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2015 Forty Under 40: Despi Ross

January 31, 2015
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director of interactive technologies, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Degree of separation: With a degree in art history from Herron School of Art and Design and a certificate in museum studies, Despi Ross worked at the Indiana State Museum and Indianapolis Museum of Art developing programs for educators. At the IMA, she began transitioning to the technology side, which made her even more of an attractive hire for Williams Randall Marketing, where she managed Web projects and served as social media strategist working with such accounts as Indiana Tourism and Scotty’s Brewhouse.

Constant change: She wasn’t looking to leave, but the Children’s Museum was persistent, and her project management and tech experience won her the job. “Some people hate change,” Ross said. “Here, though, things change every moment. You have to be excited about keeping up with the pace of it.” On an exhibition, Ross and her team can start two to three years in advance. “It takes a while to form the vision,” she said. “We talk to advisers, work with the IT, work with the intellectual property holders, test prototypes with kids and families.” Then again, there are times when “we really would like to add something and have just eight weeks to do it.”


AGE 35
Hometown: Indianapolis

Family: husband, John


Under control: One of her biggest challenges has been the simultaneous opening of “Take Me There: China” and “Terra Cotta Warriors,” featuring 30 digital projects. “In the past, we would have sent a lot of that software development out. But we came up with revised processes that allowed us to start sooner, and we built 20 of them in-house, saving a lot of money and giving us greater quality control.”

On “jail-breaking”: “Kids are smart,” she said. “In ‘Take Me There: China,’ someone figured out how to break through a music interactive and take selfies. We couldn’t break the password and had to reset the whole thing.”

Gamer girl: As a kid, Ross played on a Commodore 64, proving particularly adept at Paperboy. “At the arcade, I loved Gauntlet.” Now, Ross feels that “having non-screen time is very good for humans.” To that end, she gardens, keeps bees and is involved in local sustainable agriculture efforts. She served as program committee chairwoman for Binford Farmers Market and is on the board of Slow Food Indy.•

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