IBM Security Researcher Meghan McGrath: What’s Poetry Got to Do with It?
Doreen Lorenzo, former president of frog design and associate dean for the School of Design and Creative Technologies at UT Austin, interviewed IBM designer Meghan McGrath for Co.Design. As a design researcher at IBM for security on the mainframe, McGrath spoke about her non-traditional career path; she got her start in literary organizations, oral history projects, and ethnography.
McGrath acknowledged that literature, history, and design are different disciplines, yet they teach you to ask the same types of questions. In her position as a design researcher, she is constantly looking for insights about users and then organizing a design team through storytelling and feedback.
Having an interdisciplinary background, McGrath tied many skills learned in her early career to her job at IBM. She said, “You’re paying attention to the things humans care about, identifying themes, and trying to communicate something about that.”
McGrath also spoke about the emotional weight of the security sector, considering people’s reputations are at risk. Empathy is critical to understanding user needs as well as conveying those research insights in a way that unites design teams around a commonly understood goal.