Tools of the Trade: Katrika Woodcock

Katrika Woodcock has been at Microsoft for three and a half years but in a strange way, her lineage goes back much further than that. After studying Industrial Design at Carleton University in Ottawa, she decided she needed an adventure. That took her to the UK where she worked for Symbol Technologies in Winnersh, Berkshire. It turns out that the Symbol HQ is the previous HQ of Microsoft UK. I actually missed out on working in that same building by about 2 months.

From the UK, Katrika made a stop in New York to work for Kaleidoscope until an old colleague from Symbol called and asked if she’d be interested in a job at Microsoft. Her initial reaction was “no way” – she was a self confessed Apple fangirl. So what changed her mind? Two things she tells me

The amazing people she met during the interview process and a number of projects and people she came across as she researched Microsoft. She found the famous Seadragon demo that Blaise Aguera y Arcas gave at TED and the Worldwide Telescope demo – also shown at TED. Her mind was made up and she moved to work in the Windows Phone team. As that product moved to execution, Katrika shifted to working for the Entertainment Division all up, and most recently, to a new adventure in Office Labs. She loves to work on the bleeding edge doing forward thinking work and no better place than Office Labs. Their mission is to look at the white space between existing products and develop ideas and concepts in a rapid prototyping manner. They’re the team responsible for projects like OfficeTalk, pptPlex and Ribbon Hero 2 and of course the Productivity Future Vision video.


Like the earlier profile of Lindsey Kujawski (another industrial designer), I asked Katrika if she mind sharing the tools of her trade. I think it’s a fun way to get a sense of how people work so Katrika laid out her tools on a black foam board (itself one of her tools) and explained each item to me







Magic 8 ball: A designer I used to work with gave it to me as he used one as a tool for making decision. Some decisions need to be serious, some less so and the 8 ball is always there to help.

Car keys and Chanel sunglasses: I do my best thinking in the car. At work, whenever I’m blocked, I go for a walk. It can be around the building, or around campus, depending how big the problem is. My best ideas and inspiration come when I step away from the problem for a few minutes.

GOOD & WIRED magazines: Despite being a blog junkie, these are the two magazines I read cover to cover each month. A brilliant mix of tech, culture, politics etc.

iPad: I’m a blog junkie. Currently Zite is my go-to app.

Pins and printouts: I love to innovate out loud by sharing stuff and creating a sense of community. Wherever I have worked, I’ve filled the corridors with stuff I want to share and get a reaction to. It helps people ambiently know what’s going on in our team.

Flip camera: I’m constantly trying to document things – process, concepts, inspiration, whatever. I addition to my phone, I almost always carry a Flip Cam, a camera, and a notebook.

Zune HD: I’m addicted to podcasts and audio books. Audible, RadioLab, Diggnation, TED talks… I listen to them everywhere, all the time.

Headphones: Everyone who works in an open studio knows that the universal symbol for “Don’t bother me, I’m working” is headphones. I use Sennheiser HD202’s when I need to be productive.

“Do Epic ***” mug: it’s a personal motto of mine that got adopted around here. I guess it’s an aspirational goal… a representation of an approach to innovation.

Moleskine notebook + pens: I go for the soft cover notebook with squared paper, because it has that hint of structure and guidelines, without there being actual rules. Pens are like a security blanket to me. I think, I think that some catastophic event will happen, should a designer be caught without a pen. I don’t even use them, I just hold them.

Samsung Focus Windows Phone 7: I’d be lost without email, calendar, and a map in my pocket. Twitter is pinned to the top of my Start page, as is Office, Zune, and Kindle. I’m well known for never answering my phone, but I’m a pretty responsive texter.

Katrika is always fun to chat with – she brings a lot of energy and passion to her work and I’m a fan of the sub culture of industrial designers we have at Microsoft. I have a few more of them to introduce you to soon!