A Chat with Jamika Burge, the Head of Research Curriculum & Outreach for Experience Design Research at Capital One

Tell us about yourself

I have always been an avid learner. I also enjoy solving problems. My current role at Capital One is steeped in both. I’m responsible for developing innovative research curricula and outreach for user research at Capital One.

The work I do empowers our designers, developers, and product managers to apply design thinking and human-centered design principles into their daily work.

Prior to joining Capital One, I provided technical and management leadership as a consultant for innovative DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) programs that were funded at over $70 million in the Information Innovation Office.

This was fun (and important) work, because I had the privilege of supporting military personnel suffering from PTSD and TBIs and learning how best to develop games that build kids’ STEM-learning capacity and social-emotional resiliency.

I also founded my own educational and design research consultancy, Design & Technology Concepts, LLC, which enables me to work with organizations to solve problems in human-centered designed as well and develop inclusive programming in CS education and professional development.

My training in computer science (BS, MS, and PhD) has helped me explore lots of problem spaces along my professional career path, and I’m grateful!

I am also very committed to making computing a more inclusive and disruptive discipline, which is better for everyone. I am a Conference Co-Chair for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and I’m a member of the Steering Committee for the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference.

I am also a member of the Board of Advisors for Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities (CMD-IT, pronounced “command it”). Prior to CMD-IT, I was twice-chair of the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC), an organization whose mission was to increase the diversity of the computing research community by increasing minority participation in computing research activities.

I also work with Black Girls ROCK! and its fabulous founder, Beverly Bond, to develop computing curricula that will support its existing, powerful leadership program for girls of color.

What are the most important skills to have for someone in your position?

One of the skills is computational thinking. Computational thinking encompasses problem deconstruction and solving, resilience, and a willingness to learn new things.

What’s even cooler is that you don’t have to be a techie to understand and apply computational thinking. It can be used to support problem-solving across any discipline!

Another important skill is understanding people’s needs. We also call this empathy. We use empathy research at Capital One to better understand our customer’s needs. Are we developing products that make their lives better? How could we improve the quality of our current products and services? Are we making it easier to get things done, or do we make things more difficult? Empathic research helps us do more of the former and much less (if any!) of the latter.

Understanding others also extends to our colleagues and others with whom we come into contact. When we consider the welfare of others, we are reminded that even though we may be quite different on the surface, we often share many experiences that connect us with each other. Connecting with people is very important to my work.

What efforts are being made to diversify the event from your perspective as a black woman in computing and as the head of programming at GHC?

Often, when we talk about diversity in tech, the focus is on women, only. But, women are not unidimensional, and much of the time we have to be reminded that women of color have even more unique (and sometimes hostile) experiences when it comes to thriving in technical careers.

It was important to me, as a GHC Conference Co-chair, to work to ensure that the main stage speakers and those for the Senior Women’s Program represented a range of professional and cultural experiences.

I’ve been in involved in GHC since 2002, when I was a graduate student, and I believe this year’s conference is the most inclusive I’ve seen in a long time. And, there’s still more work to do. I am hopeful that, even after my official leadership tenure ends, the conference will continue to amplify *all* women’s voices in this space.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the next step in their career to a more leadership role?

Know your value, and own your voice. Know what you bring to the table, and how you benefit yourself and your organization. The better you understand these two things, the more invaluable you become — and the more you can inspire others to their truth. That’s what true leadership is.

Where can we find you?

You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thank you Capital One for sponsoring this post! Check them out at the Grace Hopper Conference #GHC17.

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