David Lavenda knows that it takes more than technical or strategic knowledge to solve problems in the workplace. 

While he brings both of these to bear in his work, he also brings a background in physics, engineering and the humanities to inform his decisions. 

Whether acting as VP of product strategy at harmon.ie, contributor to CMSWire or researcher into the impact of information overload on knowledge workers, Lavenda finds the intersection of people, organizations and technology to pinpoint issues and devise creative solutions. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2016?

The biggest lesson I learned in 2016 was that no matter how much I progress in life, in some regards I am always at the beginning of some journey: whether it be at work, at school, at home or in the community. 

I started several volunteer projects this year. What I learned is that no matter how much life experience I have collected along the way, it seems that I am in some respects starting each project from scratch. 

Interestingly, the most relevant experience for each project seem to come from completely unrelated aspects of my life. The cross-fertilization of ideas I continuously experience from unrelated projects never ceases to surprise me.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction at work?

Being able to take a raw product idea and craft it into a well-thought out and practical strategy is the same kind of joy that artists and musicians must experience from creating a new work of art. 

Seeing rough ideas come to fruition can be wildly exhilarating. Especially if there were roadblocks along the way that had to be navigated.

Name one work-related moment that surprised or gave you an a-ha moment in 2016.

The renaissance of chat after 20 years of decline surprised me. 

Chat was popular in the 1990s in the form of IRC, but IRC has been on the decline for the last 15 years or so. Now it’s back and better than ever. 

The popularity of Slack has spawned a bevy of competitors including Microsoft and IBM. 

And what never ceases to amaze me is the prophecy that accompanies the introduction of every new (proprietary) communications technology — that it is "the email killer." When one of these technologies develops into a standard and becomes completely interoperable with every competitor’s version of the same technology, then I’ll agree that "email may have to start looking for another job."

Did you ever take on a job you thought you couldn't do?

Learning Opportunities

My first job out of college was as a pre-sale/post-sales engineer for a router company. And my first customer visit was to give a presentation to the Norwegian telephone company on how routers worked. 

I thought I was in over my head, but it actually worked out just fine. 

If you had to get rid of your computer or your phone, which would it be and why?

The computer. The smartphone has the capability of fulfilling every computing need we have. There are of course serious issues of the small form factor and dearth of input tools, but the device has incredible potential.

The computer will exist for a long time, but the days when we have to a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet and a phone are numbered. It doesn’t make sense. 

When designers figure out how to deal with the human elements of device limitations, we will see serious consolidation of the devices we use. It’s coming.

When you were seven years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As cliché-ish as it sounds, when I was seven, I was riveted by the space program. I didn’t have illusions of becoming an astronaut, but working on the space program was a real dream. 

During first grade, I remember someone from NASA came to school and gave a presentation about life in space. He explained how astronauts work in zero gravity, use the toilet and he even came with a display of space food from one of the recent Apollo missions (no it wasn’t Tang or Space Food Sticks). 

I eventually did pursue a scientific degree in Physics and even worked at a government lab for a time, but eventually, I found other ‘final frontiers ....”

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