Meet The Role Models is a technology community series which highlights the stories of The Ada Lovelace Initiative role models. The success of the Ada Lovelace Initiative is down to the continuous participation of technology professionals across Ireland and since September 2015, voluntary speakers have reached over 5000 secondary school students between them.
In our latest interview we are joined by Tara O’Sullivan, Senior Product Designer at Genesys
MEET TARA O’SULLIVAN
Hi Tara! How would you describe your current role?
I am a Senior Product Designer at Genesys.
This involves empathising with our users to understand what works well for them, as well as the struggles they face. This helps to uncover opportunities to improve the user experience.
What attracted you to this type of career?
It definitely hasn’t been a linear path to what I do now. I was always interested in technology from a young age but was unsure of what I really wanted to do career wise.
In school, a UCC lecturer gave a talk about the BIS course and it immediately peaked my interest. During my time studying BIS, I was exposed to a variety of tech subjects but I remember being more interested in the web design modules. I went on to do a Masters in Interactive Media which allowed me to explore more creative subjects further.
During my time on the technical grad programme at Thomson Reuters, I reached out to the head of design who became my mentor. By learning about the projects his team were working on, I knew I wanted to get involved and I was delighted to join the design team when the grad programme ended. I went on to work in that design team for over five years and really enjoyed my time there.
What did you study in college?
Business Information Systems at UCC followed by a MSc in Interactive Media, also at UCC
What were your favourite subjects when you were in school?
Music. There wasn’t really anything similar to what I do now when I was in school, I think that’s changing which is amazing to see. I’d love to have studied subjects around product design & psychology.
What were your favourite hobbies when you were in school?
I always had a strong interest in Music. I played piano and trombone as part of the Cork Youth VEC Orchestra which I absolutely loved.
What would you say is a common misconception about your role type?
I think the biggest misconception is my role is visual design. User Experience is actually more about understanding user behaviour and business requirements and translating them into an intuitive experience.
What would you say is the best part of your work?
I’m fascinated by understanding how people think and what motivates them, so I really enjoy hearing first-hand from our customers. Observing user interviews helps to remove bias and give an insight into our users mental model and how they interact with our product within the context of their role.
I also then enjoy the process of taking the problems we have identified through research and ideating on ways to make the experience better.
Finally, I’m part of a large team of lovely, talented designers at Genesys. I feel very lucky throughout my career to date to have met so many talented designers to learn from and work with, who have become good friends. Meeting like-minded fellow designers is always a great positive.
What motivated you to get involved with The Ada Lovelace Initiative?
When I was in school and college, I didn’t even know a role like UX existed.
I was lucky – I have been very fortunate to have had supportive parents, managers and mentors. I have also had some amazing opportunities to learn and travel with work through attending conferences such as the Grace Hopper Conference in the US. It was such an inspiring, exciting experience and I really appreciated those opportunities I was given. With that, I feel its important to give back in any small way possible to create awareness as I’m very aware not everyone is as lucky or supported.
Since I was a grad, I have really enjoyed being involved in various volunteering initiatives – talking at schools, apps for good, coder dojos, mentoring interns. I really enjoy helping others and am so appreciative of all those who helped me early in my career.
How important do you think it is for young girls to have the opportunity to meet female role models in the stem space?
I think it’s so important in helping to understand what’s possible. Historically, technology has been a male dominated space which can be daunting but its changing and a lot of teams are more gender balanced now.
I think soft skills and qualities such as empathy and curiosity are often overlooked but traits such as these are really fundamental to roles like User Experience.
If you don’t see other people in a field who you feel you can relate to, it’s hard to see how you could belong.
Who is a role model in history that you look up to, and why?
Katherine Johnson for being so strong and determined in the face of adversity.
Who would you say is your own role model in your career today, and why?
I wouldn’t say I have one particular role model.
Throughout my career I have felt inspired my various different people. I’m always impressed by those who can lead with empathy. My previous manager Andrew McGrath at Thomson Reuters/Refinitiv was a major role model earlier in my career and I was always inspired by his ability to be a strong leader of a large team but also have such an empathetic nature. I think it can be tricky to find that balance, but he was always so perceptive, encouraging, and supportive.
I’m generally impressed by leaders who are true to themselves and aren’t afraid to show vulnerability as it normalises being your authentic self and also helps with building relationships and trust. I see this in some of my colleagues at Genesys and feel in general it should always be encouraged.
What advice would you give to any young girls considering a tech / stem future?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to working professionals to ask questions and understand what their role involves. Technology is an exciting space to work in as its continuously growing and evolving – there are so many different roles available.
Also don’t be afraid to ask questions – curiosity is powerful and should always be encouraged. The chances are if you are wondering the answer to something – you’re not the only one!
We would like to thank Tara for joining us to share her story and inspire the next generation!
If you too would like to get involved with The Ada Lovelace Initiative, please visit our A.L.I page.
Keep up to date and never miss out on exciting A.L.I news by following Verify Recruitment on LinkedIn or @VerifyCommunity on Twitter. And why not check out our Women in STEM podcast to get a little more insight at https://otia.io/2021/06/24/women-in-stem-podcast/