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A day in the life of...Alison MacLeod, Lead User Researcher

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A day in the life, Recruitment, User research

In this series we offer an insight into the working lives of people within digital and technology roles across Ministry of Justice Digital & Technology.

In this post Alison MacLeod, Lead User Researcher, talks us through her day..

What is your role at MoJ?

I am Lead User Researcher at Justice Digital, specialising in research with citizens, professionals, and partners. I’ve been at MOJ for just under 2 years, and it’s my first Civil Service role.

What did you do before you worked for MoJ?

I was UX research manager at the mobile phone network, EE, and before that I was a freelance UX researcher. I actually started out as a market researcher, doing qualitative research on everything from soap powder to Hula Hoops. I can still write a decent questionnaire.

What does a typical day look like for you?

No such thing as a typical day! Over the week, I split my time between lead user researcher stuff, and live projects. I’m usually embedded with an Agile team, designing and delivering the research for that service. Next week, I’m joining a new service team, so I’ll be out one day with the service designer, interviewing caseworkers at a regional office.

I’m also a user research assessor for the GDS Service Standard, so I’ll spend half a day at a service assessment. I usually work from home one day a week, and I use that day for analysis and thinking away from the hurly-burly of the office.

Tell us about any new or interesting projects you’re working on right now.

I have just finished a project looking at Prison Officer recruitment. As part of the preparation for this, I attended job fairs and recruitment panels, and I also visited a cross-section of prisons to talk to experienced officers. This is definitely not your typical user research project - nothing quite prepares you for interviewing in a tiny staff room at a high security prison.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned while working here?

This is easily the most Agile environment that I’ve ever worked in, and the biggest piece of learning for me personally was how to operate as part of a highly skilled team, as opposed to being an independent operator.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to apply for a role at MoJ?

Do your homework. I can’t think of a more interesting place to be a researcher, but it can be a challenging environment. Overall, we have the privilege and the responsibility of designing end-to-end services that will affect real lives.

We deal with all kinds of users: lawyers, prison officers, caseworkers, victims of crime. Some of our users are going through intensely difficult, highly emotional experiences. We deal with some tough material at times. You are also joining a big team: there is a large and welcoming community of researchers at MOJ. It’s still amazing to me to be in a place where user research is taken so seriously.

If you weren’t a User Researcher, what would you be?

I think I have research in my blood so that one is hard to answer! I love science communication, so in a parallel world I’d like to be a popular science writer.

Can you tell us your favourite film?

My absolute favourite film is the Simon Pegg comedy, Hot Fuzz.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I make fused glass jewellery and small artwork, very very slowly.

Interested in joining us? Check out our latest vacancies at Digital & Technology careers

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