Doug Cerny was in the Amazon Minneapolis office to co-host a watch party for an internal design event when he graciously decided to set aside some time that day to chat with us. We’d wanted to get to know him better for a while now because we’ve never seen him wear the same epic graphic t-shirt twice, and we’re fascinated by the way he intentionally connects with the people in the local Minneapolis community. We walked together to a quiet space to ask him some questions (currently wearing a shirt highlighting A Goofy Movie), but we caught on quickly that no place where Doug enters stays quiet for long. As his peers and coworkers passed by; cheerful hellos, comments of excitement about the upcoming design event, and “good to see you” came through sudden eruptions of genuine smiles.
Pivoting into UX
When Doug was a child, he was a complete movie buff; mesmerized by the magic of animation. His early career dreams were to bring stories to life through animation; while also recalling that he became obsessed with engineering and genetics after watching Jurassic Park. He joked with us that he was bummed when he wasn’t able to “create real dinosaurs” with his Biomedical Engineering schooling; but this set him on the path to becoming a Systems Engineer, working on Medical Devices in the Midwest.
As a Systems Engineer, it was Doug’s job to study medical device users as they interacted with devices to understand how a product software, hardware, or service was meeting (or falling short) of user’s needs. He was serving people with unique conditions and felt a growing empathy for the personal struggles they experienced; noting how tough it was to observe that while the device safely met the needs of the user, the work of a systems engineer did not prioritize a “usable design that also brought humanity into the process.” For example, building a medical device that’s functional, but aesthetically bulky and unpleasant, can cause a person to stand out in a way that may cause them to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. This doesn’t solve this person’s full need, and he realized that was a gap that mattered more to him to solve than just making sure a product functions safely. So Doug transitioned from system engineering into human factors and eventually moved into UX and Design - a space where he now feels at home.
Fast forward to today, Doug currently finds his inspiration in helping folks like locally-owned, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses thrive; noting that this is possible because of his position in Amazon’s Buy with Prime product; which helps democratize the direct-to-consumer world of retail. Doug loves the idea of giving small business owners a leg up to help them create competitive businesses of their own; by allowing them to build a space for themselves to market and sell their unique experiences that’s fueled by the power of Amazon logistic capabilities on the backend which allows them to scale.
More than just an expression of personal style...
Speaking of that Goofy shirt he was sporting, we knew Doug had an epic graphic t-shirt collection after seeing him around the office, but the why behind them surprised us. Doug mentioned, “in my previous life working at medical companies, the dress code was business attire and grey tones. That was just never me. So I would come to work in Guardians of the Galaxy shirts, bright neon pants and boat shoes.” Doug is intentional about bringing character and personality into his work environment through his personal style because he’s noticed that it helps other people feel more comfortable coming to work as themselves as well, which is something he values in his work environment.
Doug also shared a story about a lesson he learned from his Dutch grandfather, his Opa. “If you gave him a yellow sweater, no matter how hot it was, he would wear that the next time you saw him because you gave it to him and he knew it would mean something big to that person.” Doug also shared that recently, one of his coworkers invited him to a presentation she was giving. He knew the speaker loved the movie Aladdin, so he showed up to her presentation wearing his Aladdin shirt to show support for her in his unique way.
Doug laughed and let us know that, much to the chagrin of his wife because of the needed closet space, he now owns over 400 Graphic tees, a collection which he finds hard to narrow down because he’d hate to not have the perfect shirt for the right occasion.