Karen VanHouten

Karen VanHouten

Karen VanHouten

A curious skeptic and expert snark, Karen has a deep love for beautiful messes fostered over 20 years of work in UX and product. Karen currently works as the Senior Director of Product Strategy and Project Delivery at Infobeans, where she likes to say she helps teams make better mistakes. She is passionate about intentionally designed work environments, and focuses on inclusion, collaboration, and team health as the most consistent drivers for success. She also swears a lot, loves all things late 80s/early 90s pop culture, and can show you where she lives on her hand.

For more, keep up with Karen at designinginward.com or on Twitter/Bluesky as @designinginward.


Leadership By Design 2023

Designing serendipity: intentionally crafting our success

The best creative teams often appear, from the outside, to be driven by luck; their success seemingly the result of a series of happy accidents, coincidence, and a few wonderfully creative minds blended together in an “innovation cocktail.” Healthy, sustainable success is anything but accidental.

We’ll explore three layers to reframe the way we think about project and team design. Starting with cycles, the natural rhythm and energies of the individuals on our team, and how building awareness and making the right compromises can create a rhythm that drives the team as a whole. We’ll move beyond the concept of “sprint” to the idea of project-specific cadences, ways to build momentum towards specific milestones while providing ample slack for recovery. And we’ll talk about ceremonies, methods we use the ensure we are keeping our promises to each other and supporting the habits that will make our success feel like luck.

UX Camp Spring 2021

How We Get Wicked Good

Did you ever wonder why so much of our work seems harder than it should be? Does it feel like you are constantly working at altitude, trying to do more work with less oxygen? Well, Karen’s first job in tech was in 1993. You read that right. 1993. That’s almost 30 years across different roles and companies, all in technology and digital products. And no matter how much more skilled we all get, things just seem to be getting harder. How do we move from barely surviving to practically thriving?

In this new talk, we’ll discuss how we get wicked good: moving through competency and mastery to sustainability, even in environments that seem to be set up for failure, disappointment, and eventual burnout. We’ll explore how to make our work spaces kinder, more inclusive, and more supportive of long term engagement and growth while at the same time encouraging us to be more thoughtful and intentional about the design decisions and career choices we make.

Leadership By Design 2019

A Method for the Madness

When confronted with challenges, whether professional or personal, we often ask some variation of this question: “How do I do [this scary, difficult, yet necessary thing] without actually having to experience any discomfort or take any risks?” As a speaker and design leader, I get asked some version of this question every time I give a talk or work with new team struggling to change.

Obviously, the answer is: you can’t. There is plenty of discussion right now of the necessity of getting comfortable with discomfort, but very little actual guidance on how that process works. Instead, we hear tales of transformation that follow a vague formula of initiating events, challenges faced, victories won. These stories can be inspiring, but beyond that, they don’t provide much help for people struggling to take the leap out of their comfort zone. Without any practical guidance, many people hesitate and wait, static and stagnant, choosing to be careful instead curious.

I’ll outline a step-by-step approach for pushing outside our comfort zones and expanding our experiences. I’ll start by contrasting the perception of how our comfort zones serve us with the very different reality of how they work against us. I’ll blast through the most common excuses we have for staying put versus moving forward. We’ll explore simple, tactical ways to push through our resistance, move past our fears, and nurture the courage to design better relationships and make more authentic choices, in our careers, and our lives.

Workshop: Healthier Teams by Design

From the outside, high performing teams, particularly highly collaborative and innovative ones, seem to demonstrate an innate chemistry and the ability to harness the power of serendipity. But the truth is, successful teams are incredibly deliberate and intentional about how they work. Culture, processes and best practices should be designed with as much care as the products and services we build. And, while there are certain essential characteristics common to successful teams, the unique challenges of our work context and our project needs also require a team uniquely optimized for those situations.

Every experience is designed, including our team experience. In this workshop, we’ll explore how we can use design tools to design better ways of working. Based on the challenges of your projects and the skills and traits of your amazing team members, we’ll look at how you’d like the team to evolve and articulate specific goals that can be measured. We’ll define an MVP approach to help you develop small experiments for opportunities and interventions that will help you establish new, more effective patterns of communicating and collaborating.

Speaker Details
Speaker Details
Events of the Speaker
You might also love these events.
About Chicago Camps
September 14, 2023
10:00 am
September 15, 2023
2:30 pm
Learn design leadership from the experts at Leadership by Design 2023. Leadership By Design 2023 is an online 2-day conference focused on all aspects of design leadership. On Thursday & Friday, September 14th & 15th, from where ever you are...
April 3, 2021
10:00 am
April 3, 2021
3:30 pm
UX Camp Spring 2021 is a 1-day mini-conference that delivers great UX content at a price that lets anyone attend, from where you are. On Saturday, April 3rd, 2021 at 10AM CT, from where ever you are—we’re serving up 2...
August 7, 2019
9:00 am
August 9, 2019
4:30 pm
Learn design leadership from the experts at Leadership by Design 2019. Leadership By Design 2021 is an online 2-day conference focused on all aspects of design leadership. On Thursday & Friday, August 8th & 9th, we’re hosting a two-day, single-track...