Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Kauri Palmer

By Academy Xi

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Kauri was still in high school and doing her exams when she started the UX UI Design Transform course. As one of the stand-out students in the cohort, she landed a role within weeks of graduating.

Finishing high school and keen to make a fast start as a young professional, Kauri enrolled in the UX UI Design: Transform course. Find out how Kauri’s commitment and willingness to lead projects led her to land the role of her dreams.

What were you up to before you started at Academy Xi?

When I started the course I was still studying in high school. I went to Glenaeon in Middle Cove, which is a Steiner school. I was completing my HSCs and managed to get early offers from five different universities, but wasn’t 100% sure about what career to pursue. Plus, I think the value of a university degree is going downhill these days.

My family has a friend who recommended the UX UI Design course with Academy Xi. I Googled UX UI Design and it seemed pretty cool. I wanted to study something that was creative and scientific, and the course seemed to combine both.

I reached out to a few people who were already working in the industry. They told me UX UI Design is in demand and that I’d have no trouble finding a role after I graduated. I thought it would be amazing to go from high school straight into a serious career.

Also, I had very little experience with navigating the jobs market, so the Academy Xi Career Support Program was very appealing. After scoping out a few alternative courses, I decided to enrol with Academy Xi.

What would you pick as your main highlight of the course?

Honestly, I enjoyed all of it so much. Each time we started a new module, I became completely engrossed. The course mentor, Hayden, told the cohort we needed to pick an area and specialise in it. I found it really difficult to narrow my interests down – I loved everything we were studying and wanted to keep doing it all!  

I was 18-years-old and by far the youngest person on the course. When we started the first team project, we broke into four groups. Even though I was so much younger than everybody else, I was picked to lead part of the project.

For the second team project, the cohort broke into two big groups and I was chosen to be the team leader again. Despite the age gap, everyone put so much trust in me. That was a proud moment, an ego boost and definitely one of the biggest highlights of the course.   

Kauri Palmer

How did you find studying online?

I was already used to working online following a few years of school during Covid. I’d basically been living online, so completing a course online was a natural experience for me.

It would have been much harder to complete the course if it had involved having to physically be somewhere. I had school work and also had a few different jobs, so completing the course online made my managing schedule much easier. Plus, it was nice to be able to rock up to a Zoom meeting in my pyjamas!

Even though the course was remote, there was a strong bond between everyone in the cohort. We set up meetings outside the classes, stayed in touch and did a great job of collaborating even though we weren’t working together in-person.

How did you find balancing the course and all your other commitments?

Believe it or not, I had six different jobs while I completed the course. I was tutoring, teaching art at a few different places, and even teaching blacksmithing at my old school. It was a strange little collection of jobs!

In the end, juggling everything actually worked well. I’d spend most of the day working with people from Academy Xi and then I’d have to disappear for a few hours to do some teaching.

During the first weeks of the course, I also had to revise and get ready for my last HSC exam. It probably all sounds like a big burden, but I’m pretty good at organising my time. I managed to get prepared for the exam and keep up with the course content without too much of a struggle.

Did you enjoy working with Hayden?

Hayden was brilliant. He’s such an entertainer and made the live sessions so much fun. He’s accomplished loads in the industry and gave us all kinds of advice and insight.

I’m naturally quite a forward and outgoing person, but leading the projects was a bit daunting. Hayden was really encouraging. He told me that if I impressed him with the projects, he’d write me a reference, put in a good word and help me find a job.

When I completed my personal project, Hayden told me he was gobsmacked by how well I’d done. With Hayden’s support, I went from someone who was thinking “can I do this?”, to someone who completely believed in their own abilities. I’m immensely grateful for just how much Hayden backed me throughout the course.

Kauri Palmer

What was your personal project about?

I’m passionate about the education system, but also aware that aspects of it are a bit outdated. Most schools will run Personal Health and Development classes, which teach students about safety with alcohol, sex education and so forth. Although the intention behind these classes is good, the content is out of date and doesn’t touch on subjects that impact young people’s lives.

For my personal project, I created a platform that allowed students to anonymously ask questions. Professionals, teachers and other students would then respond and give advice. PHD teachers could also read the questions and then address the issues in their classes. In creating the platform, my goal was to ensure that PHD could properly respond to what’s going on in the world, which is exactly what those classes are all about.

