Earlier this month Collin joined us on campus for pizza and conversation with our current students as part of our Alumni Speaker Series. Collin, one of the first designers at Square, spoke to students about his time at MA, his professional journey, and how design influences our daily lives.
At the heart of it, I am a maker. As I look back, I have always been a maker – orchestrating pranks, building legos, tearing it down to rebuild it, designing go carts, etc. Making is in my blood and is my biggest passion. Combined with the fortune of living during a time of incredible technological evolution, making is ultimately what has led me to a where I am today.
Today I find myself living in San Francisco, the heart of technical innovation, and working at Square, a payments company that has led the charge in advancing commerce and democratizing the unchanged and unfair payments industry. I have been a product designer at Square for the last 4 years and have seen it go from a small startup to now over 1400 employees, issuing $225M in business financing and Square Sellers being the 13th largest retailer in the country behind companies like Walmart, Amazon and McDonald’s. It has been a wild and unforgettable journey – one that I have been so lucky to be a part of. As a product designer, I have designed the experiences and interfaces of our mobile and web apps, ranging from our original Square Register product to some of the more recent products that are focused on enhancing the relationship of a merchant and their customers. I am so excited for the future and what Square will have to offer!
Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
Outside of work, you will often find me being active in the sun or in the workshop building some new passion project. As of recent I have been getting more into road biking as my soccer career seems to be winding down due to knee problems and surgery. In the workshop, I have built a wide variety of projects ranging from restoring an old ‘67 Mustang to refurbishing an old sailboat.
Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?
Looking back (10 years, which is crazy!) there are two classes that have really stuck with me and have helped be get to where I am. The first one is photography with Jenny Rosenberg. While photography was not my ultimate calling, the class fostered a level of creativity that allowed me to find my true passion in the design world. The second is History, Culture & Identity (HCI) with Bill Meyer. It was actually the first HCI class that Bill taught at MA and it had a lasting impression. It really taught me how to think. I still believe I wrote some of my best papers in that class.
What is one of your best MA memories?
Soccer was such a big part of my high school years. I have no words to express how influential Coach Josh Kalkstein and all my teammates were in me becoming who I am. There are so many memories from soccer, but one of my favorites and most comedic happened when I was a freshman. As a freshman, especially a smaller one, our jerseys never seemed to fit – really big and baggy. At one point, during a game up in Davis, CA the ball got kicked over a fence into a meadow. Given that I was the only freshman on the team and on the bench, it was my job to go get the ball. On my way back as I was climbing back over the fence, the back of my jersey got caught on the top of the fence leaving me hanging by my jersey and requiring some of my teammates to help unhook me and bring me down. I was beyond embarrassed, but looking back at it, it is such a fond memory.
If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?
If I could do all again, there is one thing I would have taken more advantage of. The outings program. There were so many great trips and adventures offered and I really don’t think I did any! Major bummer.
Tell us about the first time you remember taking a big risk or stepped outside your comfort zone at MA.
Again, this brings me back to freshman year soccer. I can remember my first game I started being absolutely terrified. Ross Porter ’03 (then a senior) was injured and I remember hearing my name called to start warming up. The butterflies got worse. I went in playing in the back and remembering a bit lost. Within the first couple minutes, I made a strong slide tackle winning the ball back. I vividly remember Andrew Nourafshan ’03 (also a senior) coming up behind me afterward yelling and patting me (pretty hard) on the back telling me I was the [expletive] man. After that, the nerves were gone and the next four years on the field were some of the best I ever had.
Interested in being featured in the Alumni Spotlight or a speaker at our Alumni Speaker Series? Send a message to Beth Sherman ’96, Director of Alumni Relations!