How Computer Science helps make work more ‘Playfilled’

Business colleagues having fun at work, woman laughing


Can work be more fun? Pauline McNulty, co-founder of Playfilled, shares how her background in computer science helped when developing the platform and how a sense of play can help make work more productive, meaningful and fun.

Pauline studied computer science at university before building a career in the City in audit and risk.

Computer Science

She then left having been inspired by a Harvard Business Review piece on play at work to start Playfilled which aims to bring the principles of play into the world of work. It is a platform used by Big Four accountancy firms, global tech companies and major banks and users report an uplift of up to 20% in mood and energy after just one 12 minute session.

I never wanted to go to university.

I wanted to enter the world of work as soon as possible. However, because I had ambitions to be a leader in the City from my teens, the quickest and most certain route available at the time was to have a degree. Thankfully things are now showing signs of changing and more options are opening up with non-traditional career paths.

My choice of CompSci as a degree was inspired by my Dad who was a Computer Engineer and entrepreneur. He had a challenging upbringing and left school with no qualifications before successfully paving his own way in life. Not only was he an inspiring role model, he was a pioneer in instilling in me the belief that I could code – and do anything that I put my mind to. So it didn’t matter to me that I was one of two girls in my year. 

Ultimately I wanted to run my own business, so it made sense after uni to learn how the numbers worked too and I trained as an accountant. I also sensed that being a conduit between the IT and “the business” would put me in good stead. Turns out this was right; in every role I had it was a solid foundation that set me apart.  And today, we see these lines are more and more blurred, so it’s gone from a nice “extra” to a fundamental skill set for future leaders at all levels.  

Computer Science

Fast forward to my mid-thirties and I’m the Chief Risk Officer of a $5bn insurance company. I’ve achieved what I dreamed of on paper, but something wasn’t working underneath the surface. Late one night in the office, I stumbled across an article about why we go to work. It framed our intrinsic motivators in a way that I hadn’t seen before:

  • Potential, where a role will take us; the classic story of why we go to work
  • Purpose, the impact we have; which corporates were increasingly engaging in
  • Play, the enjoyment of the work itself; the spark that ignited my change of path

Given my CompSci brain, I immediately saw the possibilities for data and insights about what play is for each person. And how we could harness these to design better work spaces, problem-solving sessions, cultures and work allocation processes. When we think of play at work, our minds might jump to Google slides and playful innovation sessions. But for me, the most powerful example is a coder or actuary quietly losing track of time solving problems; something they deeply love and get all the benefits of play from.  

So after working up the courage, I left corporate life at the end of 2019 and teamed up with my co-founder Tzuki to explore the question of “how might we bring the incredible benefits of play to the corporate world, in a way that is meaningful and helps deliver results?”. This is where my CompSci degree really came into its own. Its helped me:

  • Design the logic for various prototypes and MVPs – I might not be writing the code these days, but I have a solid understanding of what it entails
  • Develop no-code prototypes to test the functionality and UX 
  • Confidently work with experts to build out our technical vision 

After several years of the test-learn-iterate loop-the-loop, we’re now launching our global Wonder Dates Club platform that helps people be happy high performers with 12-min creative speed networking on-demand. Since we started Playfilled, the technical landscape has seen a seismic shift in AI capabilities. I’d never claim to be an expert inside this black box. But that doesn’t matter to me. I’m more excited about unlocking the possibilities and have the confidence from CompSci to join the dots with the right team around me. 

My go-to when seeking courage to pursue my audacious career and life ambitions is:

“You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.” – Michael Dell

CompSci enabled me to easily develop frameworks and have the confidence that – with a lot of help from my deep-expert friends – I can make all of my big dreams a reality. And we urgently need so many more girls and women to create frameworks and dreams so technology empowers us all, not just a few.


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