Steven McClelland E'95
VP, Product Management, Yahoo!
San Francisco, Calif.
Steven McClelland is VP of product management at Yahoo, where he manages the ways that Yahoo creates, distributes and manages its content. He joined Yahoo! in 2010 when it acquired Citizen Sports, where he served as both chief architect and a product strategist. Prior to that, he founded Interdimensions, a Web-consulting company that designed and built systems ranging from content management to cache routing for clients.
HOW HAS YOUR ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING DEGREE SERVED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
My engineering education taught me how to think and talk about technology and systems in order to solve problems. I learned about architecture – how the parts of a system work and how it all works together – and how to narrow down where to look when you see symptoms of an issue.
Pratt gave me tons of core technology exposure and lots of opportunities to work on a range of ways to solve problems. I even got to build actual products, including an electric car.
All of that prepared me for how I apply technology in my career. I’m always thinking about how to match the technology to the actual product usage, what pieces are necessary to do that, what the interface is between those pieces and what could go wrong.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE GROWTH AREAS IN ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING TODAY?
It’s an especially good time to get into product development because of all the progress being made in terms of combining software and hardware in new types of devices. When I got out of school, there were a lot of incubators and startups in software, but not a lot in hardware and fields like biomedical engineering. No one really knew how to bring those things together and use them in products.
Since then, there have been so many advances based upon the progress made in technology and circuitry. Every great product today has a lot of software and networking capability, and hardware is increasingly playing a bigger, differentiated role in many products.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THE VALUE OF EARNING YOUR ENGINEERING DEGREE FROM DUKE?
Being at Duke taught me that the most innovative solutions come about when the people working on a problem come from both inside and outside the technology field. The more people there are thinking about a problem in different ways, the more solutions and opportunities for innovation you can come up with.
Engineers tend to bring a practical approach to solving problems, and when you combine that with, for instance, the creativity of people like artists and musicians, it creates great things all the way around.
This way of thinking is important not only in today’s product-development world, but also in helping me build a solid team of people with different skill sets and sensibilities.