Since its founding in 2007, EDI has attracted talented engineers who are intent on taking a human-centered approach to their design innovation work.
While EDIs share similar passions for engineering, design and innovation, their talents and skill sets are broad. Today, EDI alumni occupy roles spanning various industries and locations.
This summer we set out on a mission to answer a critical question: What do alumni do after their 15 months of EDI?
In order to find the answers, we applied the same design process practiced in EDI. We researched, observed and interviewed numerous alumni digging deeper to better understand their journeys leading up to EDI, their experiences throughout the program and where they have landed now.
We collected and synthesized our research to better understand how our students’ diverse set of skills translates into roles that deliver value. Currently, EDIs are working across industries including innovation consulting, consumer packaged goods, and healthcare. They take on roles ranging from user interface and experience designers to product developers and design researchers.
Hear from several alumni below on their experiences before, during and after EDI. Make sure to check back often as new alumni will periodically be featured.
EDI By the Numbers:
- 28% Design Engineer
- 21% UI/UX/Service
- 16% Product/Project Management
- 9% Business/Management
- 6% Design Research
- 5% Strategy
- 4% Entrepreneurial
- 4% Physician/Medical Practice
- 3% Education
- 3% Other
- 53% In-House HCD or Product Team
- 29% Consulting
- 6% Startup
- 5% Academic
- 5% Medical/Healthcare
- 1% Freelance
- 17% Design Consultancy
- 12% Technology
- 12% Healthcare
- 8% Consumer Packaged Goods
- 3% Packaging
- 3% Business
- 2% Furniture
Companies where EDIs are employed:
Meet the Alumni:
Allison Bedell, EDI ‘13
UI Developer, Pinpoint Care
BS, Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University
On her current role: I’m on the product team, which is two of us. My boss is the head of project management…so we do the project strategy. People come to me for questions about what things should look like…The development team will come to me for things like, “Where should this button take me?” I’ll give feedback on functionality as they build it out. They’ll send it to me, and I’ll load it on my system and make sure it works how I was hoping it would.
“My favorite part is the challenge of taking what customers say and trying to make that make sense in terms of what we’re
On getting hired: They [Pinpoint Care] really wanted someone who could speak the design language and understood what customers want, but also who had an engineering background, and could understand the development team and then design within what was feasible.
On how the EDI skill set applies to her current role: All the design research we did [in EDI], we had so many experiences with talking to people about a new problem, and synthesizing that information and making sense of it, that it starts to feel very second nature. That’s definitely something I use all the time in my position, is that synthesis from having even a casual conversation with a customer. Also, something I’ve used a lot is creating PowerPoint presentations…the storytelling element of that, not just what it looks like, but being able to figure out what you want to say, based on the audience you’re talking to, and kind of distilling that into a story.
Biggest takeaways from EDI:
- You have the opportunity to really be imaginative and really think outside the box.
- There are always opportunities to push the envelope, whether it’s with the products or the processes or whatever within the company.
- As engineers, we’re perfect for sitting in between marketing people and engineers, and playing translator.
- Design research is applicable across the board – being able to ask the right questions, being able to show things in the right way, the whole idea of low fidelity at first and high fidelity as you get better.
- The ability to synthesize and being able to visualize…to actually have visual takeaways from consumer research; ways to communicate what you learned in an effective way to the developers and to the account managers.
Anthony Jakubiak, EDI ‘12
Senior Experience Designer, SAP Labs
BS, Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota
On his decision to enter EDI: I did my bachelor’s at the University of Minnesota in civil engineering, and I had worked during the summers in engineering related roles and knew enough from those experiences that staying in the technical field of civil engineering wasn’t where I wanted to be, but instead I wanted to build off my background in engineering and do more with it. While I was in school at Minnesota, I was doing all sorts of extracurriculars and all this exciting stuff on the side that wasn’t related to engineering – like social entrepreneurship and working in a renewable energy group where we tinkered with building wind turbines. All of these additional experiences opened up my eyes to design and designing for human needs, and that’s actually what got me into design and what got me searching for programs that could be a suitable fit for me. And that’s when I stumbled on to the EDI program and never looked back.
Favorite part of his current role: The concepting phase is my favorite part – taking what we’ve seen in the field like the research and insights we’ve seen, and now bridging that to tangible offerings. That’s the design aspect – thinking how does this fit with the business ecosystem? How does it meet user needs? How does this translate into a shift into the way business processes are done? Right at that intersection is where it’s exciting!
EDI skills applied to current role: Any artifacts that you can use to communicate the design process and why you want to do a certain service offering or a certain experience, is power to you. Rather than me saying, “This is how an experience should be designed,” I’ll show them. I’ll say, “Hey, here’s the current experience or journey that a user goes through, here’s what it could be, and here’s where we have mapped all the different opportunities where we can create a delightful point in the user experience.” Having the map as a tangible artifact allows me to communicate our design and our intent a lot better than just saying it.
