Robbie Rice is the General Manager of the UK branch of Fresh Consulting LLC, an international User Experience (UX) design agency headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Fresh Consulting is an award-winning design agency in one of the hottest tech centres in the world. With clients such as Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Cisco, it has been one of Washington’s fastest growing companies for each of the past three years and is recognised as being one of Seattle’s best companies to work for. Robbie returned to the UK in the summer of 2015 to establish a European office, having spent most of his career in Japan and the USA. With work experience on three continents and a career encompassing teaching, carpentry, software development, business consulting, and design, Robbie has put understanding the human experience at the heart of his career.
Robbie is a south coast native having grown up in nearby Bournemouth. Born in Sweden, his family settled there in the early 1980s and he grew up enjoying the seaside while Bournemouth was still known primarily for its retirement population.
Robbie studied Philosophy at the University of Southampton having initially enrolled in Aeronautical Engineering at City University in London. “I had a typical engineering background but felt I had gone into it for the wrong reasons,” he says. “What really interested me wasn’t learning to apply knowledge as much as figuring out how to ask the right questions.” The Philosophy programme at Southampton focused on analytical philosophy: breaking philosophical problems into fundamental components. “I guess those lessons have stuck with me throughout my career,” he says. “They have helped me take situations that appear to be complex and frame them in a way that’s easier to digest.”
Apart from a brief stint when he returned to complete a Masters degree again at the University of Southampton, Robbie has spent almost his entire career overseas, leaving the UK in 2004 and only returning in 2015 when he was tasked with establishing a European branch for Fresh Consulting. Firstly, from 2004 to 2011, Robbie lived in Japan, where he worked as an English Instructor before transitioning into a project management role in the automotive industry. During that time, Robbie was able to master the Japanese language while also developing a fascination with Japanese design and architecture, even working as a carpenter at one point building post and beam structures and custom woodwork. In 2010, Robbie transitioned into a project management role in the automotive industry. “I loved the new challenge,” he explains. “This business journey was something new to me and I could see areas where I thought we could improve. The trouble was it’s very hard to get a consensus around implementing ideas in a Japanese company. I found it frustrating but eventually realised I had to improve myself be able to deliver the impact I wanted to make.”
Deciding to take action, Robbie uprooted his young family and moved 10,000km to South Bend, Indiana, where he enrolled in the MBA programme at the University of Notre Dame, one the USA’s best universities and home of the famous Fighting Irish American football team. His time at Notre Dame and beyond allowed him to gain valuable experience in marketing, strategy consulting and software development, eventually enabling him to become the Product Manager at an Indiana-based software as a service (SaaS) startup, working with global companies such as Nucor and BMW.
At the end of 2014, the opportunity to apply his skills at the award-winning Seattle-based design agency Fresh Consulting presented itself and Robbie leapt at the chance. “I really admired Fresh Consulting, their philosophy and their ambition to be one of the best UX design companies in the world so I jumped at the opportunity to work there,” Robbie says.
“What I like most about my profession is that we ultimately focus on human beings,” he adds. “We are always trying to find out what makes customers tick. By doing that we help businesses grow, and that’s very exciting.”
Robbie returned to Southampton last year to set up a first UK branch for the company. “Fresh Consulting had been one of the fastest growing companies in Washington State for three years,” he explains. “We wanted to fuel this growth and it seemed a good opportunity to take what we’d been doing and apply it to a new market with an exciting technology scene.”
Startups and entrepreneurs can speak to Robbie to explore how to capture and retain users through great user experiences. “I can help you get to grips with how your users behave, determining what they value most so that insight can be engineered into your product or service for a great user experience that leads to growth,” he says. You can get in touch with Robbie using the contact form on this page.
Robbie is excited to be a Future Worlds Mentor to help harness the “incredible talent” coming from the University of Southampton. “I care a lot about this University and see so much potential in it,” he says. “People often tell you things are impossible but what can empower university students is that they go ahead and do it anyway. That creates a lot of opportunity.”