How did you land your new role?

For our last group project we worked with a lady called Kylie, who’s a business consultant for the client. Kylie told us that she was working with the Dementia Association and asked if anyone would be willing to build a website. I volunteered with a few other people in the class and became the lead for the project.

Kylie also works with a company called Sustain Health, which is a traditional Chinese medicine and chiropractic clinic in Melbourne. Within two days of starting the website project, Kylie asked me if I would interview for a job with Sustain Health. She’d seen me leading the group and realised that I was capable of taking the initiative with design projects.

A few days later I had a short interview with Kylie’s boss and they offered me a role while I was still on the phone. I was on a three month contact which they have renewed for another month and will potentially extend after that.

The course had only just finished and I’d landed a UX UI Design role almost immediately. I feel unbelievably lucky, but I’d also put myself in the frame by volunteering with the website.

What are you up to in your new role?

Sustain Health wanted me to redo their entire website when I started, which I’ve been working on for a little while. I’ve also been asked to add new pages to the site for fertility and autism, which I’ve just finished the research for.

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about being a UX UI Designer is that I get to develop all kinds of skills. I’ve learned to be a copywriter, I can design my own icons, and even produce animations, videos, and marketing material! I have the freedom to learn these different things, which is exactly the kind of variety I wanted from a job.

A large proportion of my work involves scoping design projects and building prototypes. In doing that, I’m basically using the step-by-step process that I picked up with Academy Xi. Ultimately, I think Academy Xi gives you some pretty solid fundamentals, but it’s when you start working in the industry that you find your own groove.

What are your plans for the future?

When I started the UX UI Design course, I was looking for something that would get me into the workforce a bit faster than a traditional degree. In that regard, the course was definitely a success. 

Next year I’m planning to do a bachelor’s degree in product design at UTS, which is a bit broader than UX UI Design. I’ve also been working through the Academy Xi Product Management: Foundations course and that’s been really interesting. My Dad’s a Product Manager, so maybe it’s in my blood! 

I’m enjoying UX UI Design, but I want to explore a few career paths and try my hand at different things. In 10 years time, I honestly have no clue what I’ll be up to career-wise.     

Would you recommend Academy Xi?

I cannot express how much I would recommend Academy Xi, particularly to high school students looking for options after graduating. You’re often led to believe there are only three choices after you graduate: university, TAFE, or finding work. No one tells you that places like Academy Xi offer short courses which pack so much value into a couple of months. I explained the course to people by saying 'It's like three years of university in three months. It's what you need to get into the workforce minus all the fluff'.

Kauri Palmer

Academy Xi also offers the Career Support Program, which is exactly what I needed as a recent graduate of high school. I recommend it to students who want to learn how to operate in the professional world. There is so much that goes into getting employed that high school never even came close to teaching us.

Even if you want to go to university, I recommend Academy Xi as a way to get ahead of the curve. I’m planning to go to university part-time next year and work part-time. By the time I graduate, I will have four years of industry experience on top of an Academy Xi certificate and a degree.

Academy Xi has enabled me to live an unreal life. I have to keep pinching myself to realise that an 18-year-old can have a well-paying full-time job that she loves, and can only go up from here.

If you’re keen to kickstart an exciting new career just like Kauri, check out our UX UI Design courses.

*Please note that all Academy Xi students must be eighteen-years-old or over at the time of the course start date.

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Ben McCarthy

By Academy Xi

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As a Multimedia Producer at Melbourne’s Fed Square, Ben decided to upskill in CX and give the venue’s visitors experiences they’ll never forget.

After climbing the ranks in broadcasting, Ben landed a role as multimedia producer at Fed Square. Find out how the Customer Experience: Elevate course is helping Ben plan events that are bringing a buzz to one of Melbourne’s most loved venues.   

Can you tell us about your career before Academy Xi?

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in film production technology from Staffordshire University in the UK. I moved to Australia after I graduated and started my career in media management with a small broadcasting company. A few years later I landed a television programming role with Viacom, where I worked with several of the company’s brands, including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV.

