Coaching Teams and Workshops in Design Thinking

A recap of my background in coaching project teams and teaching design thinking workshops, including a handful of stories about some of my favorite experiences.

Background

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved working with kids and students, and jumped at any opportunity to step into a teaching position. In high school, I played several roles in student mentorship and peer advising, specifically working as a tutor in English Literature and French Language, a Teacher's Assistant for French Language and Film Production courses, and a Peer Advisor for a dozen high school freshmen. I also worked at two different summer camps as a Counselor and Film Specialist, teaching workshops on 3D-animation, story-boarding, and basic filmmaking and editing techniques on Macbook Pros and iPads.

In college, as my interests expanded from film and writing to graphic and product design, my experience in teaching similarly diversified. Fall of 2013, I began teaching graphic design workshops as a Campus Representative for Adobe, dedicated to raising awareness, excitement, and engagement for the Adobe Creative Cloud. I gathered students in the d.school for a series of workshops on flyer-making, typeface, basic photo-editing, and t-shirt design in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Working for Adobe helped inspire my confidence as a design coach and my passion for further exploring many more teaching opportunities in the industry. 

Coaching Stanford Engineering Teams

Design for America is a national, award-winning organization of student-led studios using interdisciplinary design to create local and social impact. 

Since Fall of 2013, I have stepped into a handful of executive leadership roles (including President and Design Leadership Coach) on Stanford's Design for America Studio Team, which stands as one of the top product design groups on campus. 

Last year, I created, trained, and launched four Stanford Design Project Teams that have continued to work closely together today. For example, the "Orenda" Team has received funding from SAP as a start-up, and shows promise in creating an empathetic, online hub for the community of parents of children with autism.

Fall of 2014, I designed, developed, and executed a brand-new, self-founded design leadership training program at Stanford -- a collaboration of uniquely designed hands-on workshops surrounding team dynamics, leadership, and the Stanford d.school design thinking methodology. Through the program, I have now trained several hand-selected Stanford engineering students to gain the tools, confidence, and design thinking expertise to serve as Project Leaders for their own social impact-driven design teams on campus in the Winter and Spring.

This design leadership training program marks the beginning of a tradition that will only grow and further develop over time!

Collaborating with Stanford d.school Fellows

Since arriving at Stanford, d.school courses have routinely (and beautifully) dominated my academic schedule, and the d.school community has always felt like a second home. During my junior year, I felt ready to pause from taking d.school classes, and try teaching them, instead.

Fall of 2014, I joined Creativity expert, published author, and Stanford d.school professor Tina Seelig on planning, developing, and integrating virtual reality experiences into her new d.school course, "Engineering Innovation." Throughout the quarter, I designed course materials, held office hours for guiding storytelling, filmmaking, and brainstorming technique, and mentored students through design project assignments. I also facilitated bringing the Oculus Rift technology into the classroom, matching virtual reality simulations with course assignments, and using these experiences to help accelerate and diversify learning and creativity.

Winter of 2014, I also became hired as an Experience Assistant at the Stanford d.school, where I joined a hand-selected cohort of d.school-enthused scholars to take my teaching and design skills to the next level.

Teaching Beyond the Farm

While I have continued to teach design thinking workshops in the Bay Area, I am also excited to be able to expand my work as a design thinking coach beyond the Stanford community.

I partnered with the Head Coordinator of the VIA Social Innovation program, an organization devoted to catalyzing young change makers in Asia and strengthening the social innovation ecosphere. Summer of 2013, I gathered a teaching team from the Stanford d.school to welcome 30 aspiring entrepreneurs to the Bay Area who were participating in the VIA program and traveling from cities across China and Japan. We led them through a series of improvisation exercises, team-building and team-strengthening activities, and project scoping brainstorms. 

In the year to follow, I worked with the VIA program twice more, each time coaching a design workshop unique from the last. 

For example, the topics and techniques covered ranged to include improvisation, project scoping, prototyping, brainstorming and ideating, team-building, storyboarding, HMW-statement writing, visual thinking, and more.

Based on the project teams' needs, I ran both short, hour-long workshops, as well as multi-day experiences.

Over time, I have realized that I tend to take a very Stanford d.school-inspired approach to teaching design thinking workshops, always striving to include lots of active play, movement, and room for creativity and improvisation in the activities. I have also adopted the habit of always working with a small teaching team, rather than teaching workshops independently, as well as seeking as much feedback as possible on our teaching methods, both during the workshop and after it concludes.

Summer of 2014, I joined a global design consultancy team within SAP known as their Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC). Working in the DCC allowed me to push my skills in teaching d.thinking workshops to the next level, specifically by participating in hands-on design thinking workshops with company clients and corporate teams, such as Exxon Mobil. It was an incredibly valuable learning opportunity to be able to apply my design thinking skills to real world challenges faced by companies, which were much more complex and larger than any types of design problem spaces I had encountered before.