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March 24, 2023
Erin and JH relive the wonderfully thought-provoking and inspiring moments of YouX 2023 and muse on some of their favorite takeaways.
YouX 2023 is a wrap! No big deal, just us and 3500 other UX-obsessed friends. The half-day virtual event featured breakout sessions and presentations conducted by some of the brightest minds in UX, who covered a number of topics from personal wellness and professional growth to work-life balance and community.
We’d like to thank everyone who attended the event, especially our guest speakers, panelists, and moderators. It was a truly extraordinary YouXperience for everyone. Head over to our blog to get a full recap of the 2023 YouX conference and videos of the sessions—we clipped all the awkward silences parts out, so you don’t have to. You can also download a recording of the entire event at the YouX event page.
In this episode, we discuss:
Danny Essner is VP of Marketing at Chameleon, a SaaS platform that allows startups to create personalized and engaging experiences for their users. Danny has held executive marketing positions at Troops (acquired by Salesforce), Sisense, NuORDER by Lightspeed, and MediaMath. He is passionate about using technology to help businesses thrive and is committed to creating opportunities for underrepresented groups in tech.
Paul Derby is a SR. Manager of UX Research at ServiceNow. Paul is also the founder of Paul Derby Coaching, LLC, where he provides 1:1 coaching to UX researchers who want to establish their personal style of leadership. Before starting his own coaching business, Paul worked as a Manager of User Experience Research at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative for five and a half years. Paul holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology with a focus on Human Factors from Texas Tech University.
Devin Harold is Director of UX Research at Capital One, where he leads a team focused on design and research for Capital One's Financial Services in New York. With over ten years of experience in the UX field, he has worked in both agency and in-house settings and has held leadership roles in design and research. Devin is an advocate for human-centered experiences, ethical research, and facilitative leadership. Outside of work, he is passionate about animal welfare, the environment, and human rights.
Erika Spear has ten years of experience in qualitative and mixed-method research design and execution. She is currently a Research Manager at AnswerLab. Erika is also a freelance writer for UX Collective and has presented her original research publicly at ten international and national conferences. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Communication and Media Studies from The University of Kansas and is a member of the Golden Key Honors Society for academic excellence. Erika is passionate about emerging technology research and the insights they can provide to improve people's lives.
Varun M is a Senior UX Researcher at SeatGeek and the Co-Founder of Apple & Banana. He is the author and editor of the Fruitful UX research library and toolkit, which provides a practical library of handbooks, guides, resources, and frameworks to conduct UX research. Varun worked as an Associate Research Manager of Services at Best Buy, and as a Researcher of UX Products at Facebook. He is passionate about creating inclusive, equitable, and empowering products.
Tiffany Eaton is a talented and creative self-employed graphic designer with expertise in logos, cover art, graphic design, children's illustration, and children's book illustration. In addition to her work, Tiffany is passionate about using her skills to support causes that improve the lives of children. She volunteers her time and talent to create designs for nonprofit organizations that work with children. When not working, Tiffany enjoys painting and exploring new art techniques.
Nikki Anderson-Stanier is Founder & Managing Director of User Research Academy, a company that offers coaching, mentoring, and remote courses on UX Research. Nikki is also the author of Dealing with Burnout as a User Researcher and Research Practice: Perspectives from UX Researchers in a Changing Field. She has spoken at events worldwide, including UXCon Vienna and SparkSummit 2021. Nikki is passionate about helping others and is an avid fan of Pokémon.
Fredrick Royster is an accomplished educator and UX/Web/Graphic Designer with over twenty years of experience in web design and front-end development. He has experience in a broad range of industries, with expertise in finance, educational toys, multimedia, e-commerce, and the nonprofit sector. Fredrick is passionate about causes related to special needs education and advocacy for adult ADHD.
Dr. Christelle Ngnoumen is Principal User Experience Designer at Headspace Health, where she leads internal and external research programs dedicated to the design of Headspace's evidence-based digital interventions. She is a behavioral scientist and user researcher with over ten years of experience in analyzing human decision-making and behavior. As a mentor, she is dedicated to helping people align attention with their intentions to deliver empowering experiences.
