TechSPARK has teamed up with Manchester Digital to deliver you Digital Her, a project from the Institute of Coding. We want to showcase talented women and non-binary people from across the entire tech and digital sector who are doing amazing work in the South West.

The objective is to create a platform of role models for young women and non-binary people to encourage and inform anyone who may have been dissuaded away from tech about the opportunities in our region. Through talking to a range of individuals with various roles and experiences, we want to highlight the various career paths available whilst reaching out to people who didn’t know there was a perfect role in tech for them.

To kick off Digital Her, we have Graphic Designer and Brand Strategist, Marissa Lewis-Peart.

What do you do?

I’m a Graphic Designer and Brand Strategist currently transitioning into the area of Experience Design. Outside of my 9-5 work, I’m a natural hair care influencer and the founder of an early-stage startup to help women through their natural hair care journeys.

What skills do you use most in your job?

In my job, the technical skills I use most often are knowledge and application of design principles, typography, branding, strategy, an understanding of designing for print vs digital outputs, and being proficient in Adobe Creative Suite products. In terms of soft-skills, I often utilise my communication, collaboration, problem solving, and public speaking skills.

What’s your educational background?

I studied Graphic Communication, Media Studies and Communication & Culture at A-Level, before progressing onto study BA (Hons) Graphic Communication at university.

What inspired you to go into digital & tech?

I began to develop an interest in human behaviour when I went to college, however, I had always been more creative rather than academic growing up, which lead to my subject choices. Towards the end of my second year at university, I began to learn about the role of strategy in design, which satisfied both my natural creative interests and fascination with research and psychology. In my final year at university, I won the Ben Martin Apprentice Award in collaboration with Bristol Creative Industries (formerly Bristol Media), Babbasa and The IPA which flew me to Texas for South By Southwest (SXSW), the world’s largest interactive media conference festival, where I immersed myself into the world of creative tech – this trip changed the future of my career.

How did your tech & digital career start?

I came back to the UK and completed 14 internships in various Bristol-based Marketing, Design and Digital agencies where I began developing my design skills and taking a keen interest in UX/UI design. Upon completion of my internships, I began freelancing at a branding & packaging design agency however COVID-19 led me to start taking on more personal client projects, which confirmed for me that I would like to pursue more of a strategic and digital design path rather than traditional graphic design. I began facilitating strategy workshops with clients as well as taking on branding and website design projects for small businesses.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on in your career so far? What challenges have you faced along the way?

The most interesting project I’ve worked on so far was an App for the Royal Navy during my internship programme where I had the opportunity to facilitate a few user testing sessions. One of our users had dyslexia and it was interesting to see how he struggled navigating the user interface in ways we hadn’t previously considered, which required us to analyse our findings and come to a design solution. It reinforced to me how important it is to consider the user or consumer in design and how insightful testing can be.

What is your favourite thing about working in the sector?

My favourite thing about pursuing a career in tech/digital is the ability to influence how people experience services, brands and general life, and how I can hopefully make these experiences more enjoyable. 

Do you think the tech & digital sector is doing enough to talk about intersectionality and create diverse workplaces? 

Based on my experience at 14 Bristol-based creative agencies, I think that the tech & digital sector could be doing more to create diverse workplaces as I was often the only black person in these spaces, or one of a handful of people from an ethnic minority background. I also don’t recall working with anyone who had visible disabilities. I think there needs to be less talk around diversity, inclusion and intersectionality and more doing things to help people from diverse backgrounds break into the industry.

What advice would you give to young people thinking about a career in digital and tech or unsure what to study?

To anyone currently considering higher education or career options, I’d recommend thinking about what you enjoy, what you are passionate about or what your ‘why’ is and then seeking out careers that align with that. 

If you are considering a career in the tech/digital space but have no interest in coding, whilst knowing how to code is a great skillset and will put you at an advantage, there are roles in the space which don’t require you to know how to code, so don’t let that hold you back from seeing what careers are available.

 Thanks to Marissa for taking the time to talk to us for the Digital Her series. You can find out more about her work on her website here, catch her on Instagram: @mlp.designs, or give her Twitter a follow here: @mlpdesigns. And if you want to learn more about natural hair care, Marissa’s Instagram for this is here: @rootsundone.