​Next Stop, 30 Rock: A Doblin Design Intern's Journey

It's the morning of May 24th. It's my first time in the thick of the New York subway rush. A street performer plays violin as a train whooshes by. Do I take the N, the R, the W or the Q train? Will I even make it to my first day of work?

Local and Express

Local trains hit all the stops. Express trains zoom through the city, only hitting a few. A Doblin project oscillates between the two, without warning. During Express times, when the team is fully immersed, it feels weird to stop and ask if you're going in the right direction. This was the case during my first week at the firm, so I kept my head down and didn't ask questions. But when I finally did stop to ask my team for a crash course on health insurance, they were more than happy to help. Even when you're on the Express train, it's important to step back and be clear about your needs.

Lots of Languages

When I was still learning the subway, the instructions from my navigation app were gibberish. "Take the F to the G to the C or the Z with modified service. Then take the H to Canal Street and switch to the J." The subway has its own vocabulary. A designer at Doblin must be proficient in two languages: "Consulting" and "The Jargon of Your Current Project." Up to this point, my design education has been focused on Systems Thinking, Typography, and User-Centered Research; I've never taken a business class. As a result, I needed to put in the extra effort to know the difference between an RFP and an SOW (a "Request for Proposal" and a "Statement of Work".) As a bonus, learning to speak "Consulting" has helped me better negotiate my own freelance design work. Another language I learned was "Healthcare." FFS, value-based care, multi-channel delivery, and claims were completely lost on me, at first. The project, and learning the vocabularies involved, provided a window into a complex system that impacts the lives of millions of Americans.

After a summer at Doblin, I see a common trait in all Dobliners: curiosity about people.

Different People, Same Direction

For me, the best part of the New York subway is people-watching. You can overhear conversations, and for a moment potentially get emotionally involved in a stranger's life. After a summer at Doblin, I see a common trait in all Dobliners: curiosity about people. When I sat in on field research, there was a full spectrum of lived experiences. Witnessing these human moments seeing a patient light up at the thought of a loved one or witnessing their frustration with the bureaucracy of the American healthcare system-was one of the most rewarding parts of being a Dobliner.

Dobliners are curious about each other as well. Every Friday, we held a "Design & Dine" lunch. It was so casual that I was able to ask the partners about their weekend plans. On my last day, I sought feedback from my team. They were curious about my perspective on the experience and were eager to share their thoughts on my summer. I learned that I need to get better at predicting the future. By that, I mean, knowing what my team needs before they need it. How can I help everyone do their best work? Another area to work on was effective communication with regard to timelines. As a designer in a business context, it's my responsibility to be clear about how long it takes to produce quality work.

No Surprises

Fast forward to July 28th. My summer at Doblin is coming to a close, and I find myself once again rushing to take the subway to 30 Rock. I swipe my card: "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS." I find a blurry kiosk to buy a new card, my eyes an inch away from the screen as my glasses are broken. A line begins to form behind me as I wait for my transaction to process. Finally, I sprint to the train, squishing myself inside just as the doors close. Thanks to my experiences at Doblin, I was prepared to adapt rather than panic. And, now I know, whatever my next stop is, I'll be ready.

Raphaël Weikart is a design student in his final year at Carnegie Mellon University. He studies Graphic Design, with animation and illustration as his weapons of choice. Outside of design, he enjoys singing, children's books, and making people laugh.

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