My Life in Product Design & Development
When I tell people what I do for a living, I usually get a two-part response. I typically get a:
“Target? I LOVE Target!!”
Followed by some variation of:
“You’re an engineer, right? I didn’t know Target even had engineers! What do you do?”
I then begin to share the story of my life as a Product Engineer in the wonderful world of Product Design & Development, also known as PD&D. It is a gripping tale worth telling, because a lot goes on behind the scenes as we strive to deliver high quality products for a great value! There is much to explain, but let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start. So sit back, relax, pop some corn, and bust out your best red and khaki outfit; here is my Target story.
Not super long ago, in a land not really far away…
…there was a young boy who was born and raised in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.) I actually grew up and went to high school in the city of Roseville, where the first stand-alone Target store was opened back in 1962 (this has to be an answer to a question in a trivia game somewhere!) I earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at North Dakota State University in Fargo. After school I came back to the Twin Cities and worked for 7 years designing custom automated machinery. I loved designing machinery, but wanted to try something new.
When I first started researching job openings in town, I had no idea Target employed product engineers (see, even I didn’t know!) To my surprise, there was an opening in product development at the main headquarters here in Minneapolis. Throughout the interview process I came to learn that Target is a place with a wide variety of opportunities where you can pursue the career path that most interests you. I was sold. My job search had hit the bullseye! (See what I did there?) Shortly after, I started my position as Product Engineer on the furniture team and I’ve been having a blast ever since!
So what exactly is PD&D and why do I enjoy it so much? Product Design & Development exists to create owned brand products that you can only find at Target. We are a large, diverse group made up of engineers and designers, and we work together to develop a very wide range of product types. Our team designs furniture, bedding, plates, cups, kids’ party supplies, apparel, lighting, and everything in between! You are probably familiar with several Target-owned brands; Threshold, Room Essentials, Up&Up and Archer Farms are just a few. PD&D owns the style, design, and quality level of all owned brand products (excluding food, which belongs to a different Target team.)
What engineering disciplines are represented in PD&D? Here is a list off the top of my head:
• Mechanical engineers
• Electrical engineers
• Fabric engineers
• Civil engineers
• Chemical engineers
As engineers we own the technical aspects of our products, while our design partners own the style and aesthetic. We use CAD (computer-aided design), 3D printing/prototyping, guest insights, brand standards, fashion/style trends, factory visits, and more to create the best product for the best price! In my time on the furniture team I’ve been able to work on accent tables, entryway, Back to College (dorm and small-space), and kids’ furniture. I am just starting a new project in lighting and am excited to bring my skills to a new product type in a different department.
How have I been an asset to Target? I’ve been able to utilize my knowledge and experience in a wide range of manufacturing processes to optimize our product designs both from a quality and costing perspective. My familiarity in working with vendors has proved to be a benefit as well. How have I grown in my time at Target? I’ve been able to expand my skillset by working on a wide range of products sourced all over the world. I am working with new materials and a whole new set of safety protocols and constraints that are specific to consumer product design. I have also grown in my ability to collaborate and partner with others. I enjoy working with both PD&D and the various other disciplines that are present on our cross-functional teams (merchants, packaging, sourcing, etc.).
Thanks for lending me your ears (or eyes…) as I’ve briefly explained what PD&D is all about. There are many more reasons why I love this team, but those will have to wait until future posts. Until then, ponder this tale (Target has engineers – this knowledge is life-changing!!) And next time you are in a Target store, feel free to knowingly share with total strangers about all the hard work and love (yes, love) that is poured into every owned brand product!!