My IBM Design Bootcamp Experience—Incubating the Future (with VIDEO)

This is part 4 in a 6-part blog series by (and about) Eytan Davidovits, a Visual Designer who joined IBM Design in December 2015. In January 2016, Eytan embarked on IBM Design Bootcamp, an intensive 3-month onboarding experience for early career design talent, and decided to chronicle his adventures. Take a peek inside Eytan’s world; you’ll learn skills and practices at the heart of IBM Design Thinking. Eytan is one face of the future of IBMand of Design itself. 

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Photo Credit: Theresa Phelan

Into the Incubator

“The point of the incubator project is to envision Version X. This could potentially be several releases after Version Now or Next.” — Abdullah Shaikh

Coming off the high of our Microproject, we switched gears into the Incubator portion of IBM Design Bootcamp. We’re now divided into individual groups of five or six. Our section leads from the first six weeks were replaced with incubator leads, and the project lasts seven weeks. Past incubator successes have spawned products like Bluemix and Verse.

Our projects don’t aim to solve today’s problems, but rather to conceive “Version X”—to reveal what the future could be for a product. We aren’t given hills or a specific objective. Instead, we’re pointed towards the project domain, connected to project stakeholders, and introduced to three actual IBM customers using the solution (who will act as sponsor users). It’s up to us to conduct user research, discover the opportunity, and build from there.

My team — two UX Designers, two Visual Designers, and one Front End Developer (FED) — was asked to envision the future of Java development in the Cloud. We hit the ground running in a domain we knew nothing about—something that’s starting to seem like our modus operandi. Luckily our FED knows his stuff and propelled our team forward by explaining all the technical details—proof of the effectiveness of true designer-developer collaboration.

After two weeks of user research, we hit a roadblock: none of the pain points we’d uncovered fell within our project’s scope. They were pain points of development in general, but not unique to enterprise Java developers. Furthermore, finding enterprise Java developers for deeper research proved nearly impossible.

I ended these first two weeks feeling confused and direction-less, like we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Our executive stakeholder had yet to show up, the people we interviewed weren’t our users, and we couldn’t imagine a single hill… It was disappointing, to say the least.

Finding Order

“Sometimes the outcome of the incubator project is to say there is no market, and to stop the bus. In effect, you’re saving IBM the time and money wasted chasing a false target.” — Abdullah Shaikh

The next week, our incubator lead suggested we realign our project based on our findings; our project couldn’t possibly continue on its original trajectory.

We had to make a choice between solving a need that doesn’t exist or eating lost time but ultimately delivering something much more meaningful. With guidance from our executive stakeholder and incubator lead, we found a path forward

We spent the rest of the week making good use of the precious remaining time: developing hills, interviewing users, and brainstorming concepts.

Designing the Future

“They saw a new IBM emerging; one that is human-centered, thoughtful, proud yet humble—and, most of all, exciting!” — Phil Gilbert

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Photo Credit: Matthew Fangman

In the midst of our Incubator experience, my cohort had the privilege of experiencing SXSW — a global tech conference in Austin, Texas— as part of the IBM Design Hive.

Set in the beautiful Hotel Van Zandt, this all-day event started with a presentation by our General Manager, Phil Gilbert.  It was followed by immersive, interactive experiences that brought to life our work at IBM Design. The whole IBM Design studio attended, and our passion was on full display. It felt great being a part of this community.

IBM as a whole also hosted an exhibition. It was held at Vince Young Steakhouse, but you wouldn’t have known it—they took apart the restaurant and replaced it with a mind-blowing “Outthink” exposition filled with examples of IBM leveraging cognitive technologies. Visitors navigated the exposition with an RFID bracelet that they could scan to have Watson analyze their personality, play games with a robot, or sip cocktails designed to their individual taste.  It was mind-blowing, captivating, and all too much fun.

Both events were a powerful reminder that the work I am just starting at IBM pushes the boundaries of what’s possible—bringing tomorrow’s tech to life. I’m excited to have a hand in crafting a new era in IBM’s history.

The IBM Design Hive at SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas (  Video Credit – David Avila )

If you are a passionate problem-solver, able to empathize with users and turn that empathy into design insight,  join IBM Design and help us create exceptional experiences.

Learn more about IBM Design Thinking

Connect with IBM Design on Twitter and Facebook.

Read previous installments of Eytan Davidovits’s IBM Design Bootcamp experience here.

Eytan Davidovits


Eytan Davidovits is a UCLA graduate and current member of the IBM Analytics team. He specializes in Visual Design. Connect with him on twitter @eytand.


Rachel Sibley


Rachel Sibley is a communications maven who loves to tell great stories. She has served as a communications consultant to executives in international tech, the Los Angeles and New York art worlds, and leading international publications. Her current delight? To source and share design-centric discoveries as lead storyteller for the global IBM Design studios. Connect with her on twitter @sibleyspeaks.

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