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Lilymae Prescott: from Philosophy to UX Designer

Social media handle(s): (Instagram), LinkedIn, website

A few words about me:

Professionally taken photo of a woman in her 20s with black hair, sitting in front of a plain grey background, wearing a black top and a neutral expression

I currently work at Sky Sports as a UX Designer. I have an academic background in Philosophy, completing my final exams during the 40 degree heatwave in my back garden in the height of covid. I then pursued a masters in User Experience at Loughborough University where I began my career as a UX Designer.

In my spare time, I play netball (preferred position is goal attack), I enjoy reading non-fiction books, and I recently learnt how to crochet.

I also love to travel and I’m always thinking about my next trip abroad. In 2023 I visited New Zealand, South Korea, India and Croatia!

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

I’ve had a variety of roles that I had little to no interest in doing, but wanted to test out a lot of different careers to see what fit me.

My first ever job was working in an indoor soft-play centre for kids which certainly tested my patience!

I have also had work experience in accountancy, risk, compliance, law and marketing. None of these really suited me at all, but I'm glad I had these short-term experiences because they helped me figure out what I didn’t want to do.

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

My bachelors is in Philosophy, so quite the opposite of a STEM subject. In school, I did well in my exams and was quite good at maths but never science, which led me to the perception from a young age that I’d never be suited to a career in STEM.

Initially when applying for university, I was going to pursue PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), but took a turn towards a sole focus on Philosophy after achieving 100% in my Religious Studies A-Level and not quite making the grade I needed for maths (which was a requirement for economics). This further reinforced the idea even at 18 that I was made for the arts and essay-based disciplines.

Where did your professional journey start?

My professional journey really began when I did my masters in User Experience at Loughborough University.

I often look back on how I found out about UX, which wasn’t a very well known career path at the time, and definitely just stumbled upon it by accident. I’m sure some google search terms I used were along the lines of ‘what to do with a philosophy degree,’ ‘creative jobs that don’t need a design degree’ and ‘cool jobs to do in 2020.’

I’m still surprised I was accepted onto the course at Loughborough in the first place. It’s a highly reputable course with many success stories of graduates winning awards and going on to work at really cool companies, and my lack of design background sometimes made me feel like I shouldn’t have been there. I came to realise later on that the practical side of design is only one aspect of it - it’s also the critical thinking, understanding people’s behaviours and thinking outside the box that makes UX design a career option for people of any background.

Whilst at Loughborough, I did some work experience at a UX research agency and I was a scholar for an international UX bootcamp, where we worked with a client on a social action project. This really set me up for the working world, enabling me to apply my learnings from my course in a practical way.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

I’ve loved technology since I was a child. I was glued to the gadget show on TV and would always enter in every week with my dad to see if we would win a truckload of gadgets one day (PS: we never won). But when I think back to where my interest really began, this is where I cast my mind back to. I didn’t realise it back then, but I think I’ve always had a passion for innovation and seeing cool ideas being brought to life, and this carries through into my career now.

Fast forward to adulthood, my motivation also comes from the sheer opportunities in the digital space. We are still in the infancy of what digital experiences can be and can look like, and is a really exciting world to be a part of. Being able to solve real world problems and sparking joy really makes the work all the more worthwhile.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

Advocating for myself in the early stages of my career was quite challenging. There were some instances in my first year of my graduate job where my label as a junior designer meant I wasn’t seen as capable or taken seriously. I felt like I needed to prove myself, and was literally given a fake task to see if I could, indeed, prove myself.

I know that taking on someone new with little experience is a risk, but also but it certainly knocked my confidence in the beginning. Now that I’m a little further along in my career, my confidence has definitely grown, and I’m learning how to be assertive in spaces where I may be the youngest or least experienced in the room, and how to make sure my voice gets heard.

