Program: B.S. in Informatics, Geography cognate; B.S. in Geography, 2005. M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction, 2007
Career: Principal design partner at InnovateMap
Advice: Don’t think about Informatics as its own thing. Think about it for what it can do for something you’re passionate about.
Christian Beck has built a career as a designer. It’s a far cry from his college days when he had trouble designing his own future.
Beck, now the principal design partner for InnovateMap in Indianapolis, admits he isn’t a good model for a college student. He didn’t put a lot of effort in his choice of school—he enrolled at Indiana University in 2000 because it was close to home and was where his friends were going—and it was his mother who helped guide him down his career path..
“My mom sent me information about Informatics, and it sounded perfect,” Beck remembers. “Informatics was just starting that year. I liked using computers as a tool, and up to that point there wasn’t really any program at IU that went beyond computer programming. I just liked the technology, and the way Informatics was described was the perfect blend of what I liked about technology.”
Beck added a cognate in geography, and after taking a couple of classes in the subject, he realized he would have the opportunity for a double major in Informatics and Geography, so he decided to go for it.
That doesn’t mean he had worked out what he wanted to do.
“During my junior year, I thought I might have a future in geographic information systems (GIS) or digital cartography,” Beck says. “Then I took a Human-Computer Interaction/design class, which was a mix of undergrad and grad students at the time. That changed the course of what I wanted to do.”
The course showed Beck what could be possible.
“There’s a double-edged sword nature to Informatics,” Beck says. “You can do anything, but you sometimes have to think really hard about what you want to do to be successful. When I took that design course, that’s when the light bulbs went on.”
Beck earned his Master’s in HCI 2007. His work in the School of Informatics and Computing allowed him to secure a job with Autodesk as a user experience designer in San Rafael, Calif., and it wasn’t just some entry-level position, either.
“When I went to Autodesk, I got the job because of my Master’s degree,” Beck says. ”It was actually for a senior position. I applied for it anyway, and because I had my background in GIS, they made an exception to take me on. Those positions were always given to people with five-plus years of experience. The projects I worked on with Informatics really helped.”
Beck spent four and a half years with Autodesk and three more as a senior UX designer/manager at Teradata in Indianapolis. He then turned a side project he had been working on, InnovateMap, into a full-time venture in January 2015. Beck says the company exists to meet the needs of the emerging tech scene in Indianapolis.
“You have a lot of great ideas coming out, and some will fizzle because they can’t find the developers to bring the ideas to life,” Beck says. “We started InnovateMap to try to serve the companies in Indy that are emerging.”
Beck sees the need for Informatics graduates as being the fastest-growing areas in technology.
“I feel like Informatics is the skeleton, the architecture that underlies your career,” Beck says. “Think about what you want to do in life, because Informatics can be applied to so many different areas that are underserved. In terms of HCI, when you fast-forward five years, there won’t be many products or interfaces that are not designed by a trained designer. Tech is springing up everywhere. It’s in-demand.”