Kate Kalcevich is Head of Accessibility and Innovation at Fable, a platform for people of all abilities, where she works on democratizing design and accessibility. Prior to her work at Fable, Kate held senior positions at Canada Post, the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, and Ontario Digital Service. When she's not busy teaching and speaking at events such as UXCon Vienna and UXInsight Festival, she advocates for the rights of people with disabilities.
Frederick - 00:00:03: We're not computers, right? We're not CPUs. We don't have the same output every single day. So some days you're going to be more productive than others. Right? And like just kicking yourself, like, "I didn't do enough today. I didn't do enough." Like Nikki said, be kind to yourself, and give yourself some grace.
Erin - 00:00:21: This is Erin May.
JH - 00:00:23: I'm John-Henry Forster. This is Awkward Silences.
Erin - 00:00:28: Silences.
Erin - 00:00:35: Hello everybody, and welcome back to Awkward Silences. Here today with just JH. How's it going, Just JH?
JH - 00:00:43: Hey, what's up? Yeah, special episode. We don't do this very often.
Erin - 00:00:46: Today we are chatting about YouX. That's Y o u X, which was our first annual event dedicated to you.
JH - 00:00:55: YouX, I think, is also, I guess I'll hype you up since your team put it on, but everything I've seen about the event has been incredibly positive. Lots of cool shoutouts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media. So it seems like it was one of those things that was really impactful for folks, and people are able to take a lot of actionable stuff away from it, which is great to see. So nice job.
Erin - 00:01:15: Thanks. Yeah, it was fun. We knew we wanted to do our first big event this year, and we've been a remote company from the start, so doing remote felt sort of on-brand but also practical in a way to kind of dabble into this big event thing. And yeah, we're really pleased with the response. The number of people who signed up and joined in, and especially the engagement throughout the day was pretty amazing. We did this in a super, like, MVP, V1 way. We ran everything through Zoom. We didn't have our event manager here yet, so it was just like all hands on deck. There's something kind of winning about that, I think, where the low-fi approach kind of wins sometimes, so that was a lot of fun.
JH - 00:01:55: Yeah, for sure. And obviously a lot of credit to the guests and the speakers who were there throughout the day. So today, I think, right with the episode we want to do is a little bit of like a supercut or highlight reel of some of those sessions since it's a lot of content to process. And we thought it might be helpful for people to get a sense of what all the different sessions were about and what people touched on. And then if people are interested, they can go dig in and watch the whole talk.
Erin - 00:02:19: Yeah, for sure. So you can go to - maybe we'll share this link later - userinterviews.com/youx, should get you where you want to go. You can also check out our blog for lots of video clips there. But basically what we had throughout the day was we had some breakout sessions and then we had two panels and two keynotes. So we're going to share some clips from all of that, but it also gives us an opportunity to just kind of dabble into some topics that we love to chat about here on Awkward Silences. So where should we start, JH?
JH - 00:02:50: Let's start with the 'Interviewing with Confidence' talk. I think that lines up well with what we do and some of our past guests, so that would be a fun one to riff on.
Erin - 00:02:57: Let's do it.
Danny - 00:02:59: The first is what I call awkward pauses. So you're having a conversation back and forth and you don't know what to ask next, or the person you're interviewing takes a while to answer and suddenly we get nervous. Is the conversation not going well? Did I ask the wrong question? Did I ask a silly question? Don't be afraid of awkward pauses. Sometimes pauses are a good thing. People need time to think and carefully calibrate their answers. Let the silence fill the interview. It's okay for the person you’re interviewing not to respond right away, and don't feel like you need to jump in and follow up your question with another question right away, or to clarify your question. Let the pause, the silence hang for a few seconds, and then keep going. So leverage pauses. Don't be afraid of them, and certainly don't let them affect your confidence. Use the right setup. I think this one is really important, especially in a world where we are conducting more of our research through mediums like this, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or Slack Connect. Having the right technology to help us do our interviewing process is really important. So one example is around note-taking. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the interview that it's hard to jot down all the notes and all the insights you're getting from the interview. Technology now allows us not to have to write down anything. We can use recorders and transcribers. Sites like Otter allow us to do real-time transcription where we can focus on the conversation and really go back and forth with the people we're interviewing and let the recording record, let the transcription transcribe. And then we'll be able to go back afterward and have the notes we need to understand what we covered in the conversation and what the learnings were.