Two women in their 20s standing on either side of a tv screen on a portable stand. The image on the TV screen reads 'Media Tech Women' in collaboration with Sky, BBC and News UK. They are in a room with glass windows with a view of the London skyline at night time.

"We are still in the infancy of what digital experiences can be and can look like, and is a really exciting world to be a part of. Being able to solve real world problems and sparking joy really makes the work all the more worthwhile."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

I wish I had more preparation on the practicalities of what being a designer in a cross-functional team meant. When working on university projects, things like technical feasibility and business needs were considered, but not to the extent that they are applied in a business setting.

These practicalities perhaps only come with real world experience, but there really is an art, which I am still learning for myself, in how to design the best possible solution for users whilst still considering the needs of other stakeholders in the process. There’s an added layer of complexity to consider, especially when there are conflicting needs, and being able to make decisions when taking everything into consideration is something that I wasn’t prepared for before joining my first professional role.

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

One of the biggest ‘wow’ moments or realisations is when I remind myself just how many people interact with the experiences I create. Most of my work has been with large-scale organisations meaning that some features and products that I’ve built are literally used by an incomprehensible number of people on a daily basis. Daunting, but cool!

More recently, I’ve also been dedicating more time to attending women in tech events and building my network. I had done this somewhat idly in the past, but since moving to London have committed to putting myself out there a bit more, and in return my attitude towards how I perceive myself in the industry has changed a lot. Even going to a couple of events so far has taught me a lot about how I can own my growth, how to empower myself and others, and how to have a positive impact in others’ journeys into tech. There have been a number of wow moments just listening to other people's stories and how they have navigated their own careers.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

I really enjoy being creative and working with people to make things happen, having a shared vision, being motivated by the prospect of building something great and seeing it through to delivery. I like knowing that the work I’m doing is either helping people achieve their goals, solving a real world problem or injecting fun into their daily lives.

Accessibility is something I’m also really passionate about, and using digital experiences as a tool to further support people who require additional needs is a really valuable thing to be a part of. There’s still a long way to go in this space, but I really enjoy the challenge and the potential of its impact.

I also I think there’s still a long way to go in terms of gender equality in tech, and through engaging more in the wider tech community as mentioned before, I’m learning about ways I can have an impact and be part of the change.

I wouldn’t say I dislike anything in particular, but there are certainly aspects of being a designer that I enjoy over others. It can be frustrating at times if a decision has been made that is out of your hands of which you disagree with, where there is very little room to push back. It doesn’t happen often and is usually due to factors out of your control, but nonetheless can be disheartening at times.

"When thinking about breaking into the industry, remind yourself that there isn’t a single and typical route into tech."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

I was lucky enough to spend a month working remotely in South Korea in May 2023, where I was able to continue my collaboration with colleagues in the UK whilst exploring such an incredible country.

By day, I was wondering around temples, eating my bodyweight in tteokbokki and shopping until I dropped, and by night I was finding swanky cafe’s and co-working spaces to work in. South Korea is particularly amazing for remote working because they have the best wifi service in the world, and cafes are open until late in the night so I didn’t have any trouble finding places to settle down for an evening of work!

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

When thinking about breaking into the industry, remind yourself that there isn’t a single and typical route into tech. I’ve worked with so many designers from all sorts of backgrounds, some have formal education in design, some have completed bootcamps and some have simply just self taught in their spare time. As long as you have the drive to learn and care about solving user needs then you’re in the right mindset to grow you career in design.

I’m a firm believer in saying yes first and figuring it out later (within reason!). Even if you feel like you’re not prepared to complete a task or take on a project, this is the best way to learn. Not only does it help with building practical skills, but also building relationships in your team and beyond. Having lots of unanswered questions means you need to proactively go out and get the answers to them. This is something that can be daunting especially when early in your career, but goes a long way in making new connections, gaining visibility in your organisation and driving that critical thinking to propel you further in your journey.

If you’re interested in learning more about my experience or want to have a chat, please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn. 🙂


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