To coincide with the launch of Designlab Talent, we talked to Andrea Garvey and Christine Pizzo from Intrepid, one of Designlab’s first industry hiring partners.
Founded in 2010 and recently acquired by Accenture, Intrepid is an end-to-end digital product strategy, design and development company with offices in Cambridge, MA and Union Square, NYC.
As part of a team of over 200 people, Andrea and Christine were kind enough to share with us their experience as a company, what they look for in junior designers, and where they think the industry is heading in the next few years!
Hi Andrea and Christine! Could you tell us a little about your roles at Intrepid?
Andrea: I’ve been at Intrepid almost 6 years. I’ve worn many hats during my time here (#startuplife). Originally, I was hired as Director of Marketing for one of our products. After that was acquired, I moved into an operational role.
First I took on recruiting and payroll, plus building the apprentice program, which is the way we traditionally hire entry and junior-level folks. Then we added HR. At this point, as the Director of Talent, I run the recruiting program, the apprentice program, HR and all employee-facing integration matters into Accenture, who acquired Intrepid in June of 2017.
Christine: I’m the Director of Experience Design located in the Boston office. Our team is approaching 45 designers spanning three cities of Boston, NYC, Houston and soon to be Chicago! My week consists of working on client projects, staffing, hiring, managing or mentoring, putting out an occasional “fire” and planning for strategic initiatives.
What kind of clients and projects do you typically take on?
Christine: Even with the day-to-day Director duties, I am still passionate about being a practitioner. The tricky art I’ve learned is balancing my time vs what I can bring to the team. I tend to act as a Creative Thinking Lead or Strategist, facilitating workshops and ideation sessions to define challenging problems or business needs and then translating that into concrete UX or UI solutions.
The projects are mainly Design Sprints or our proprietary Discovery + Design engagements—swift and scrappy, uncovering the hard problems and bringing to life thoughtful experiences. Clients run the gamut and range from Startups to Enterprise, such is the life at Intrepid, from car companies, to hotels, to connected medical devices or auto-dispensing cocktail machines—there’s always something interesting to dig into.
What led you to become a partner with Designlab Talent?
Andrea: We’ve never quite met as well-prepared and consistent design talent as we have from Designlab. We have met candidates who joined our team poised, eager to learn, and punching above their weight. Designlab candidates have flourished both in our apprentice program and then as new employees.
For you as a business leaders, what are the traits of a good entry-level UX designer/product designer?
Christine: The first thing I look for is someone whose enthusiasm or impassioned view on the design world can light me back up and re-establish why I’m in this field. It’s the exact quality clients want—a fresh perspective, with people eager to take on the tough asks.
Then come the skills, and while design can be taught, taste often cannot; so the foundation a candidate brings to the table is key. Lastly: the soft skills matter. At Intrepid we are consultants, so a designer should be able to be engaging in a meeting, present, defend and explain their design decisions within the context of meeting client and business needs.
You mentioned Intrepid’s apprentice program. What opportunities does this offer entry-level designers?
Andrea: The apprentice program is unique, and a big piece of our rapid growth! It’s a paid 12-week learning program offered in Boston across design, project management, and web, iOS and Android development. It starts with a two week intensive piece, wherein apprentices learn both track-specific skills (HIG, design tools, working with a dev team, for instance), consulting skills, Agile project management and the Accenture way.
For five weeks, apprentices simulate client engagement by building a never-been-made-before app in a relatively blue-sky environment, supported by a product owner and an internal client. For the final five weeks, apprentices truly ‘apprentice’ on an existing project wherein they learn the ins and outs of what it’s like on assignment.
The whole program is predicated on earning a full-time role, so there is an emphasis on real-time feedback and creating personalized growth opportunities for each individual. At the end of the program, we typically hire about 80% of folks onto the team full-time.
When it comes to presenting their portfolios, how can a new UX design graduate impress you? Are there any red flags?
Christine: Having a distinct style can set you apart, and give a taste of what the output would be if you were placed on real projects. It’s more than just a Dribbble-worthy good design. You should also showcase the thought process behind the work—research, wireframes, everything. Red flags include chaotic site experiences, a rash of typos, copying others’ work, or not meeting current best practices and platform standards (like observing Material Design guidelines for Android-based projects, etc.)
Finally, what trends do you anticipate in your industry in the next 2-3 years? How do you see the role of designers in meeting new and changing business needs?
Christine: We’re already seeing a tidal wave of connected device experiences, giving a new purpose for a user downloading an app—to interact with a tangible product. Designers will need to adjust their perspective holistically to the physical and digital worlds, and think through the technical implications of decisions.
Suddenly, it’s more than just mobile code and screen-to-screen—it’s about different devices talking to each other. Crafting the user journey is no longer just app flows, but means asking questions like, “Where is the user? How far are they from the device? What do they need at this moment?”
It feels subtle, but trust us, when you’re designing lo-tech swimming pool equipment for a user’s hi-tech standards, the world becomes much more intricate—and developer collaboration is critical.
Become a hiring partner
Interested in accessing the best new UX/UI and product design talent? You can find full details over on the Designlab Talent homepage.