Favorite Part: Bringing in real users to test prototypes. There’s nothing like watching someone’s face light up when they are presented with prototype designed specifically for them.
Biggest Lesson Learned: Take away all the chairs. People will fall into phone-comas if you let them sit down.
Best Advice: Give everyone in the group a marker. Everyone must write down their own ideas.
As a Design Thinking coach, I worked with Cornell’s Executive Education team to organize and facilitate workshops for business leaders on-site. Design Thinking aims to streamline and simplify the creative creation process so that any group, however diverse, can generate novel solutions to big picture questions, simply by leading with empathy and setting aside constraints.
As a coach, I worked with executives, engineers, doctors, graduate students, and entrepreneurs in groups as intimate as a meeting of peers to multi-day workshops with companies like Google and AARP.
My team used the Design Thinking methodology developed at the Stanford d.school during our workshops. First, workshop participants begin by intentionally setting aside their traditional problem solving methods. Engineers like to engineer solutions, executives like to pursue a positive bottom line, … Read More »
Biggest Lesson Learned: Guard solutions diligently. Oftentimes, solvers must reach that I-have-no-idea tipping point before the pieces slide into place. Be patient.
Favorite Moment: Hosting a hands on event at a local games shop. Seeing kids’ eyes go wide at the puzzles, and their parents’ eyes go wider when I showed them the riddles and hidden meaning in the puzzle.
Hardest Part: Iterating hundreds of different puzzle cuts to figure out what worked with both the laser and the material, for both durability, aesthetic appeal, and mental challenge.
I have always loved jigsaw puzzles, but once you’ve done a handful you know exactly what each new puzzle box has in store. The puzzle pieces are similarly shaped and there is no goal beyond replicating the image on the outside of the box. After graduating from Cornell, I decided to start a jigsaw puzzle company to make the puzzles that dedicated puzzlers deserved.
Baffledazzle puzzles are a discovery in a box. Each one is made up of quarter-inch thick, laser-cut solid wood puzzle pieces. As the puzzle is assembled, … Read More »
Favorite Part: Feeling like a beginner again. Even with years of dance training, I often feel like I’m starting from scratch and learning to move my body all over again.
Best Adventure: Taking hip hop classes in Amsterdam and Tokyo. I don’t speak Dutch or Japanese, so I was learning dance through dance alone.
Hardest Part: Building up my shoulder muscles! I had to learn to dance with my shoulders instead of holding them in ballet’s steady “swan’s neck” position, with the shoulder blades drawn down the back.
During my conservatory training in ballet, I avoided hip hop classes at all costs. The strange, loose style didn’t make sense to me because ballet has an absolute “ideal” toward which all dancers are striving. I didn’t understand the underpinnings of the dance form and it intimidated me for years.
It wasn’t until I took a break from dance during graduate school that I learned to appreciate the freedom of improvised and stylized dance. I went into my first real hip hop class with an open mind and absolutely loved it.
Getting to know hip hop was like learning a new language—not only did I need to learn new words, but I had … Read More »
Journey: Guangzhou, China — Port of Los Angeles — Salt Lake City, UT — Chicago, IL — Customer!
Favorite Customer Story: Purchased by a father for his son, who must wear orthopedic ankle braces at all times. The Charlie Baker, whose backwards design is compatible with the braces, is the first stylish shoe he has owned.
Favorite Quote From a Manufacturer: “It is maybe, not so beautiful, but very creative. Innovative!”
The Charlie Baker Sneaker was the flagship product of semifold, my movement-inspired apparel company. Its design embodies the mission of the company: to introduce new experiences, both visual and physical. The target of the Charlie Baker was simply to create a backward shoe. Many product samples flew between Guangzhou, China and Salt Lake City, Utah as we refined the design to balance conceptual purity with practicality. Throughout the design process, we found opportunities for subtle details, like the eyelets’ placement on the outside of the shoe body instead of the inside, that rewarded curiosity and encouraged a closer look. The shoe’s playful design is understandable by almost everyone, but the details, like the name’s play on the classic “Chuck … Read More »
Favorite Part: Everything was visualized, from simple sketches in meetings, to mock-ups for client summits, on ubiquitous slips of paper or white boards.
Biggest Lesson Learned: Tailor your visual style to your audience the same way you tailor your written style; less produced documents signal that it’s a work in process and welcome feedback.
Unexpected Adventure: Learned a great deal about typography and graphic design and hand kerned a few headlines along the way.
Spending a summer with SYPartners showed me what comprehensive branding, transformational thinking, and culture change look like through a designer’s lens. SYPartners’ mission, which is engraved on the glass at the front of their NY office, reads, “In a world that too often settles for less, we believe it is worthy work to envision, believe in, and fight for greatness. That’s the work we do alongside our clients, every day.”
