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In the spotlight: Dom Baker

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‘In the spotlight’ is our exciting new Q&A series introducing you to the hard-working and talented members of the CDS team who help make a positive difference.

In the spotlight this month is Dom Baker, Head of Innovation.

1. Sum up your role at CDS in one sentence:

Helping organisations and folks find and do the right thing—taste tester, lightning conductor, and human Swiss army knife—no problem too big or too gnarly.

2. What are the key responsibilities of your role, and which aspects do you love most? 

Two things:  

  1. 1) Helping clients (and us) improve their existing ‘things’  
  2. 2) Helping clients (and us) successfully navigate their next 'thing' (and by proxy, do 1). 

The most valuable thing in the world is seeing people successfully use something you’ve created, keep using it, and hopefully share it with friends, colleagues, and family (there is genuinely no bigger accolade than this).

Dom Baker, Head of Innovation

3. What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the world of innovation? 

*Deep breath*
Be interested in people, organisations, business, technology, and how things work; surround yourself with smart people who have different perspectives and skills; be prepared to experiment, get your sleeves rolled up, and get your hands dirty with new stuff so you can find out what it can really do.

Be curious, keep pushing ideas, never stop learning, and don’t assume everyone knows what you’re talking about. Learn to draw, as it really, really helps show people what you’re thinking; always, always, always capture, measure, and show value; and above all else, assume nothing and be kind.

4. If you could learn one new skill, what would it be? 

The ability to instantly learn ANYTHING — starting with Excel. 

5. Which CDS value (integrity, curiosity, togetherness, challenging, and tenacity) resonates with you the most? 

All of the above — I can’t do this job without them.

6. What is one thing on your bucket list you’d like to achieve soon?  

Travel through space.

7. What or who inspires you?

Three people spring to mind: 

My Auntie Myra: Since I was tiny, she’s always created things, often from nothing. She's had multiple creative careers, won a Grammy, directed and designed videos for the likes of Madness, George Michael, and Herbie Hancock, designed and built stages for Jean Michelle Jarre, and is now working with the GLA to help local communities build playgrounds and urban allotments across London. She quite seriously doesn’t know the meaning of the word 'CAN'T'.

My mate Nicky Gibson: One of the best designers I’ve ever worked with and one of the nicest human beings on the planet. She was one of the first designers I ever saw who made ‘digital things’ feel immensely human and tactile and completely changed the way that I approached building and designing things—and she still does every time I work with her. She's a true creative polymath, animator, coder, UXer, and all-rounder, and to this day, she brings amazing humanity and joy to everything she creates (she’s doing incredible stuff with AI as we speak).

And the amazingly named Amber Case: Another person who completely flipped the way I thought about products and design and the vital role of ‘human’ in all of this. The founder of the ‘calm technology’ movement, who not only approaches system design with a very humane, human-first approach but also helped design some of the most iconic online and offline experiences, from Apple through to MOMA. 

8. What’s been your favourite CDS project to work on so far? 

The College of Policing has, by far, been a really heartening piece of work to do that will hopefully have far-reaching benefits to all who use it. Spending an evening with the team (ex-cops) really showed me how important good, empathic, relevant, and, above all, effective learning is. 

9. Which artist’s music would you take to a desert island? 

First off, I’ve always thought being stuck on a desert island would be heavenly (as long as I had my trusty penknife). I would happily spend weeks building shelters, etc., with drums and musical ‘things’ being high on the list. So I would need music that I couldn't make out of my palm tree and bamboo shoot orchestra.

So, because this is such an impossible question, I’ll give you the compilations I’m taking with me:

  • Johnny Cash – Live at Folsom Prison — for when things get dark and stormy.
  • Motorhead – No sleep till Hammersmith — I seriously DON’T need to explain this.
  • Grace Jones – Island Life — It reminds me of my wife, plus it’s Grace Jones, right?
  • Ancient Methods – Handmade Blend —  “Pitch black techno war funk”
  • The Knife/Fever Ray — to remind me of my daughter, and it's the incredible Karin.
  • Neurosis – Silver in Blood  
  • Northern Soul the Soundtrack  
  • Every Bowie album up to Serious Moonlight and excluding Hunky Dory
  • Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf  
  • Mr Bongo Brazilian Beats compilation 
  • Bad Brains — just Bad Brains  

10. If you could give one piece of advice to your 10-year-old self, what would it be? 

Smarten up, wise guy, and do your homework. 😊