Alumni Spotlight

Frances Brown, Fowlam User Research Consultancy

22 Oct
Frances Brown

Cork native, Frances Brown, lives in Nottingham with her husband, fellow UCC alum, Michael, and their two children. She runs a user research consultancy, Fowlam, with Michael. The company works with organisations to help them understand the needs of their customers so they can design usable, attractive and successful products and services. Over the last two and half years, Fowlam has worked with a variety of organisations, including Health Education England, UK Visas and Immigration, Balliol College Oxford and the Department for Education. A highlight for Frances has been working with Lego - if only for that fact that her children were highly impressed! We chat to Frances about her college days.

Course/subjects studied in UCC and year of graduation
BA Applied Psychology, graduated 2004

Best memory of UCC
Seeing a boy called Michael in one of my tutorials in first year and thinking how lovely he was only for him to ask me out a few weeks later at the psychology society quiz in the New Bar! We've been married for ten years now and have two children so that was definitely a life-changing experience for me.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
The fantastic lecturers didn't just teach us the facts and figures of psychology, they also taught us skills that have been invaluable to me no matter what area I've worked in - critical thinking, the ability to conceptualise problems in a different way and the ability to tackle those problems by breaking them down and dealing with them in logical, incremental steps. Their teaching shaped my thinking and how I work - without it I don't think I'd have had nearly as much success or satisfaction from my work as I've had.

What is your advice to current UCC students?
Life is pretty unpredictable. That can be scary but it can also be wonderful - good things are just as likely to happen out of the blue as bad things. Don't try to plan everything now - it's good to have goals but it's important not to look so far ahead that you miss what's right in front of you. Go easy on yourself and have a laugh.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
Dr Jurek Kirakowski - he was a senior lecturer in psychology and he ran a course in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). At the time that area was quite new and unknown and my husband and I were the only ones who took the course, which meant that we had a lot of time to explore what we were studying in-depth. With his passion and enthusiasm, Jurek started a life-long interest in the area for both of us - my husband did a PhD in the field and the area we work in now, user research is part of HCI. He shaped our professional life and we still refer a lot to his work when we're thinking problems through in our own work.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
I got involved in Dramat and the Psychology society in first year and made a lot of friends in WARPS through my husband - gamers are a very friendly, welcoming bunch, even if you're not into gaming yourself.

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