'It's a privilege to work in an environment where we push the boundaries of what our profession can do' - Q&A with Eva Deckers

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Eva Deckers leads the Data Enabled Design team at Phillips Experience Design. With her team, she is at the cutting edge of what design can do. She is passionate about using the power of design, data and AI to make a difference in the health and wellbeing of people.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into your role at Philips Experience Design?

A: I joined Philips Experience Design in 2013, after finishing my PhD research at the Eindhoven University of Technology. My three year PhD project aimed at formulating a design or human perspective on AI. How to build AI from a more qualitative, subjective or social point of view? At Philips I got a chance to develop myself as a design strategist, a role I still have. We built a team of design strategists and developed the capability. As part of my work as design strategist I’m involved in setting direction for our design organization. That allowed me to explore the role of data in the design process, something close to my background at the university. We started off with research and innovation projects, leading to setting up a Data Enabled Design team in 2017, that I have the honor to lead.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

A: I feel it is a privilege to work in an environment where we get to push the boundaries of what our profession can do. I get to be involved in strategic process while also being very hands on with my team and delivering projects and solutions that impact both the way we do things within our company as well as deliver value to our users.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your role and how did you overcome them?

A: I learned to be more patient, but change in corporate multinational like ours is still slow. I can honestly say that I feel we are on an exciting journey, improving people’s health every day. It does require me to able to take a step back, stick to my story (repeat it), work with a complex stakeholder group and accept that not everyone will be able to make the change.

What potential advancements in technology in the next 10 years are you most excited about and how do you think it will affect peoples’ lives?

A: What I hope to see is that finally we are able to better balance technology advancements and human or societal impact and value. That in the next ten years we ensure that we bring the best, most fascinating technologies into this world in a way that they are augmenting our lives. We have seen so many great technologies, with great applications, have side effects that are to say the least worrisome. So I’m excited to see technology institutes and companies have more interest in the end user and the society at large. In that respect I’m very excited about what current technology can already mean in transforming how we deliver healthcare.

Why have you decided to get involved with European Women in Technology?

A: In all honesty I have never recognized myself in the discussion around diversity and inclusion. And also did not feel the need of joining a network and event like Women in Tech. However I came to realize that others work very hard for inclusion and diversity, and that I can contribute with a very positive story experience as a woman in (health) technology. I’m looking forward to connect, share and learn.

What will you be speaking about at the conference and why have you chosen this topic?

A: Not too long ago I was watching a late night talk show on Dutch TV and the topic was on a prize for Dutch Female Leaders. So there were three power women at the table, CEO of respected large companies or institute, The only thing this interview was about was about the fact they were woman in that position. I get annoyed because I’m interested in what they do. What are their successes and learnings in their respective fields? So I like to show and discuss content. Talk about what we do, why it is challenging or great content wise. I will talk about what I’m trying to achieve with my Data Enabled Design team within our company, health technology and how we set out to improve peoples’ health.

Do you notice a lack of women in tech roles? If so, why do you think this is the case?

A: Let’s make this a little more general. I think tech needs more emphasis on value. What do we bring in terms of value and meaning to our customers, consumers and end users? There needs to be more discussion and action on the human and societal impact. I do not at all want to generalize and say that women per definition will bring this, however diversity is fundamental success criteria to achieve this!

What advice would you give to women who wish to pursue a career in tech?   

A: I think the most important thing is that you do what you like! And second it is handy that you combine that with something you are good at. Don’t be afraid to express both what you like and what you are good at. Dare to challenge the general perception of what a certain role or task should be all about. If you look at the discussion around woman in leadership positions I believe that the discussion should be much more about changing the role description of such roles rather than trying to fit people into it. Often our current idea of these roles were shaped by and for a different, rather specific group of people in a different time period. So it is not about adjusting to expectation, it is about showing (again) value.

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