Project Description


A Powerful Tool for Designing Better Experiences

A homeless man once told me that I’m a good listener. Maybe that’s why he readily allowed me to follow him around for several weeks, showing me where he slept and how he survived the cold, even letting me take photos of him, and telling me of his worries, hopes, and dreams.

Good listening isn’t just a casual, passive action like enjoying a favorite tune while reading a book – it requires intense focus, sincere curiosity, and the creation of thought provoking, well-formulated questions.

One reason people come to quickly trust me is because I know how to ask the right questions at the right time – questions that stimulate conversation and lead to rich, informative, insightful responses packed with information. Another reason is because I’m skilled at observing visual cues such as body language and eye contact that can reveal equally important messages.

That’s what interviewing is – a conversation coupled with observation. It’s the key to unlocking doors that leads to a better understanding of someone’s experience. And it’s a skill I developed for over two decades as a journalist interviewing and photographing hundreds of personalities – politicians, athletes, medical professionals, musicians, children, and yes, the homeless, to name just a few.

This ability to ask the right questions while absorbing key visual and verbal cues is at the heart of my work. The same techniques I once used as a media professional to interview a homeless man I now use to help my clients, students, and colleagues to design improved user experiences – experiences that have impact, experiences that have the potential to change the way we think, work and live.


How I use Interviewing?

An Essential Skill in any Industry

I’m a strong proponent of serial entrepreneur Steve Blank’s “Get out of the building” mantra that encourages innovators to break away from the office and talk with real people to learn from and empathize with them about the kinds of problems and challenges they want solved. By conducting focused interviews and observing everyday customer life, we eliminate the guessing. Instead of wasting time and money building something that no one wants, we can take what we learn from real people with real pains and build something that they really care about.  I’ve used interviewing and observation techniques to formulate new business models, validate market data, improve educational experiences, build better teams, help people become more effective leaders, and design better user experiences for websites and mobile applications.

My Work



Designing a Better Education

I was invited by Columbia University to design and teach a new workshop to aspiring media professionals about how to create and market content for online audiences. Over a few years teaching the course, I conducted a series of over 100 interviews designed to create a student persona that could be used to quickly describe the needs, motivations, and pain points of my potential audience. Students were interviewed once prior to taking the course and again before completion. They also filled out a short online questionnaire. These interviews were designed to gauge the effectiveness of my course design and instructional techniques.  As a result, the enrollment for my course has increased 80% over a three-year period and the sponsor has used my course description as a model for the other courses offered. This same interview methodology can be applied to the subject matter for any course.


Mapping User Experiences

While working for a startup, I was tasked with the responsibility of mapping out the user experience leading to the design of an outdoor-recreation travel app. I used interviews to identify key customer pain points, concerns, and priorities. I then mapped out a composite of the day-to-day patterns common among the target group and highlighted key opportunities for business model and feature development. The data was then turned into a graphical representation of the customer’s journey and used by team members to guide the creation of low-fidelity prototypes for ongoing user testing and learning opportunities. By mapping the user’s day-to-day journey, we were better able to empathize with them which guided our design.


Leadership and Team Building

I’ve been building and leading teams for my entire career across different industries – in media as an editor (in journalism talk that means a manager who has subject matter expertise in writing, editing, and visual communication), as a project manager, in non-profit work, and as a founder of startups. In each situation, I’ve become skilled at using interviewing techniques to build better team dynamics, enhance motivation, and establish clearer vision.


Managing Virtual Teams

The challenges of working in a virtual environment are unique and formidable. If care isn’t taken, issues that arise in traditional work environments that seem harmless can be dramatically devastating in a virtual setting. It’s common for team members to feel isolated and to have a sense that they are the only one contributing to the cause. Ordinary misunderstandings can blow out of proportion. It can be difficult to retain employees. While working on a startup media company I used interviewing to create stronger connections between team members who had never before met in person. As a result of these interviews, I better understood the challenges faced by each team member. We instituted informal get-togethers online and found that communication improved. The team accomplished several successful projects that were favorably recognized by the press.


Recruiting the Right Team Members

Recruiting can be challenging for any company. Finding the right person that fits best with your team and at the same time meets the qualifications required to do the job can be daunting at best. While working as a supervisor at a small media company I was tasked with recruiting new team members. In addition to interviewing candidates and their references, I also ensured (through interviews) that the perspectives and opinions of other managers at the company were incorporated. I was later told by my supervisors that the candidates I had hired were among the best that had ever been employed by the company.