Applying Creativity to Data

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When Cecilia Ambros became interested in art as a teenager, her current profession did not exist.

“I started out playing with colored pencils, markers, and paint, and now I’m making sense of data and observing how customers behave with digital products,” said Ambros, who earned a bachelor of technology in visual communications from Farmingdale State College (FSC).

From those early beginnings she has drawn from her FSC degree, progressing her design career from branding and marketing to digitally engaging bank customers.

“In order to create insightful, delightful, relevant, and personal digital experiences for customers,” Ambros said, “we must understand the underlying data, platforms, and information architecture that sits behind those experiences.”

A self-described “corporate athlete,” Ambros has been the executive director of digital design and customer experience at JPMorgan Chase & Company since January 2023.

“I work on helping customers make smart and healthy financial decisions based on data,” she continued. “Together, the back-end data systems and front-end user experience must be valuable to customers, viable to the business, and feasible to be built.”

Ambros emigrated to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 8 years old. “We came to the U.S. when I was so young. When I look at my upbringing, I was used to moving and new challenges,” she said. “I was always curious, asking questions and building community. It became an adventure. It makes sense in hindsight.”

When Ambros was in high school, her family moved to Hauppauge, New York. She attended Smithtown High School, which had a strong art department, and she began spending her lunch periods in the art studio. Every week, a local illustrator demonstrated figure drawing at the school and offered a Sunday art class.

“High school is where you start to build identity,” she said. “I began building my interest in art. It created a community for me.”

Enrolling at FSC turned out to be the best choice for her, Ambros said. “It helped me in many ways, and I still have relationships with the professors,” she said.

Interning with the Office for Marketing & Communications, she gained practical experience, helping to design commencement programs, curriculum guides, and other projects. “I was trying out all the software I was learning about in classes,” she said. “I learned about other departments and events. It gave me visibility behind my own program.”

“I wanted to pay tribute to the College. Farmingdale started my career,” said Ambros, currently serving as an advisor for the College’s design curriculum.

After completing her FSC bachelor’s degree in three years, Ambros started working and earned a master’s degree in design, research, and strategy from the Institute of Design at Illinois Tech and an MBA in innovation and emerging enterprises from Illinois Tech Stuart School of Business.

While teaching an executive-level decision-making course at the Institute of Design, she got to know one of the students who worked for Nike, and this connection led to a job offer as global design studio director for NFL, MLB, Men’s Training and Soccer. After four years at Nike, Ambros was recruited by Amazon to build a high- performing design team in global advertising. She also led research for Alexa Devices and Services and user experience for Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods.

In 2018, Ambros brought the Amazon Design Challenge to the FSC campus, the first time the Design Challenge was offered to undergraduates. During the three-day event, nine Amazon Design Leaders worked with 20 students from eight disciplines in the Schools of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Business, and Engineering Technology.

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