Recently some of my colleagues and I had the opportunity to support ‘Girls in STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths); an event held simultaneously in locations up and down the country.
Girls in STEM aims to empower young women and encourage them to explore the world of STEM by showing first-hand what inspiring careers are on offer in the digital world.
Insight into STEM careers
The event included workshops where the girls could participate in “hands on” activities, all the while learning about STEM subjects from experts in their respective fields. Themes across the workshop stalls included virtual reality, cyber security and trading. The stalls were designed to allow participants to encounter various real life problems and have a go at solving them, with experts on hand to support them.
These challenges demonstrated that STEM careers can be interesting, despite whatever preconceived ideas girls may have. Throughout the day there were also a range of guest speakers from various companies allowing the attendees to ask questions and gain an insight into the day to day life of STEM career.
User research in practice
We hosted a stand where we demonstrated how HMRC carries out user research to iterate and develop a quality service that is easy and friendly to use for the end user. We presented a basic level game alongside professionally developed games and asked the girls to play them so they could see the difference between a product at the beginning of its creation and a product that has been iterated and developed. We encouraged the girls to give user feedback and say what improvements could be implemented to make the game fun and enjoyable.
It was a rewarding experience to see the participants interact and suggest improvements for our basic level game. Embodying the role of a user researcher, we would carefully ask them to expand on their comment that “it’s boring” until we uncovered the reasons why; for example “there are no levels” or “it’s black and white”. All in all we received positive responses from everyone we interacted with and I believe it gave them a great insight into how our services are developed.
We also exhibited HMRC’s digital chatbot, which is used to support customers who have any questions relating to the services we provide. We showed how we’d taken user research to iteration and improve the chat-bot's responses to customers’ questions.
Obstacles all part of the adventure
Learning is an everyday experience within the technology sector. We all have challenges and encounter obstacles. For me, that’s part of the adventure of working in an exciting and ever-changing environment like Digital in HMRC.
Supporting the event was a real joy, especially as attendees seemed really excited and inspired. I hope that, at the very least, everyone left with knowledge of the range of careers that are available in STEM, and that it’s not “just for boys”.
Joe is a Digital Apprentice based at the Digital Delivery Centre Newcastle
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