area 631
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Interning At IBM's Area 631

Internship Summary

I joined the Area 631 innovation incubator program as a UX Designer Intern, where I worked with 5 other innovators for 3 months to build the next big thing in AI

Timeline

January - April 2021

Our product received a strong positive reaction from IBM leadership, resulting in our product being taken forward to pursue go-to-market (GTM) opportunities.

My Role + Team

Design Lead
Led product design and strategy in a team of 4 software engineers and 1 data scientist

Tools

Sketch, Adobe Creative Cloud Suite

Roles & Responsibilities

Experience Design, Interface Design, Product Strategy, User Research, User Testing

What is Area 6-3-1?

6 Innovators come together for 3 Months to work on 1 Breakthrough

Context & Opportunity
Developing AI applications requires deep AI knowledge, experienced technical teams, and long periods of time to properly train models

This has created a barrier of entry to this space, preventing startups, smaller organizations, and other independent communities from utilizing AI technology. During Area 631, I worked with an incredible team of problem solvers as we dove into this space and focused on building the next big thing in AI.

Design Process

Iterate Fast, Iterate Often

I operated in a small, agile team with full autonomy over our product's development. I collaborated with engineers, product managers, and stakeholders to design product features and build entirely new experiences from concept to delivery. During this process, I was able to use and develop my skills in product design, research and product strategy.

We held monthly stakeholder reviews with senior executives in design, engineering, and product across North America. Our final product was positively reviewed through stakeholder presentations, as well as validated through numerous user tests and interviews. I co-led these review sessions and created focused presentations to tell strong, clear narratives to our different stakeholders.

During this project, I made critical decisions in design, business and technical implementation - something design students typically would not get a chance to experience during an internship. This project is currently being explored by IBM for product and market opportunities. Due to the NDA nature of the project, I’m not able to publicly share my work. Please feel free to get in touch with me for more details.

Reflection

Learnings & Takeaways

Designing Objectively

In my design process, this project served as a fresh reminder of the importance of backing each decision with adequate user research and feedback.

Working in a company with incredibly skilled people and a rich history of designing emerging technology, I realized how easy it was to lose objectivity in the design process by relying too heavily on preexisting knowledge and past expertise.

Conducting user testing helped me avoid making assumptions, allowing me to better understand and represent the people I was designing for.

Building From Scratch

As a designer, it was an incredibly satisfying (and rare!) opportunity to build a product from scratch at a large enterprise like IBM.

The Area 631 program provided a fast-paced environment where I was challenged with not only developing an innovative new concept, but also integrating this new product into the larger existing ecosystem of IBM offerings.

I was not only designing with a strong product vision, but also simultaneously scoping down the roadmap to support my team to reach a feasible MVP within our incubator term.

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