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From MPI to IBM

“Innovation starts when all other avenues have been exhausted” according to Lauren Pleveich, a May 2015 graduate of the Masters of Product Innovation program. Lauren is now working as an Experience Architect at IBM Interactive Experience, but this wasn’t where she thought she was going to be initially.

A graduate of VCU Arts with a major in Painting and Printmaking, Lauren considered several career paths, including teaching and creative advertising. She initially started down that path by getting her Master of Fine Arts in Painting at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, but began to realize that was not the career she wanted to pursue.

Lauren’s decision to return to VCU for the MPI program was in part due to her experience in the certificate program as an undergraduate. Though she had worked on a project that she admitted to be less than glamorous in nature, she says that’s the experience to which she can trace her interest in product innovation.

“Between the team dynamics, the client rapport and working with users who were genuinely engaged, I found my passion for products. It took getting another masters in a different field to realize that though. Ah well, better late than never!”

Similar to her education, Lauren never expected to be working for IBM, nor had an interest in doing so at first. “I was very happy where I was working at the time, but decided to go to a talk by an IBM creative because I had no idea they even did creative stuff (don’t tell anyone).”

IBM Interactive Experience does just that, design user experiences, most notably for websites like the PGA Masters Tournament. As an Experience Architect, Lauren works between the research and design roles, allowing her to make use of the design thinking skills she gained through the master program.

In her work at Interactive Experience, she says she most enjoys figuring out the challenges formed by both the target users and the technologies used. “Technology has the power to change a lot of things. It just needs someone to provide the why.”

Three months into her new role at IBM, Lauren is very thankful to the master program for preparing her for the cross-functional work she does. “I’ve worked with engineers, business analysts, and other creatives and the one thing the da Vinci Center did very well was prepare me for that kind of situation.” Specifically, she’s been able to be confident in her own abilities, comfortable  not knowing “all the answers,” and instead pulling on the strengths of her teammates.

Thinking back to the master program, Lauren noted an odd difference between the first and second year of the program. “I think it’s a weird thing to show someone the importance of teamwork, but to then forgo a team project the last year.” She encouraged the incoming master students to listen, explore, experiment, and play, but most importantly, to “be productive with your time around smart people.”

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