Stephen: When I was growing up my dad was a TV reporter, so he had a lot of electronics. I was always taking them apart and trying to put them back together again. I always liked recording as well. I would record my own radio show or make sound effects. I figured out that if I dropped a bunch of quarters on the mic of a tape recorder it sounded like an avalanche. One night I took an old speaker and put it in my closet. That night my cousin spent the night with me. I told him there was a monster that lived in the closet and not to taunt him. Of course my cousin took the bait—he wasn’t scared and didn’t believe a monster lived in the closet. A few minutes later a giant crashing noise came from the closet scaring the bejesus out of him! I might’ve gotten into a little trouble for that one.
In college I majored in business and communications; I even hosted a college radio show. During my college years I also worked as an audio operator at a theme park in Texas. In the audio booth and recording studio, I put together the shows that played in the parks. It was one of those creative jobs where you’re always trying new things, sitting with producers at lunchtime talking about new ideas for the shows such as different sound effects and recording voice overs, and then putting them into the show that night.
After college I worked for a video production company making TV commercials; I did the shooting, editing, directing, and writing. Later on I took a job as a video conference coordinator at a community college. My director suggested since I already had my under graduate degree that I get my master’s degree in Adult Learning. Since I was sitting in the room monitoring the equipment, I could enroll in the classes and get course credit. In 1998 I graduated from Texas A&M as one of the first people to complete a master’s degree over two way interactive video.
After five years as a video conferencing site coordinator, I was offered a job as a technical trainer for VTEL, creating courses and delivering them. I did this for a few years until I got a phone call offering me a job at Polycom in Austin. I started out as a technical trainer creating course materials for products and in 2000 I traveled through the Asia Pacific region to train for the launch of the new ViaVideo personal conferencing device. In 2004, I had an opportunity to join the UX team. At first I was unsure of what value I could bring to the team. However, since I had past experience as customer and current experience visiting customer locations I could provide the team feedback insights into customer environments and what they wanted and needed.
Q: What will UX be like in the year 2020?
Stephen: There’s a saying: “The best way to predict the future is to make it.” That’s the best thing we get to do here at Polycom. We’re not just predicting the future, we get to make it.
The DNA we’re trying to sprinkle into the experiences we create and everything else we’re making isn’t just for now, but forever. We’re building the foundations for the solutions we’ll be creating in 2020, always evolving products into the next generation.
We’re trying to address issues to improve the experiences for people in both the room locally and for the people at the far suite.
We’re also trying to create such delightful collaboration tools and spaces that people will want to keep coming back to rooms with Polycom products for all their meetings – even if there isn’t a far site to connect to! The solutions Polycom creates will enable people to do better work faster. Our goal isn’t just to make products and features – but to create experiences people didn’t even know they wanted.
Q: What’s the most unique situation where you had to use Polycom technology?
Stephen: About eight or nine years ago we did a videoconference on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico using a laptop and the ship’s Wi-Fi (50 cents per minute!). We were testing beta versions of new solutions - it was a cool experience.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
Stephen: My wife and I have two kids, so we spend our free time doing family things. I like to go on “Maddy-Daddy” dates with my daughter to Starbucks for Cake Pops and apple juice. Joey, my two and a half year old son, is my shadow and helps me to do anything around the house. Recently, he has been helping me BBQ—prepping the food, building a fire, applying BBQ sauce. It is so cute I started recording them as “Cooking with Joey and Daddy” and posting them to YouTube for family and friends to watch.
We encourage Joey and Madison to be interested in everything around them and to appreciate hard work. Madison understands that daddy is “a maker and builder.” One day she came up to me and asked, “Daddy, you’re a builder, right? Oh, I’m so proud of you!” and she gave me a big hug. We tell them not that they can be anything, but that they should do what interests them and they’ll be happy. To me, being successful means that you enjoy what you do.