John Moriarty of Accenture discusses his career in UX design and how he is meeting the daunting challenge of an ever-changing industry.
Fjord is a design and innovation consultancy that was acquired by Accenture in 2013. After holding positions in Ireland and the United States, John Moriarty became design director for the company based in The Dock, the center innovation from Accenture in Dublin.
At school his favorite subjects were art and engineering and when his uncle who was a guidance counselor told him that design falls in the middle of these two fields, Moriarty knew that was what it was. he wanted to do.
He has now worked at Fjord for five years and explained to SiliconRepublic.com the diversity of his role due to the fact that design is constantly evolving.
“To be a designer today is to be comfortable with change”
– JEAN MORIARTY
What education and other jobs led you to the position you hold now?
I studied industrial design at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD). I found this to be a great course that gives a very solid foundation for many of the basics that I still use to this day – conducting research to understand users and technology, and then taking an iterative approach to develop and testing solutions that solve the problem to be solved.
After NCAD I worked with Design Partners in Bray, Co Wicklow for several years. It gave me the opportunity to work with global customers designing products that are still sold in stores around the world today.
I’ve always had an itch for User Experience (UX), so after a few years I joined an aviation startup. I was responsible for the hardware and user interface design of an in-flight entertainment system. It was fantastic to see the designs go from sketches to products carried on planes.
After the start-up, I returned to Design Partners to set up their first satellite office in San Francisco. Being in the Bay Area was a great opportunity to develop the UX side of the business and my own skills in this area.
My role was shared between studio management, design and business development. After my daughter was born, we decided to move back from San Francisco to Dublin and I was fired. It was a pivotal moment for me as I decided to take the leap and fully engage in UX. I first worked with educational technology company HMH in Dublin, designing digital learning products for the American school system.
After a while at HMH, Fjord approached me for a position in their new studio at The Dock, Accenture’s global R&D and innovation center. The mix of an environment of multidisciplinary innovation and emerging technologies was compelling. Add to that the opportunity to work with the caliber of Accenture clients and it was obvious to me. It was five years ago now and I haven’t looked back!
What have been the biggest challenges you have encountered in your career path?
The design industry is constantly evolving and the boundaries of what defines design are becoming increasingly blurred. Being a designer today means being comfortable with change and staying adaptable. It means knowing that the things that got you where you are today aren’t necessarily the things that will get you where you go next. It’s an ongoing challenge for many designers today and it can be intimidating at times.
To deal with it, I think optimism, curiosity and openness are essential. I also believe that almost any problem can be broken down and considered a design challenge. We have the training and methodologies to deal with complexity and ambiguity and this can also be applied to how we approach our own careers.
Is there anyone who has been particularly influential as your career has developed?
It’s a bit cheesy, but I have to tell my parents! My father was an engineer by training and gave me a technical and analytical perspective on the world while my mother really nurtured my creative and questioning side. Good design is often a combination of intellect and intuition and I think there is a direct link between the two in that regard.
What do you like about your job?
As design director, my role is quite varied. Every day my time is split between supporting project design, defining product strategy with leadership, and managing our team – making sure they have everything they need to be successful.
It is a real privilege to work and learn alongside so many talented people. This includes our own designers as well as those from other disciplines such as analytics and AI, product strategy, and software engineering.
I love the variety of work and the clients we work with. As a center of innovation, we solve problems that affect some of the world’s biggest brands. It is very rewarding to create work that has such scope and impact. Our team is currently working on projects ranging from consumer goods to sustainability and utilities. I love to face new challenges every day that push and challenge me. I am always amazed to be paid to make a living from this activity.
In your opinion, what aspects of your personality allow you to occupy this position?
I think staying optimistic is an inherent trait of many designers, but I think it’s especially critical in an innovation center where we’re inventing new ways of doing things. This is also important as a design leader because people are looking to you and if you are not enthusiastic you cannot expect them to be. I think a sense of curiosity about how things work and a desire and impatience for products and services to be better are also valuable.
How has Accenture supported you on your career path?
Accenture values and invests in learning and development. Last year our design leadership team graduated with a Design Management Diploma led by Design Skillnet. It was a great opportunity for us to come together and reflect on our way of working and learning new skills. In addition, we have access to incredible training resources and a larger community as part of the Fjord network of 1,200 designers within Accenture around the world.
In terms of career progression, taking the initiative really pays off at Accenture, so if you have an idea you will usually get support from the top.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in UX design?
There hasn’t been a better time to be a designer than today in terms of the opportunities available, but knowing where to start can be intimidating.
I always recommend reaching out to people in the industry for advice. People are generally happy to give advice because we’ve all been in the same situation at some point.