Neil Everette (MSSM '16)
Driving enterprise innovation through design thinking
Neil Everette (MSSM ’16) was not the typical applicant to the Master of Software Management program in Silicon Valley. Unlike his classmates who typically had backgrounds in computer science or software engineering, Everette’s background was in design. What he did share in common was passion and experience delivering technical products for prominent companies in the Bay Area. Prior to enrolling in CMU’s MSSM program, Everette had an established career in product design with senior positions at Frog Design, Samsung, Philips, and Dell.
CMU’s reputation in computer science and design, coupled with the opportunity to apply those disciplines to create innovative software products, is what drew his interest. “I had a growing interest in product management at the time and how the discipline of design complimented what product managers were doing,” said Everette. “As a designer, you’re trained to apply the principles of design thinking, to have empathy for the user, and to utilize the prototyping process to test alternative solutions with your customers.”
Dr. Stuart Evans’ writings on digital innovation and transformation within large enterprises resonated with Everette. In his second year in the program, Everette applied those principles in Evans’ Enterprise Innovation class to develop some advanced product concepts for Emirates Skywards loyalty program. Everette’s team used the design process to make a product concept and then created a product concept movie and mobile prototype to simulate the user’s experience. Their product idea was an intelligent digital travel guide to assist users in their journeys to unknown locations - a personalized guide in your pocket that would be powered by the airline’s big data and machine learning technology.
After completing his degree at CMU in 2016, Everette returned to Austin, Texas where he took a leadership position in a technology startup that focused on automotive products. There he applied his newly developed skills to help build a suite of tools focused on dealer inventory management. Everette helped concept and design of CarStory Vision - an intuitive car search application that let consumers point at cars to find results Using CarStory’s technology stack, automotive data, and new computer vision, the team at CarStory delivered an iPhone app that redefines how customers shop for cars. “It’s like Shazaam for used vehicles,” Everette added.
Today Everette has returned to IBM where his career began in the mid ‘90s. Once a company synonymous with hardware, IBM has evolved into a leading provider of cloud software. Everette was hired to help lead design efforts in a new joint product between IBM and Red Hat, the open source company acquired by IBM on July 19 for $34B. (Red Hat, by the way, was co-founded in 1993 by Marc Ewing, a CMU Computer Science graduate.)
Over the past year, IBM and Red Hat joined forces behind-the-scenes to build the "marketplace of cloud software”: Red Hat Marketplace – an open and neutral market where developers can sample and purchase software that can be built and deployed on any cloud. IBM bet large on hybrid cloud platforms for large enterprises. “This project has been one of the more aggressive products in IBM recent memory and ties in all the aspects of design, business, and technology,” said Everette.
Everette plans to remain focused on design for the foreseeable future. He has been granted 14 patents and has more than 27 design awards over his career.
“Design brings unique value to the product development process. Designers help align the user needs with the technology. The process we utilize means that we can ship products faster and reduce risks to the core business through fast prototyping and testing with the user,” said Everette.