M-C DEAN

Designer

I'm a product designer with a passion for user centered design. I am also an advocate of creative thinking approaches and design thinking.

I specialize in experience design for software. I've worked on lots of websites, web applications, mobile and social media products, applying principles and techniques from psychology and social sciences, human factors, human-computer interaction, visual design, accessibility and usability. My Ph.D focused on natural language generation and human communication with machines, a combination of AI and HCI.

I have a strong drive for innovation and have designed, envisioned and created new products for different market places and industries from scratch, as well as the strategy for bringing them to market and gaining user adoption. I bring the power and energy of design thinking to both startups and big companies. I like to focus my efforts on large-scale industry disruption.

I love to draw, take photos and skateboard. I'm a student and teacher of Yoga. I'm always exploring new things.

My retrospective: 2011

Post-itCreative Commons License photo credit: danicuki

I have had one awesome year. It's aways fun to do a retrospective when it has been a highly successful one, full of big achievements and good surprises. It's always a little harder to retrospect about a tough one, or one where there have been more challenges than achievements. The thing is that I had to go through quite a string of years like that to plant the seeds to set me up for the success that this year has brought. Some who know me less well think that it's all seamless, but you know, as it is said "All the so-called "secrets of success" will not work unless you do."

There is of course an element of luck, for want of a more specific word. I think it relates to the happy encounters with people who inspired me, changed me, taught me something (even those people who I didn't necessarily get on well with). There's also the fact that I was born in an environment conductive to the path I took, and that I had great educational opportunities, learning opportunities, access to computers, resources, books and a lot of things that many people are not lucky enough to have.

But you still have to take the bull by the horns, seize the day, seize opportunities when they show up, and make stuff happen. And then, you give back.

ThoughtWorks:

This year I made the best decision of my career and joined ThoughtWorks as an experience designer. It has been a very rewarding and worthwhile experience, where I learned a lot and have joined a family of like-minded people. It wouldn't be exaggerating to say that I feel like the context to who I am has just been added. I am working with energizing people who inspire me, help me develop into an even better experience designer, and never ask me to lower my bar. In fact, they suggest ways in which we might even raise it. I am surrounded by friends who are as passionate about software, people, our world and how we make a positive difference to it. I worked on social impact projects that are close to my heart, as well as on interesting problems for business clients. Some of those friendships run deep and change me. I am profoundly grateful to be part of this. It's a really special company.

Ph.D:

This was also the year that I finally finished my Ph.D and learnt the most wonderful thing in the world: that there is more to learn. I showed ingenuity and that I could have sophisticated ideas, working in complex environments, but above all, I showed tenacity. I had the ongoing support of Stephen Cox and Dan Smith, not to mention friends and family. A lot of people cheered me to the finish line and met me the other side with arms held wide. I learnt that as a scientist, my greatest asset was my creativity. I always felt a bit awkward amongst very "left brained" types, especially since there are typically so many in computer science. My approach was always a lot looser, more big picture, and very inventive. I found out that there is a place for me in this world too. Most importantly, I learnt what fed that creative spark: a big open heart, made so by years of dedicated Yoga practice.

Yoga teacher training:

I finished my Yoga teacher training course at the Yoga Institute. It's a year long course, with about as much work as I had to do for my Masters in Computer Science. I don't think I intended for it to be quite so transformational, but it certainly was. Just when you are in danger of thinking you know it all, you turn a corner and discover wide, wide open landscapes. Those moments are arresting and entirely beautiful. This is why I love science so much, and why I continue to be a devoted Yoga practitioner and now teacher. Those moments make you feel vulnerable, and they are brimming with opportunity. What I learnt from that place, I teach. The student-teacher relationship is sacred because of the appreciation I have for the teaching I have the honour of passing on.

Marriage:

This is also the year that I got married to a wonderful man that I have shared my life with for the past 12 years. The act of getting married can be lost in all the business of organising the meals, the invitations, the seating plan and flower arrangements, so we had none of those things. Our wedding day was about one thing: us. And as an extension of us, all the wonderful people who share our lives and inspire us. The commitment we made to each other makes me smile and feel enormously content. He is my husband.

Driving:

This was the year that I finally passed my driving test. It has been a running joke in my family, about how I seem to manage to absorb and master most things I set my mind to, but not driving. I found it really hard and still to this day don't understand why the car doesn't tell me what the speed limit is, why anyone needs to parallel park on a hill, or why other people don't indicate. Still, I have finally passed!

This year ends with family back home in Europe, and a year of new adventures begins. I cast a deep look of appreciation over my shoulder to those who are no longer on this journey, aware how much they touched my life. Then I swiftly look forwards and upwards, to the future, excited and full of plans.

It's been awesome. Thank you x