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David O’Hara: The Ride Along

David O'Hara
David O’Hara ’08

On the streets, David O’Hara (Commercial Art; Graphic Design ’08) never knows what to expect. Whether it’s speeding through downtown Seattle to the scene of a crime or watching the medical examiner record a time and cause of death, every day in the field is eye opening.

“There are very exciting, high-intensity, and dangerous tasks,” David said. “Then there are days and things that are mundane, such as traffic stops or DUI checks.” Each opportunity to ride along with officers allows David, a designer, to gather valuable information that assists him in creating the best-designed tools used for law enforcement.

When he graduated from Pensacola Christian College with both a commercial art and graphic design degree, David never expected that one day he’d be working for the largest provider of police tools in the country, Axon Enterprise, Inc. That’s partly because when he graduated, the job he now fulfills every day barely existed, User Experience (UX).

“The education I received while I was there helped prepare me with foundational principles of design, which empowered me to build upon and ultimately make a complete career change into an area of design that didn’t even exist at the time of my education,” he said.

As time passed, David O’Hara was able to further develop the skills he’d learned as a PCC student while ingesting new information to adapt in the new UX field. He decided to pursue UX design, and with each turn his career took, he held on for the ride.

His interest in UX design led him first to Microsoft, where he helped design products for the Microsoft Office Suite. Following that position, he worked as a UX designer for a startup before taking a turn that led him to Axon, Inc. With the job change came the opportunity to switch from UX design to product design as he took the position of Senior Product Design Lead for four of Axon’s products.

“User Experience is a more specialized area, a subset of the skills needed to be a Product Designer,” David said. “Product design entails a lot of research before even brainstorming and sketching. Once we have a preliminary idea, we user test to be sure the product meets the need, then work closely with engineers to build the product.”

David has found his work for Axon to be both rewarding and fulfilling. In addition to getting to meet and ride along with officers on the streets, he gets to take the experience of being in the field and use it to create products that will improve the job officers do each day.

David O'Hara standing in a hallway.

“Our company’s mission is two-part,” David explained. “To protect life and to protect truth. We strive toward our mission to protect life by creating tools that aid an officer in this effort. Our mission to protect truth starts with the body cams, in-car systems, drones, etc. We strive to better tell the story of what has occurred on scene. This not only helps keep officers accountable for their actions, but it also helps validate their actions in many cases.”

Getting to ride along with officers helps David better understand the impossibly difficult situations that law enforcement often faces. The chance to experience both mundane and high-risk situations helps provide a better understanding of Axon’s customers and their needs.

“I’ve ridden with an officer who was asked to be ‘visible’ during a feud between rival gangs,” David recalled. “We sat outside a gang funeral where neither side wanted us to be there, but the community feared retaliation from the rival gang. I’ve rushed to the scene of a stabbing and watched an officer de-escalate the situation. You can’t trade that kind of experience for some words or data on a page.”

Personally, David O’Hara has worked on Axon products such as Axon Evidence, Axon Records, Axon Interview, Axon Commander, and cases/investigations products. These products work to aid officers in being better organized with records, digital evidence, and other workflows. The use of digital products such as Axon Records helps to take tasks such as report writing (normally 60%–65% of an officer’s time) and drastically reduces the time it takes to file those reports, allowing officers more time to patrol.

As Axon continues to pioneer tools for first responders, David recognizes the importance of the job he is helping complete. “At Axon, the work we are doing is impactful and really motivating,” he said. “I have a deep connection with this work because both of my parents were first responders, my mom a police officer and my dad a fireman. There are many great companies where a designer can contribute and find success, but I have chosen Axon because of how meaningful the work is to me and the impact my work is able to have on our society.”

As the world of design changes, David O’Hara continues to enjoy the journey. With each new challenge that presents itself, he proves to be a go-getter who jumps in and enjoys the ride.

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