Empathy and Engineering JumpStart Innovation – Tyco R&D Executive

Claire Marrero, ITWomen President, presents recognition to Irene Lam

Claire Marrero, ITWomen President, presents recognition to Irene Lam

A top Tyco executive in R&D says the fusion of Empathy and Engineering is critical to embedding a culture of innovation into your design process.

Irene Lam, Vice President of R&D for Access Control and Video Systems brands within Tyco Security Products, gave examples of the kind of brainstorming that leads to paradigm change during her keynote speech at  ITWomen’s Professional Development program January 19.

Tyco was the host sponsor for the ITWomen event, which was facilitated through Sharon Moura, ITWomen Advisory Board member, and Vice President, VP IT Strategy & Transformation and Commercial Excellence at Tyco,

Starting with the routine task of security access using badges and readers and the challenges it presents to wheelchair- bound users, the design team used simple videos to re-enact the situation and from there began a process of “What If” questions.

“What If” the user was a firefighter who needed to see the layout of the room?. “What If” the user was carrying coffee? Using low-tech videos to visualize user experiences helps foster empathy for the human users, she said.

Around the globe, more and more the old school badge-and-reader technology is being replaced with speedier, secure access controls such as advanced forms of iris and fingerprint recognition to RFDs and beyond for “frictionless entry.”

Irene Lam is the Vice President of R&D for Access Control and Video Systems brands within Tyco Security Products.

Irene Lam

Irene, who holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has built her career on innovation and loves identifying new markets and products. In 2015, Irene was named one of the top women in the field of security by Security Systems News.  She leads a 500-person department responsible for product development for all access control and video brands. She is responsible from the design to the manufacturing. Every year she oversees the launch of 30 product families and eight development centers throughout the world.

Irene said one way to build an agile brainstorming team is to keep the team small, combining “random” employees with technology subject matter experts. Then, out of many ideas, one or more are selected for rough prototypes for further evaluation.

Cardinal rules include not tossing out any ideas in the beginning, generating as many as 30 to 40  ideas before ranking them. The ideas should rank well in each of three areas: Human, Technology and Business needs or, as  she said, “Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability.”

Irene is a great believer in mentoring and paying it forward and stayed to answer individual questions after her presentation.


Attendees were also treated to a hands-on tour of Tyco’s Retail Performance Center. The Performance Center is a replica of a high-end clothing and apparel store completely outfitted with designer shoes, dresses and more. Attendees were able to participate in demonstrations of the cutting edge of Tyco security products for retailers to prevent shoplifting and provide precise marketing data and analytics of customer behaviors.

The program received much positive feedback.

The program last night was exceptional, Irene did an outstanding job at presenting a really complex topic in a such way, that everyone was able to understand. Not only I’ve got to learn a lot about product design, and the different steps, but also, learn how Tyco and IT women make a difference in the community. Having scholarships and mentors for girls that pursue a career in technology is a great program.

Julia Costin, Sr. Account Executive, SL Powers

.— Christine Zambrano 
ITWomen VP Digital Content