Q&A - 00:04:46 We asked a similar question starting first time role as a UX researcher at an agency with a high-paying client. Feeling strong imposter syndrome. As I'll be the sole UX researcher on a cross-functional team. Best steps to combat this.
Danny - 00:05:03: I think the first thing to remember is that your company has confidence in you, right? They have hired you because they know that you can do the job. They are comfortable putting you in front of this high-paying client because they believe that you are the right person for this client engagement. And so build on that confidence that they have in you to build confidence in yourself that you not only belong there, but you are going to kick butt doing the job.
Erin - 00:05:30: Yeah, to kick us off. So we had Danny Essner who is the VP of Marketing at Chameleon. And the idea of this talk was how do you interview with confidence, maybe even when you weren't feeling super confident, which was really about interviewing participants for a user interview kind of setting, but also in this market translated nicely to folks interviewing for jobs and all sorts of kind of related scenarios. And he talks about one of our favorite topics which was awkward silences.
JH - 00:05:59: Yeah, I was glad to see that one on the list. I guess not surprised to see it there, but always a good reminder. Maybe less helpful in a job interview, but certainly in a research interview, silence is your friend and so giving people space to reply and expand on their thoughts, it just seems silly on this podcast but it is really a foundational thing, and doing good interviews. So I love that shout-out. I also like the emphasis that they put on around, just like making sure that you have your setup dialed in and taking advantage of what technology enables. So if you're doing the session solo and you don't have a note taker, it can be really hard to be present and be a good listener and facilitator while trying to take notes, arguably maybe impossible. And so making sure that you have a good routine for transcripts or recordings or making timestamps and things like that. So you can go back and take away all the lessons and learnings after the fact, but you can be present for the session, which I thought was a really nice call out.
Erin - 00:06:51: Yeah, for sure. And someone had asked about how do you fake it till you make it. How do you exude confidence when you're not feeling it? Which I think is something everyone can relate to at some point in their lives. And so one of the tips there is really just to believe in other people's confidence in you, which I think can really be great fuel if you're not believing the gospel yourself just yet or in any given scenario.
JH - 00:07:15: Yeah, I actually remember helping somebody transition into product management a number of years ago, and they had a little bit of imposter syndrome going on. And having conversations with them, I said something very similar, like, "Hey, I wouldn't have approved this transition and put you on the team if I didn't think you could do this. So I believe in you." Full stop. That stuff is really helpful. So I like that frame as well. Play some clips here.
Erin - 00:07:36: Let's listen to some clips and we'll be right back.
Paul - 00:07:38: There is oftentimes an equal power dynamic. This is your partner, this is like your accountability partner. And with a mentor, you are oftentimes seeking someone who could be more experienced, could have these specific experiences, it could be more time spent in a career. They have something that you want to gain. When it comes to problem-solving, I think the primary role of a coach is to support someone in being able to solve their own problems and not necessarily providing advice or engaging in problem-solving. And with mentorship, there may be more of a focus on a mentee who is trying to learn how to do something, learn how to solve a particular problem. And that mentor may be providing lessons from their own lives and their own careers may be providing specific advice or specific direction on how to solve that problem.
Devin - 00:08:31: The mentee should be in control of their growth and the things that they want to learn and lead into. It is different than that of maybe a coach, like we shared earlier, that may provide you specific guidance and structure to get you from point A to point B. And so with that being said, because it's about the mentee's growth, the sort of focus is shifted to making sure that they're in the limelight for the sessions. The mentor is there to guide and support where they need guidance and support. And so I would recommend, as a mentee, you always have an agenda for your mentor at every meeting that you have. And try not to have a laundry checklist of things that you're looking to accomplish because what you'll end up getting, unfortunately, it's more shallow feedback to go through your checklist, but maybe not the meaningful deep feedback that you need in order to make progress. Progression itself indicates hierarchy and linearity, but progression is really looking back on where you were and feeling like you've accomplished something, that you've learned something new, and that you're growing as an individual or as a professional. And so for me, I think that one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was when I decided to come into research from being in design for over six years. And one of my good friends, Autumn Schultz, she happens to be here, she raised her hand and said, "Careers are not linear, period."
