I was talking to a current second-year interaction design student at CMU, who was offered a job by Microsoft. But she said she wanted to apply to IDEO before accepting.
I checked out the positions currently available with IDEO, and came across the following description for a Senior Design Strategist:
You are both creative and analytical. You possess a strong aesthetic sense and rich conceptual thinking ability — that is, you know form and design language, but are equally engaged in exploring broad, undefined problem areas and articulating points-of-view about what really matters. You can problem-find and problem-solve, as well as come up with powerful ways to visualize and share rewarding user experiences. You bring an expansive view of design — encompassing product, service, and communication — and a holistic approach to process: formulating cultural and user insights, mapping opportunity spaces through strategic frameworks and expressing compelling solutions.
You have a proven track record innovating at a high level: drawing insights from users and cultural trends, creating generative frameworks, expressing compelling solutions and communicating at a level to inform executive decision-making. You understand the value of design to build businesses and transform organizations.
That sounds like a kick-ass job description to me: creative and analytical, articulating points-of-view about what really matters, an expansive view of design.
A job description like that would have scared me in the past. And while I could not possibly apply for such a position at the moment, this is the type of higher level position that I would like to achieve.