From the army to a career in human-centred design

My name is Douglas "DJ" Belton II, and I am a design researcher in the Experience Centre. I work in an eclectic team of product and service designers, technology developers, and creative communicators. My academic background in social anthropology helps ensure the "voice of the customer" underpins the solutions we design, build, and deliver for clients.

The opportunity to work in such an eclectic team is one of the things that really attracted me to PwC. Prior to joining the firm, I worked as an international security consultant specialising in behaviour pattern recognition, and as a reserve soldier in the U.S. Army. In 2011, I was deployed to Afghanistan where I served as a cultural advisor to field commanders and liaised closely with local Afghans in our area of operations. Although this career track may seem completely unrelated to design research, there is a common theme: Understanding why people behave the way they do, and making informed decisions based on that understanding.

Unfortunately, the military and security industries did not afford me many opportunities to develop my intellectual and creative interests (I moonlight as a street poet at open mic nights from time to time). So, I decided to repackage and build on the behavioral observation and interview skills I had acquired and do a masters degree in applied anthropology - which is what brought me to Australia.

After finishing the degree and working a few contract research gigs, I applied for a role with the Experience Centre, and was invited for an interview. What attracted me to the job ad was an image of a guy half dressed in a business suit and half dressed in casual wear with a sleeve tattoo on his arm. I thought, ok, they're trying to be "edgy". I like that.


At the interview I was given a design challenge and tasked to design a creative solution to improving the grocery shopping experience, then present it back the following week. I was also encouraged to use any presentation format I wanted. The more creative the better. Always keen to push the envelope, I presented my design solution in rap format.

Unsure of how my panel of interviewers would respond, imagine my surprise when the lead interviewer offered to beatbox for me... and was serious! I know because her hands were cupped over her mouth in anticipation and she looked slightly disappointed that I opted to rap acapella.

Needless to say, my solution and presentation were good enough to get the job. But what was most exciting for me (besides the prospect of a steady paycheck doing cool work) was the fact that for the first time in my life I felt I was entering an employment contract as an equal party. The idea of jockeying for a foothold on a slippery corporate ladder never really appealed to me - but a platform to discover, create, and develop a personal brand and value proposition - that was different!

I am now 15 months into my journey with PwC and am as excited now about the development opportunities in front of me as I was when I started. And that's a good place to be.

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