Gin AtkinsEducation background:
Bachelor of International Development, La Trobe University; Executive Master of Arts, University of Melbourne; Bachelor of Design (Industrial), Swinburne University (current).

Current/notable positions: 
Management Consultant, Nous Group; multiple education, youth and mental health not-for-profits across Australia and England; currently Design Lead and Experience Designer for a digital product team in a small tech start-up, building a product called Stax that provides better visibility and insight into cloud IT infrastructure.

Career highlight:
What I’m doing now is definitely my career highlight. I’m an Experience Designer, which is a relatively new and amorphous area of design, but I am responsible for ensuring that we design for how people think and feel. It’s about always keeping the human at the end of everything in mind – regardless of whether that contact comes about through a product, service, brand, digital, human or other interaction; whether that person be a customer, user, employee or other. We are mostly doing things for the first time, so we get to own our successes and mistakes, which is interesting, challenging, exciting and rewarding.

What was your first job?
My first two jobs came around the same time. I was a rowing coach and a youth worker, doing both for around 6 years before I moved to London for a stint. I loved both these jobs. They were fun and very fulfilling, and I learned a tonne.

How have the humanities helped you in your career?
For me, philosophy is invaluable – it resonates deeply with the way I think about and experience the world. I’m not great at knowing or remembering content, but when I’m contributing the most it’s usually because I’m able to effectively think through things. Philosophy cultivates a level of rigour, intelligent enquiry, logic and abstraction that means I can decouple principles from content or circumstance; it lets me take in a lot of information and distill what is essential and important. It facilitates fruitful interrogations – pulling apart ideas and testing their substance and form, reframing them to appeal to different audiences, and ensuring they resonate as intended.

I use these skills every single day, whether tackling a design, business or human problem. These skills are only valued more the further I get into my career, so I am very purposeful about continually adding to, refining and evolving them.

Why do you think the humanities matter today?
Because for much of the world, there now is more of everything than there ever has been. More complexity, more content, more access, more noise, more choice. With the internet, more of the world can access more knowledge and rubbish than ever before. Remembering it, collecting it, liking it, viewing it, consuming it – these are trivial tasks. Knowing what to do with it all and exercise good judgement – how to appreciate it, be discerning and know what is good, what is helpful, what is important, what is meaningful, what will solve and inspire; these are the challenges we face.

In an increasingly secular world, the humanities provide a wonderful and critical set of disciplines that look inwards, and draw on the human experience to help us navigate it all. We need this – there are wicked problems and inordinate volumes of drivel out there. We need ways to respond to both.

What are you reading now?
Here’s Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math, by Alex Bellos. I need to befriend maths for work, so am starting with the history and philosophy of maths as a way in (plus lots of In Our Time podcasts). Such a fascinating read so far!

I’m also reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan. I don’t read enough fiction or Australian authors, so ended up here. This is a masterfully written book, I’m really glad I picked it up.

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