Erin - 00:09:57: Yeah. And so then we went into, we had a panel. We had two panels. Both of them were excellent. I know sometimes panels can be a little boring, but these were lit panels. All right? So first one was, "Will you be my mentor?" kind of getting into what's become a pretty hot topic recently, I've found, which is sort of what's a coach, what's a mentor, what's a shrink? Like, who do you need in your kind of team, in your corner to help you level up in your career, maybe outside of folks you work with, sometimes directly. So we got into that. We had Paul Derby from ServiceNow, Devin Harold from Capital One, Dr. Erika Spear from Answer Lab, and Varun Marugeson from Apple and Banana all jumping into that panel.
JH - 00:10:42: Yeah, I loved how they were able to concisely cover the difference between coaching and mentoring because I think that's something people get tripped up on. But just in a coaching relationship, it's kind of an equal power dynamic. They're there to help you and really trying to help you figure out how to solve the problem yourself and give you that external acknowledgment or framework or things like that. Whereas a mentor is somebody who is a bit ahead of you on experience or in their career and has maybe gone through some of the types of things that you're navigating now and therefore can be a little bit more specific with their recommendations or advice or even help you co-problem solve something. So it can be a little bit more directive at times. And I thought that was a really helpful overview.
Erin - 00:11:19: Yeah. And also some really just good tactical tips on how to work with folks. Like for example, when you're working with a mentor or a coach, kind of showing up with a small list of things you want to get into, right? Almost like if you're doing an interview, having some research questions or learning objectives, like what am I trying to discover about myself or about this problem in this session? So you can kind of give it some direction and not wander aimlessly. So that's another good tip.
JH - 00:11:48: Yeah. Big fan of coming in with a specific agenda and making sure that you're going deep where they can be most helpful with their expertise versus just kind of doing a scattershot random check-in. I thought that was great, and then I really liked the piece too about just the fact that your progress and your career path out is not going to be linear and there's a trap that you fall into believing that that's going to be how it goes. But it's more about kind of taking a moment to look back on where you were some time period ago and realizing how much you've grown since then. There was a really good talk when I was at the UX Y’all Conference in Raleigh North Carolina last year where one of the keynotes was about this and the person had drawn all these different graphs of the types of different careers you can have and all of them were weird shapes. There was not one that was just a line that went straight up to the right, and so I think that's a really important thing to remember as well.
Erin - 00:12:33: Yeah, absolutely. Great. Well, here's some clips.
Frederick - 00:12:36: There's this quote I heard that I really like. We're not computers, right? We're not CPUs. We don't have the same output every single day because some days you're going to be more productive than others, right? And just kicking yourself like, "I didn't do enough today, I didn't do enough today, I didn't do X, Y," I think that can be really debilitating. Like Nicki said, be giving yourself some grace.
Nikki - 00:12:59: So for me, I get very stressed about work and whenever I get stressed and concerned and anxious about work, I will not be nearly as nice as I normally am to the people around me. My poor husband and I both work from home, so he knows this very well. But something that I would recommend when it comes to feeling like maybe imposter syndrome is triggering you in a way that's kind of making you feel like spilling over into your more personal life or outside of work is sitting down and kind of trying to identify why that's happening, right?
Tiffany - 00:13:37: I've definitely had instances where I am just not happy, but then I just end up lashing out at my partner, even though I could just be like, hey, I need some time to myself and just process everything. And usually, once I've cooled down, then I can have more of a conversation with people. So definitely it's okay. In certain situations, like if I feel triggered, I just take a few deep breaths and just try to maybe give myself time to disconnect from the situation a little bit before coming back and then maybe talking a little more with the other person.
Frederick - 00:14:13: So across all design disciplines, only 3% of designers are black or African Americans. So I've constantly worked in all white spaces, majority white spaces, for more than 20 years. And there's always that kind of feeling of like we're talking about advocating for the user or something like that. Sometimes you can tell when products, like, there was not a black person in the room when someone was making a decision.
