Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Bronagh Smyth

  • Name: Bronagh Smyth

    Role: User Researcher, Kainos

    What does your typical day look like?

    For me, the day usually starts with a catch up with the rest of the design team, and then also with the wider project team to understand what everyone is working on. My days can then be totally varied. They could be filled with research sessions - testing out prototypes with users or observing them using our systems, or with analysing research to find the nuggets of insight. Around that are lots of discussions with the team to make decisions on what changes should be made to the designs, based on the research, and what should be the next priorities for us to work on.

    What are you currently working on?

    I’m currently working on developing a new casework system for a big government organization. This will help employees to process cases much more efficiently, which will have a knock-on positive impact on all the customers using their services. It’s really interesting to be working on things that will have such an impact on so many people!

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    As well as having great clients and projects, Kainos has a reputation for being a great employer that employs great people. The company culture is really special - everyone works so hard, but knows how to have a good time! We get so many opportunities to develop our skills and knowledge – including £250 to spend on a skill totally outside of work. I’ve spent mine on a yoga course this year.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    Short answer – NO! I had no idea about the range of roles involved in tech; I assumed it was just about coding. I have always worked in research, but this has been my first role in software development. I love the pace of it and how much it is changing as tech becomes more and more advanced.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    I love the analysis part – it feels a bit like putting together a puzzle. Understanding why something is working or not working and having a lightbulb moment that lets us really improve the user experience feels really satisfying.

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    Go for it! Prepare to work hard and be open to learning lots. With how fast things are changing there are so many opportunities and so many ways that you can develop your career. Don’t be put off by old stereotypes about who ‘should’ work in tech. There is something for everyone.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    I think part of our role as an industry is to make sure it has a positive impact on our lives. Everyone has seen both good and bad coming from the internet, tech etc. But if we use it responsibly it could really enhance human life – it breaks down barriers for things like education and could be transformational for people with different needs who may have struggled in certain situations, both physically and mentally. I think it has the potential to make the world a lot fairer – if we make good choices.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    There’s not really one person in particular - I’m particularly drawn to the idea of creating positive experiences by targeting the senses and emotions. I saw a lot of evidence of how tech could enhance that. Immersive experiences from Disney World and Halloween Zombie apocalypses, to companies using light therapy and sensory play to help kids with autism and people with mental health issues. That is the area I am most interested in and would love to see my career taking me down some of those lanes.

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    I don’t know if this counts, but there is a bit of movement starting around emotionally intelligent design and ethics. Our emotions are something that make us distinctly human and it is the one thing that tech can’t compete on – this area could help us to make sure that we use tech right so that it complements humanity. You can start to see it now, with chatbots trying to guess what type of tone your messages have so that a better response can be formulated. This could have massive implications and I think it’s an interesting area to focus on.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    I guess my phone is an obvious answer as it is totally loaded up with apps…but also on my bedside table I have an alarm clock that emulates sunrise. I love my sleep and, especially in the dark mornings it is just about the only thing that prevents me from hibernating!

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