Tell readers what it is that you do?
I’m Design and Accessibility Manager at CI&T, a global digital consultancy.
My role is to partner with organisations to create and improve the experience and accessibility in their products. I also manage a team of designers, and in addition to that, I’m working with both Australian and International colleagues to develop an accessibility capability within CI&T.
Outside of my job, I’m participating in The Observership Program. It’s a program of training and practical experience in not-for-profit and government boards. I’m observing the ACMI Board, which is a dream come true for me as a lover of film and digital media.
Why have you chosen this career path?
The word ‘chosen’ is interesting, as it took a long time before choice factored into my career path.
I’ve always been a creative person, a bit of a nerd and loved solving problems. I was lucky to have a PC as a kid, and was using the internet before the web existed.
Web design was an emerging field when I graduated uni, and I fell into it via a casual job at Monash University. I did web design for a long time – 16 years. Too long!
Choice only started to play a part in my career when I decided to re-skill in User Experience Design. I wanted to drop the coding aspect of my role and focus on Design. UX merges creativity, tech and problem solving – so it was a natural fit.
I re-skilled and changed jobs, and became a UX designer at Melbourne Water. Over my time there, I noticed some systemic business problems, and I knew what the solutions should look like. UX wasn’t factored into IT solutions, and neither was Accessibility.
I took it upon myself to tackle those challenges, and by the time I left I was running a UX team and had headed up an Accessibility uplift.
I chose again, this time to move into the private sector. After 22 years in the quasi-public sector, I wanted to see if I could hack it in private industry. Recruiters had told me I didn’t have what it takes to work at a consultancy. I decided to prove them wrong.
I’m now a Manager and an Accessibility and UX SME at a Global Consultancy. I love my job and i’m good at it.
Most satisfying project undertaken?
One of my very first projects was a greenfield project for Melbourne Water – to allow field workers view and input data via a mobile device. A greenfield means there’s hardly any constraints, you’re free to design something from scratch. You don’t get those often in UX.
At that time, Melbourne Water had an app that wasn’t working for their user base. It was hard to use and universally hated. It ended up getting to a point of industrial action and workers downing tools because of it. To them, the IT department was a faceless, uncaring beast that made their lives harder by throwing unusable apps at them.
My team was asked to make an app to replace the problematic one. There had been many attempts at it over the years that hadn’t gone well. People were sceptical, so we were under pressure to prove ourselves.
We did everything in the best possible way. Spent heaps of time with users out in the field to understand their needs, co-designed with them, prototyped with them, tested with them.
The result was an app that they were happy with, because they could see themselves in the solution. We proved ourselves, solved a genuine problem, and succeeded where others had not.
There was no more industrial action, and a final, unexpected result was the sentiment towards the IT department lifted, as well.
Have you travelled much for business?
It doesn’t happen often. Not for lack of me wanting it!
At Melbourne Water I would drive out to treatment plants and water storages quite a lot. There is something ‘special’ about conducting user research, at the crack of dawn, in freezing conditions, right next to raw sewerage.
My last project saw me leading a project for MONA in Tasmania. That was the first time I’d flown for a project. Hopefully not the last, as it was a fun (albeit very hectic) experience.
Is there equity in your workplace?
That’s a curly question. Yes and no. Our design team is very diverse in many aspects, gender, age, sexual orientation, culture and disability.
Organisationally, I do believe we are headed in the right direction compared to a lot of the tech industry. Which, let’s face it, is majority male.
That’s something that we continue to evolve and mature and I hope to see us equalising the ranks in terms of gender, particularly in the director level in Australia.
Culturally, my workplace is very diverse. And now that we’re part of a global consultancy even more so. But yeah, I’d like to see some more efforts to recruit people with disability, LGBTIQA+, and First Nations people.
Where do you see technology benefiting business at present?
Automation and AI. AI is divisive right now – it scares some people and excites others. I’m kind of in the middle. I see great potential, but I also see great harm. My hope is that we find a path between those two extremes.
You know, there’s so many dangerous jobs, boring jobs that we can use AI to get rid of. Maybe I’m being utopian, but I would love to see people live and work to their full potential.
Imagine no-one getting hurt in a workplace again. No one should ever have to go down to a dangerous place to work. We have automation for that now and thank goodness that we do. We can make workplace deaths and injuries a complete thing of the past. How amazing would that be?
