Work history

I worked at IDEO from 1987 to 2009; the last dozen years are more relevant to my work today. My job allowed me to wear many hats: editor, researcher, cultural advisor, company historian, ambassador, event host, and more. I acted as editor-at-large and ombudsman, providing the "voice" to most outward-facing publications and online sites, and I represented IDEO at conferences and events. In summary, my job consisted of telling the IDEO story and sharing knowledge across the company.


In 1997, I created a role as a corporate-level writer and editor, spending most of my time within Marketing Communications, but also working in Business Development, Recruiting, Human Resources (later called Talent & Organization), client project teams. I often collaborated on special corporate projects with founder David Kelley, cofounder Bill Moggridge, president and CEO Tim Brown, general manager Tom Kelley, and most of the company's senior leadership.

I managed or contributed to too many projects to list, but here are highlights:

  • The annual design competition effort, creating over 400 1500-word entries, including image selection and captioning, video scripting, and more.(During this period, IDEO won more design awards than any other firm.)
  • The Relevant Experience database project, comprising hundred of 250- to 500-word case studies and their associated images and documents.
  • Copyediting, research, proofreading, and fact-checking of most books, articles, academic papers, websites, and other communication vehicles published by IDEO. This included working with journalists and academics on thier projects, and answering questions from the public sent in from the website and elsewhere.
  • The Knowledge Sharing project, a redesign of the company's intranet ("the Tube") to foster more and better communication across all offices. This effort led to thousands of wiki pages, project pages, uploaded images, blog entries, and more.
  • The Talent & Organization group's redefining of the career and compensation structure. I led seminars and workshops, held one-to-one dialogues with colleagues, and helped create print and online communications. This project's goal was to articulate specific company roles, career paths, and compensation platform, while serving as a platform to encourage career growth and personal satisfaction.
  • IDEO 101, a multiday company orientation and design workshop for all new employees, from all offices, regardless of level or seniority. These events included short talks and panel discussions on every aspect of company business from most of IDEO's leaders; day-long, real-world design charettes with off-campus interviews, prototypes, and presentations; "round robin" dinner events, which encouraged attendees to mix and mingle; and wrap parties featuring IDEO-led music groups.
  • Hundreds of tours and presentations on IDEO's history, culture, and process to client teams, international business school and corporate groups, design, engineering, and business classes from colleges and high schools, delegations from foreign governments, journalists, and academics. I also began a training program for colleagues to be able to give effective tour and presentations themselves.
  • 350+ Know How Talks and Lunches, which included a weekly, internal-only, lunchtime show-and-tell series for IDEOers to share their work and points of view, and an evening series for a variety of writers, thinkers, makers, and doers. The number of great speakers I hosted are too many to list, but include:
    • David Best, assemblage artist and Burning Man architect
    • Guy Kawasaki, on the vagaries of luck in business
    • Chip Heath, on Made to Stick
    • Fritz Grobe & Stephen Voltz, a.k.a. Eepybird, on Diet Coke and Mentos fountains and sticky notes
    • Howard Rheingold, on Smart Mobs
    • Grant McCracken on anthropology and design (Grant said kind things about his visit)
    • Malcolm Gladwell, on jam, movies, and the danger of thinking too much
    • Bob Sutton, The No Asshole Rule (Bob discusses his talk here)
    • Dan Pink, on A Whole New Mind, and later, his manga book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. (IFTF's Alex Pang blogged the earlier talk)
    • Dr. Paul Ekman, on lying, facial expressions, microexpressions, and the physical behavior of emotions
    • Merlin Mann talks with me (see a video here) about making yourself smarter and more mindful


Before I switched careers to writing and storytelling, I was IDEO's first systems administrator, and later its first IT manager. As a sys admin, I maintained a growing network of Macintosh and Unix workstations, as well as the phone system and the physical wiring. As the company grew, I eventually managed a team of nine in five cities

I installed and held classes in online services such new technologies as email, file servers, and the web. In addition, I served as president of a regional CAD user group and disseminated copies of our customized CAD environment.

I left the IT manager role when it was clear that this was not a long-term career goal for me, and that I would be more engaged helping to capture project stories and company history.


My first career was a a drafter and junior designer, at a series of Silicon Valley technology firms, from Westinghouse to Varian and many others now long gone. I first worked with ancient methods such pencil & vellum, ink & mylar, and knife & rubylith, and later learned 2D and 3D CAD applications. My last job as a drafter was at David Kelley Design, which later became IDEO.


Before all that, I was a lackluster high school student with a barely passing GPA, and I briefly attended a semester of junior college. At the time I preferred autodidactic path to rote learning, a stance I have since reconsidered. This would be why you haven't seen my education credentials.