Q&A: Aaron J. Horowitz

PBN PHOTO/ELIZABETH GRAHAM
PBN PHOTO/ELIZABETH GRAHAM

Aaron J. Horowitz | Sproutel Inc. CEO and co-founder

Sproutel is equal parts R&D lab, design studio and venture studio, says co-founder and CEO Aaron J. Horowitz. The Providence-based company was formed in 2012 and focuses on “research, design and launch of products and services that deliver comfort, joy and better health outcomes,” he said.


1. How has the pandemic affected hiring at your company and, from what you have heard anecdotally, the rest of the local design industry? The pandemic has affected all businesses in different ways. Sproutel was searching for talented designers and design strategists for many months prior to the pandemic. We were fortunate to make two job offers just before everything was locked down, leading to designing a new process for remote onboarding. In total, we’ve hired three new design positions during the pandemic. I think that our current climate has broadened people’s horizons to relocation. We were thrilled that one of our new hires has decided to relocate to Rhode Island and think that many more potential hires will see the allure of a vibrant small city like Providence.

2. What will the “new normal” in the local industry look like for job seekers long term? As remote work becomes the new normal, job seekers in Rhode Island will have broader horizons for potential employment. Similarly, people currently living in cities with dense design industries, [such as] San Francisco and New York, may realize the opportunity for a higher quality of life at a lower cost in cities [such as] Providence. I’m quite hopeful that an industry shift in remote work can both open up new opportunities for designers in the state, as well as attract new talent.

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3. What’s the No. 1 thing you and your recruiter look for in a potential hire? It’s hard to pick just one! The most important things that we look for in a new hire are adaptability, humility and a desire to learn. Taken in combination, these qualities indicate someone who can flex into a range of different positions while growing with the team.

4. You mentioned the industry shift to remote work: How is that playing out at Sproutel and is there a concern that collaboration will suffer if that shift becomes permanent? It’s been an adjustment to move the company to a fully remote team. Leveraging tools like Zoom, Slack and Miro have really helped to continue collaboration through the transition. In some ways it has been liberating, since it allows us to work closely with some of our international partners in totally new ways! That said, I really do feel that there is no replacement for in-person collaboration. One of the big challenges with remote work is that we often miss out on the off-the-cuff type of conversations that breed new and unexpected ideas. It’s much harder to virtually tap someone on the shoulder to see what they’re working on or work together on physical products where in-person review is often essential. I’m excited for a blended remote/in-person future that can ideally mitigate risk while enabling some of the great teamwork that happens when we’re in the same room.

5. Why is design a field that even after COVID-19 you would still encourage young people looking to work in Rhode Island to pursue? Simply put, design is a framework for solving problems. If that sounds broad, it’s because it is! Designers are like the glue of a product-development process – balancing the needs of the end user with the needs of the business and the requirements of engineering. We will always need designers to apply their unique problem-solving skill sets.

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