“What EDI has given me is the mindset that at my current company, I need to be the advocate for the user. I need to be the advocate for everything we’re doing. Every design decision we’re making is grounded in human need and a desire, and it solves a problem that maybe people haven’t been able to fix.”
The benefits of EDI:
- I think what the EDI program does really well is that you’re inundated with faculty and surrounded by people who have been practicing design in one form or another, whether it’s research or interaction design or strategy, product design, for 20 years. EDI brings in incredibly talented people and people with a wealth of knowledge that you can learn from. People that are actually practicing it right now in their own domains and you can learn from that. And so that’s one area that when I transitioned from EDI to full-time employment, I was able to hit the ground running because it’s not as if my head was in a book learning the theory of design – we were practicing it. That’s another thing – you work on very real projects in EDI, with real clients and real practitioners.
- EDI gives you the different lenses to bring a holistic experience together.
- What we talked about in all the classes and now as I work full time, is viability, desirability, feasibility. EDIs bring a great depth of engineering knowledge because each of us comes from an engineering background – that’s the feasibility. We understand technical constraints and the problem solving part. You need to build something that works; EDI makes sure that you don’t forget that. You can think about all the cool concepts in the world, but you’ve got to make sure something works – you’ve got to build a prototype. Whatever we design, is it viable for business? How do you position it in the market? How can it live beyond the first prototype and actually become a sustainable business? And then the important part – desirability. EDI helps you really understand people. When you take those classes like design research and your different studio classes, you learn to understand people. EDI teaches you to start with people and understand their needs.
Brian Hamamoto, EDI ‘12
Manufacturing Engineer, Advanced Bionics
BS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame
On how EDI prepared him for his current role: I definitely think that EDI has been hugely beneficial for me. I think largely it’s helped me see the world in a different way. That is to say, I feel like the way I approach problems and people and just any kind of challenge is completely different – sort of rooted in that EDI methodology, where no challenge is too tough. You just have to take your time and look at it and approach it very systematically; don’t be afraid of making mistakes and learning along the way.”
On getting hired: What my boss was really interested in was understanding the challenges and how you approached those challenges. Often times – as you know from EDI – it’s a bumpy road. Learning what those hiccups were, and how you adapted and how you overcame them, I think was particularly interesting to my boss. Especially because that is so much the norm in the real world – nothing ever goes according to plan.
On transitioning from EDI into industry: What EDI showed me is actually the dilemma: I like a lot of different things and it’s hard to pick just one thing to focus on. But you sort of need to do that. I would say in general it’s been beneficial. I’m not necessarily working on the front end but I’m working on the backend, which I think transitions nicely from EDI because we mostly focus on frontend development, and my current position gives me exposure to the backend development…picking up where EDI leaves off.
On his current role and what’s next: The medical device industry is highly specialized and very interesting and challenging, to be honest. I think that makes it an ideal learning experience. Ideally I’d like to squeeze as much as I can from this position and this industry. I don’t see myself staying here for the long term, because there’s just so much that I want to learn and so many different areas I want to explore. But I think for now starting off in the medical device industry is a great point for that. The analogy I always use is it’s a lot easier to train for a marathon and then run a 5k, than to try to do the reverse. I think the learnings from such a challenging industry are easily applicable everywhere.
Jai Krishnan, EDI ‘14
Product Manager, Google
BS, Electrical Engineering, Psychology, Stanford University
Oh his current role: I'm a product manager at Google, working on the WebM media codec project. We make YouTube and Hangouts videos much smaller and faster, and just started working with companies like Netflix and Amazon. It's exactly like the TV show silicon valley, except free and open source.
On applying EDI skills in his current role: Google is very big on design thinking. In fact, a healthy chunk of the new hire orientation is a design-thinking exercise – for every employee, not just creatives. It’s such a new field of study that 15 months of EDI has made me way more comfortable with design methods than some very seasoned product managers are. Particularly on a very technical team, focusing on user needs and prototyping can be a breath of fresh air.
On navigating EDI and choosing a path: EDI and design thinking are both very new, which is both a plus and a challenge. There was plenty of room to define EDI on my terms. I started the program vaguely aspiring to be a product design engineer, and left certain I wanted to be a product manager - the great thing about EDI is it can lead to either path, and a bunch more. The challenge is you have to take the initiative to explore those paths and shape a narrative for what "EDI" means on your resume.
Biggest takeaway from EDI: It’s easy to get caught up on career outcomes for a professional master’s, but I can't emphasize enough how much fun it is to do EDI “work”. Grad students in other programs would struggle with tests, papers, and research grunt work, meanwhile my classmates and me are brainstorming, empathizing, building and iterating. It’s not easy, and the messiness of design would often leave us lost, but coming from consulting, it was a reintroduction to enjoyable work. It’s something I've continued to seek and value at Google, and I'd credit EDI with setting the bar for what work should be.
