Michael spends his spare time building an electric motorcycle in his garage – using components he custom-designs with 3D printers, CNC routers, and other smart devices.
That relentless knack for innovation extends to his work leading user interface development as an experience design director with McKinsey.
Design is problem solving. I view all of the various design disciplines like different types of tools,” says Michael, whose career has traversed seemingly every design discipline, from graphic to industrial, including architecture, user interface design, viral marketing, wayfinding, and more. “I want to use the right tools to solve the problems at hand, so I push myself to learn new things. I learn best by doing, which means I generally pick a side project at home to give me a reason to pursue a new skill or technology.
The current project
The chassis of a 1972 Honda CB450 has become Michael’s most recent platform for experimentation with vehicular technology. Much of the project relies on rapid prototyping processes. Michael makes parts that don’t absorb high structural loads with his own 3D printer. Other parts he produces on his homemade CNC router – a tool that performs subtractive manufacturing, cutting away base material with software-guided precision. “The electric motorcycle was on my list for a while because it was the perfect opportunity to combine a lot of skills I’ve learned over the past several years into a single project,” says Michael, whose wife opposed his buying a motorcycle but consented to his building this electric one.
Born and raised in Centreville, Mississippi, Michael eventually settled in Austin, where he landed at frog, a leading global design and strategy firm. During his five years there, he worked for an array of Fortune 500 clients, helping them solve complex user experience, transportation, and branding challenges. One of his colleagues included Collin Cole, who later founded carbon 12, the experience design studio McKinsey acquired last year.
“Michael is an accomplished designer, but more importantly brings a boundless entrepreneurial energy to every client study,” says Collin. “His diverse background allows him to connect user needs, business strategy, and emerging technologies to find unconventional solutions.”
In 2005, after brooding on the persistent human displacement caused Hurricane Katrina, Michael became obsessed with disaster relief housing. Through trial and error, he developed the Exo, crossing the country to raise $12.5 million in venture funding. Within two years the company employed 52 people, generated multiple patents, built a factory in Austin, and even caught the interest of NASA.
While he was promoting Reaction’s Exo at South by Southwest, Michael met the Chief Technology Officer in the Obama Administration and the Chief Marketing Officer for the United States Digital Service. They recruited him to help design and implement the digital system underlying the Quality Payment Program, a Medicare Part B reform enacted in October 2016.
“The work was really rewarding,” he says. “I was working for my country and the scope and scale was staggering. More than 55 million doctors were interacting with what we built. It completely changed the way they provide medicine, incentivizing quality care instead of the number of patients and procedures.”
Michael’s work at McKinsey has now taken him all over the world. His research has involved drones and coding in addition to more typical client work like studying a client’s existing products and interviewing employees to identify pain points in current processes. “Michael’s work is driven by his insatiable curiosity,” says Collin. “He constantly pushes beyond incremental changes for the big ideas that only McKinsey can deliver.Find a job like Michael's
Michael is a designer and lives with his wife and twin daughters in Austin, Texas. He came to McKinsey in 2016 from the White House, where he was part of the United States Digital Service. Launched in 2014, the USDS was part of President Obama’s effort to modernize information technology at U.S. federal agencies.
Prior to that, Michael was the founder and CEO of Reaction Housing, a now shuttered startup that developed and manufactured housing units for natural disaster survivors. His innovation was a nine-foot-tall, stackable structure called the Exo. The invention landed him on Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business list in 2016.For more information on McKinsey's tech career paths, visit mckinsey.com/TechCareers.