Alice Walker

Credentials: Maru Matchbox

Position title: Qualitative Researcher

Photo of Alice Walker

Major: English

Certificate: Digital Studies & Graphic Design

Graduation Date: May 2016

How did you end up at Maru Matchbox?

I knew from day one that I wanted to study how and why people do what they do and I came to the UW with the intention of studying epigenetics. Around my sophomore year, I had to find a new path because I realized two pretty important things: 1. My learning disability was not conducive to a psychology degree, and 2. I wanted to have a career that would involve design and the arts.

I discovered User Experience Design and Human-Centered Design through an English class and pretty much from that point pursued a career in Human-Centered Design, which is the field of designing products and services based on insights around whom it’s designed for. This field isn’t hugely popular in the US yet and so opportunities are few and far between. UX design probably would have been the closest and easiest path but I was stubborn about a role in research and strategy. It was hard work but I didn’t settle. I worked in a few different fields and as a freelancer before I found a full-time position at the company I’m at now.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I work on a small team responsible for the qualitative side of things, within a large international market research company. In normal language, that means helping the people who sell things understand the people they’re selling to. Qualitative specifically is about uncovering the information that people can’t always tell you directly, such as emotions, behaviors, and cultural and social impact. Every day I’m designing and running a number of different studies – the cool thing is that in a single day I can be working on anything from fitness to tv shows to medicine.

How has Digital Studies influenced your career path?

Two major ways: opportunity and content. I wasn’t satisfied with the degree programs offered at the UW and my certificates allowed me to take classes I was interested in for the career I wanted. I had actually based the courses I took off of a masters program at Carnegie Mellon! Digital Studies spans across so many departments, it was a really nice opportunity for me to make the school experience I wanted. Almost every aspect of our lives today is digital. So I think everyone should understand the impact of technology on whatever field they work in. But as someone who wants to study and design better things and services, understanding technology as it relates to society, design, and communication was imperative.

Did you have a favorite Digital Studies class or professor when you were a student?

I don’t have to think about it. The professors that shaped me, and my life, were Jon McKenzie and Molly Steenson. They both introduced me to Human Centred Design, User Experience, and understanding technology as a medium.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Decide if you’re satisfied with what Madison has to offer – early. By satisfied I mean, are you interested in the topic, and does the department have resources for you academically and professionally? Look at how they help alumni and if there are networking options. That’s ultimately what matters after school. If you’re not satisfied, sign up for an independent major as soon as possible so you have time to complete it. Oh, and find a good therapist.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career thus far?

One of my first freelance jobs in Chicago was being hired by The Field Museum to complete an evaluation of one of their exhibits. The Field museum is an institution so it would have been an honor just to volunteer there. But working in museums specifically gives the opportunity to study spatial design as well as education- which are two areas I’m passionate about.