4 Questions with IA Collaborative’s 2022 Summer Interns

by IA Collaborative on 22.08.2022
IA Collaborative Summer 2022 Interns

IA Collaborative invited a multi-disciplinary class of interns to learn from and collaborate across multiple projects this summer. From supporting the creation of client product architectures, to designing supporting interactive visualizations, to presenting final recommendations to a client’s parent company in Japan, the IA interns spent the summer exploring the intersection of design and business innovation.

At the end of their internship, we posed four questions to understand how their experiences at IA Collaborative are shaping their perspectives on design and their future careers.

Meet the Interns

IA Collaborative’s 2022 Summer Intern Class. From left to right: Bill Guo, Fahvyon Jimenez, Allie Newell

Name: Bil Guo
Title: Interaction Design Intern
Before the internship, I… was finishing my third year at Carnegie-Mellon University, where I’m pursuing an undergraduate degree in human-computer interaction (HCI). At CMU, I have been an active research assistant in different labs, helping students with machine learning, smart homes, and AI-enhanced education. 

Name: Fahvyon Jimenez
Title: Design Research Intern
Before the internship, I…  was at the University of Pennsylvania, where I’m pursuing my Masters in Integrated Product Design – a multidisciplinary program that trains students in engineering, design, and business. While in the program, I reimagined the architectural and spatial experience of one of the city’s top hospitals. Before graduate school, I worked for Deloitte, then pivoted to the educational sector where I worked for several years at Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School as their Chief Technology Officer, helping accelerate the school into the 21st century with new technologies and forward-thinking initiatives.

Name: Allie Newell
Title: Business Strategy Intern
Before the internship, I…  was attending the MMM program at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, where I just finished the first year of my MBA + MS Design Innovation dual-degree program. Prior to pursuing my MBA, I worked as a consultant specializing in human capital at Deloitte, focusing on growth strategy, organizational design, and communication strategy.

Question #1: What made you want to intern at IA?

ALLIE: IA leads with a human-centered lens and business rigor, and has united some of the best minds across many disciplines to make a real impact on the human experience. I knew that I would learn best-in-class design thinking and business strategy at IA alongside people who are down-to-earth and eager to collaborate. 

BILL: I was attracted by the opportunity to practice design through a realistic project, excited about trying on different hats during collaboration with interdisciplinary teammates, and convinced by the professional excellence among practitioners and the learning culture across the organization.

FAHV: One of the upperclassmen in my master’s program spent last summer at IA, and she spoke so, so highly of the experience and the people. She described a team who went out of their way to welcome her, a variety of projects that kept her engaged, a methodological rigor across projects that made her a better problem solver. These are the things that brought me to IA and I feel very much like the internship has delivered on them.

Synthesizing ideation for a project
Business Strategy Intern Allie Newell synthesizing a client project in the IA Collaborative office

Question #2: What was the most important thing you learned during your time at IA?

ALLIE: IA Collaborative taught me collaboration as a strategic, competitive advantage. IA attracts people who are experts in their craft and committed to continued growth, curiosity, and learning from others.

That means bringing together world-class visual designers who lean in on research, design researchers who help shape the business strategy, business strategists who work with interaction designers and product strategy experts, and content strategy experts who bring the work to life throughout the journey–IA is truly multidisciplinary in this way. These examples just scratch the surface, but they illustrate one of IA’s differentiators: deep collaboration. The process is better and the end result more powerful with the radical collaboration model at IA. 

BILL: Embrace the challenges I am facing, plus fall in love with the problem I am tackling. I observe this happening from time to time as my collaborators and mentors fearlessly zoom in and out of abstract problem spaces and consistently share excitement around ambiguity and uncertainty.

FAHV: I came to IA with a very specific list of things to learn. I showed them to my amazing Career Manager and my incredible Collaborator and they immediately got to work. It’s tough to pick a favorite among these goals, but I think learning how IA consistently goes through a rigorous synthesis process tops the list on long-term value. From the outside, it looked amorphous and even “hand-wavey.” Today, I feel very much like an insider on the process. I can see plainly how to do it and  why it’s so important.

Three IA collaborators brainstorm a prototype
Interaction Design Intern Bill Guo (right) works with IA team members on a “Designing Your Next Competitor” workshop

“Design and innovation is about uncovering [user] needs and using them as the north star to guide the innovative ideas and solutions we explore.”

— Allie Newell, Business Strategy Intern

Question #3: What inspires you the most in the design and innovation space?

ALLIE: I’m inspired by how deeply IA holds the user needs – whether the user is a C-suite innovation lab participant, an international cancer patient, or simply someone who receives packages (which would be many of us!). Design and innovation is about uncovering those needs and using them as the north star to guide the innovative ideas and solutions we explore. Even when we’re downstream in the process thinking through execution details, it all comes back to, “What does this mean for the user? How does this solve their biggest needs?” 

BILL: I appreciate and feel inspired by how practitioners at IA creatively leverage design tools such as persona, customer journey map, service blueprint, and research stimuli. They creatively manipulate, break down, mix up, and repurpose these tools to most effectively fulfill their objectives.

FAHV: So many people (maybe everyone?) at IA have a personal realm of design that they spend their private time pursuing. It might be oil painting or education, it might be something further afield like paper-folding. Seeing how many people take design into the rest of their lives inspired me more than anything else this summer.

IA Collaborators prototyping with paper
Design Research Intern Fahvyon Jimenez, right, exploring fractals using paper as a medium. In viruses, protein structures determine their function; emerging nanotech research suggests that viruses could one day be turned off by disrupting their fold patterns.

Question #4: What is a key learning you’ll carry forward from your time at IA?

ALLIE: One of IA’s maxims is “make it now.” That means we start making things, sketching ideas, building prototypes as fuel for the work to get input and collaborate. In my first week, I saw my entire team embody this. Everyone — even senior leaders — printed out work-in-progress materials and cut them up and re-ordered the content based on iterative feedback. We moved faster and collaborated better because we “made it now,” which is something I’ll continue to do in my work.

BILL: To genuinely care about others at work and proactively discover opportunities to empower collaborators. Through observation, conversation, and reflection, I was fortunate to learn this from the best, my career manager. As an aspiring designer, I’d love to offer care and support to make a positive and direct impact.

FAHV: Aside from how to turn hundreds of post-its into a market-altering product strategy, I learned invaluable lessons about extracting maximum value from collaborative environments. We recently engaged in an immersive learning experience all around how to keep client alignment meetings and workshops inclusive, generative, and engaging. It goes way beyond just general communication best practices. We dove into the “sport” of meeting facilitation, from “creating a home court advantage” by optimizing the physical meeting space for the desired outcomes, to “practicing your passing game” by engaging all participants and summarizing responses before transitioning into new topics. 

This is the content they never teach you in school. This is the kind of stuff you must live and experience to learn!

Over the past few months, the IA Collaborative interns have gone on research, designed interactive workshops, helped create key assets for clients, and immersed themselves in the our interdisciplinary, creative, and business-minded culture. We can’t wait to see their careers continue to flourish as they apply human-centered design to business innovation.

Close-up, abstract view of architecture.

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