Sponsor Spotlight - PwC

PwC employs over 220,000 people in 157 countries and are best known for their tax, accountancy and professional services. UX might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of PwC, so we met up with Jessie Hsu, Karan Shah and Joris van Gelder from the PwC Experience Center in Amsterdam to find out more.


Thanks for your time today, can you give our readers a short biography of yourselves?

Joris van Gelder (JvG) – I studied Industrial Design at TU Eindhoven, covering a lot of different aspects of the design process. For instance, they’d just give us a problem like “the trains are too crowded, go fix it”. We would then have figure out the best way to convince the right people at TU/e to help you on your project. It really helped me find out how I want to create and how I want to use design in the world.

After my studies, I founded and ran “Ministerie van Nieuwe Dingen” for about 7 years, where I created both physical and digital artefacts that have an impact. I built products, got investors and sourced a supply chain, so I began to understand the intricacies of bringing an idea from concept to realization.


Karan Shah (KS) – I studied Visual Design 10 years back with a special focus on designing spaces that communicate. For 3 years after my Bachelor’s, I worked in a design consultancy in India, slowly moving from being the “Wild Creative” to managing Wild Creatives.

I wanted a Masters that makes my design perspective more grounded and holistic, so I studied Strategic Design at TU Delft. Soon after graduating, I was hired as a Digital Strategy consultant here at PwC.

Jessie Hsu (JS) – I have a pretty complex background. Ten years ago I was studying Japanese and Russian culture, so I was doing a lot of cross-cultural and sociological studies, focusing on communication patterns between people. Later on, I worked in the IT Industry as a project manager for 3 years.

But I’m also interested in the Interactive stuff and I love art. So I really had to think about how to combine my interests and my work. I chose to pursue Design in Sweden and over the past few years, I gained valuable experience studying and working in various countries in Europe.

Karan, you were the first designer hired by PwC. How did you end up working at PwC and what attracted you?

KS – When I joined in April 2015, I was the ‘clown’ who never wore a suite. Hiring me was a seemingly incomprehensible risk taken by the person who at the time was responsible for establishing the Digital and Customer Strategy at PwC. We were like a start-up within PwC and we still kind of are, we’re still finding ourselves. Now we are called the “Experience Center” within the firm, which is a global proposition.

How many people do you have working within the Experience Center?

KS - The PwC Experience Center in Europe now stands at around 30-40 people across Frankfurt, Vienna, Brussels and Amsterdam, with plans to double in the next 2 years. Currently, we have 7 people based out of Amsterdam.

PwC are sponsoring UXcampAMS for the first time this year, tell me a bit about your reasons for sponsoring?

KS – I’ve been attending AmsterdamUX meetups for a while. And every time, I’m confronted with the question, why does a company like PwC need UX’ers like you? A lot of acquaintances at those meetups are all UX’ers working at companies that you would associate with UX or design in some way. So when I first had conversations with Tatiana (UXcampAMS Sponsor Contact), it was with the intention of raising the profile of PwC from a design/UX perspective, because the consulting and design world can together address many interesting challenges.

JvG – Getting our name out there is key for us, but we are also keen to get in touch with the larger UX community. This is a well-timed progression for us because we’ve been building the team and working on interesting projects and now have some experiences to share.

Can you tell us about some of the projects that you are currently busy with?

JvG – I’ve been working a lot in healthcare. Nurses for example, spend up to 30% of their time booking hours and doing paperwork. So we prototyped a mobile solution that led to some good discussions. We quickly realised that we can’t solve all challenges from inside our offices, so we needed to get out there. This is when the broad PwC network really helped. We managed to pitch to 20 healthcare organisations within a short period of time. What really helps us is the image of PwC. Customers trust PwC, therefore, they are more likely to trust you quicker when you have a crazy idea. I didn’t expect that, but it made my life a lot easier.

