Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Remembering the Blister: How What Didn’t Kill Me Made Me Stronger


Cite this article:

2019 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918,

I’m an ethnographer at a major financial institution. My work became a lot more meaningful after my family and I lost our home in a devastating arson attack. In this PechaKucha, I tell the story of how this catastrophic fire loss forced me to reclaim my agency. Today, I channel memories of bereavement and recovery into my quest to improve experiences for customers and in my community. “Knowledge is awareness that fire can burn; wisdom is remembering the blister.” —Leo Tolstoy

Marise Phillips has lent insights and ideation to projects at all stages of the software development lifecycle in her 25-year career. Her specialties are design research, service design, content strategy, and facilitation of participatory design decision-making. In 2011, Marise managed a partnership with Forrester Research to bring service design practitioner training to Wells Fargo—an opportunity which has resulted in hundreds of team members across the enterprise practicing human-centered, collaborative approaches to improving customer experience. Marise holds a bachelors degree in dramatic art with an emphasis on comparative literature from UC Santa Barbara. A standout accomplishment was launching the Oakland Sustainability Jam in 2013, as part of the Global Service Jam series. Since then, she’s continued to facilitate co-creation among family, friends, colleagues, and the communities to which she belongs.