I have been working at IDEO full-time
Purpose driven, great culture, highly strategic
lots of disruption and competition in this space
Advice to Management
keep focusing on talent and investments
I worked at IDEO full-time (More than 3 years)
Everything you hear about the culture is true - it was truly a joy to go to work there everyday. Work hard/play hard mentality, sometimes you're cranking for days/nights on end, and then it's fully expected you can take a couple days off when the project allows. If you come from a more niche background, it can be tough to fit into the IDEO mindset at first, but you'll learn a ton and get exposed to an incredibly diverse set of clients and types of projects.
As with all consulting, it's a pretty unpredictable schedule, so sometimes tough to plan long weekends or vacations unless you do far in advance. Additionally, I can't really imagine being a parent there. There are plenty of parents there who make it work, but with the travel and often long hours, it has got to be tough. As others say, not a ton of upward mobility and you really have to advocate for yourself.
I have been working at IDEO (More than 3 years)
good colleagues, great brand, nice location with a view
Toxic culture from leadership. Nobody really cares about your thoughts on how to improve things.
Advice to Management
Open the doors a bit.
I worked at IDEO full-time (Less than a year)
IDEO is a special place with a bunch of talented, thoughtful, and insightful people. If you join, there's a lot to learn from the varied perspectives and a few novel processes.
IDEO's workspace in San Francisco shouldn't disappoint anyone working in the tech space. It's not one of the absurdly-equipped outliers, but you'll never want for coffee, snacks, or an interesting office layout and location.
Every employer can be quirky or at times frustrating, but my experience at IDEO was unique and problematic enough that it’s worth sharing here so that folks considering similar roles can make a more informed decision about whether to accept an offer.
This review is aimed squarely at anyone in the hiring process for a craft-based rather than design-based role. If you're a designer, take the job! This is the place for you to be.
If you're a writer, a photographer, a marketer, an editor, or anything else of the sort: proceed with caution.
Important note, I do not believe any of the issues below arose from intentional efforts to misrepresent the the role I accepted. Still, regardless of any empathy I might muster for folks at the company, these miscommunications or errors affected my working experience at IDEO in a real way.
Before you accept an offer, push your recruiter and studio to clearly define the resources (time, collaborators, and budget) they have allocated or will allocate to support your craft. Get specific and practical about the tools, time, and approximate budget you'll need to complete work.
In my case, my recruiter stated that the hiring manager wanted to have the resources conversation after I was through the door. Not pressing more was a mistake on my part, albeit a mistake informed by several comparable experiences at past employers where the employer and I were able to successfully acquire the resources necessary for me to apply my craft at my skill and experience level.
I came to understand that studio leaders expected a role within my particular craft to function with the same resources as a design consultant. Take a critical look at the resources and support you need to do your job and consider whether a designer’s toolkit and relative autonomy will be sufficient.
Push your recruiter and studio to clearly define the first projects you will work on. Ask your studio to clarify whether the projects are active and that the project teams are prepared to allocate time and budget to support you in taking on that project.
In my case, with one shining exception, the five or six potential pieces discussed during two separate interviews were part of closed IDEO projects and therefore resources were not available to apply my craft. Studio leaders (while well-intentioned) then assigned projects that lacked actionable budget and fell short of the anticipated work that had originally attracted me to the position.
If you’re joining the company in any kind of temporary role, assume that the benefits included in any offer letter or summary of benefits documents apply only to full time *permanent* positions. Clarify any benefits that are important to you as part of your offer, even if they're listed in your offer letter.
In my case, major mistakes were made in terms of communicating benefits. Several significant benefits were (at best) clearly miscommunicated or (in the case of at least one) explicitly included in my offer letter, then rescinded. IDEO isn’t a startup, it’s a revenue-generating, self-sustaining business with international operations. These oversights are difficult to forgive.
Finally, this is less of a specific interview-process flag and more of a personal assessment of IDEO culture: in my experience, IDEO management is less interested in integrating your craft and more interested in reinventing you as an IDEO-style designer who happens to have a background in a certain craft.
I think that means that if you accept a role, you should adjust your professional mindset as you enter IDEO.
Don’t expect to come to IDEO and work as a copywriter, a marketer, or a photographer. Come to IDEO as a junior designer who is better-than-average at writing, crafting campaigns, or taking pictures. And anticipate that while your conceptualization skills will benefit from immersion in IDEO's design process, most of what you are likely to produce will represent the "Minimum Viable Product" version of your craft.
If that doesn’t sound appealing to you or if the opportunity cost that comes with pressing pause on demonstrable portfolio progress is too high for your profession, don’t take the job, no matter how tempting the work might look on paper.
Advice to Management
People aren't prototypes; a professional who chooses to join your company in a new role certainly accepts some level of risk in doing so, but should also be able to reasonably expect that a multinational, self-sustaining company has some pre-existing notion of what it takes to support that role and will be prepared to allocate appropriate resources.
Sometimes, experiments fail. That's okay. In the future, though, I hope that you will do more research to better inform your hypothesis.