KS – The variety of projects for me is what I love most about my job. There is always an element of user-centricity that ties them together. For example, I worked on a Digital Transformation project for a chemicals manufacturer using rapid prototyping to innovate

I’m currently working on a Corporate Responsibility project for a Dutch start-up, that is trying to bring women in Rwanda out of poverty by means of an innovative micro-financing platform. They find philanthropists to fund those women. The challenge is how to design the service in such a way that it incentivizes more and more Dutch people to donate to these women.

Another new project that I am working on is for the Government, specifically DigiID. 65% of Dutch people are still not using DigiID. At first glance, there seems no significant UX or CX dimension, but there definitely is. The project is about communicating the level of reliability to those who are less technologically savvy.

Customer Centricity, User Centricity, Qualitative Research…it’s all about empathy. It involves a lot of evangelising and getting people in the mind-set to be able to do that.

JH – I work on a lot of projects with data, one of them is a government project involving Refugees. It involves helping the Dutch government gather basic information from refugees. For example, a refugee might register in Amsterdam but may be accommodated at a later stage in a different city, so all municipalities need access to the data. We created a concept for a platform in the form of an app, where users - refugees in this case - can upload their data and register themselves. It was interesting as it also touched on cyber-security and IoT. It’s always interesting to work on a project in a very different domain.

I’m very interested in Data-Driven Design. Most people know it and may have a simplistic view like “okay, we know how many people are visiting your site and who they are”. But to take this information and transform it into an effective experience, that’s a very interesting challenge. So I’m doing a lot of experiments in this area at the moment.

So, you’re a relatively young team within PwC NL, do you expect to see a lot of growth in 2017?

KS - Yes! There is a lot of work coming in and we need more people. Good designers don’t naturally think of PwC. So I think UXcampAMS will be good for us to work on that perception.

JH – We work as a pan-European team, so growth is required across the region. It’s not just about how we grow here in Amsterdam, it’s more about how the discipline grows throughout PwC Europe.

Do all of your projects flow in from the accountancy side?

JvG – Not all, but surprisingly many. I have been surprised about how nice it is to work with accountants. The most important thing they do for us as a team here is build and maintain relationships and trust. So they often hear and get insight into problems and opportunities which they bring to us.

So they know where to find you and where you are?

KS – More and more. But two years ago, this was not the case. That is one of the reasons why it has taken us a while to reach out to AmsterdamUX and UXcampAMS. We first had to make ourselves visible within the company. Now that we have that visibility, it’s time to step out.

Will you be contributing with any Presentations or Workshops? 

KS – We plan to pitch one or two presentations and we are keen to see if people vote for them! We are still working out themes for the presentations internally with our network in Netherlands and Germany.

Finally, if there was one topic or theme that you’d love to see addressed at UXcampAMS, what would it be?

JvG – My work here is focused on using design to validate Business Propositions, so I’d be really interested in insight and stories on getting from MVP to something that is fit for growth.

I’d also like to hear from Makers. A lot of people that graduate from, for example, TU/e and TU Delft tend to have ambitions to create a physical digital product – interaction beyond the screen. Beyond TomTom and Philips, realisation of such assignments don’t happen a lot in the Netherlands. I’d be keen to hear if anyone has any experience on this and how they overcame challenges along the way.

JH – For me, I’d be interested to see and hear how UX teamwork works in different contexts, environments and organisations.

KS – User Centricity is maturing as a field. I feel that now is a good time to move beyond that and shift focus from (just) being User Centric and User Driven, to creating things that exceed user expectations. This is something that Verganti in Design Driven Innovation tries to expand on. Until now, it’s not been easy to put this into a framework. If anyone has ideas on this, I’d be keen to hear them.

Thanks to Jessie, Joris and Karan for their time. It was very interesting to hear their experiences, challenges and opportunities working in UX within a company as large as PwC. Stop and say “Hi” and have a chat to learn more and be sure to vote and attend one of their sessions on the day to gain further insight.