Student Success Story: Dave Robson
Dave completed our 12-Week Service Design part-time course in November 2020. He has been working as a Strategy Advisor NHS England but has since managed to secure a Senior Service Designer role at FutureGov!
We caught up with him recently to see what he has been up to since completing his course, how the course helped him achieve his goals and his pearls of wisdom for any budding service designers.
Looking back before you joined the course at Experience Haus, can you tell us a little bit about what you were up to and what led you to consider a course in Service Design?
Before I joined the course, I was working at Accenture. My work had always been around transformation and over the last 3 years I have been applying the human-centered design mindset and methodologies to projects. It had been fantastic; but I recognised I had gone as far as I could with human-centered design at Accenture. I needed to venture elsewhere to challenge my understanding of design thinking and grow my abilities in service design.
What made you choose Experience Haus?
I can’t remember exactly how I came across Haus…but from the minute I spoke to the coach I knew it was the course for me! Why? Two reasons. First, there aren’t many long-term service design courses out there. There are mostly 4-5 days ones and I knew these wouldn’t go into the depth that I needed. Haus’ course offered an experience that would go as deep as I needed to go. Second, the hybrid nature of theory and practice. I wanted to test my application of the service design toolkit in the real world – not something many courses get right! – and the Haus course offered that. My understanding, conceptualising and application of service design has evolved so much since day 1 of the course.
Thinking about your time on the course… What did you want to achieve from your Experience Haus course?
Ultimately, I wanted to challenge everything I knew about service design. My goal was to learn about its history, theory, practical application, how others ‘do it’, and have a go within the sandpit of the course itself.
I achieved every one of those ambitions. It took me from the peak of mount stupid to the plateau of sustainability. Understanding how others interpreted service design and its associated methods/worlds has been so crucial in understanding what my reflections and views are on it, and developing as a service designer.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
I enjoyed the course in many ways. The theoretical and seminar-based nature of the beginning was great fun and took me back to what I truly enjoy – learning! The chance to define what my project looked like and delivered was great. Freedom is a fantastic way to fail, learn and succeed!
What was your one big takeaway from the course?
One of my big takeaways from the course is that service design is about more than just design thinking – it’s rigorous design research, it’s service planning, it’s roadmapping, implementing, ideating. It is the meeting of many worlds coming together – the traditional “business” world, the novel “design” world, and everything in between. Only by appreciating all these parts can you become a truly impactful service designer.
Another big takeaway was to just start doing service design. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you. I basically thought with every work project, “how can I leverage the service design discipline here?” This is a good way to build skills as well.
Turning now to your time post-course… Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since the course finished? What sort of things were you working on that led you to securing your recent Senior Service Designer role?
After the course finished, I worked on a few projects to help sharpen my service design skills and build out my portfolio. This involved doing some research for my partner’s online fitness business. It involved conducting ethnographic research on my experience of caregiving. I basically dipped my toes into as many areas as possible to try out different techniques. It helped me grow as an individual and build out the portfolio.
Also revisited my portfolio. There was fantastic advice in the course about how to structure your portfolio and what you should include; so I went back and revised the content.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your current role entails?
I’m currently a Strategy Advisor for NHS England. My projects can vary massively but I was lucky for my first one to be designing a new diagnostic service for the healthcare system. This involved conducting patient research and designing the bare bones of the service model. My next role will be as Senior Service Designer at FutureGov.
Do you have any advice, or nuggets of wisdom for any one trying to break into the industry – anything you wish you had known beforehand?
Firstly, just start doing service design in your current role. Service design might be a new-ish term but the practice of creating, running and adapting services is not a new one. There have been service managers in the NHS for years. In your role, see what service design tools and methods you can use and just do it.
Secondly, get stuck into the metaphysical aspect of service design. In the same way we talk about politics, literature, or sport. Having an understanding of the “about” of service design is important to refining your own expertise in the discipline. What is service design good at? How can it improve? What can it lean on to get better? Understanding the metaphysical landscape of something will mean you can a) talk about it better; b) understand what works and what doesn’t; and c) apply it better too.
I would also recommend looking for ad-hoc opportunities. Got a friend that runs a business? Interested in a social cause? Go run a mini-service design project! You will only help others and brush up on your tool kit.
Finally, do not forget about implementation. Truly remarkable delivery managers are 1 in 10,000. It is an overlooked and underappreciated skill. Discovery is (sort of) the easy part. Fleshing out the concept is (sort of) the easy part. Taking something through launch and implementing it as a truly native service is the hard part. And actually it is something that the coded discipline isn’t very good at. Learn about service modelling, enterprise architecture, implementation plans, roadmaps etc. Think about the core question of “what does this service need to run over time? What capabilities do we have? Where are the gaps? What will it cost to get there? What processes do we need to have in place to run?” It isn’t the sexiest part of service design…but it’s probably the most important.