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'Our digital age has entirely changed what it means to be human today'

BSc Creative Computing graduate, Sherry Chan, talks about following her own path and how receiving a master's scholarship to study at UCL has opened many doors. 

Written by Sherry Chan |

BSc Creative Computing graduate Sherry Chan
"Stay curious to what deeply interests you and don’t let society tell you otherwise" - Sherry Chan

About myself
Technology had always intrigued me since childhood. I was fortunate to have grown up around PCs and had a tech-savvy brother who fixed all the blue screens of death I caused on Windows XP. Most of my time was spent delving into games, graphic design, and animation, and I loved the ability to freely express my creativity via these outlets as well as experience the extremely talented works of other creators around the world via the Internet. These interests lit the spark of curiosity in me as I became interested in how software enabled us to innovate behind the computer screen, yet I never imagined that I would pursue computing as a line of study. It felt too complex, and my naive self held onto the silly stereotype that only boys could be good at computers.

Background 
At 17, I decided to study tourism instead as I was uncertain of what to study and mostly feared being different. In contrast, business school was mainstream and felt like a safe path. In my course of study I was able to work at Taipei for six months during my internship. It was an illuminating experience which made me appreciate the dedication of hospitality staff and I am thankful at being given the opportunity for this experience. However, it was apparent that my destiny did not lie in the hospitality industry. I found my joy somewhere else: using software to create digital designs and conduct statistical analysis for projects.

With grit and a mutually supportive study peer, I ended up outdoing myself in ways I never expected to.

What I achieved in my time at uni
After graduating with a tourism diploma under my belt, I was determined not to let fear or discomfort steer my next decision. I applied for BSc in Creative Computing (Goldsmiths, University of London) at Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) as it felt like a good balance of arts and technology. It was daunting to make this leap without any programming background. As anticipated, I struggled to grasp basic programming concepts in my first and second year, and had to put in much more time and effort than my peers to understand the concepts. While I felt discouraged by my pace, modules like ‘Interaction design’ and ‘Neural networks’ captivated me. With my coursemates, we let our creativity run wild while working on our coursework with problem-solving code, essays, and artefacts.

The academic rigour was intensive but I loved what I studied. With grit and a mutually supportive study peer, I ended up outdoing myself in ways I never expected to: achieving a UOL Award for Academic Achievement, a Letter of Commendation, and Top Scorer for ‘Creative Computing II: interactive multimedia’ and ‘Computer security’.

In my Final Year project, I also pursued User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design out of curiosity, which became an enduring passion that I am lucky to have in a career now as a product designer.

Outside of classes in SIM, there were vibrant student societies and cultures all around. I was part of the Media & Marketing committee of the SIM-UOL Student Representative Council which made university life much more fun and fulfilling. I was in MediaWorks, a team of storytellers that created digital memories of fellow students. We coordinated mass photoshoots and filming of scenes before assembling the footage into creative stories using software. It felt like I was getting in touch with my younger self again. Although most of us were amateurs with limited resources, we made the best of what we had by sharing camera equipment and learning skills together. In my senior year, we conducted Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and Premiere Pro workshops to pass on knowledge to our juniors. The strong friendships fostered during my time with the SIM-UOL Student Representative Council were ones that would last me a lifetime. 

Design is collaborative and I aspire to bring people together to solve the right problems.

Aspirations
As a UX practitioner, I seek to understand our complex perception and behaviour in pursuit of intentional design. I am interested in equity and strongly believe in empathising with users not as components in a system, but as humans. Design is collaborative and I aspire to bring people together to solve the right problems. Ideally, I hope to work on socio-technical problems in future and make meaningful interventions with design.

What it means to receive the master’s scholarship
It deeply humbles me to receive this master’s scholarship from UOL. Beyond recognition and financial support, this is a gift of education that opens many doors for me. I am honoured to be able to explore the depths of where humanities and technology are entangled through Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL).

Our digital age has entirely changed what it means to be human today, in both wonderful and not-so-wonderful ways. It is critical to question ethical issues of tech as it continues to mediate human actions and shape our interaction with the world. Dark patterns in UIs are everywhere on websites and apps, manipulating users into making choices they don’t mean to, like purchasing or allowing access of personal data. This profit-driven deception at the cost of our rights causes a loss of privacy and trust in companies. When design is the language in which we read and understand technology, it should be honest.

Getting to study in London with students from everywhere excites me.

What I hope to experience at UCL
At UCL, I wish to understand other social and cultural implications of digital technology. Getting to study in London with students from everywhere excites me. This diversity enables me to gain a global context and broaden my perspectives. I look forward to experiencing an interdisciplinary approach to learning about humanity and our relationships with the world. Lastly, I hope to make the most of my time and overcome my shyness by joining UCL’s Student Union.

Encouragement to juniors
Studying computer science is no easy feat, considering that tech now advances faster than we may understand it. The good news is, there are many exciting fields we can set foot in from this path. Stay curious to what deeply interests you and don’t let society tell you otherwise. Fear taking the road less travelled and do it anyway. In face of obstacles, I urge you to persist because you are well on your way to growth. Seek and create your own opportunities as they are out there waiting for you at SIM and UOL.

I hope my story encourages you to pursue what is meaningful to you.