Stephanie Meusberger, leading innovation at EY

Alum took a year off from work to invest in herself at ID

Stephanie Meusberger (MDM 2018) is Manager of Innovation at EY Wavespace. Previously, Stephanie led design and innovation for GE and Northrop Grumman, working across graphic design, marketing, UX, design research, and strategy. She pursued graduate study at ID because she wanted to become a better leader, and learn how to think more strategically—and because she wanted to be part of a community leading the discussion around design. 

Stephanie shares her journey to ID and how she is using what she learned to fuel her work today. In this interview, she talks with IDSA co-chair Jessica Bogart Kasper (MDM 2020).

Getting grounded—Stephanie’s path to ID

How did you go from visual communications design to Manager of Innovation at EY Wavespace?

I received my undergraduate degree in Visual Communication Design, Psychology, Art, and Technology at The Ohio State University. After graduating in 2009, I moved to Louisville, KY and worked in marketing and branding for nonprofits. This experience really grounded me. I came to understand how fortunate I am, and how to use design to improve people's lives. 

From there, I went to GE and began working in product design and innovation, developing experiences and interfaces across appliances. I got to imagine things like what buttons look like. I designed the micro-feedback of each interaction. I worked to extrapolate the product experience up to the brand level. It was in this role that I found myself. Not only did I become passionate about consumer research and the innovation team, but I also gained a grounding in physical product design and exposure into the digital realm. 

When GE sold its innovation division, I was ready to go elsewhere. I joined Northrop in 2015 leading design research and strategy and built their innovation department focused on systems, processes, and products. It was crazy—all of the interfaces across experiences were different at Northrop, which made it expensive to train staff to use the equipment and to maintain. While at Northrop, I found my voice and ability to lead. I was starting something brand new and had to be my own best advocate to navigate a big corporate machine. I really enjoyed my role, but it became clear that they were not going to give me a team. I decided I wanted to go back to school to make sure I knew what I was doing.

I am now the Manager of Innovation at EY Wavespace and would not have found this role without ID, specifically recruitID. EY Wavespace does a great job training. I was able to define myself and define my own path here. They are investing heavily in development and innovation. We are currently building a brand new 40,000 square foot innovation center in Fulton Square (Chicago). I couldn’t be happier here.

How did you find your way to ID?

When I was at GE I worked with this amazing design director who introduced me to ID—he told me it is the only place to go. I was struggling with my background and my experience was still very visually oriented. I wanted to do more research and innovation. I started by exploring MBA programs but they didn’t resonate with my passions. My husband got his dream job in Chicago and then I was brave enough to leave my job for ID. It was the best decision I could have made.

What were your goals going into ID?

Before I came to ID, I was exposed across the gamut of visual design, product, experience, etc. So my primary focus was on leadership, systems, and strategy classes. Even though I was already doing research in my previous roles, it was treated superficially. I wanted my work to be more impactful. My goals were to become a better designer, figure out the world of design, and start networking.

Stephanie’s ID experience

What was your experience like at ID?

My experience was unique because I had a one-year-old—it was a whirlwind! At ID, I learned how to think. It changed me as a person and in how I experience the world—I know that sounds ridiculous. The experience was wonderful with so many amazing friends. Our MDM group was actually quite large and Denis had just started the leadership program, teaching us to not only be more effective designers but also leaders. There aren’t many times in your career where you can take a break, reset, and invest in yourself. That is what ID was for me.

What is the most memorable course you took at ID? Why, and how do you use what you learned in your job today?

It’s hard to name a single course. Carlos had the biggest impact on how I think and how I approach problem solving. This has proved particularly helpful at EY. Through Carlos’s systems classes, I can better understand where a client is coming from, what they’re aware of, and what their blindspots are. All of the readings from Carlos’s classes about knowledge brokering has significantly helped me in leading Wavespace’s Global Knowledge Initiative. In fact, I shared many of those readings with my team to get everyone oriented for defining the mechanisms for capturing knowledge, and figuring out how to analyze knowledge transfer internally to teams and across the network. 

Vijay’s thought leadership class, where we built an innovation department from scratch, has also really stayed with me. This class prepared me for real projects I get today where I am tasked to build innovation departments within large businesses.

Guidance for today’s graduates

What advice do you have for current ID students?

Know that it is going to be crazy hard but embrace it! You owe it to yourself to take advantage to the fullest. The benefits of going to school extend past school. You will have that network. When it comes to getting a job, I put too much pressure on myself with recruitID. It is really about finding the right conditions to grow, not really the best company. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted. I relied on talking to ID professors and friends a lot to gain clarity. 

Students get competitive about recruitID. I wish someone told me to get as many opportunities as possible but not to let it overshadow what I had going on at the time. When you do get interviews after recruitID, ask to talk to the people who work for the leaders. Ask if you can follow up with another phone call when you send a thank you note. I found that I could get more depth and context this way.

“There aren’t many times in your career where you can take a break, reset, and invest in yourself. I was brave enough to leave my job for ID. It was the best decision I could have made.”