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A day in the life of… Felicity Heathcote-Márcz, cyborg ethnographer

Felicity Heathcote-Márcz is a senior consultant and cyborg ethnographer in the Intelligent Mobility (iM) practice, where she brings a brand-new research methodology into the fast-changing world of transport solutions and mobilities of the future. Felicity works on a variety of projects to understand socio-technical systems and provides insight on how user groups interact with technologies. Her work also involves an analysis of cultural and social impacts of new technologies and innovation. Curious about what this boils down to in practice? We asked Felicity what her average day looks like.

My alarm goes off…

 And Spanish guitar classic Bamboleo heralds in another glorious day (every day that begins with Bamboleo must be glorious). If today is one of my travelling days, I’ll be awake bright and early to catch a train – usually to London for meetings at Euston Tower. Otherwise I catch the metro to begin my day at the Exchange office in Manchester city centre. I usually work from home once or twice a week too – putting green mobility solutions into practice and keeping my cat company.

I’m responsible for…

Cyborgs and ethnography at Atkins! What that really means is I specialise in the immersive study (through participant observation and ethnographic interviews) of how people interact with technology and the world around them – taking account of culture, context and history as important dynamics that drive behaviours and outcomes. I’m getting acquainted with a variety of projects that the iM team is involved in, offering an ethnographic approach to research and contributing ethnographic solutions in new bids across the business too. 

I got the job…

This is an interesting one. Back in March this year, I was completing a PhD at Manchester Business School when I went to an event run by Atkins and a member of the iM practice showed an interest in my work on cyborgs in the financial sector. I was then contacted by a recruiter from Atkins and soon had an interview lined up. I couldn’t turn down such an interesting opportunity to join this new and exciting iM team and area!

My typical day…

Involves a fair bit of writing – contributing text to bids on what USP and value cyborg ethnography can bring to clients, presentations for workshops or conferences, or educational/thought leadership pieces for internal or external publication. I joined the iM team in September and in just this short time I am starting to see more and more opportunities in the pipeline where immersive methods to understand behaviours and cultural factors can support integrated ticketing, Mobility as a Service and Connected and Autonomous Vehicle solutions.

My most memorable career moment…

In terms of my as yet short-lived iM career, speaking at the Smarter Travel Live conference on the future of mobility as part of an expert panel was thrilling. It was an excellent opportunity to garner some feedback on the big issues facing the transport sector for the future, and to meet some of our partners and clients.

 The worst part of my job is…

I suppose I haven’t found out yet as I’m still a newbie! My role with Atkins suits me very well, as I’m able to keep some of the autonomy and intellectual pursuits I enjoyed in academia (writing articles and speaking at conferences) along with providing a grounded contribution to commercial projects. As ethnography is traditionally a long-term methodology, it will be challenging to provide this rich data in the short bursts of time required for tight project budgets – but certainly do-able.

The best part of my job is…

So far the team I have been working with in iM have made starting a new role in a new organisation very easy and enjoyable for me. My experience so far shows me that we have many absolutely excellent people across the business and I’m looking forward to meeting and collaborating with them more as I become more known and embedded in the business.

After work I…

Apart from making sure my cat is content, I love to read (though am still to master my target of one book per week!) and am a Radio 4 addict. But just to down play the impression that I’m 100 years old, I also really enjoy getting out with friends/family for a meal or drinks at least once a week. Watching art house movies and exploring the wild and wonderful city of Manchester also make my favourite activities list.

If I wasn’t a cyborg ethnographer at Atkins, I’d be a…

Cyborg ethnographer somewhere else! Probably back doing long-term academic projects bringing anthropology to the understanding of organisations, or freelancing. If I had to choose a completely new career though, I’ve always wondered what life would be like away from a desk as a farmer… Bamboleo would definitely be needed for those early mornings I think.