Kamyin Cheng, EDI ‘14
Senior Mechanical Engineer, Motorola
BS, Mechanical Engineering, Massachussetts Institute of Technology
On why she chose EDI: When I was working with General Electric, I decided I wanted to get more experience in design and get closer to users. That’s why I started shopping around for programs and found EDI, which I thought was a really good fit because I’d get to see and explore the design thinking park of it, while finding something that was complementary to my mechanical engineering undergrad background.
On what she loves about her current role: It’s very rigorous and I get to learn a lot from everyone whom I’m working with. Getting to understand the engineering process from conception to production was important for me, because in EDI we learn about design thinking and the process of coming up with new innovations. Now, I’m learning how to carry that process into projects. So years from now, I’ll come back full circle and will actually come up with new ideas that can come out in the market.
On a recent favorite work project: I was working with some friends I met at Motorola. They came to me and they had been working on a secret project that they were trying to get a sensor to work for. And so, it’s almost like EDI all over again, in the sense that we get to prototype and come up with what the story is – What can we do with the sensor? How can we add it into a wearable product?
“I appreciate the fact that the people here can be really creative and are able to come up with new ideas and then implement them.”
On what helped her land the job: I think it was very helpful that I had some experience in engineering and I went back to school to get my master’s degree. I think my passion and interest in consumer products was one of the key factors for why they hired me. I definitely communicated that I wanted to work with technology and keep doing engineering, but also wanted to work on something that people would touch and feel and use. I wanted to work on innovation in that way.
Morgan Williams, EDI ‘14
Products Researcher, P&G
BS, Biomedical Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
On why she chose EDI: I think the variety of backgrounds that people have and the variety of projects you get to work on appealed to me. And it seemed like fun with how creative you get to be, and you get to actually make what you’re learning about.
On what she does in her current role: At P&G, I am a products researcher, so I am responsible for being the interface with the consumer and finding out what they’re looking for – what are their current tensions – and then going back to the product designers and translating that into a technical sense. Basically, how can we solve what their tensions are? It’s very directly applicable to the EDI process.
On why EDI and P&G are a good fit: P&G is trying to bring the design process that we do in EDI into a large corporate environment. This is unique, but it’s something that they succeed at and have been historically successful at – putting the consumer first. They are the grandfather of that idea as far as a consumer products company goes, and so they definitely have an appreciation for how EDIers start with the consumer, because P&G does the same thing for all of their products.
On applying the EDI process: As soon as you can wrap your head around the fact that a service is a product and that anything you interact with is a product, it’s just a unique approach, because you can then apply it to your own life. For example, my career is a design project.
“I think it’s cool that you can take the design process and fit it to anything.”
On her biggest takeaways from EDI:
- My biggest takeaway is the way I see things now. You really do learn what a designer’s lens is, and you’re constantly asking, “Why is it like that? Who thought that?” – in a good way, or in a bad way.
- Working with people from different backgrounds and learning how to utilize their skills best was a big takeaway for me. Everyone in EDI has a really different, unique approach to things and it’s just a really good lesson to learn for any job. I’ve definitely come across that, because P&G is very diverse in skill sets and ways of thinking.
Zeke Markshausen, EDI ’10
BS, Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University
On his favorite part of EDI: We had people that were professors, but then also people who were brought in. For example, Michael Chapman from IDEO was there, and a few others, and I really appreciated their outside perspective. I wasn't just being taught by university professors anymore, it was actually people in the field doing it, and then bringing those stories with them.
On applying skills from EDI to his football career, current role and beyond: I think the biggest part – and this is true of anything that you’re in – is the research phase; the listening aspect of understanding who you’re dealing with. It could be a user or it could be, for me, a coach, or for me right now, a client. Listening to and understanding their needs and where they are coming from and how they’re looking at the problem at hand, is just as important as what you do.
On coming back into the design world after football: It’s still challenging, and I find myself working my tail off, but that’s what I want. Everyone wants a good challenge, and this is mine right now. I ask myself, “Can I be an effective designer at the world’s best design firm?” I have amazing people around me who have been doing this for years, and I’m just trying to soak up as much wisdom and as much knowledge as I can.
“I think my understanding of the complexity that it takes to make really good design has grown immensely from IDEO.”
On what design is to him: From what I know about design – not only what I learned in EDI, but also from my experiences now – is that design always comes back to creating value for a user, creating value for a person who either has a pinpoint or just doesn't know what they want or need. Design fills that gap. It fills that understanding from, “Here’s something that I need to do, but I don't know how to do it, or I’m not very good at doing it right now. How can someone help with that?” And I feel like we just keep trying to narrow that gap as designers.