On October 14, I attended an Alumni Panel hosted by Pratt’s School of Information. The panel consisted of three recent graduates from the School, each in different roles in the information community. They were:
Carlos Acevedo, the Digital Asset Manager at The Jewish Museum
Kate Meizner, a UX Designer & Data Analyst at Google
Anna Murphy, an Upper School Librarian at the Berkeley Carroll School, an independent school in Park Slope.
ASIS&T @ Pratt, the Association for Information Science and Technology, put on the panel in conjunction with Professor Irene Lopatovska’s INFO 601 classes. It was mostly students from her class who filled the room, but there were several other School of Information students in attendance as well. In general, the panel had a very casual feel as it was a small audience in the same room our class is held. The panelists went down the line answering questions about their time as graduate students and their transition into their respective fields. This panel was set up as a way for current students to see how our predecessors have managed to gain careers after graduation and give advice to current students who may be worried or not sure where to go after their impending graduations.
Mr. Acevedo, who has done Digital Asset Management for the Jewish Museum for three and a half years now, began by saying that the first two years of his position were taken up by introducing a DAM system and the last year has been spent managing that system. His team is small and he is the only one managing the DAM on the team. Mostly, that makes Mr. Acecedo’s work independent but he does have a lot of cross-departmental meetings and works closely with the Director of Digital, JiaJia Fei. Ironically, he noted, his project management style is very analog for a position that is so technology-based. To organize himself, he uses a large whiteboard that he splits into different sections corresponding to different tasks he is doing on long and short term bases. Because he meets with so many people from different departments, he makes sure to use formal Google calendar invites to set up meeting times, but uses Slack for more informal communication. When asked what the most challenging part of this job is, Mr. Acevedo noted that there are many projects around the museum he knows he can tackle based on his knowledge of best practices, but often these are out of his control due to departmental lines, budgets, and the will of the Board of Directors. The most rewarding part is when he can solve problems around him that have seemingly impossible solutions.
For Kate Meizner, her position as a UX researcher is very different. She is constantly collaborating with the twelve others on her team, which changes every year and a half. She describes her job as a bit of chaos; her duties range from running two research studies at a time to interviewing customers to surveys, analyzing data, and coordinating team strategy. In the mornings before everyone goes about their tasks, her team does a morning stand-up so everyone can let their coworkers know what they are working on that day, what needs to be accomplished, and who needs to meet to get that done. It can be a challenging workflow, as often non-UX people are invited to make UX decisions. Ms. Meizner also noted the lack of a central project management tool. She utilizes Google Sheets frequently, as well as GoToMeeting which is a remote desktop program, Qualtrics surveys, Tableau, Python, and R. Some current projects are deciding what her team strategy will be for the next two and a half years and analyzing data visualization studies, which last from three weeks to a month. For her, the most challenging parts of her job are new teams which makes finding your place in an organization that is constantly changing difficult, as well as figuring out how to get things done. Yet the most rewarding parts are understanding how research propagates in products, hearing how her work helps others improve their own workdays, and especially when she gets to apply knowledge learned at Pratt.
Anna Murphy’s job is on the Library Science side of the School of Information. As a high school librarian, she has no typical day. Her work ranges from teaching short workshops to students, researching projects for teachers, and conducting an eighth-grade technology class. She is constantly working with children, being centrally located in the library. There is almost no one in the school Ms. Murphy does not work with, so communication is especially important. Many times proposals for projects or workshops are very casual, maybe even just a mention in the elevator, so Google Sheets and Trillo, a task management system, are essential to staying on top of every interaction. For her, the most challenging part of her job is having to advocate for the students first. As an independent school, there is a lot of bureaucracy. She feels she must often work backward from what reading is. However, the most rewarding part is when the students engage with the books she buys for them and feel comfortable in the space of the library.
One of our readings that I was reminded of during this event was John Gehner’s article “Libraries, Low-Income People, and Social Exclusion.“ Especially when Ms. Murphy was talking about how her students come from extremely diverse backgrounds, I felt she was exemplifying what the article says is part of the duty of librarians. Many children who have troubled home lives can find refuge in their school libraries. “Action 3: Remove Barriers that Alienate Socially Excluded Groups” is practiced by Ms. Murphy when she talked about making a comfortable space for her students. She makes sure to not judge them on whatever topic they are interested in, as well as buying books that will pique their interest. She practices “Action 4: Get Out of the Library and Get to Know People” by teaching the technology class, doing classroom visits, and coaching a sports team to nurture a relationship with students outside of the library bounds.
I saw elements of the “Design Justice” article in what Ms. Meizner spoke about. She noted that many times non-UX designers will be on her projects and they fail to see potential problems that she would as someone who takes everyone into consideration, rather than just the mainstream population. She talked about making sure to pay attention to how her work is influencing others, similar to design justice’s mantra of “how the design of objects and systems influences the distribution of risks, harms, and benefits among various groups of people.”
Overall, I found this panel to be extremely helpful in my path through graduate school. It is always reassuring to hear the stories of others who have come before. By hearing how these three graduates earned their degrees, how they obtained their jobs, and how they use their knowledge gained at Pratt Institute in their work every day.
Costanza-Chock, Sasha. “Design Justice: towards an Intersectional Feminist Framework for Design Theory and Practice.” DRS2018: Catalyst, June 28, 2018. https://doi.org/10.21606/drs.2018.679.
Gehner, John. “Libraries, Low-Income People, and Social Exclusion.” Public Library Quarterly29, no. 1 (March 15, 2010): 39–47. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616840903562976.