In 2018 I moved to Melbourne and began working for Fed Square as a multimedia producer. Fed Square is a venue for arts, culture and public events on the edge of the Melbourne CBD. In recent years, Fed Square has started to focus more closely on the strategies underpinning the organisation of its events.

These days, Customer Experience is at the heart of everything Fed Square does, to the extent that our ledger department is called CX CIO. With the company culture shifting toward CX, I felt it was the right time for me to upskill. I wanted to broaden my knowledge and make sure that my skill-set aligned with the direction the industry was heading in.

I started researching CX training and the Academy Xi course really stood out, mostly for its emphasis on Human-Centred Design. I spoke to your sales team and they were really helpful in answering all my questions, while all the content the course would cover was very clearly laid out online.

Finally, I read testimonials from ex-students and discovered what they’d gone on to achieve in the industry. Ultimately, the whole package seemed very convincing and I decided to enrol.

What were your highlights of the course?

I really enjoyed the live sessions, which were not only informative, but also a lot of fun. It was lovely to get to know people from different parts of Australia, who were involved in all kinds of industries.

The class had people working in a range of fields, from human resources to local government, and the variety of input really brought everything we were learning to life. The course gives you the principles of CX and then you apply that framework to whatever industry you’re involved in. It was really insightful to see just how flexible CX is and how it can be used effectively in a range of different contexts. A lot of my inspiration for how I would use CX with Fed Square came from seeing how my classmates were applying it in their industries.

I also really appreciated that everything we were learning was completely practical. After the live workshop sessions, the assignments gave me a chance to mobilise what I’d learned.

For my personal project, I worked on a brief for Fed Square. I lead the multimedia department and decided to look at our events through a lens of CX. Fed Square uses a lot of outdoor screens, which are distributed throughout the plaza. My personal project gave me a chance to explore future-state possibilities, whereby the screens could play a bigger role in guiding the experience of our visitors. I looked closely at all of Fed Square’s multimedia infrastructure to understand if it was being used to facilitate the best possible CX. What pleased me most about the course was that I was able to put everything I was learning into practice in my role straight away.

How did you find studying online?

Even though the live sessions were carried out online, they were still really interactive and engaging. I looked forward to them all week. In fact, the whole course was very nicely set up as an online experience. It helped that the class had its own Slack channel, which made it easy for everyone to stay connected and share ideas and resources.

There was a period in the course when I was on leave and travelled to Sydney. Because of the flexibility of Academy Xi’s online learning system, I was able to be away from home, keep track of the content and still study with minimal disruption.

Being a video gamer, I also appreciated the gamification of all the modules. It meant I was able to keep an eye on everybody else’s scores and do my best to beat them, which I think really speaks to my competitive nature!

How did you find balancing the course with your current role?

Truthfully, it was quite challenging to begin with. In Melbourne, we were in the midst of reactivating the CBD. This included a big push to revitalise the city’s public events, which Fed Square is heavily involved in. When I started the course it was a very busy time with Fed Square, so for the first couple of weeks I was having to find ways to juggle my study and work. Over a period of time, I was able to find a nice balance of the two, and even set aside a bit of free time on the weekends. 

It was helpful that the course mentor, David, was upfront about the workload and set realistic expectations for the whole cohort, explaining that the course required a good amount of effort. It was a classic case of “the more you put in, the more you’ll get out”.

When I handed in the final assignment, I had a huge sense of achievement. The fact that I’d completed the course and managed to hold down all my life’s other responsibilities just added to the accomplishment.

Ben McCarthy

How did you find working with David?

I had a great relationship with David. I found him very approachable and always had a direct line to him via the course Slack channel, which meant I was able to clear up any questions I had as they cropped up. My one-on-one mentoring sessions were really insightful and helped guide my projects. I booked a session with David just as I was preparing the presentation for my CX strategy. He was able to give me feedback that tweaked my strategy and improved the presentation I gave to the cohort.

I appreciated that David made such a big effort to listen to all of the students. He took the time to understand our projects, what we were trying to achieve and what the different touch points were, before helping us fine tune our strategies.

The advice David gave us was unique to our projects, and he didn’t just dictate what good CX should be. Even in the live classes, he kept everyone engaged and involved, which made the whole course experience feel very personal.

Ben McCarthy

Do you have any plans for further training?

