A Year in the Life: Meet Brian

By Brian T. Han, Associate Designer 

Hello, I’m Brian Han. I’m an associate designer working at this really interesting place called IBM Design.

Being here is really great—for the first time in my life, I get to be really creative with problem solving. I come in to work, I meet with my team and we dream up ideas. We are dreamers, thinkers and makers—it’s definitely the best gig I’ve ever had.

At the same time, being at IBM Design is challenging. It’s the most challenging experience I’ve had, so far. I just started here and I’m finding that so many factors are coalescing to produce a very creative, collaborative and complex experience that can be quite overwhelming at times.

That’s why I’m really excited (and really anxious) to share my first year at IBM Design with you. I want this blog series to be a very honest look into what it’s like to work here—the good, the bad, the interesting and everything in-between.

I can’t guarantee too much, but I can promise you there will be sticky notes. Lots and lots of sticky notes.


With all that being said, it’s probably a good idea for us to get to know each other a bit more. I’ll go ahead and tell you a bit more about myself.

I’m from Toronto.


I’m a Canadian guy who’s terrible at winter sports and couldn’t skate, ski or snowboard if my life depended on it.

I graduated with a journalism degree, even though I really love to draw and illustrate. But I’m glad I got the journalism experience because I love storytelling and having great conversations with new, interesting people.

Like many twenty-somethings, I found myself kind of complacent and aimless after graduating college. At the time, I decided being a journalist wasn’t a good fit for me and for a few years I insisted on making it as a freelance filmmaker. I pursued filmmaking while I folded skinny jeans at H&M and sold iPods at Future Shop.

Somehow, found myself working at a contracting company that did its business in the semiconductor industry. Apparently my experience with cameras was enough for me to start a new role as a technical sales guy.

We were a company of four people—the CEO, a programmer, a manager and me. I won’t get into details. The short story is that it was the best-worst job of my life.

I could give you a number of reasons why my job was the worst job but here’s the reason I had for quitting:

  • I stopped learning and I yearned for more challenge and growth
  • I was experiencing more frustration and politics rather than actual problem solving and challenge-based work

But I knew that I could be happy doing almost anything after quitting technical sales, and it was around the same time the internet had rallied around this whole learn to code movement.

I knew a few things about myself at this point:

  • I wanted to be a better problem solver
  • I wanted to be more creative
  • I wanted to learn a new technical skill set in my twenties.

I set aside the camera and started teaching myself how to code.

I started with programming in Ruby. I hung out at coffee shops and devoured all the tutorials I could. I learned about coding schools in San Francisco and soon found there were new coding schools popping up all over North America. I started learning about frameworks like Rails and picking up basic HTML and CSS along the way.

I learned enough on my own to join a coding school in Toronto called Bitmaker Labs. When I joined, the biggest challenge was learning a huge number of technologies in a short time frame to start developing my own web apps independently. When I completed my time at Bitmaker Labs, I felt pretty confident that I could learn almost anything when it counted.



I’ve painted a very happy path for you, but I had my fair share of struggles when I first started trying to make it as a web developer in Toronto.

Finding work in a tech start-up or large tech company was difficult. Most of the time, my skills as a back-end developer just needed more time to improve before I could join. That was fair, but I was very passionate about applying my new skills to making new things in collaboration with my developer and designer peers. I turned my focus to front-end development and design, focusing more on user-experience through code.


I eventually found IBM Design through a job posting on LinkedIn. I applied with a portfolio site with no portfolio of work in it, but it resonated with the designer who recruited me. Frankly, I was kind of shocked but very happy to have the opportunity to be invited for interviews. And that brings us back to IBM Design where the stories will continue to unfold.

Phew! That was like, a lot of stuff to cover. If you’ve made it this far in this post—I want to say thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings! This year holds a lot of opportunities for learning, exploration and new experiences—I sincerely hope you’ll get as much out of these blogs as I am by writing them and being here at IBM Design.

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