Expat To Put Product Design Expertise In Kiwi Hand
Christchurch, 3 March 2003
Expat to put product design expertise in Kiwi hands
Expat New Zealander Richard Mander has helped drive leading-edge product design projects with many American manufacturers, and played a role in advanced technology development at Apple Computer. Now, he’s making go-ahead Kiwi companies an offer they can’t refuse. Mander is planning three visits to New Zealand this year when he will provide free consulting services to help companies produce products that focus on customer needs and gain ready acceptance in the marketplace.
Dr. Mander’s visits are being coordinated by KEA, a New Zealand-based nonprofit organization, which is building a global network of experts willing to help New Zealand companies bring their products to the global market. “We’re excited to have a professional of Richard’s caliber willing to give his expertise for free in this way - he can really help some of our companies define their products and get them to market”, says KEA Executive Director Mark Vivian. Mander is also an expert in Christchurch-based innovation network SmartNet. Sandra Lukey, marketing manager of SmartNet, said Mander’s involvement could add real value to New Zealand companies’ efforts to succeed in international markets. “It’s crucial to get product design absolutely right, from the very start, if we are to compete successfully with the best in the world. Sadly, it has been an area that has really not been given enough attention here,” said Lukey.“This is a great opportunity for companies to tap into some of the best expertise available, and it’s good to see a New Zealander with so much to offer who is keen to put something back into this country.”
After graduating with a B.A. from the University of Canterbury in 1983 and an M.A. at Auckland University, Mander then completed a Ph.D. in educational psychology at world class Stanford University in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. At Stanford he studied cognitive and differential psychology or ‘how people learn in the real world’ and applied this to the design of computer-based products. His dissertation explored the design of interfaces for manipluating 3D virtual reality objects, for which he obtained several patents.
He then spent seven years at Apple Computer. Starting out in Apple’s future looking think-tank ‘The Advanced Technology Group’ he worked on future operating systems, digital cameras, PDAs, and hand-held computers. “We were constantly tasked with designing products to take advantage of new technologies - my role was to understand the ‘end user’ and to make sure the product was ‘useful, usable, and desirable’, it was very exciting to think about how new technologies would enable people’s lives”, says Mander. Apple recognized Mander’s ability to not only design very usable products, but also to get them built on time. Because of this he was repeatedly ‘loaned’ to product teams and was promoted to run his own product group. He ended his time at Apple in a Director level position as Program Manager of a 35-person team responsible for QuickTime VR - Apple’s photographic virtual reality system “It was an exciting time, I got to build a large multi-disciplinary group with engineering, quality, marketing, research, and design teams. We invented a new ‘media type’ and brought an award winning cross-platform product to market - it doesn’t get much better than that!” says Mander.
The systems Mander developed at Apple for customer-centred product design and rapid product development are now applied in his consultancy work with Zanzara. “We work with companies ranging in size from garage-based startups to some of the world’s largest companies like Boeing, Microsoft, Palm, and Sprint,” says Mander. “With larger companies Zanzara tends to work on more futuristic products or difficult product spaces, where the challenge is to make difficult tradeoffs between features, schedule, quality, and cost.” He says that with these companies it is often important to break down barriers between engineering and marketing. “Using the customer as a catalyst can help in this process. We also put in place a discipline of iterative design and rapid prototyping so you can represent the product, test it, learn from this, and then iterate the design. The result is a product design that is validated and leaves less guess-work for engineering.”
In addition to his busy consulting work Mander has also given his time to many community projects in the Pacific NorthWest and authored a book applying his design process to web applications, ‘Web Usability for Dummies’ . “I’ve been very lucky - I’m a New Zealander and I had a great education in New Zealand, which enabled me to study and work with top research people at Stanford and Apple” reflected Mander. “I share KEA’s vision for growing the New Zealand economy. Involvement in KEA gives me a way to give something back to New Zealand and also get plugged back into the New Zealand scene. Like many kiwis living and working overseas, I ultimately plan to move back to New Zealand, because I want my children to grow up as New Zealanders and I want to put my effort in right here.”
Mander will be working, without charge, with CEOs of early-stage New Zealand companies who want help in crisply defining their product and getting their engineering and marketing efforts better aligned. “I begin by meeting with the CEO in person, then any other key team members, and follow up through email and phone meetings to provide advice to help them move forward,” he says. Companies interested in working with Mander can contact SmartNet or KEA.
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SmartNet is one of the largest New Zealand based innovation networks spanning industry, business, education and research institutes and government. SmartNet helps organisations keep up to date with business and technology trends, opportunities and issues. SmartNet events provide opportunities for key decision-makers to learn, network and share ideas. SmartNet also works with expat New Zealanders and other experts to connect them with New Zealand organisations. For more information www.smartnet.co.nz
KEA is a global network of New Zealanders committed to help grow the NZ economy. KEA works with NZ-based companies and research institutes seeking contacts offshore to assist with market entry advice, competitor analysis, technology review, channel and partner identification, and recruitment. Based in Wellington, KEA is an non-profit with chapters around the world. For more information www.kiwiexpat.org.nz
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