Character Traits: Roz Hillenbrand on Figure Skating to Consulting

At Doblin, we show up as whole humans, embracing and celebrating each of our unique experiences, eccentricities and vulnerabilities. The authenticity of our people is one of our greatest assets, one which helps us connect more deeply with our community and our clients.

In 2003, I was sitting in the stands of an ice rink in Charlottesville, Virginia watching a holiday show. Suddenly, a group of young women got on the ice and skated harmoniously; creating formations, executing intersections, and performing their hearts out. I proceeded to lose my voice out of excitement, but by the end, I had salvaged enough of it to pull my mom down and whisper, "I want to do that."

Once I saw something I wanted, I pursued it. So, I grew up an accomplished, competitive figure skater and once I learned of the career, I later transitioned into the world of innovation and consulting. However, I never expected these vastly different disciplines to teach and train me on the habit that would result in my long-term success: knowing how to ask for and receive feedback.

Feedback is an exchange of information about reactions to a product or performance, that when received through an introspective lens, can improve that product or performance. Feedback can be both positive and negative; what matters is how we receive it, that we apply it and that we learn what works and what doesn’t from it.

In 2004, the International Skating Union adopted new international judging system now known as IJS (International Judging System). The new system added accountability and precision to a point-based system that judged each element of performances individually, along with overarching themes such as a performer’s skating skills, etc. This revised system encourages skaters and their coaches to break down the details of each skate into actionable pieces.

Breaking up the system proved invaluable because skaters and coaches now knew precisely what to work on to create better performances. Feedback in figure skating is now provided at every level of skill building, even for coaches. From the top down, figure skating has integrated feedback and reviews into creating nearly flawless routines. Personally, I worked regularly with my coaches, several times a week, to review what I had been practicing for many hours outside of those sessions. These feedback sessions gave me a different outlook on my efforts from a more seasoned perspective. Allowing me to adjust and improve what I was doing to achieve better performances.

At Doblin, we strive to not only elevate the human experience and the work we do every day but also to help each other become better thinkers and designers by embracing feedback.

Working at Doblin, as my first job out of college, I had no expectations on how feedback would be given. I knew from school that to be an agile designer and create effective designs, I needed to listen, iterate, design, and repeat. I later learned that in consulting, we handle feedback in a similar manner: making sure that it’s at the heart of our culture and knowing that it is vital to our success. We routinely set time aside to talk with our peers and superiors about specific things we're doing right, what we should stop doing, and how we can do better. Sound familiar?

I embraced feedback in figure skating and at Doblin because I knew it would make me better in the long run. Whether skating a performance to qualify for nationals or shaping a client workshop, feedback helps us all become better versions of ourselves. Let’s continue to welcome it as part of a collective striving for excellence.