Susan Dray: A portrait for Ada Lovelace Day

A few months ago I made a pledge to participate in Ada Lovelace Day . This project asks bloggers to dedicate March 24 to blogging about women who excel in technology, to help provide girls and young women with role models in a variety of technological fields. I honor Ada Lovelace Day today by writing about Susan Dray.

Dr. Susan Dray is an international consultant on human-computer interaction design and usability. She has contributed tremendously to the profession of human-computer interaction throughout her 30-year career in the field, beginning with managing a human factors department and then pioneering the development of usability labs in corporations outside the computing industry. In recent years she has been instrumental in spreading the use of cross-cultural and ethnographic user research throughout the developing world. She works tirelessly to facilitate the appropriate design and use of technology in cultures where it can make a profound difference in their lives.

Susan Dray really does it bright. Although I have been in the field just a few years less than she has, Susan has been a role model for me — not only as a professional, but also as a human being. She inspires me to reach beyond what I already know I can do, to stretch myself, and to care even more deeply about how my work helps improve people’s lives.

I met Susan in 1983, during my first time at a conference of the Human Factors Society (now called the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society ). She was co-leading a workshop on how to deal with being the only human factors person on a project, and as someone new to the field, not only did I find her knowledge and experience enlightening, but her energy and warmth encouraged me to persist with it; and I went on to get a second master’s, in a discipline related to the field. Our paths have crossed frequently over the years, and right now we are working more closely together than ever, co-chairing the User Experience Community at next month’s CHI 2009 , the annual conference of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer and Human Interaction. The last time I saw Susan, at CHI 2008, she had just finished leading a workshop on “HCI for Community and International Development” and was handing out pairs of socks left over from the workshop.


Yep, socks. Socks with hearts on them.

“Anyone can wear their heart on their sleeve,” Susan explained. “But to make a real difference, to go in the right direction, we have to wear them on our feet as well.”

I took the purple ones.

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  1. Posted 24 March 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Awesome. My (considerably less informed) post is up at the chaliceblog.

  2. Posted 24 March 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Well, of course mine is more well informed — I’m in the field!

    I share your pleasure that we’ve both written about someone that no one else has mentioned. Raising awareness is all!

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