Areas of deep interest?
I sometimes joke that I’m a collector of hobbies. I have a lot of interests and if I’m interested in anything, that interest will be deep. I tend to go in hard! In my professional life, it would have to be the politics, ethics and theory of design and accessibility. Lately, I’ve done a deep dive into AI, the philosophy of it, and its effects on human computer interaction. I find that fascinating.
In my personal life, lost wax jewellery naming, handbuilding ceramics, indigenous gardening, DIY, writing and leatherworking to name a few.
Who has inspired you?
I don’t tend to look to celebrities for inspiration – maybe because I’m fortunate to have worked with many inspiring people in my career.
Jill Sears, who taught me so much about equity and diversity. The grit she has within her to push change in the right direction is impressive.
Pasq Stella, whose sheer enthusiasm for UX was contagious. A soon as he heard me show a vague interest in UX, he locked on like a missile and made it his mission to infuse that passion in me.
Tania Nally, who inspired me to get myself out of Monash and pursue UX as a career, and supported me through my transition. We are now each other’s career sounding boards and friends.
There are so many more. And I hope those people know how much they mean to me.
I hate playing favourites. I like a lot of things and I feel bad for the ones I leave out if I can only just name one. But for brevity’s sake, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
It’s dystopian sci-fi, both philosophical and anti-war. I love Vonnegut’s writing style. It’s short, to the point, and uses repetition to great effect. I’d love to be able to write like that, but sadly i’m a brackets and footnotes kinda gal.
How do we improve diversity and inclusion in the technology industry?
Role models are important. Being able to see people like yourself in positions you want to be in. To get people there, you need to commit to creating the space for those role models.
Many people shy away from schemes to improve diversity numbers. I think that stems from a conflation of the concept of equity with equality. Fair does not always mean equal.
I am a believer that you do need to make efforts and programmes of work and commit to them to make substantive change.
I know that some people will disagree with that and are of the belief that everyone should be “there on their own merits”.
But I will note that most of the people who argue that case are generally in positions of privilege. They have unknowingly received a larger slice of the benefits then they realise. And that privilege is anything but fair.
The effect on Australasia, due to distance from the rest of the world, to possessing access to basic digital tools
I’d argue distance is a non-issue. We are a digitally connected world and technology bridges distance.
Australia suffers in terms of policy and infrastructure. The dumbing down of the NBN rollout was also a national disgrace. Technology can only bridge distance if it has the capacity and the speed. The coalition ensured it had neither.
We also lag behind other countries who invest heavily in STEM education and the tech industry.
We need more people in decision making and policymaking positions that understand technology and the impact it has.
There is a paucity of knowledge within our government on those topics and the industry continues to suffer because of that.
How the tech industry’s lack of diversity is a consequence of this and is affecting innovation within the sector
I don’t believe the lack of diversity is a consequence of distance.
We are in the Asia Pacific region – there is so much tech innovation happening in nearby countries. We live in a time where travel is affordable to the middle class.
Australia also has a lot of skilled immigration programmes for people to come and move here.
I’d argue that lack of diversity is a consequence of bias, history, politics and investment. Location has very little to do with it.
How the pandemic was the industry’s biggest missed opportunity to bridge the digital divide and increase accessibility
I think the opportunity is still there, and hasn’t been missed, yet.
There is still time to turn things around. Working from home is life changing for so many people. It enables more people with disability to be able to have a career. Working parents don’t have to sacrifice as much of their career for parenting. People living in regional areas, or people who couldn’t afford to live near cities have access to more opportunities.
We’re at a point where we can either continue on the path we were we were on, or slam the brakes and take a U-turn to pre-pandemic ways of working
Some organisations are are trying to turn back time and force workers back to the office full-time. I am yet to hear any convincing rationale for this choice. “I do it so therefore everyone else should” is not a sound rationale.
For me, workplace flexibility is the way to go. If you deny flexibility, staff will walk. Inflexible workplaces will have access to less talent.
There are many people like me who will flat out refuse to go to the office full time. I won’t apply for a role at any company that makes its staff do that.
There are plenty of people like me and so sure, go ahead and try to turn back time, but it’s at your own peril.