As a Strategy Intern, I was quickly immersed in SYP’s interdisciplinary approach to creating thought-provoking, masterfully designed activities, experiences, and environments for clients. These deliverables were not dry consulting decks but mutual explorations that treated change as the complex transformation that it is, not the first step in a suspiciously … Read More »
Biggest Obstacle: Figuring out how to taper the sleeve tube in the middle so it would fit properly when cut apart.
Favorite Customer Story: Purchased and tailored to look like a normal sweater. Reason for buying? Regular sweaters never have long enough sleeves.
Favorite Quote From a Manufacturer: “We do not know how this will be worn, but we can make it to your specification.”
The Connected Sweater arrives completely enclosed. The sleeves are knitted together in one continuous piece and the top and bottom of the body are sealed as well. To wear the garment, the user must interact with the sweater’s form and make decisions about how the sweater will fit. With a few snips, the sweater is fully functional and leaves little trace of its original form. The Connected Sweater, like The Charlie Baker shoe, demands consideration and invites creativity from the wearer to turn their “sweater canvas” into wearable art.
Creating The Connected Sweater was unexpectedly difficult. As we had for previous garments, we sent out a crude drawing of the concept to a handful of clothing manufacturers and waited for price quotes. Response after response said … Read More »
Favorite Part: Having complete control over every stitch and reaping the rewards of getting a design exactly right.
Biggest Lesson Learned: Pick your fabric carefully and buy plenty of it. Even straightforward designs need to be stitched out at least four times.
Preferred Subject Matter: Animals. Fur, scales, and skin at once lend themselves to and defy the limits of thread and fabric.
Machine embroidery is symbolic of many things in my life: a marriage of creativity and practicality. I enjoy both the limitless possibilities of drawing with thread and the immediate, precise execution of my sewing machine. I get to explore until something feels right, then capture that design and replicate it again and again.
Imagining each design comes easily, but translating the idea into programmed stitches is an ongoing challenge. Learning to program machine embroidery designs is a great lesson in following through on creative vision, even within strict technical constraints. For each stitch the designer must not only decide where a stitch begins and ends but how the machine stitches it, with what thread tension, and … Read More »
Favorite Part: Collecting stories of grantee’s success and the impact the Community Foundation’s resources have had on their organization.
Biggest Lesson Learned: A simple $1,000 grant can have a huge impact on a community. You lose sight of how far a dollar can go when you’re used to the language of business school, where every balance sheet is assumed to be in millions.
The Johnson Board Fellows program allows MBAs to serve as non-voting members of local, non-profit Boards of Directors. As a Fellow, I discussed strategic issues at board meetings, … Read More »
Director of Business Development: 2012–2013
Favorite Part: Meeting many local business owners and having candid conversations about the decisions and hurdles they face.
Biggest Lesson Learned: When I first considered the Business Development Role, I was concerned I might be a poor fit for sales. I was pleased to realize that I am excellent at conversations, from which the best sales pitches are indistinguishable.
Hardest Part: Trying to maintain and improve upon on our predecessor Directors’ systems while learning how to run the firm and work as a team. It felt like taking over someone else’s start-up with no idea what the business produced and no employees.
BR Consulting is a student-run management consulting firm that helps local small to mid-sized businesses profile strategic options, explore investments, and organize to implement solutions. At the same time, BRC provides valuable consulting experience to Johnson students interested in improving their problem solving skills.
As the Director of Business Development, I began conversations with over 30 potential clients, from which I ultimately developed 11 engagements. I evaluated each client’s fit with our educational objectives, scoped out right-sized projects, and transitioned the engagement to the client’s new team. One of my objectives as … Read More »
Unique Distinction: Many Rainbow Wingtip sales came from strangers stopping me in public to ask where I got them.
Favorite Customer Story: Purchased for a wedding, worn with a white suit.
Favorite Quote From a Manufacturer: “The design of the shoes is really unique. I think the designer must be imaginative!”
The Rainbow Wingtip, like the Charlie Baker, changes one characteristic of a familiar favorite drastically, and leaves all else untouched. The silhouette is that of a classic wingtip, with the color palate adding the dynamic element. A symbol of pride for some, a humorous expression for others, The Rainbow Wingtip is a tool for the user’s self-expression. Much like The Charlie Baker, the Wingtip offers many possible interpretations of meaning, many ways to “wear” the shoe.
