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Unfuzzying the Fuzzy

Wilson Beebe (MPD2' 22), talks about how the MPD2 program helped accelerate his career and prepared him for his current role as manager of design for the disruptive innovation incubator at SC Johnson.

Wilson Beebe never liked school.  

In high school, he plowed through his work so he could play sports or be outside, often choosing to do homework in study hall so he could focus more time on doing more exciting things. 

Wilson BeebeHe earned a bachelor of arts in industrial and product design, but even in college he didn't enjoy the classroom experience. 

That all changed thanks to Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development Management (MPD2) program.  

Beebe stumbled upon MPD2 after realizing he didn't want to spend his career as an executional industrial designer. Today, he is manager of design for the disruptive innovation incubator at SC Johnson, the company behind household products like Pledge, Raid, Windex, and Ziploc.  

“The core of what I do is hilariously closely aligned to what the MPD2 program is,” said Beebe (MPD2 '22), who joined SC Johnson in February 2022. “I love synthesizing all of the inputs in product development and sifting through the fuzzy bits to find the best ways in.”  

Clearing up the fuzz was, at its foundation, one of the core principles of the MPD2 program. Beebe learned to do that through human-centered design, a principle based on the theory that a company can’t design the most useful products without being intently focused on the end-user’s spoken and often unspoken wants and needs.  

For Beebe, human-centered design is critical when he conducts and analyzes customer research, performs consumer testing, tinkers with the first iterations of a product, or advocates to leadership on behalf of a product or consumers.  

And that can all happen in one day. 

That variety is ideal for Beebe, who found himself getting bored with the repetitive nature of his work as a designer prior to MPD2. 

"I was doing some of the same things over and over as a designer," he said. "Spit out another 10 ideas and see what people like and move forward." 

At Beebe’s first job he was the only designer, with no mentors or clear path to career advancement. He realized if he wanted to grow to be a leader in the industry and make the most of his skills as a creator, he would need help. 

That’s when he came across the MPD2 program. 

Beebe immersed himself in what the program had to offer, picking up skills from each of the classes he took. Most notable for him among the program’s offerings was the Business Model Design course taught by John Renaldi and Mike Edmonds, whom he called “two of the most engaging professors I’ve ever had.”  

“The class was a ton of new information that I wish I’d had five years ago,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about the course, and I’d expect to see me auditing this one a few times.” 

With his MPD2 degree in hand, Beebe has experienced an unexpectedly rapid climb in the product design world. Where once he felt himself growing bored in his career, he now finds himself thriving in a design-centered company culture, able to influence product decisions in ways he never anticipated.   

He credits the MPD2 program with helping accelerate his career trajectory.  

“I'm at a point in my career now that I didn't think I was going to be at until close to the end of my career, financially and from a leadership perspective,” he said. “Being part of a cohort where people are successful in all sorts of different ways really blew the doors off my expectations.”

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