No two designers at corporate investment and incubation firm BCG Digital Ventures are alike — each has earned their stripes with unique skill sets, backgrounds and areas of expertise.
Their diverse backgrounds ultimately help them collaborate across the company with engineering, project management and growth teams. The cross-collaboration and unique design chops have proven to be a recipe for venture success.
We caught up with three of the team’s designers to learn about their experiences and why they’re excited to come into work each day.
WHAT THEY DO: BCG Digital Ventures is a corporate investment and incubation firm. They invent, build, scale and invest in startups with some of the world’s most influential companies and clients like UPS, Allergan and Starbucks.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Manhattan Beach
RETIRE LIKE ROYALTY: The perks at BCG Digital Ventures go above and beyond the standard offerings of today’s tech companies. On top of a traditional 401(k), the company also contributes an extra 7 percent of employee base salaries to a retirement fund, and offers other notable perks like generous PTO, a sabbatical, daily lunches, and childcare benefits.
Syuzi Pakhchyan, Design Director
Syuzi is responsible for leading ventures and the XD cohort in Manhattan Beach. Her days are shaped by three main activities: managing ventures, business development, and the experience design cohort’s daily workflow.
MUSEUM HOPPING: Syuzi spends her downtime visiting art galleries and museums with her artist husband. She enjoys experiencing different forms of storytelling for potential product inspiration. Her favorite use of virtual reality, for example, is Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Carne y Arena.”
Your work is focused on wearable technology. What excites you about the future of wearable technologies?
Wearable technology has been my passion for nearly over a decade. My interest around wearables revolves around how we can use our personal data to better understand our bodies and evoke behavioral change.
I recently worked on a remote monitoring platform for oncology patients that detects early signs of patient deterioration and notifies their clinicians. In the consumer space, you typically build products that improve people’s lives. But in healthcare, you get to build ventures that actually save lives. Wearables can have a profound impact on our health and wellness. They are slowly transforming our understanding of our bodies and behaviors.
Collaboration is essential to what BCGDV does. What opportunities are there to cross-collaborate with other teams?
The foundation of our teams’ venture setups allows us to collaborate across the different cohorts and functions from day one. For example, during the discovery phase of a project, everyone participates in the ethnographic research process whether you’re a venture architect or designer. Similarly, everyone is expected to present final concepts to clients, not just venture leadership.
It takes active listening, continuous feedback, and practice to grow and transform into an empathetic and impactful leader.”
Describe a time in which you’ve mentored someone or a time when you received mentorship that helped you succeed. What did you learn from that experience?
I once worked with a mentee to help build their presentation skills and confidence in front of a client. I helped him structure the presentation and practice his delivery. I provided honest, actionable feedback. At the time, I believed I was doing everything he needed to feel confident when he presented his work.
The night before the client meeting, he provided me with a list of reasons that he shouldn’t present. I told him to “sleep on it.” The next day, he decided to give it a try. He nailed the presentation. After the meeting, I congratulated him and asked what I could have done differently to help him feel more confident. He said that he would have liked me to tell him that he could do a good job. In that moment, I learned that mentoring is a two-way street. It takes active listening, continuous feedback, and practice to grow and transform into an empathetic and impactful leader.
Juno Chen, Experience Design Lead
Juno helps drive overall processes for the team to reach their internal and external goals. She leads research and design for aligned product vision.
UNDER THE SEA: When Juno isn’t sweating off stress at SoulCycle, she likes to suit up in her scuba gear and go diving.
Tell us about a major venture you led at BCG Digital Ventures. What made it a success?
Fortunately, I was part of the initial ventures when DV first expanded our practice into the Asian market. I was in Japan and Singapore for my very first venture to test the global applicability for our designs.
I stayed in Singapore and China for three months to discover life event-associated opportunities for our insurance corporate partner. Learning both local culture and business nuances in those early days was not easy or smooth, but they provided a fruitful learning lesson in handling pivots with speed and confidence. In the end, we successfully built and launched the two products that currently live in those markets.