The Rainbow Wingtip presented the first insurmountable sourcing challenge. Though there are many experienced manufacturers of men’s dress shoes and many more willing to give it a try, none of them seemed able to color match dyed patent leather with provided Pantone codes. Sample after sample returned looking faded, dull, or just off-putting. Patent leather manufacturers were inaccessible, requiring large and expensive sample runs. Eventually, a … Read More »
Favorite part: Collaborating with our Indian teammates and getting to hear and see our customers thousands of miles away in photos and video interviews.
Hardest part: Getting a true answer for how much users would pay for the service during surveys.
Biggest revelation: Realizing street food vendors are employing their children, as young as 5, to wash dishes behind their stall: a significant barrier to adoption of our service.
During the Creative Design for Affordability class at Cornell, I teamed up with three Cornell-based students, and five Mumbai-based students (at the Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research) to enter a proposal for the Acara Challenge. Our task was to design an entrepreneurial and sustainable product or service to address food security in India. Our team developed a dish and utensil washing service for street food vendors that used municipal water access and Tata’s Swach filters to provide clean water for a small fee. Our proposed business employs local women as part-time dishwashers, rickshaw drivers for dish transport, and provides a sanitation certification program for participating vendors.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to work within the … Read More »
Favorite part: Learning a few months after my coaching engagement had ended that my client’s new website, which was developed while I was serving as coach, had nearly doubled their online sales.
Hardest part: Building the trust necessary to discuss strategic changes with someone that has run this business for over 30 years.
BR MicroCapital was a student run coaching and financing organization for low-income entrepreneurs. We worked with owners of established businesses, and provided goal-based coaching support. Affordable loans were also available to clients who did not have access to traditional financing. As an entrepreneur coach, I met with my client, who produced paper products decorated with the work of local artists, every other week to advise on the most efficient way to approach current problems. At the time, my client was developing an integrated marketing program, building up a social media presence, and launching a new website.
Immersing myself in my client’s business and challenges taught me the importance of relationships at any level of business. Every recommended action meant reaching out to a person, not a business or a service. Particularly in Ithaca’s small community, where there were frequently only a handful of professionals that … Read More »
Favorite Part: Seeing the project team’s technology in action, seeing our mini-prototypes take shape, and figuring out how to share that excitement with the entire Cornell community.
Hardest Part: Getting a 108 student-strong organization to project a consistent brand message to all stakeholders. Everyone excels at speaking about the details, but the bigger picture is trickier to articulate.
Cornell University Sustainable Design: Sustainable Research Facility is a student run organization that is designing and building a “Living Laboratory” on Cornell University’s Ithaca, New York campus. The aim of this project is to build a permanent landmark structure with a 6000 ft2 footprint over 2-3 floors, singularly poised to further the field of Computational Sustainability in regard to the built environment. As business team lead, I oversaw all corporate communications, kickstarted a lifetime cost model for the building, and organized cross-campus promotion efforts.
What it Means to Me
Working on the SRF was an eye-opening experience in working on cross-functional teams. The massive 108 student workforce drew from every college at Cornell and strived to utilize each student’s unique strengths. As a result, I led a business team … Read More »
Favorite Part: Breaking away from spreadsheets and two-by-two matrices to look at beautiful graphics and build something with my hands.
Hardest Part: Putting a hard stop on an open ended investigation so we could build an installation. I’ve learned how important it is to identify a goal before diving in.
Through a graduate seminar in Cornell’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, I explored the visual and contextual characteristics of credibility in infographics. My team evaluated a sample of BP Oil Spill infographics on subjective measures of credibility, like trustworthiness, propensity to be shared or referenced, and likelihood of preservation. We then ordered the infographics by common characteristics of Look, Time, and Voice within a 3D cube. By walking around the cube, viewers could identify patterns within the infographics and draw their own conclusions about the characteristics of credibility.
As the conversation surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill progressed from Learning to Understanding to Resolving to Reflecting, the “look” of credibility was consistently important in determining which infographics were shared and preserved, and by extension, which infographics were effective. First, we outlined criteria for judging credibility in the … Read More »
Favorite Role: When I was Master of Ceremonies, I dressed as an flight attendant to welcome the audience and remind them to fasten their seat belts for an evening in flight. When exiting the stage, I placed an oxygen mask over the nose and mouth of one of the other performers.
Hardest Part: At the beginning of each class, we climbed to the top of the fabric twice, about 18 feet in the air. For the first few weeks, this exercise left me with noodle arms for the rest of the evening.
I decided to try Aerial Dance shortly after making the leap into Modern Dance from Ballet. It was a fantastic learning experience for me, because I got to start all over. Hanging in the air on a cloth is a completely foreign experience and I had to learn all the basic rules of locomotion over again. Instead of just contending with gravity, which is a far more powerful force once you leave the ground, I also had to stay mindful of friction and the need to be constantly anchored to the fabric. With these new constraints, I was clumsy, … Read More »