Digital Humanist and Dream Designer Lisa Woodley
- September 25, 2019
Technology and innovation have always been key components of Lisa Woodley’s life. She’s a deep thinker, a puzzle solver, and a dreamer. She’s creative and fearless, not one to turn away from a challenge. In fact, the stickier the challenge, the better. There are no obstacles, only opportunities. Lisa, a Vice President of Customer Experience at NTT DATA Services, believes in achieving results for her clients with style, grace and a lot of heart.
Q: We understand your unique inability to stand still has been a major contributor to your game-changing work, could you tell us more?
A: I get bored if I’m not doing something that’s interesting and new to me. As a result, throughout the course of my life, that boredom has pushed me to try a lot of different things. So, I’m a motorcyclist, a singer, a minister, a baker. I love pursuing different challenges because you learn different things. And all of them bring together a diversity of experiences into my life. NTT DATA Services allows me to be bold and run with my ideas and gives me a team that helps make those ideas a reality for our clients and us.
Q: Have you always been like this? Did you catch a spark as a kid, or did that become clearer later in your life? How did you discover what you wanted to do in your life?
A: As a kid, I was obsessed with science and science fiction. I wanted to be an astronomer, and I would read science fiction books. It seemed to me like the astronomers were the ones that were going to get us there and discover that planet. Then I got to the sixth or seventh grade, and I found out I wasn’t great at algebra and calculus. That dashed a little bit of the astronomy dream, but that idea of traveling to different places and seeing different things never went away.
Q: You grew up in a small town. Did that help you become a big thinker?
A: I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. It’s great living in a small town, but there isn’t a whole lot to do and you really yearn for an escape. It was that escape from the mundane that science fiction brought to me. Science fiction is rife with underdogs who are doing things that they shouldn’t be able to do — discovering new things, going to new places. I identified with the idea that the most unlikely person could be the hero in a story. I also identified with the idea that there is way more out there than what was in my little world.
People like Arthur C. Clarke were writing books that — 20 years later — physicists and astrophysicists were striving to convert into reality. They were using it almost as blueprints. I think that’s probably the core of where my drive to become a designer came from; the idea that you could design futuristic experiences somebody, someday could convert into a reality for all.
Q: A lot of college students go through a process of trying out a few major paths before settling on one. That wasn’t you, was it?
A: When I was completing my bachelors at Rutgers University, it was much less about finding a career and a lot more about finding what I really loved. So, starting out, I majored in psychology. It was very interesting, but it didn’t really grab me, and then I ended up switching to an English major because I loved to read. And then I took an intro to philosophy class, and it changed everything. It was the most fascinating class I had ever taken. I was far along in English, so I completed my major in that, but I also got a major in philosophy. Psychology became a minor.
For the past eight years I have been one of three core instructors responsible for developing the curriculum and conducting a quarterly week-long class in User Experience Design for Rutgers University's MBS program, so my diverse majors have really enabled me to create a strong learning experience with real-life applications for my students.
Q: How does that college experience, the double major in English and philosophy with the minor in psychology influence your professional life today? How does it help you to help shape and evolve the customer experience with NTT DATA design technology?
A: When I think about it, it’s fascinating to me. All those things that seem so random have come together now in what I do today. The science fiction gives me a vision of the future and the desire to see a different one. The psychology gives me the ability to empathize and understand how people are thinking. The philosophy gives me the idea that we need to be thinking about the implications of what we are doing. And when you bring forward-thinking technology, psychology and philosophy together, it becomes very powerful and it all comes together in what I’m doing today.
My job is to take a people-first approach to digital transformation and technology innovation. I look at what clients are trying to accomplish in order to identify some of the gaps in their customer experience. Then I look at technology that can help fill the gaps and create a roadmap for our clients to achieve their goal. When you layer on the fact that I’m a huge sci-fi geek, I think it gives me a certain kind of optimism that drives a vision of what technology can do to improve nearly every aspect of life.
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