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Meet Darion “Doc” Wheeler, taking ownership of your experience

Design with a headshot of Doc which reads: "Kin+ Darion "Doc" Wheeler"

Our name is intentional. “Kin” refers to family and “Carta” refers to maps. When together, we’re Kin + Carta — a group of connected makers, builders and creators, who come together everyday to help our clients build experiences and plot a clear path forward in today’s digital world. Carta is what we do, Kin is who we are.

Kin+ is a series that uncovers the experiences, stories and lives of the people who make our collective “Kin” exceptional.

Within the virtual walls of Kin + Carta, we know Darion “Doc” Wheeler as a Product Consultant and a leader of the firm’s Black + Kin affinity group. It’s in these roles that Doc impresses others with an eagerness to learn, support, teach and succeed for and with his team. That’s why it was no surprise to us when we found out that outside of work, Doc is also the owner of a clothing store, a partner of a multimedia firm, a graphic designer and the athletic director of his community’s basketball and football teams. 

Curious how he manages it all? We were, too. So we asked, and were blown away by Doc’s mentality which has enabled him to dive into all opportunities around him, headfirst. Doc truly owns his experience.

It’s a privilege for us to share some of Doc’s story and his empowering mindset with you.

Design with a headshot of Doc which reads: "Kin+ Darion "Doc" Wheeler"

I’m originally from Detroit, and growing up I was a big fan of Dr. J, the basketball player. So much so that it got to the point where I thought I was him. While my name is Darion, I’m still affectionately known as “Doc”. It’s been a name I can’t quite shake (and honestly, I wouldn’t want to).

I moved to Chicago for college at IIT and really never looked back. I studied design and photography, and in those classes we were taught to teach ourselves, which meant that there truly never was a dull moment. It was through this that I learned to have ownership over my own experience, no matter what — a mindset I’ve kept with me, as I’ve grown in my life and in my career.

With my professional training being in design, I am never bored — you can find design in almost anything! I have the creative expertise to dive deep into supertech and content-related design, or stick to the basics with visual and UI, or be successful in the in-between with UX and wireframing. Because design keeps me passionate and engaged with all that’s around me, my eagerness to learn and grow is continuously expanding.

Now no matter how willing you are to learn, to grow, and to succeed, sometimes in life you need to take a step back and reassess — to be adaptable, ready for anything. So when I was let go from a previous employer in response to COVID it was up to me to put on my entrepreneurial hat. I’ve always had interests, hobbies, and clients outside of my day job, so I became really focused on the businesses that I did have. One of them being a faith-based clothing store called Grace + Mercy Gear. The second being my multimedia firm, which I run alongside a few partners. We manage websites for small businesses that require additional support with their digital strategy efforts. And the third is a highlight for me — clients that I upkeep as a graphic designer which I’ve been doing for over twenty years now. I do a lot of barebones design work, and have had the chance to do poster work for many major Chicago theaters. My designs have made it on the billboards for some of those, and it’s given me the opportunity to attend phenomenal performances. 

Collage of Doc's designs
A collage of some of Doc's designs.

All throughout the months after being let go, I was sharpening my skills. This kept me active and filled with purpose. Purpose is what I’ve found in every role throughout my career thus far, and it’s what initially drew me to, and now keeps me at, Kin + Carta.

The firm came knocking with an opportunity, I answered, and it’s history. I love it here. Coming onboard and being a new employee at Kin + Carta I felt immediately welcomed. Just the word itself — ”Kin” — made me feel valued. It was clear that I had nothing to prove and would not be second guessed. Rather, I’ve been encouraged to use my voice and my expertise to show out. 

I’ve done this in my role as a Product Consultant, and the process efficiency I’m driving is one of the highlights of my day-to-days. Everyday is different. I wake up each morning knowing that there will be a new challenge for me to solve, and this keeps my creative juices flowing. I love to find ways to make our work a little easier. This improves our product, my team of Kin, my client team, and the end-users who have an improved experience. 

I’ve also done this internally at the firm. There was an opportunity for me to join-in and get involved, soon becoming a leader of our Black + Kin affinity group. For me, this has felt like comfort. Inclusivity and being a part of something is key — it’s a vitamin to help with your work day, your workload, and what you offer. No matter who you are and how you identify, sometimes you’re the only one. A company having the intention to include and accept everyone is, based on my experience, not the norm. It’s even as simple as the ability to start a group on slack and to connect through interests — that’s not the norm at many places. For me, this expands the learning that is possible. You never know what someone is going to teach you. And, it all ties into our customers and our clients — we solve for them very well because we are committed to learning and growing from one another, no matter our location, our level, our background, or our discipline.

Inclusivity and being a part of something is key — it’s a vitamin to help with your work day, your workload, and what you offer.

Everything I’m doing involves learning, supporting, and teaching — all at the same time. This is how I like it, and I wish I would have found a firm like Kin + Carta earlier in my career. There’s a real fear of ageism in tech, and it’s easy to let yourself question how you contribute. And, after the past two years of a pandemic, it’s never felt more difficult to find stability. Personally, I find it in myself, and through my strengthened focus of being held accountable for others. I strive to grow and learn every day, but also take the time to urge my younger colleagues to do the same. I would have given anything for the chance to jump in like they have now in their positions. Here you’re given the chance to “get it” — that opportunity you saw, why is it still there?

Doc posing with his son for football pictures
Doc posing with his son for football pictures — Doc remains the athletic director for his community's football teams.

Kin + Carta is a place where we use the term ‘firm’, and we’re all a part of that. Many people use the term “I work for”, and I intentionally do it differently. I say “I work with” because I see myself as a true partner with my Kin. I get to work with like-minded people, and to learn and grow with them. I like to be better at what I do. And when I’m better, the people that I work with are better, too. It's up to me to be that someone you trust and have confidence in to partner up with, and that's my outlook. It reminds me that I own my experience.

Ready to be empowered by Doc as your "Kin"?

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