ITA Spotlight: Chris Wilkinson, Director of Product Design, Devbridge Group
Monday, October 28, 2019
Posted by: Gary Hotze
Chris Wilkinson, Director of Product Design, Devbridge Group
What is your earliest childhood memory of technology in your life?
Learning the exact spot to knock on the TV to bring the picture back into focus is a vivid memory for me. I have since learned that a quick technology fix like this only makes things worse long term. I guess this was also my first experience with tech debt.
Where do you draw inspiration from outside of technology industry?
I enjoy philosophy—thinking about what makes us people and systems tick. I draw inspiration from chasing big questions and experiencing moments of wonder. Driving to see the eclipse downstate Illinois was an incredibly perspective-altering moment for me.
Why Chicago? What’s unique about the industry here?
There’s a healthy consensus that Chicagoans get results. Our community has purpose behind how we invest our time and money. Many people who have stayed the course have bettered our city by creating groups of professional support. I’m lucky to have discovered groups along the way, and give back by creating new communities—including full stack Friday, a morning meetup that happens once a month with full stacks of pancakes for full stack teams. Chicago is a city that believes a rising tide raises all boats and doesn’t hesitate to rally around the important things.
What do you like most about what you do?
Software professionals, especially those in design, have an opportunity to positively shape people's experiences with technology. I'm passionate about making software delivery more accessible. A key part of that effort is understanding not only the problem at hand but the larger system the product lives in.
What opportunities do you see for design within the technology industry?
Design brings a unique and valuable perspective. The value of that perspective lies in being able to clearly communicate ideas to a non-design audience. There’s a real opportunity for designers to take ownership of the outcome and translate their perspective into a shared language with other roles, whether that is a business case or through storytelling.
What can enterprises do to better leverage design in software development?
Great designers make sure all voices are heard and understood in the software delivery process, and making those voices heard means less rework and churn in adoption. They can turn what would’ve been hindsight into foresight, when given the right support.
What design trends should we watch for in 2020?
I anticipate 2020 being a turning point in terms of understanding if design systems are here to stay long term. For designers who can’t imagine them fading away, call up an engineer and ask them the last time they used an MVC framework. I expect design systems to drive productive conversations around maintenance, governance, and adoption of best practices within organizations. I also expect design systems to make building accessible software easier for delivery teams (another must-realize opportunity for any project worked on in 2020).
What risks or issues do you foresee in your industry’s near future?
There’s a real risk of being distracted by efficiency gains from an ever-expanding marketplace of toolkits and services. It’s easier than ever to lean on these tools rather than building an inclusive understanding of the problem to be solved. The inclusion of varied perspectives unlocks more value than any efficiency-promising-SaaS ever could.
What is the one thing that should keep technology teams up at night?
I’ll start by saying my hope is that no one is kept up at night. And if you are, know that it’s ok not to be ok. We’re at an inflection point in technology, both within the industry and for the expectations society has for what is being built. Being accessible and empathetic for the people using the software should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. If it’s not, now is the time to pay down that product debt.
What have been some of your favorite medias of the last six months and why?
Russian Doll was an absolutely perfect show. I gravitate toward media with a perspective, especially shows and movies that play with linear storytelling formats. “Living with yourself” is another great example of this. I haven’t laughed harder than the time I spent playing the Untitled Goose Game.