International Women’s Day
This Friday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. The theme of IWD for 2019 is #BalanceforBetter, encouraging people to think about forging a more gender-balanced world, raising awareness against bias, taking action on inequality, and celebrating women’s achievements. In the spirit of the latter, we’ve spoken to a few of the women behind some of the most exciting work going on at PARC: Kate Murphy, Joanne Lee, Richelle Dumond, Frances Yan and Kalai Ramea.
Can you tell us about the work that you do at PARC?
I am a User Experience Researcher and Designer, working with the Innovation Services Group. Using ethnographic research techniques, I conduct interviews and observations to get insight into the experience of using a product or technology. All this helps us to understand the people we’re designing for. With these insights, I advise how that technology could improve to make the experience of using it as pleasant as possible.
I concentrate on the integration of novel materials, hardware and software in digital printing technologies. My team is focused on applying our printing innovations in the packaging industry, expanding beyond traditional substrates and into foils and films. Our goal is to transition printing to a digital platform that allows for more customization.
At PARC, my work is centered around printing for manufacturing and material deposition systems. I essentially look at new approaches to making things. For instance, I’m working on the mechanical design of new manufacturing processes for lithium ion battery cathodes. In another project, I’m developing a spray technology for high viscosity materials to make particles for 3D printing and coatings. And I’m also looking at ways to make bio-inspired structures for things like filtration and switchable transparency.
My Ph.D. is in operations research and applied mathematical modeling. I work as a data scientist at PARC – this position allows me to work horizontally on a variety of projects. So far, I have developed algorithms for applications in computer vision, natural language, behavioral analytics, and design synthesis. Working at PARC with such great researchers is humbling. I am constantly learning from smart people around me.
I am a Design Researcher at PARC, working with the Innovation Services Group. I conduct user research to help guide business strategy and product development for our clients. We help them evaluate how PARC’s technology can be best applied to address user needs. What I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to meet with people and gather real-world perspectives on how our technology can augment their lives.
What inspired you to pursue a field in science, engineering or design?
I was one of those teenagers who had no clue what to do with her future. It was a nudge from a career coach that brought me to design, and when I got accepted into the Design Academy Eindhoven I found my place. During my master’s at the University of Washington, I was introduced to design research. “This!” I thought to myself, “This is what I want to do.” People are tremendously fascinating, and I love that I get the opportunity to meet new personalities and learn from their experiences as part of my job.
Growing up in Malaysia, I always had an interest in math, science and technology. I was the first generation in my family to attend college, earning a full scholarship at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. As my career developed over the years, I realized that I like to build things and I enjoy working with tangible products that change our everyday lives.
As an undergrad, I wanted to pursue a career in politics because it seemed to be the field where I could solve problems and make an impact on society. After taking a few courses, I realized that this was not the case. That led me to pursue a career in science. I saw science as a tool for helping people. I was excited by the idea that through it I could address issues like the environment, poverty, hunger and disease.
I knew from a very young age that I was drawn to math. My father was also passionate about the subject, and he was a great source of inspiration for me.
I think my interest in design and product development really originates with my father, who’s an engineer-turned-artist. I originally pursued mechanical engineering at undergrad level, because I always had a desire to create. But I soon realized I was more interested in understanding why we build certain technologies and who we build for. After taking a product development course and joining a design consulting club, I began my journey in human-centered design. My aim is to drive technology development with a focus on user needs and real-world applications.
What advice would you offer to others who are currently working in your field, or who are considering a career similar to yours?
Sometimes you have nothing profound to say, and that’s okay. Listen instead.
Always approach a problem with an open mind. Be willing to experiment with new things and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be intimidated or feel threatened by the hard questions that may come your way. Finally, strive to be an expert at the thing that you are most passionate about.
As women, we need to recognize our allies and advocates in an organization and nurture those relationships. In the field of research, persistence is a MUST! You will encounter some obstacles and failures along the way, however you have to roll with the punches and keep believing in yourself.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes! We live in a culture that extols success, but in my experience, your learning dwindles if you keep succeeding in every task. There is value in making mistakes. It might lead to accidental discoveries, or you might get entirely new ideas that you had not conceived before.
Take time off after your undergraduate college years to gather life experiences and figure out what drives you. Find what you’re inherently curious about.
If you want to be a part of the work we do at PARC, take a look at our current openings.
Our work is centered around a series of Focus Areas that we believe are the future of science and technology.
We’re continually developing new technologies, many of which are available for Commercialization.