Designing a new culture: IBM’s Racial Equity in Design Initiative

Tuesday 2 November 2021

Racial inequity is more recognised than ever before and the need for practical action to address this in all walks of life is pressing. IBM has the largest team of designers of any company in the world and a group within IBM have developed the racial equity in design initiative to take steps to bring about change, both within IBM and beyond.


Nigel Prentice and Jessica Tremblay will speak about the creation of the initiative, the impact of the work both inside and outside of IBM in the design industry, and discuss challenges overcome along the way in order to create equitable, long-term change for Black designers by designing as new culture inside IBM.

The event will be Chaired by Dr Pelin Demirel and Margot Sandy and will include an opportunity for discussion

Speaker details:

Nigel Prentice

Nigel has been a leader in software, technical transformation, and design since he founded one of Austin’s first digital product consultancies in 1996. Since then, he has worked with local startups, government institutions, and enterprise organizations to lead various technology and design efforts across dozens of industries at every scale. Prior to IBM, he was the Austin studio leader for Adaptive Path, one of the original user experience design consultancies.

Nigel joined IBM in 2014 and since then has held a number of leadership and executive roles, driving the adoption of design and design thinking, while using those tools to achieve prioritized business outcomes. Currently, Nigel is the design executive for the global Digital Growth and Commerce team, which is the home for IBM’s enterprise digital presence. The team delivers market differentiation through holistic digital journeys built on Carbon- IBM’s unified digital design system.

In addition, Nigel leads IBM’s Racial Equity in Design initiative. While investing IBM’s considerable resources at the scale of the enterprise, this work contemplates the redesign of culture using the power of deep empathy combined with user experience design. Through Nigel’s leadership, the company is implementing long-term transformation around closing the racial equity gap in the profession of design while improving the career experiences for Black designers inside IBM and beyond.

Jessica Tremblay

Jessica Tremblay is a designer and community leader dedicated to IBM’s Racial Equity in Design Initiative. As the program manager, Jessica’s role is to ensure programs and work streams are successful with delivering on their goals to make long-term, equitable change for designers of color.

Jessica joined IBM as a visual designer and front-end developer, and has taken on many roles since 2014. She organized IBM’s first FED@IBM community dedicated to front-end developers with members across the globe, and is also the lead for IBM’s 100+ Enterprise Design Thinking global chapter network.

Outside of IBM, Jessica dedicates her time to educating and encouraging women to be a part of design and tech initiatives. She speaks and leads workshops with organizations such as Future Front Texas, Women Who Code, and Girls Who Code with hopes that other women will pursue leadership opportunities in tech.

Dr Pelin Demirel, Senior Lecturer, Dyson School of Design Engineering

Pelin’s research and teaching focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship with a particular emphasis on sustainability. Investigating the potential of innovations and entrepreneurship for a more sustainable and inclusive society motivates her most recent research projects. Her research is funded by various bodies including Leverhulme Trust, ESRC, EPSRC and British Academy. She is an Associate Editor of European Management Review and serves on the editorial review board for Small Business Economics Journal.

Margot Sandy, Imperial College London, President’s PhD scholar

Margot is researching perceptions of expertise in multi-disciplinary new product development (NPD) teams with the Dyson School of Design Engineering. She is a recipient of the prestigious Presidents award. Margot has worked in NPD teams extensively across North America with 10+ years’ experience of the inner-workings of public and private companies with revenues from 100 million to 6 billion dollars. Margot has also developed a charitable foundation to support children in disadvantaged communities in the US.

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