At the moment, I’m very much focused on applying the principles of CX in my role. I want to make sure that any Fed Square objectives I’m involved in are strategically driven by CX, which should raise our capabilities and help our programs give the best possible experiences. Since completing the course, I feel like I’ve got the skills and confidence to guide the CX process and lead a project to the right outcomes. This means I’m able to add value for our visitors, and add value to the organisation as a whole.

I’d love to take another course, but I’m getting married in November, meaning the rest of the year will be quite busy. By the start of 2023 I should have the time to take on another course. I’m interested in the possibilities of Service Design, which extends very naturally from CX and is really tuned in to what I see myself doing in the future at Fed Square.

Would you recommend Academy Xi?

Without a doubt – I already have! I’ve got some friends who’ve expressed an interest in taking digital skills courses and I was very quick to recommend Academy Xi.

Before the CX course started, I was a little apprehensive to find out what the quality of the content would be, if the mentor would be a good fit, and, ultimately, whether or not I would get value for my money. In the end, the whole course experience was wonderful.

When I do have a chance to enrol in a Service Design course, there’s a good chance I’ll return to Academy Xi, which is definitely something to look forward to in the future.   

If you’re keen to bring the possibilities of CX to your career just like Ben, check out our Customer Experience: Elevate courses.

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Ray Jaramis

By Academy Xi

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Upskilling in Product Management is helping Ray design a scalable HR, payroll and benefits platform that promises to empower millions of Australians.

After 2 years with Employment Hero, Ray decided to expand his expertise and enrol in the Product Management: Elevate course. Find out how Ray’s new skillset is helping him hatch a plan to make financial advice accessible to everyday Australians. 

What were you doing career-wise before studying Product Management?

I’m formally educated in social psychology and worked for a number of years in financial services. Ongoing changes to the financial services industry has resulted in some questions as to how accessible advice is to everyday Austarlians. Often, advisers need to see a minimum level of income or wealth in order to justify the investment in advice.

I started with Employment Hero a couple of years ago and immediately started working on a service that would leverage the power of tech and offer financial and wellness advice at scale. My team and I challenged ourselves to break down the barriers that prevented everyday Australians from developing their financial literacy. Our long-term goal is to create an environment where people earning an average or below average income are able to easily access sound guidance on how to make the most of their personal finances. 

For the project to be a success and really get the most out of technology, I knew I’d need product management skills and a solid grasp of the fundamentals that go into building an optimised product. I wanted to learn how to manage a development team, and make sure we were using the power of the Employment Hero platform to its full potential. There was a gap in my skillset that I wanted to fill, so I started exploring Product Management courses.

Why did you choose to study with Academy Xi? 

After I’d carried out my research, it came down to choosing between Academy Xi and a couple of other providers. When I downloaded the Academy Xi course guide, all the modules were broken down very clearly and I could easily sense the depth of what I would learn. For a 12 week course, it seemed very comprehensive.  

I spoke to the Academy Xi sales team and they sent me a link to the course mentor’s LinkedIn page. His resume included some really heavy hitting companies. It was reassuring to know that the course would be led by someone who’d had such a distinguished career as a professional Product Manager. 

Plus, a team member I work with had already taken an Academy Xi course and was really impressed by the whole experience. In the end, I picked Academy Xi, and I’m glad I did – I made the right choice!

How would you describe the course experience?

It was much less prescriptive than a degree or other formal education courses I’ve taken in the past. There’s an advantage to learning Product Management with the freedom to experiment. When you have an opportunity or face a problem in the real world, there’s not always going to be a clear roadmap to follow. Instead, you have to think critically about what tools suit the situation and improvise the best possible solution, which is exactly what we learned to do throughout the course.  

The class worked on two projects, one for Cellar Door Society, which is an online marketplace for wine lovers and another which was a personal project of our choosing. We were given a brief that involved using the Product Management process to increase revenue and optimise the business. The process uncovered some really unexpected results in both projects. I’d never have guessed what we’d end up focusing on in order to improve each company, which was a great way to learn the power of the Product Management process. 

My contribution to the projects allowed me to practise scoping projects and leveraging tech, which is exactly the exposure I needed for my role with Employment Hero. 

How did you find working with your mentor?

