Headshot of Suzanne with orange flowers, a record, and a blue car.


Suzanne perfects the art of client collaboration 

By Kate Forster

Headshot of Suzanne with orange flowers, a record, and a blue car.

Image by Emily Zheng

Community building with a creative bent 

Suzanne Calkins, a senior designer at 2A, always knew she wanted to follow a creative path. After earning her degree in studio art, she first worked as a studio assistant to professional artists. But something was missing. “I was drawn to educational environments and the community-building aspects of art,” she says. This landed her in the role of junior designer at a music and performing arts school.  

Driven by the desire to contribute, Suzanne also took a part-time job at a community arts nonprofit, which required her to commute hours from her home in Los Angeles to Joshua Tree and other small towns in California. She fell in love with those small desert and mountain towns and eventually left the city to settle in one of them. “I wanted to feel connected to the work I was doing and the effect it was having in the community,” she adds. “I can feel this impact much better in small towns. I ended up in a town where I could experiment and try a lot of different things when it comes to community building and the arts.”  

After a detour in environmental education, Suzanne found her way back to art as a freelance graphic designer. Eventually, she found 2A, whose community-centered values reflect her own. A natural collaborator, Suzanne was drawn to 2A’s culture. “I was impressed by how well everyone worked together,” she notes.   

A collaborative approach to design 

Suzanne enjoys the camaraderie of the creative brainstorming process. She also appreciates 2A’s approach to design projects. “Coming into a team with good processes in place and great communication has allowed me to fall back in love with graphic design,” she explains.  

A great listener, she delights in engaging with her clients, learning their vision, and understanding the emotional impact they want to make. “I love this phase because it allows me to pull in the storytelling element,” she says. She also has a knack for seeing the big picture while also managing the details—a skillset she honed as a freelance designer. 

Suzanne draws on her community-building skills when feeling out the aesthetic direction her clients want to go in—innovative and experimental, stylized, techie, human-centered, or something else—even if they don’t initially know. “Sometimes clients have a hard time verbalizing exactly what they want, so my role is to guide the conversation in a way that pulls out the core of what they’re trying to say,” she says. She then collaborates with fellow 2A designers to bring those ideas to life—whether it’s an infographic or ebook, or a full-blown visual identity.

Finding inspiration everywhere  

Outside of work, Suzanne finds inspiration in the natural environment that surrounds her home near the Sierra Nevada foothills. She also enjoys volunteering at her local radio station, where she hosts a show that spotlights talented, lesser-known artists. “I love nerding out about music—going to live shows and finding new artists to listen to. DJing is a nice way to stay involved in my community and share the things that creatively inspire me,” she says. 

Though Suzanne’s background is eclectic, collaborative storytelling and the arts are common themes. As she puts it, “I aspire to live a creatively fulfilling life, and working at 2A is a big part of that.” 

decorative image


Meet Chris Stetkiewicz, tech translator at Microsoft Research

By Kate Forster

decorative image

Image by Julianne Medenblik

Telling stories about robotics and artificial intelligence in an engaging and attention-grabbing manner is a rare talent. Chris Stetkiewicz, 2A Embedded Consultant (EC), has been applying this talent for the past two years as a writer and editor at Microsoft Research—one of only a few computer science research centers outside academia.

2A’s ECs are highly skilled and experienced professionals who function as contracted members of our clients’ teams, and Chris is one of our most accomplished. He and I recently sat down to talk about writing contests, robotics, and dog parks. Here’s a snippet from our conversation.

Kate: With all the groundbreaking work going on, Microsoft Research sounds like an incredible place to work.

Chris: It really is. I feel lucky to get to work with some of the most accomplished people in technology and science. I learn from them every day, and it makes my job interesting. I also work alongside some very talented writers and content creators, and I learn a lot from them too.

Kate: Working with some of the most renowned computer scientists in the world must be exciting, and slightly intimidating I imagine. How do you see your role?

Chris: I find it inspiring. For my part, I bring an external perspective and an appreciation for how people think about technology outside the company, which the researchers don’t always have. I help them understand what they’re doing in the larger context.

Sometimes I craft a story that isn’t exactly the story we were initially setting out to tell, but it’s an effective story to tell for our audience.

Kate: Can you share an interesting story you’ve worked on?

Chris: I recently completed a story on robotics. It’s about a technology called MoCapAct, which is a dataset intended to make it easier for robots to physically move the way people do.

There’s an existing database called MoCap, which stands for motion capture, in which technology is used to track and record people’s physical motions. It’s used to create animated films or computer-generated imagery (CGI). But it’s a lot harder to get robots to move in precisely the same way that people do. MoCapAct—motion capture in action—solves this problem.

Kate: You’ve been writing and reporting in some form or another over your entire career. What first drew you to writing?

Chris: Oh, I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, and I always enjoyed it. In elementary school, I would enter every writing contest and always win. When I took a high school journalism class, I had a letter to the editor published by a local newspaper. After that I was hooked! I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I would read three of our local newspapers every day, cover to cover.

Kate: Seems like news and writing are in your DNA. I understand you started your career as a journalist for news organizations. Now you’re writing for a tech company. What connections do you see between the two?

Chris: A good story is a good story, no matter who’s telling it. The only difference is how the content is delivered. At Microsoft Research, the biggest part of my job entails writing and editing blog posts and social media content, but I’ve also written video scripts, built newsletters, and launched new content programs.

Kate: Sounds like you need to be pretty versatile. On a different note, I know you‘re a dog owner. In fact, your dog has made some cameos in video meetings we’ve both been in.

Chris: Heh. It’s as if he arrives on cue. He knows when it’s a bad time to come and interrupt me, and there he is.

Kate: Ha ha. As a new dog owner, I can relate. Do you have any recommendations for good dog parks in the area?

Chris: I recommend the dog park at Marymoor Park in Redmond. It’s near the Microsoft campus, and it’s got great swimming options. There are multiple spots where you can go on down to the Sammamish River and let your dog take a dunk or get a drink.

Kate: Hmm. I’ve yet to discover if my dog likes the water. Sounds like there’s a good opportunity to find out. Thanks.

Chris: You’re welcome. This park has a way of turning unsuspecting canines into water-loving dogs. Watch out.

Interested in becoming an EC? Check out our open roles, or submit a General Job Inquiry if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for.

Want to hire an Embedded Consultant? Learn more here.