Finding the Perfect Fit, Driving Technology Choices

As chief designer at the Santa Cruz, Calif., headset company Plantronics Inc., Darrin Caddes is the bridge between technology and customers (who are 911 operators, disc jockeys, front-desk receptionists and astronauts). For Caddes, the job is about a perfect fit. A former BMW motorcycle designer and enthusiast, Caddes was permanently disabled in a motorcycle crash several years back.

"Working on BMW products and watching someone else ride off into the sunset on them made me a feel a little bit melancholy," says Caddes, who now uses a wheelchair. "At the time of the accident, I almost instantly became a constant headset user."

And that's when he went looking for new work. Attracting talent from Nike and Nokia to Plantronics, Caddes now heads a team of 15 designers who are revamping headset construction and accessories as well as a corporate culture that used to treat designers like short-order cooks. "We aren't being asked to package technology anymore," Caddes says. "Literally, we are now defining product opportunities. We are driving technology choices."

Ellen O'Brien, a former senior editor at CIO Decisions, is now a senior editor at Storage magazine. Write to her at

This was first published in December 2006

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