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From the University of Brighton to Director at Google

Stuart Green tells us about his journey from a Software Engineering degree to Director of User Experience at one of the world’s most recognisable brands in Google.

The Brighton Effect can take your career down many different paths. It just so happens, that this particular path has led to a senior position at tech mega-giant and one of the world’s well-known names – Google.

We caught up with Stuart Green who tells us about being a mature student at Brighton along with the support he received, to where he is now and his work with Google.

Invaluable support at Brighton

“I attended the University of Brighton as a mature student, juggling full-time work and full-time study. It wasn’t easy and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to everybody! I had my coping mechanisms, and my work and learning contexts were similar, which helped.

During the end of my first year, my mother passed away at the age I am now, 48, which totally devastated my family and the theatre community she was so active in. I found myself moving home to be with my siblings and juggling a third commitment! The University offered me tremendous emotional and practical support, and without their care and attention, things would have unravelled very quickly.”

Other ways the university aided his studies

“After being assigned several chapters and books to read each week, I quickly realised I was unable to keep up. The University of Brighton offered me extra support, and this led to an assessment with an educational psychologist. The outcome of this was a diagnosis of dyslexia.

The University offered me the support I needed to get through my studies, and helped me apply for and gain a hardship fund. I successfully completed my four-year course, gained a promotion at work, and now, twenty years on, have developed techniques that help me balance my dyslexia challenges. I’m able to write and read with much higher accuracy and clarity. I still make the odd mistake, but the confidence I found from getting the support, even at the age of twenty one, was invaluable to me.”

Applying course learnings to real-world scenarios

“Since graduating, I spent the next ten years working in software engineering and product design roles across small and large companies. I found myself using my theoretical knowledge from my course more than I would expect.

Even now, twenty years later, and after moving into a user experience and product design leadership roles, I still reference back and draw from that foundational learning and the inspirational academics. This helps me gain credibility with engineering partners and enables me to take a more strategic and contributing role.”

Role at Google and definition of success

“My role at Google is Director of User Experience, where I help our 4 billion users and customers across the world and thousands of employees internally, access the support and knowledge they need to live better lives at home and work.

In terms of defining career success, it’s very simple. Once I have the basic needs of life covered, such as food, housing, etc. success means finding joy and being challenged. Everybody has different motivation, and therefore success might be measured differently. For me, I need to feel I’m making a difference in people’s lives, enjoying myself and learning something new every day.”

Volunteering and giving back to the university

“I’ve been part of the Computing and Mathematics Industrial Advisory Board for several years. This has given me the opportunity to keep connected with the university’s strategy on course design, school changes and priorities for the future. I have been able to bring industry trends in technology, general ways of working, skill requirements – to help inform the university’s strategy.

I’m an advocate for making academic courses more accessible to people who might not ordinarily consider themselves as academic, and lowering the barrier to entry for students who want a degree with more balance between pure theory and practical application. An example might be the pairing of maths with business analytical skills, so prospective students get a better sense of what careers they could access by taking a specific course.

I have also been invited back to the university to speak with students studying User Experience Design MSc. This came about, because the tutor Richard Griffiths, also taught me during my time on Software Engineering BSc, and actually inspired me to get into Human-Computer Interaction (as it was called then!) in the first place.

I met with the students advising them on project improvements, and also sat in during their end of degree presentations, to challenge them with questions and offer advice. It was an incredible experience, because when I was at university, UX didn’t exist as a discipline in its own right. It was fantastic to see how a single module on a single software engineering degree, could become several degrees in such a short time.”

Advice for the next generation of students

“When balancing our workload, some factors can be controlled, and others influenced, but several things simply won’t budge! Time is one of those things. With enough time (and motivation!), I believe anybody can achieve their goals. From my experience, most challenges at university come from a lack of time management and planning.

Some people prefer to get things done quickly after being given an assignment or task. Others, prefer to leave things to the last minute. Both of these approaches are fine. However…..and this is where most people fall down. There are difficulties with each approach. For example, if I complete a task early, I might fail to think about things deeply or gain a diverse perspective and miss important details or options.

If I rush and leave things to the last moment, I might run out of time when an unplanned event takes up my precious time. It’s important to be self-aware by analysing your past behaviours, talking to people who think or act differently, and identifying pitfalls and benefits of your preferred approach, this will help you to create mechanisms and guardrails and keep you balanced and achieve your best.”

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