Mithula is Head of Client Experience and Growth at the Canadian Digital Service, Government of Canada. She is co-presenting a case study at EPIC2022 titled “How a Government Organization Evolved to Embrace Ethnographic Methods for Service (and Team) Resilience”.

Tell us about yourself in one sentence.

In addition to being an adventure-lover and newbie puppy owner, I’m a researcher and designer passionate about establishing teams that make a positive impact on society.

Describe your presentation in less than 10 words.

Lessons on resilience from a government team that embraced ethnography.

Why did you decide to present this topic?

I’ve seen my team grow from a researcher of one to having a mature, dispersed research capability across the organization. As we reflect on the lessons of the pandemic and the heightened awareness on meeting people’s needs, my co-author and I wanted to bring our reflections on our team’s growth, the tensions we faced, and how those tensions ended up serving us, and importantly, allowing us to see more clearly what matters to people accessing government services.

Why did you choose the Case Study format for your presentation?

Case studies allow us to stay grounded in our lived experience while still engaging with the curiosity that research theory offers. In this light, we enjoyed the process of reflecting on what had been done by our teams at the Canadian Digital Service, and the many partners we had the honor of working with across the Government of Canada.

How do you prepare to speak in public?

It gets better with practice! I think a lot about my audience and what impact my message can have for them — is there a feeling I’d like for them to leave with? If they could take away one thing, what would that be? I create a narrative based on such questions.

What was your process for writing the proposal?

A team effort. I am lucky to have a thoughtful, fantastic collaborator in Colin MacArthur. We’ve worked together for several years now, and putting together this proposal was natural and fun. Being in different time zones (myself in Montréal and Colin in Milan) helped keep the work rolling. We drew on our own voices and perspectives while writing the proposal and allowed that dialogue to shape the final product.

Is this your first EPIC conference? What are you looking forward to at EPIC2022?

I’m excited to be back at EPIC with the research community, particularly in-person, as the last EPIC Conference I attended was virtual, and I yearned for the depth of connection, dinner conversations, and coffee walks that sharing physical proximity can offer. EPIC, to me, has always been a special community of researchers who come together to have impactful conversations about our growing field. A genuinely international perspective is not only refreshing but essential to the long-term success of our discipline.

If you could recommend a book/article/podcast to our community, what would you recommend?

I’ve spent the past year immersed in learning French. I’ve found that learning a new language as an adult helped me understand and empathize with others in a totally unique and powerful way. I’m not sure who said it, but I love the quote, “You live a new life for every language you learn.” To that effect, I’d recommend the InnerFrench podcast by Hugo Cotton as they unpack interesting topics outside of the regular grammar-based approach.