I worked at IDEO full-time (More than 10 years)
Exciting work, smart and creative colleagues, fantastic facilities and tools, socially open, lots of trust for each employee. The business development process insulates the teams from working with really dysfunctional clients.
From a process and environment and consistency of colleague quality standpoint, from designers to loading dock, you will never ever have it this good again. So leaving is hard, but so is leaving home. Your progress through leadership roles will be much like you'd attain them on the outside as a freelancer, based on who you know, social trust, intellectual affinity, chemistry. There was no coherent career growth support system. It's more like the real world. Not a bad thing, nothing nefarious, just the politics of proximity and chemistry. You have to advocate for yourself and sell, even if in project work the team is paramount, which is a good thing. So it's kind of a cultural dilemma.
I worked at IDEO full-time
* Flexible Work Schedule
* Fully stocked kitchen
* Meditation/Wellness room
* Low Pay
* No Transparency
* No structure
* Too much ambiguity
Advice to Management
I was SO looking forward to joining this company. When offer was given, we were very honest with each other with my skill set and opportunities that I would be facing. I began with zero on-boarding. I took initiative and spoke to others in the company that were doing a similar role as I was, and found out that I was NOT given the same on-boarding process as everyone else. I asked for the person I was supporting for more of her time and help, after a few weeks I was told that they could NOT give me time and I wouldn't be successful within the company. We separated ways, and I was heartbroken, but ultimately there was no investment in my success. I've heard of many others feeling the same way within the company. If someone tells you constantly over and over that they are being "fully transparent" it usually means they are hiding something.
I have been working at IDEO full-time (More than 5 years)
Variety, interesting challenges, no limits, great work-life balance.
Lower pay, and that's about it.
I worked at IDEO full-time (More than a year)
Amazing benefits & great company culture. One of the best places to work, literally — even in San Francisco, with all the great options.
Not as generous with salary compared to similar roles at other organizations. That said, it was somewhat made up for by the great culture and amazing benefits.
Advice to Management
None, keep up the good work.
I have been working at IDEO full-time (More than 3 years)
Three things I think attract and keep people at IDEO.
1) Nature of the work. By far the most interesting and exciting buffet of consulting work you can find. If you contrast to other consultancy, corporate, or even startup jobs where ~80% of your time goes to planning, aligning, and doing ground work, and only ~20% of the time you get to do cool work, at IDEO 100% of your time goes to exciting work, either w clients or internally. Because clients largely come to IDEO when they are most ready to shake things up, you get to focus 100% on great content. Projects are among the most difficult creative challenges you’ll find. Also worth noting that IDEO is as hands-on as innovation consulting gets.
2) People and culture. The community is built on trust, humility, and creative smarts. From recruiting and career development, to activities and initiatives, it feels like IDEO tries to take the most human-centered and creative road, hence everything looks and feels different from any other job I’ve had. A lot more organic. The people shape your experience, and the more open you are to being exposed and collaborate with people from all fields, the more at home you will feel at IDEO.
3) Career platform. There’s really no common path at IDEO. While some may choose to focus on international experiences, or on certain portfolio vertical, others may focus on more asymmetric paths eg. convergence of tech R&D + design, data + design, inclusive design, etc. The world is your canvas here. The paths in and out of IDEO are also interesting, many move out to gain different experiences and then rejoin, others decide to incubate a new venture inside IDEO, and the network seems very close and fluid. Ultimately people at IDEO are encouraged to pursue their passions, whether inside or outside IDEO. What else can you ask for?
People that may not have a clear vision or intention for their career may have less control of projects the get assigned, but that’s common of any job. On the other hand, if the interests are too narrow it may be hard to always do that one type of work as projects fluctuate and timing always plays a role. I’ve seen some leave for those reasons.
Advice to Management
Incredible ship you’ve built! Continue to experiment and try new things, timing, people, and luck may get you different results. Love the opportunity to further apply design to all parts of the firm, and let it become a living case of our own methods and practices.
I have been working at IDEO full-time (More than a year)
IDEO is a wildly creative and optimistic company with a fun, supportive, and open-minded culture. People are incredibly talented and passionate about what they do. You'll always be learning about new projects your colleagues are (somehow!) finding the time to take on—fashion design, non-profit work, Burning Man installations, and so on.
Work/life balance is unbeatable. Nearly unlimited vacation days, lots of flexibility, free coffee and espresso machine, and happy hours where a makeshift bar gets rolled out into the studio for people to make cocktails and play music.
People are happy, curious, and genuinely excited about what they do.
It's no secret that many people take a little pay-cut to work at IDEO, and we won't be able to beat the crazy amenities offered at neighboring SV tech companies (endless supply of free food, on-site gym, etc.)
IDEO can also be a little political. "Radical candor" is one of IDEO's values, but people don't always say what they mean. (You hear lots of things like, "perhaps we could..." "this might be..." "I wonder if..." "I'm curious to learn..." and so on)
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