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Episode Info: Tom Erickson is a cognitive psychologist by background and was a researcher (social scientist and designer) at IBM Research since 1997, having previously worked in the early days of Apple and their Advanced Technology Group, and at a start up. Tom reflects on his experiences working in industry research, some of the pivotal work he has been involved in. He has also telecommuted most of his work life and he talks about how he made this work. Tom has also recently retired and he managed his transition to retirement in a really thoughtful way, being very deliberate in thinking about how to make a better life for himself and in what he calls ‘practising retirement’. “I have a limited amount of time and do I want to spend it all working?”“What is it that I do during the day that I love? And for me it’s design, it’s interviewing people, it’s reading interview transcripts. I just love the details of stuff.”““How I am perceived and what I am valued for within the corporation and [keeping] that separate from how I am perceived and valued professionally.””“As scientists or designers… we need to be mindful that the ultimate thing we’re doing is we’re shaping ourselves and how we see the world, so that we can help the field collectively move in a good direction.” He talks about (times approximate) … 01:30 Tom talks about his psychology background, how a better climate was a factor in deciding where he wanted to do his PhD in cognitive psychology and human cognition. PhD with McClelland. Published one paper as a grad student in late 70s early 80s. One paper has had a resurgence of popularity in the last years because of a mention without reference in Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast Thinking Slow book.06:16 Ended up dropping out of grad school and many people do not know that he does not have a PhD. Combination of things – personal reasons, not really passionate about what he was doing, supervisor being away, getting involved in a small start-up, funding ran out and start-up then wanted to pay him. Became their UI tsar for a company making software for first IBM PCs. Competitor was Lotus. Did that for 5 years. In the good times he was the design guy, in the bad times he might be writing marketing, or manuals (Software Products International).10:15 Towards the end of that time got married. His wife was in Stanford. So he got a job at Apple by sending in a resume for a job in the paper. Word got around during the interview process and Joy Mountford said ‘you should be in our group’. That led to a job in Apple in the Human Interface Group. It was like a quick course in design school. Learned three rules of design: cheat, steal and keep it simple!14:57 Started off in Stanford but then his wife graduated and got a job in the Uni of Minnesota. Was looking for a new job but then got a contact by Don Norman who was a new Apple fellow and wanted Tom to work with him. He suggested telecommuting. So Tom switched to Don’s gr...
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