Sean Van Tyne is the author of Easy to Use 2.0: User Experience Design in Agile Development for Enterprise Software, co-author of The Customer Experience Revolution: How Companies Like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks Have Changed Business Forever, and a contributing author for The Guide to the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge (the ProdBOK® Guide).
International speaker, best-selling author and advisor, Sean is an industry leader that helps organizations like Sony PlayStation and BD Medical on their strategy, goals, and direction to deliver innovative solutions with best-in-class experiences to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy that creates sustainable long-term revenue.
Sean is currently working on another book, speaking at events and providing strategic leadership advisement to organizations that values people and long-term growth.
When I was five, I knew I wanted to be an artist. My older sister and role model was an artist. I had an uncle, cousin and several other artist friends, too. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable life to me. Charles Schulz and Saturday morning animations inspired me to develop my own strips and cast of characters. I loved comic books, too, and I made comic books for my friends’ entertainment. But it was seeing the movie, Star Wars, that exposed me to the world of production design.
By my teens, I was studying with children’s book illustrator and artist, David Small. At my BFA exhibit, a New York art consignment gallery bough one of my pieces for the corporate headquarters of MCI. When I graduated from the university, I spent one last summer in Michigan and drove to San Diego, the land of never-ending summers, to pursue my fame and fortune.
Once in San Diego, I got a job at an art store and explored the San Diego art scene. I eventually shared a studio downtown and taught art in the afternoons. I had galleries carrying my work and sold a few pieces now and then.
Growing up, we had a Commodore 64 that I played games on. In high school, we had Apple II that I learned basic programming. At that time, programming meant making our own Dungeons & Dragons adventures with IF/THEN statements. In college, we had VAX and after college, we had a Mac.
While doing my grad work in Education (thesis in Art-Integrated Ed), I developed my first website to share pictures of our firstborn child to our family back in Michigan. I thought it was pretty cool that you could instantly share information anywhere for all the world to see. It was after the birth of our first born that I made the switch from Art to Technology.
My first tech job was in the IT department at Frazee Paint (ironically) where I did some databased architecture, network architecture and developed their first intranet. I still remember my first day… going out to lunch and seeing all the “suites” – and the realization that I was one of them now. I learned a lot about databases, networks, programming, the internet – and the protocol of the business world compared to my old world of art and education.
I never really fit well in the IT world. I remember having the task of renaming the database tables and asking my boss who I should talk to so the names made sense to everyone who was going to use them. He didn’t understand why I needed to talk to anyone – that’s when I knew my human-centric design approach wasn’t for everyone.
Learning how information flowed from databases across networks and the internet got me excited about doing more web development and design so I left Frazee to be an independent contractor and explore what was out there. It was the dotcom boom. I did some e-commerce work and a brief stint at SPAWAR before landing at Medibuy.com, the first real-time, end-to-end e-commerce exchange, where I grew from senior designer to manager to Director of Product Design. It was a crazy time of innovation and free sushi lunches.
After the bust, I joined Mitchell International. I started in the Technology Architecture group as a UX Architect then, using what I learned at Medibuy, grew Mitchell’s first UX department. Mitchell was a great experience but I wanted to go back out on my again to help other companies grow UX teams. Then with the market crash of 2008, I sought shelter as the AVP of UX for Technology Strategy at LPL Financial briefly before settling in at FICO. At FICO, I took a handful of designers across the US, Europe and Asia and grew FICO a world class enterprise UX department. I left FICO to be the VP of Product Strategy and Innovation at a small startup then left to help other organizations with their strategies, processes and operations.
I have seen a lot and learned a lot… about art, design, technology… and most importantly, people. I believe my greatest strength is my empathy – my ability to quickly understand a target audience and assess the strengths of a team or individual. It is this strength that helps me deliver great solutions to a market and grow and mentor great teams.
That’s my story.