‘Experience Architect’: Benedict Wong

An informal Q+A with BA and MA GMD alumnus, Benedict Wong.

– When did you graduate from GMD?

A blog should never ask a gentleman his age. But if you must know, (pops over to LinkedIn) it was too damn long ago, and probably around 2007-2008…?

– What are you doing now and where?

I ended up at a startup – Salesforce, where I currently serve as what is fashionably known as (and didn’t exist in 2007/8) an ‘Experience Architect’. Actually, my role at Salesforce is essentially helping businesses to transform themselves from the analog they still find themselves in, into a digital savvy and remote working, cloud hosting one. Salesforce is one of the big leaders in the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) space, and we realised that ‘selling access to software’ wasn’t good enough, You needed to get people (like me and my team) to go into a business, understand the problems and issues that they are having, and working out for them a new, better way of working that is a lot more convenient and efficient.

So I’ve been living a bit of a Designer IT Consultant type of life, flying around the world and region, and helping businesses young and old who are interested in bringing Salesforce to their people, transition into a better way of working together.

– Best things about your job?

The absolute trust, transparency, and values that Salesforce has as an organisation.
They give us the tools, the freedom to go get what we need to get done. Salesforce has traditionally been an engineering heavy type of company, but they are starting to see the value of how design, design thinking, and experience design can really help clients to understand what they really want and mean, and how it can be achieved by a big SaaS (Software as a Service) type of platform like Salesforce. It’s early days, I’m running a small team in Asia right now, and the first of many on the ground over here in comparison to the US/ EU and other parts of the world.

Salesforce has traditionally been an engineering heavy type of company, but they are starting to see the value of how design, design thinking, and experience design can really help clients to understand what they really want

– What has been your career path?

My life in a timeline:
Ogilvy > Landor > Brand Union (now known as SuperUnion) > Private Investments Fintech Startup > Accenture as a Management Consultant > Salesforce as an Experience Architect.

One thing seemed to lead to another, and honestly, I just went with my heart to places where I felt that I could offer the most value to the organisation, and worked it out there.

3-5 year plans? I might have one, but I would say, at the rate that the world is evolving, you should take a bit of time to evolve yourself to see where could you potentially fit in post college/ MA .

– Any reflections on your time studying BA GMD + MA?

Spend more time doing things you would like to do. (Can’t do that in the real world unless you’re an artist I’m afraid, but understand in the time you’re in college, the difference between being a designer and being an artist, and apply your skills accordingly)
Eat less at the cafeteria (unless the food’s improved, then eat there more often).
Be nice to your lecturers. (They spend a lot of time having to process your ‘process’).
I was probably the biggest thorn in their side, but I’ve also sent many of my interns to follow my path at the LCC in the last couple of years and there’s one matriculating right now! (Hello Jeyna! Never miss a moment to embarrass your old interns)

– How has your work/approach evolved since leaving college?

Honestly? rather massively. The older I get, the less design I do, and the more I seem to guide. I find that the lessons you took away from school never really change (or age) it’s just context and methods that change over time.

Things in the digital age and economy we live in are evolving much much faster than they did in my time of phones with keypads. You might find yourself left behind if you don’t move with the times to stay relevant, but that doesn’t mean that you should only be a slave to trends either.

Plot twist: some of your most valuable clients aren’t designers in the real world, and you’re gonna have to communicate your great ideas to them in ways they understand (it might be Google Slides, it might be Powerpoint, it might be pen and pencil). But one thing hasn’t really changed: “How can I help? and what can I do as a designer, to design something for you, that will help you in what you need to do?”

Design still solves problems.
Logos are needed.
Processes and a new way of doing things are also needed.
And you need to be ‘You’ in those instances to help the world move forward to where it needs to go.

– What are your plans for your career in the future?
Ask me again after COVID-19 passes. 🙂 Everything is in a state of flux as we know it

– Any tips for current GMD students? / Any tips for working from home!?
Tips from working from home:

– Wear Pants (even if you forgotten what those are)
– IG less (stop howling into the void)
– Have a routine (even if its wake up, brush your teeth, make your bed etc)
– Set alarms for lunch and to stop working at 1800
– Nobody looks back on these dark days and is gonna go “Wow I learnt so much from Netflix!” Yes there are some things that you can learn from the channel, but apply your time/ life productively”
– Don’t Netflix your life away (see above)
– Call your mom, Call your pop-pop, Call your Nanna.
– Don’t feel like you’re all alone out there in your flat/ room/ apartment/ mansion; It’s easy to feel disconnected, but reach out.

Tips for GMD Students:
The Post COVID world is going to be a strange one, you’re gonna question all that you do, the value that you bring, and your relevance to society.
Do a journey map of what your life is right now, 1, 2, 3, 5 years into the future, and where you want to be, need to do to get there etc.
It’ll give you something to cling to in the unknown.

DON’T be constrained by what you studied, what you did, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what background, zone, street you were born in, We’re evolving into an era of ‘being useful’.
BE useful. To yourself, to people around you – you’ll find that that’s where opportunities are.
Take the shit job, the crappy crummy one, everything gives you an opportunity to learn.
Stop slouching at the desk.

If you’ve managed to read up to this line, congratulations, you have yet to ruin your average attention span.

BE useful. To yourself, to people around you – you’ll find that that’s where opportunities are.
Take the shit job, the crappy crummy one, everything gives you an opportunity to learn.

A recent piece of Benedict’s work for a telemedicine platform:

Project WhiteCoat V6 Presentation

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