Connector Spotlight: Sandy Chahine

September 2, 2022

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

A passionate wanderer that firmly believes in the mantra of “trust the process,” Sandy Chahine, Design Researcher, doesn’t only work at the intersection of research and strategy at Connected. She is always eager to facilitate a conversation around important topics whether that be as one of the leaders of the Connected Women’s Network (CWN) or as a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) committee. Described as curious, passionate, and reflective by her colleagues, we know she’s always going a step further to learn, but also teach individuals around her. As someone who is into all things urbanism and public space, can you guess what her favourite product is?

Tell us a bit about the projects you’re working on?

I recently wrapped up Project Magic where we helped a $6B athletic apparel retailer evaluate the desirability of some brand new concepts for their home-gym app. Within the span of less than two months, we rapidly designed, tested, and iterated three concepts based on user findings. There is a lot of risk embedded in launching any new product or feature, so my role in these types of engagement is to make sure the team is in a good position to advance into the next stage of product development with greater confidence that they are going in the right direction and avoiding any fatal rework. 

Outside of direct project work, I also contribute to numerous initiatives at Connected. I am one of the leaders of the Connected Women’s Network (CWN) where I organize and facilitate conversations that bring members together. Additionally, I am a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) committee and the Design Speaker Series committee. Currently, I am also collaborating with other Connectors as we build the Atlas, an internal project meant to amplify Connected’s remote culture by visualizing where everyone at the company is located on a map. This will allow individuals to discover who’s in closer physical proximity to them and connect by sharing and discovering local recommendations.

What’s the most interesting challenge about the project?

For Project Magic, our client wanted these new concepts to drive a higher sense of community and fitness motivation amongst members. The challenge here was getting a better sense of how these intricate feelings manifest themselves after going through the experience.

Some questions we were asking ourselves during the experiment were, “does introducing gamification in a space where people are already intrinsically motivated enhance or deprive users’ sense of autonomy?” or “how might we experience community as a feeling versus interactions among members (much like in a music concert)?”

Where did you work before Connected?

I have always worked at the intersection of research and strategy. My first job after graduating from university was in sociology at a research center. After that, I sought a more practical approach to research and pivoted to the private sector as a management consultant for a couple of years where I worked in strategy. That firm has now been acquired by Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY).

To fulfill my desire of getting back in touch with the humanities, I flew to Madrid and enrolled in an Innovation and Human-Centered Design Masters program at IE Business School. After completing my degree, I worked at Youthful Cities, a think tank and social impact organization focused on urban regeneration. During my time there, I led a national research project to amplify urban youth voices and shape cities post-COVID-19. We must have conducted over 500 interviews with young folks from all over Canada. It’s definitely been one of the most ambitious and challenging projects I’ve worked on in my career.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

My career journey is something I like to reflect on. It’s a journey that definitely didn’t feel linear, more like sporadic dots; a series of different experiences I was chasing based on my wide range of interests. While the “dotted” journey can feel uneasy (after all, breadth can be seen as the enemy of depth), it’s definitely a rewarding one. 

Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” By being open to trying different things, I feel that I landed a “high-quality match” between who I am and what I aspired to do. The dots connected, at last.

Do you have a mantra you live by?

My program director would repetitively say “trust the process” when we were stuck navigating the murky middle space between the beginnings and ends of a project. I like to fall back on this, especially for the early discovery projects we do at Connected.

What do you love to do outside of work?

I am definitely a passionate wanderer. In French, we use the word flâner to describe the act of aimlessly walking the streets; stopping here or there; observing. In doing this, I found a hidden treasure in the heart of Montreal known as Champ des Possibles. In the last couple of years, this abandoned industrial site has been completely overtaken by wild nature meshed with street art. This is the type of place you can only stumble upon accidentally as it’s inaccessible by car.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what album, movie, and book would you take with you?

Movie – La grande bellezza

Book – anything written by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Album – Brothers by The Black Keys

Describe yourself in three words. 

I can describe others, but not myself! Some of my colleagues say I am: curious, passionate, and reflective.

And finally, what’s your favourite product and why? 

As an avid wanderer and someone that is passionate about all things urbanism and public space, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my favourite design is the High Line, a public park, greenway, and rail trail in New York City. It’s born from participatory action. It’s a form of regenerative design. It’s accessible, fun, and free. It’s beautiful. What else would you want out of a product?

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