinicians. We worked on cutting-edge solutions using integrated sources of data and novel technology platforms that quickly became de-facto standards in the organization. These products included Compass, Apps & Activities, a 360 Customer View, and the customer experience chat system on Cigna.com. I pioneered a scenario-based approach to requirements capture and led the way in defining the ‘Product Owner’ role as Agile development methods spread from our maverick team out to the entire organization in a major digital transformation effort that continues to this day.

Enjoying a product planning session with my Cigna colleagues

In 2016, I was head-hunted for the role of Head of Product at the Qantas Loyalty start-up now known as Qantas Insurance. For this position, I uprooted house and home and moved to Sydney, Australia. The business was only three months post-launch at the time, with a scant 2000 app downloads and a couple hundred insurance customers. I took the informal, rudimentary process of “business intentions” and used a Design Thinking double-diamond model to pioneer a rigorous product management methodology that sped up the company’s delivery cycle while ensuring we were focused on researching and designing the highest-value features for both customers and business goals. My Product department, comprising two product managers, two interaction designers, two visual designers, and one product analyst pulled together as a team conceptually and functionally. Again, testimonials on LinkedIn speak to my success in this role. By the time I was obliged to leave the role and return to the U.S. for family reasons, Qantas Insurance boasted about 200,000 app downloads and 40,000 customers. Today, the Qantas Wellbeing app continues to garner tremendous reviews and great uptake.

Yes, as of September 2020, it’s rated 4.7 stars with over 24,200 reviews!

Thanks for catching up with my professional expertise in digital health & wellness. Whew! It’s really not that comfortable to write so many laudable things about one’s self! I like to explore many other dimensions of life outside of my work (from high-performance driving to meditation to drumming) but hope that these pieces have given you more detailed insight into the depth and breadth of my work history, and my perspectives on the field of UX and Product Management. Be well, and please drop me a note if you’re inclined!

Conceiving & strategizing. Humanizing healthcare. Changing the future. Loving nature and inner mind. Optimistically engaging.