1. Name :Merissa Brown
2. Course: MSc Psychology (Conversion)
3. A levels :Biology, Chemistry, English Lit, Psychology (AS)
4. Your undergraduate degree: BSc Biomedical Sciences
5. Journey in 3 words:
Unpredictable, dynamic, explorative
6. Briefly describe your role or course :
My Psychology conversion course covers all areas of the subject, namely: developmental, cognitive, biological, social, research, statistics and applied psychology. It has the same content as an undergraduate Psychology degree but it is made for people who have already completed their undergraduate, have no experience in Psychology but want to get into the field. It is largely used as the first stepping stone in starting a social science career.
As a User Researcher, I have to ensure that the digital products and services (websites, apps, technological products, etc.) that my organisation creates are usable by the people they’re made for. By this, I mean that the solutions need to be easy to understand, fit in that person’s real-life context and actually be satisfying to use. Doing User Research for healthcare technology also adds another layer to mix: the solution has to - directly or indirectly – save lives.
To do my job effectively, I conduct interviews, design workshops, lab sessions (in which participants use a prototype of the product/service in a controlled environment), surveys and more with my users, who tend to be patients and NHS staff. My job is a perfect combination of social sciences and technology.
7. What motivated you to pursue a career in science :
I am obsessed with helping people and I have always had a desire to conduct research and critique theory. That really fuelled my desire to work in STEM. I’ve also always wanted to work in healthcare (initially as a GP and then later as a researcher), again fuelled by the idea of using my skills to help people and make a difference to society.
I didn’t know that my desire would manifest itself in a User Research career but I’m enjoying the outcome.
8. Work- Life Balance :
Working and studying at the same time is very challenging but I always make sure I give myself and my social life time to prosper.
I have a work phone, specifically so I can separate my professional and personal business. At the end of each day, I make sure that my work phone gets turned off and put away, so I’m not tempted to work over time.
I also use my calendar to set out study time every week and I also add social events in there too to make sure I can get everything done.
It all seems to be working well at the moment, but the biggest challenge is turning my mind off and relaxing when I’m not working or studying. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that.
9. Advice :
Make sure that whatever you do, you’re doing it because you enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy what you do, your lack of motivation will dictate your performance and that really kicks in when you have to learn things that you’re not particularly keen on or good at (for me, that’s statistics).
Also, make sure you do your research before you jump into anything – attend open days, email the lecturers, look at the module content, check the skills you’ll learn and the job prospects. You need to see if studying suits your situation and your interests and you can only do that by asking the right questions.
10. Why didn’t you do a phd straight away? : I’m still toying with the idea of doing a PhD but it’s not really necessary for my career in user research. While the various PhDs I have been researching sound really interesting, they do take up a lot of time and even when they’re funded, I’d have to save a lot of money for maintenance.
11. What is important when picking a masters :
Knowing if it’s something you really want to do. Master’s degrees are really costly and even if you take out a student loan, the debt will be repaid concurrently with your undergraduate debt. Master’s degrees also require a lot more effort than undergraduates so you also have to consider whether you’re willing to devote the time to it.
If you aren’t sure about what to do, I’d suggest taking a break from studying, getting some work experience to really understand what you like (and more importantly, dislike); then start thinking about applying for postgraduate courses.
12. Has the lack of women in Stem roles affected your career decisions:
Yes, but not just as a woman. The general lack of diversity in STEM is quite frustrating and that has always really motivated me to fill those spaces and make my presence felt. As a black girl growing up in South London, I never saw anybody like me in STEM roles which, over the years, has made me second guess whether there were even opportunities for me in these industries.
Now, I think it’s my duty to show other girls – especially young black girls - that there is a HUGE space here where their perspectives really do matter and they can really affect change.
I hope this post inspires you to follow your passions and acknowledge that at every stage of your career will involve perseverance, consistency and discipline to help you achieve your desired goal. Never forget that “ no accomplishment is too small and no goal is too high”
The following links will further help you with your career search: