The question: Firstly, do I need to have a background in computing to be a research in human-computer interaction (HCI). Secondly, I need help with getting relevant work experiences which seem to be difficult because I live in a developing country (Nigeria) where there is basically no research in this area.

The story: I have a BSc in Mass Communication and MA in Communication and Media. I discovered this field while on my masters program and have since developed an interest in it. I'm more interested in human-technology (mobile) relationship than designing. I have tried to define my research plan to fall within this area. I intend to research on mobile phone and rural development in Sub-Saharan African countries. I would love to be a researcher and also lecture within this area.

Considering I took some Microsoft professional courses (MCSA & MCSE), I can say that I have some networking/Computing qualification.

I'm wondering if getting a masters (something like a MRES) in HCI will give me added advantage or if what I have is okay because for most job opportunities I see usually request for some one with a computing/HCI background which I don't have. I won't mind interning to get the needed experience because it seems like all the vacancies are requesting experienced people.

My Career Goal: To be a research/lecturer. I hope to be flexible enough to be able to indulge in other business such as running an NGO that is youth and women development inclined.

My Background I am a 26 years old lady with no experience in this field. My education was split between my country (which is developing by the way) and UK. I really hope to do a PhD in a more advanced country and at the same time get some relevant work experience.


1 Answer 1


In HCI, you've set your sights on what I think is a very interesting hybrid field. On the one hand, there is the hard-core technological aspect of creating new approaches to user interfaces, which these days often also involves some extremely sophisticated machine learning and signal processing. On the other hand, there is the human aspect of it, in finding out how people actually interact with their technology and what are the ways that it can make the most difference in human lives, which has a lot more to do with sociological and psychological studies.

From what you've said about your background and ambitions, it sounds like you are more inclined toward the human aspect, which is great. In terms of building your career, I would recommend thinking about what you need to do from the perspective of gaining the skills that you need in order to study the human aspects. A solid grounding in statistics and analysis will definitely important, as well as learning how to design and conduct effective human subject studies. Even if there's no HCI programs in your area, I'm guessing that it is much more likely that there will be programs where you can study some of these others.

For the programming side and for getting involved in the field, you might want to look into AppInventor and Technovation. AppInventor is a programming toolkit intended to lower the barrier of entry for people to develop apps for phones and other Android devices. Technovation is a worldwide program/contest for getting young women involved in software engineering by building their own applications. In fact, I notice that one of this year's finalist teams was from Lagos! You might look to get involved in some fashion, such as coaching a team. It's not something that will make you money, but it might be a good way to pick up experience and connections.

There is probably no easy path, but it sounds like you have good ambitions of a sort that a number of international programs are intended to encourage, if you can only build yourself a solid foundation and find the right connections. Finally, as I am an American who knows a lot more about computer science than developing countries, please take all of my advice with a big grain of salt. I hope that others will be able to speak to your situation more directly as well.

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