My mentor was Dane and he was fantastic. Dane was a brilliant facilitator and did everything possible to keep everybody fully involved. Recognising that lots of people in the cohort would be new to Product Management, Dane made a point of giving each individual time to talk and the chance to answer questions. It gave everyone the chance to ease themselves into the course and develop their ideas. 

Studying in an online environment makes it that bit easier to find a corner to hide in, but Dane made sure that the whole course was a really inclusive and engaging experience.     

Throughout the course I had two opportunities to sit down with Dane and deep dive into my Product Management questions. As well as getting practical advice about my assignments, I also got the chance to talk openly with Dane about the industry. Being able to build a relationship with someone who’s got such a high level of professional experience was invaluable. 

How did you find working in teams?

I really enjoyed it. We would break off into group discussions during the live sessions, which gave everyone an opportunity to learn firsthand what someone else’s interpretation of the same information was. I think it’s possible to go down a bit of a rabbit hole with your own ideas, and it’s not until you talk to someone else that you realise there are all these other possibilities to consider. 

The course is condensed into 12 weeks and you’re trying to develop your knowledge in a relatively short time frame. For that to happen, it’s really important to have other people that you can explore and test out your ideas with. As well as Dane, we learned so much from each other. There’s a course requirement that you provide feedback on your peers’ assignments, so we were actively involved in one another’s progress. 

At the end of the course, there was a big round of LinkedIn invites between the cohort. We had a pretty cool group, so it’s really nice to keep an eye on what everyone’s been up to professionally since graduation.

How are you applying what you’ve learned with Employment Hero?

Employment Hero is a business that just about doubles in size every year. Naturally, that level of growth presents a bunch of new opportunities. As a product manager, it’s my job to decide which opportunities to follow and how to allocate our resources. I have to make sure our teams’ efforts are focused in the most effective ways possible.  

My role involves understanding the risks, rewards and feasibility of possible projects. I have to come up with a project hypothesis and then present it to the leadership. It’s crucial that I’m able to validate my proposals, and the Academy Xi course has put me in a much stronger position to do that. I can suggest projects that are carefully considered and backed up by a really robust process. 

Once everyone is onboard, those projects are broken down into action items and divided into sprints. I work with product developers and it’s important to articulate a clear vision of the project’s underlying purpose. Everything I learned throughout the course helps me impart an understanding that even the smallest tasks can positively impact a project. That way when the team is working on the project, no matter how small a decision is (for instance changing the colour of a font), everyone will have a clear understanding of how their work impacts the overall product vision. The course has put me in a strong position to ensure everyone’s contribution is aligned. 

Would you consider taking another course further down the track?

Absolutely. In this space, I believe everybody should always be willing to learn. For anyone involved in tech, the skills you pick up even a few years ago can very quickly become outdated. This means you have to be on the ball and always willing to update your skillset. 

The whole tech industry is about change and innovation, and your career needs to be an extension of that. As soon as you decide that you’ve learned enough, that’s likely to be the point when you get overtaken by someone who’s still pushing their boundaries! In the not too distant future, I’m sure I’ll be taking another training course and expanding my knowledge. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in studying Product Management?

It might sound obvious, but I’d say make sure you take it very seriously. The guideline workload for the coursework is 10 hours a week, but don’t be tempted to take any shortcuts. It’s an opportunity to seriously advance your career, so putting in anything less than the maximum will only be a disservice to your own ambitions. The course gives you full access to a wealth of learning material, and you should spend as much time digging into it as possible. 

I set my alarm for 7am every Sunday, shut myself in a room and spent a solid block of time going through the assignments and all the learning content. In the end, my hard work really paid off. The Product Management: Elevate course has equipped me with a bank of formulas and techniques that I can use to solve problems in my day-to-day work. Whatever obstacles I encounter, I have the toolkit to troubleshoot them and devise the best possible solutions. In that sense, the course has set me up with know-how that will serve me for the rest of my career. 

Finally, would you recommend Academy Xi?

100%! Based on my experience with Dane, Academy Xi mentors are passionate subject matter experts, and not just people in the industry looking to make a little extra money on the side. They’re industry professionals who are at the top of their game and it’s a real privilege to get their time and attention.

