Consulting Associate Professor and Director of Executive Education, Stanford d.school
Perry is one of our outsiders. Not a professor by nature, he’s an entrepreneur to the core. He received his master’s from Stanford in the Product Design program in 1991 and has taught there periodically since 1996. Perry left Stanford with his master’s thesis in hand: a single high performance snowshoe. (Yes. Snowshoe.) Perry was hell-bent on starting his own business and left Stanford with the expectation that the world would beat a path to his door to get his modern snowshoe. That didn’t happen, at least not right away. Perry had a new product idea, without an established market, requiring him to build an entire sport around snowshoeing. This experience engaged disciplines well beyond engineering. Perry ultimately turned his thesis project into a business, Atlas Snowshoe Company, which still manufactures and markets the best snowshoes in the category it created. Through this experience he learned two things: you can’t do anything significant on your own–you need a team, and engineering something is not nearly as much fun as marketing what you have engineered.
In 2000, Perry decided it was time for a change. He sold his snowshoe business and moved to Southern California to run Sales and Marketing for Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand. There, Perry got a chance to develop new marketing on a global scale. The challenge of balancing the need to drive sales while building a brand with important commitments and a sustainability message which Patagonia has radiated since its inception was exhilarating. The trick, if there is one, is staying close to the customer, understanding the enthusiast and their experience, while staying aligned with the company’s commitments to build a message that resonates between the two. Perry believes marketing is as important a discipline as engineering. Communicating a great message is a noble challenge.
In 2007-9 Perry jumped into a new challenge. As CEO of Timbuk2 in San Francisco, he led not only the original bike messenger bag company, but also one of the last manufacturers in San Francisco. With a great brand and product he focused on delivering custom products to Timbuk2 customers, and an innovative “customer experience”. Perry also implemented a lot of the techniques used at the d.school in Timbuk2 organization and offices.
As a founding faculty member of the d.school, Perry has a keen focus on implementing the learning. (Perry can regularly be heard telling students in the classes that he has taught, “Get out there where the answers are.”) A rule he has for one of the product design project class he teaches is that any student who gets a legitimate purchase order for their product aces the class. The classroom is not reality, and to implement you need to get real. Perry measures his success in these classes by the number of projects that get to market. The d.school offers the opportunity to coordinate the full range of disciplines needed to approach any opportunity, and to go for it. When not at work on the next thing, Perry can usually be found away from land in the ocean surfing the waves at Ocean Beach, or swimming in the Bay.
Perry currently teaches at the d.school. His core classes are: Launchpad, Design Garage, d.Health, and d.leadership. Also Perry runs the executive programs for the d.school.