For the majority of my 20 year career, I’ve been in a design-related role. Graphic design, web design, product design, UX design, UI design, service design, et cetera. I’ve worked my way up the corporate ladder, from a very junior designer out of college all the way to director-level positions at multinational, Fortune 100 corporations. I’ve managed globally distributed teams, large projects, & even bagged a JD Power Award along the way.

Stephen with JD Power Award

I went back to school to get my MBA in my late-30’s. I settled on Syracuse University because of their ranked Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE) program. Plus, I could do it remotely while working with little impact to my family or professional life. 

I worked my ass off academically while working full time. Won a graduate award for entrepreneurship excellence. Won some pitch competitions with a startup concept (wasn’t really fair putting professionals up against college kids, but, hey – large check!)

Jonathan (L) and Stephen (R) pull down a comically large check for $7,500.

I realized that I was successful because of my UX & Design background. All because I could start with a customer-centric approach to framing problems.

Ask why.

Look for the duct tape.

Discover intent.

Uncover primary and latent needs.

Apply frameworks.

Build, Measure, Learn.

I quickly discovered that I could apply a user & customer focus to solving business problems, quantifying impact of decisions (or inaction!), and measuring change. I was able to leverage, as Del the Funky Homosapien would say, Both Sides of the Brain. 

I’m leaving behind the familiar world of experience design for something new and exciting. On July 16, I’ll be wearing a new hat – Principal Consultant on my company’s Technology Solutions team. This role will allow me to think like an entrepreneur and pull together recommendations for products & services, leveraging new and existing technologies to solve customer and business problems — using, you guessed it, both sides of my brain.

After all, what’s the point of going back to school in your late 30’s to get an MBA if you aren’t going to put it to work?