Steep learning curves across industries are a reflection of DV’s breadth and intensity in our practice.”
If you were to step back and look at the design team’s achievements, what makes you proudest? How did internal and cross-collaboration play a role?
Steep learning curves across industries are a reflection of DV’s breadth and intensity in our practice. Our designers come from a variety of skill sets and backgrounds. While there’s no lack of steep learning curves about each other on each venture, there’s even more for the domain expertise from retail and fintech to industrial goods and healthcare. The intense timeline from onboarding to designing, and from paper to product, positively reinforce learnings and collaboration within and across cohorts to share best practices. After all, we are all in this together.
Describe the design team’s culture. How does the team build that culture in and out of the office?
Designers are part of each venture team with daily standups, daily and weekly reviews, and team health checks. We have team events ranging from sushi-making (and eating) to escape rooms, live sports, and Disneyland rides. The event depends purely on the team’s joint personality and creativity. The design cohorts also have our own offsites at Disneyland and local Airbnbs, from the beach to the desert, where we can share and celebrate our experience together.
Jessica Rudzewicz, Experience Design Lead
Jessica helps her colleagues design products with clarity, personality and purpose. Her work isn’t just for the users, but for the people growing and maintaining the business as well. She works on a mix of hands-on projects and design ops for different ventures, which can include guiding designers or unifying different teams behind one vision.
SCI-FI FUN: When Jessica isn’t fostering creativity at work, she’s flexing a different creative skills outside the office: writing. She daydreams about being a science fiction writer for an old-school science fiction magazine like “Analog.”
You've described BCG Digital Ventures as a “mini-MBA in a box.” Why? How has the multi-disciplinary culture played a role?
I’ve had the opportunity to present work to the C-suite of some of the world’s biggest companies. In order to be effective, I have to understand and speak to their business on a familiar and articulate level. I can’t think of many other places where a designer would have the opportunity to speak about supply chains.
Many companies want cross-functional collaboration but struggle to make it happen. When we start a project at DV, it’s a like a “Noah’s Ark” of disciplines. For a designer, that might start to feel like a mini-MBA. For a consultant, it might feel more like a design boot camp. When you’re in a room together for months creating a startup, you can’t help but learn through osmosis and interaction.
Describe an exciting venture that you’ve worked on or that you’re currently working on. Why does this venture stand out?
An energy project in Abu Dhabi is without a doubt an exciting venture that stands out among the rest. We were developing a product that would allow people to get cooking fuel delivered to their homes and petrol to their cars. Many local homes in Abu Dhabi cook with propane tanks instead of installed natural gas pipelines. The wait at a gas station can also be very long.
I learned that design isn’t “universal.” Instead, there are interpretations and often very unexpected needs. For example, I learned that not everyone wanted their “own” app, which is a very Western mindset. Families wanted to share apps. Or, a daughter might want to pay for her parents fueling. I was also a bit apprehensive about what my experience would be there as a woman. But it was wonderful — filled with lovely, smart locals who I’m still connected to and who taught me to really check my pre-assumptions.
Each venture team is their own startup, with their own methods, values and norms.”
What opportunities are there for employees to shape the direction of the company or team? Share with us an example.
Each venture team is their own startup, with their own methods, values and norms. The room for independence helps teams break free from “process” and quickly evolve. If a tiny team of 10 people finds a new way to do things, that can be adopted by other groups for continued evolution.
Outside of ventures, if you have a passion area, just go for it. There will be a huge network of people to help you. For example, I’m interested in voice-user interface. To pursue that interest, I created a workshop on the topic. People from different areas of expertise tuned into the event. We learned that are a ton of people interested in evolving our work in this area. We’re now beginning to self-organize and create an informal network, which is awesome and should also attract more of the work we’d be excited to personally accomplish.