Gentlemen of Quality is so often related to a man’s look and style, and rightfully so due to GQ’s brand notoriety. But when I hear of quality, I think success, intelligence, grind, hard work etc. So often, we see negative images of minority men, or the only success stories we hear of are athletes and entertainers. In media, although not the majority, there are so many minorities, from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
The goal of the Diversity in Media installments are to inspire other minorities, young professionals, and youth to learn and pursue opportunities in media. Throughout these stories, we will see the variety of backgrounds, opportunities, and avenues to success that have been explored.
In our first installment, we are highlighting Quinnton Harris of Walker & Company. He is the UI/UX Design Lead for the company, where they are currently focusing their efforts on Bevel.
Role: UI / UX Lead, Walker & Company Brands, Inc.
Current City and State: Palo Alto, CA
Hometown: Maywood, IL
What is your current role/title and Company?
UI / UX Lead, Walker & Company Brands, Inc.
How did you get into the media industry?
I got my start as a design intern at DigitasLBi, but I was exposed to the industry by a professional development program called Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT). Their Career Prep Program helped me discover my strengths, hone in on my personal story, and prepared me to navigate any professional environment.
Tell me about your journey to how you got to design and media.
Growing up I’d always been obsessed with design and media; I just never knew what it was called nor was I exposed to design-related careers. Two pivotal experiences in high school set me on a trajectory that I’d never imagine following. The first was the 2005 Chicago Auto show. I’d never seen such a spectacle in my life. Everything from the Mercedes-Benz V-12 AMG engine demonstration and the debut of the Cadillac DTS simply amazed me. I said to myself that,
“I can do this.”
I didn’t know if I wanted to do industrial design, event planning, production or merchandising. It didn’t matter. I just knew the atmosphere was magical, and I wanted to harness its power and recreate it. A boy from the West side of Chicago now had a glimpse into his future, and it was very motivating! The second pivotal experience was getting accepted to MIT’s Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES). This 6-week rigorous program invites promising high school students to learn about STEM education and careers, meet people in the field, and sharpen academic prowess with an intensive curriculum. I attended the summer of 2006 and met so many people that not only looked like me but shared my story. I would go on to attend MIT.
I graduated with a Major in Mechanical Engineering picking up two Minors in Architecture and Visual Arts. During my time at the Institute, I slowly distanced myself from engineering, ultimately finding a fulfilling path in the arts. I loved thinking with shapes, forms, colors and text. I learned to express my ideas through graphics, logos, and renderings. I picked up photography and honed my skills as a storyteller. That opened the door for an internship at DigitasLBi, and after graduation, I worked for the company for four years as an Art Director and Digital Experience Designer.
Now, I am working as UI/UX Design Lead at Walker and Company Brands, a company focused on making health and beauty simple for people of color. With an incredible team, I am working to design, develop and test products & services specifically tailored the needs of our community.
How did your experience as a black male at your School/University/College shape how you embarked on your career, if at all?
Being an MIT student and being a black male at a PWI (Predominately White Institute), was definitely a unique experience. MIT is already a difficult place to be intellectually and socially. Not only was I adjusting to a new environment, I had to learn the language, develop the academic and social confidence, and find a safe space to explore my passions. Fortunately, I had amazing professors, support groups and institutional offices like the Office of Minority Education (OME) that helped me face some tough issues. Having an established space for students of color on campus was huge, and it gave me the foundation develop my own coping mechanisms. Graduating MIT was definitely a collective effort, and I could not do it alone.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by "learn the language" and "a safe place"?
MIT had it's own cultural language, and it's foundation was affluence, privilege, and legacy. It's hard to describe in words the eccentric culture of MIT, it was a place that I had to adapt to because it wasn't my culture back at home. It felt like I was dropped in a foreign country, where I did not know the language nor the customs, and I adapted over time.
As for a safe place, I am referring to a state of mind where I felt comfortable or a sense of familiarity. I thought a solid foundation I could connect to at any time was important to my success at the Institute. This included surrounding myself with people of similar races and socio-economic backgrounds or generally folks that felt as if they were "other".
What book has an impact on your life and why?
Most recently Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen has deeply impacted my life. It’s a powerful book that aims to make creativity your most effective and efficient asset. It helps me makes sense of my ideas and personal goals, and it challenges me to always work for impact, not perfection. I often revisit the text if I am ever feeling unproductive or stuck in a rut.
What motivates you?
People motivate me. I want to be an influencer of influencers, positively impacting folks that will help make their respective worlds better places. I am motivated by personal stories, good or bad, and I learn the best from shared knowledge and wisdom.
What is your biggest challenge in life right now?
My biggest challenge right now is adjusting to the big cross-country move. I left from Brooklyn, New York for the San Francisco-Bay Area. Aside from missing my family and close friends, I am trying to find balance physically, mentally, and spiritually in this new environment. I am taking things slow, looking for inspiration, and reaching out to folks that help me adjust. I am hoping things settle out nicely.
Who is your role model?
I have so many. Artists, musicians, business leaders, the CEO of my company, and even my life partner. But if I had to choose one at the moment, I would name the cultural agent Chance the Rapper. I admire where he sits in right now: he is an independent, creative, business-savvy, counter-cultural, peaceful symbol to the city of Chicago, and around the world. He continues to figure out ways to gift the world his creativity while staying true to his heritage, values and sense of purpose. He is the type of figure I aspire to be, and I watch what is doing very closely from afar. One day I hope to have coffee with him and pick his brain.
What's your motto or quote?
“Believe with purpose. Live by grace. Act with empathy. Leave a legacy.”
Where can we connect with you online?