Ray Jaramis

I’d also recommend Academy Xi for the sheer amount of material the students get access to. I now have a paid Notion subscription, which is basically a web-based personal wiki that gives me access to all sorts of articles and subject matter expertise. There’s this deep library of expertise that I’ll have at my fingertips for the rest of my career.  Regardless of what crops up in my role, I’ve got the know-how and resources to respond in the best way possible.

Learn how to take a product from idea to launch with the Product Management: Elevate course.

Team collaboration on design

Academy Xi Blog

Four types of design training – how to choose the best fit for a team

By Academy Xi

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Team collaboration on design

You know that good design leads to better team performance, enhanced creativity and a closer connection to your customer, but what is the best way for your team to learn its practises? There are a number of providers offering a range of design disciplines, including Human-Centred Design, UX Design, Design Thinking, Service Design, Customer Experience Design… Where is best to start?

We’ve pulled together a list of goals that we think a manager might be looking toward in order to help their team achieve and mapped these goals against our various learning experiences. Hopefully this will help you navigate some of the most effective digital design options currently available. 

For raising design awareness and building lasting confidence

 Good design principles can be applied in any team – but first we have to demystify them. Unfortunately, design often lives in a ‘black box’. Insider jargon and complex methodologies  can make it seem inaccessible. High functioning design doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it works best when it is uncomplicated. If we strip it back, design is a vehicle through which creativity and innovation can be systematically nurtured. We know that when this is properly implemented, it will inevitably impact the bottom-line. According to a study conducted by Adobe, companies that foster creativity enjoy 1.5 times greater market share (2016, Adobe, ‘Design-Led Firms Win the Business Advantage’ report). Short introductory experiences can illustrate how good design can remedy static BAU thinking. With this in mind, we’ve developed a suite of intro courses and upskilling workshops designed to build lasting competence and confidence in foundational skills.
 
Matched learning experiences:

For tackling real business challenges and building technical capability

In pre-pandemic times Australia was already in the early stages of a digital skills crisis. The sudden halt imposed on skilled migration has led to shortages in certain roles (product managers, software developers, UXers and other digital specialists), particularly at a senior level. If and when you do manage to find people with the right talent, they often demand  very high salaries and can be poached by other companies trying to solve exactly the same problem.
 
Businesses undoubtedly need these kinds of digital experts to carry their growth strategies forward. When struggling to access the talent they need, they are often forced to be creative, cultivating their technical capabilities in-house. 
 
 Matched learning experiences:

For scaling and embedding organisational change

Many of the biggest challenges facing businesses are essentially design problems. Design maturity and digital maturity come when innovative ways of working take root and are used reflexively across an organisation. Every modern business has this forefront of mind. When done well, this looks like obsessive customer focus, creativity across business functions and  a collaborative ability to respond appropriately to rapidly evolving competitive environments. The impact of these kinds of agile organisational behaviours are consistently felt at the bottom-line level too. According to a recent McKinsey report, design-driven organisations outperform their competitors by 2:1 (2018, McKinsey & Co., ‘The Business Value of Design’ report). Having supported major corporates and government departments with their transformation programs, we’ve learned that the most successful approaches will incorporate everyone, from front-line staff through to executive teams. You want your people to excel instead of being left behind.
 
Matched learning experiences:

For addressing changing talent needs

Sometimes training your people in new design practices comes off the back of shifting priorities. These changes can impact hiring practices, development programs and talent management. Maybe Design Thinking is fast becoming an organisation-wide priority and you’d like every new-starter to receive foundational training so they are immediately brought up to speed. Perhaps a group needs to be deployed and their focus trained on digital design initiatives. Read our digital workforce transformation piece on how we developed the Australian Department of Health’s new team of digital leaders. 
 
Interviewed by the Harvard Business Review, former PepsiCO CEO Indra Nooyi claimed that design had a voice in nearly every crucial decision the company made while she was at the helm. The impact was enormous, as sales increased by 80% throughout her time in the role.  With these kinds of results, design in its various forms is here to stay. The question is, where is your organisation going to start?
 
Matched learning experiences:

 

Interested in learning more about how your team can harness good design and make great decisions? Get in touch to discuss how we can help you achieve your innovation goals.

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