Erin - 00:14:42: And then we went into our second of two panels, also a great one: Imposter Syndrome. I was sitting with my husband the other night, who was reading The New Yorker as you do, and he was like, "Imposter Syndrome is about the woman who the psychiatrist who sort of coined this term," and I said, "Oh, yes, yes, I've heard about this. This is a very hot topic in LinkedIn work circles in general and super relevant. Folks had a lot to say and jump in on here." And as much as it's a hot topic we've talked about, I think it's still something people are struggling with and having lots of questions and thoughts about. So this one was really good. We had Tiffany Eaton from Google, Nikki Anderson Sr. from User Research Academy, and Frederick Royster moderating as well. So that was a great one.
JH - 00:15:29: Yeah, somebody had a comment in there about, you know, how we're not, you know, we're not computers, we're humans, and so we have emotions, and we're not always perfectly rational. And your emotions around a negative thing can really overshadow lots of other positive things just because of how you perceive that and finding ways to kind of recenter yourself or keep track of that perspective so that you can go back and look at all of the other wins and positive experience and good moments you've had and kind of balance the ledger on how you're thinking about it and not letting that one maybe negative blip that occurred somewhere along the line kind of shadow over everything. So I think that's really good. I know it's kind of coming off review season. One thing I've heard people recommend is kind of keeping like a brag file for yourself of hey, I achieved this thing or I did this or somebody shared this nice comment with me, you know, having those things available so you can kind of go back for your own self-review. But also I think in moments like this have a kind of objective reference of being like, oh, actually I'm doing a pretty good job. I'm not going to let that one little thing rattle me too much.
Erin - 00:16:25: Yeah, for sure. There was also a tip about sort of thinking about what triggers it or where is it coming from because I think, again, it's a spectrum and everyone can sort of suffer. This sometimes tends to show up a lot in women and minorities, in particular, for probably obvious reasons. But a lot of that has to do with comparing yourself, right? And back to review season, certain situations can really put you in a comparative, competitive kind of mindset. But ultimately, when it comes to user research, it's really trying to uncover useful information to help the business move forward. So things like an abundance mindset can be really helpful there in limiting that imposter syndrome, those feelings.
JH - 00:17:06: Yeah, I like that prompt to do that reflection and try to figure out the actual source of what's maybe bothering you, versus just kind of taking it on the surface level, which makes sense. And then I thought there's also some really important stuff in there about not letting it spill over and affect the rest of your life. People kind of called out that sometimes when you're having some negative thoughts or dealing with some imposter syndrome, that can cause stress, and you can be maybe a little bit less patient or nice than you otherwise would be, and that can start to affect personal relationships. So just kind of identifying those triggers, having some methods to cool down or give yourself some space to kind of disconnect, and then come back to that from a place where you're a little bit more grounded, I thought also really good advice. So again, don't let something that is happening to you and your experiencing become larger than it needs to be and create some other ill effect, right.
Erin - 00:17:52: Which is sort of antithetical to the growth mindset. Right. You are not your behavior, so you are over time, all of your behaviors added up. But we all fill lots of roles in our lives. All right, let's hear some clips.
JH - 00:18:04: Yeah, do it.
Dr. Christelle - 00:18:06: Research and the research process. A lot of that is all about asking questions, right? Doing each of those through a different lens. It's also about critically assessing new information as it becomes available to us and then doing so while trying to control four sources of error and controlling for bias. While stress interferes with that process, it interferes with the brain's ability to do things like process new information, to plan ahead, to problem solve. The stress brain, you know, resorts to a much more narrow way of thinking, which is a much more biased and error-prone way of thinking. It's less capable of navigating ambiguity. It's much more reactive to feedback, less flexible. So, in a way, the stressed brain not only hinders us from being able to do what we need to do for the work that we do, but it also prevents us from doing the things that we're actually best at doing. You can attend to the narrative, right? And importantly, you can always flip the script. So there's a lot of power in language, which I think many of us know, but the language we use to describe our experiences is powerful, and we should be careful of that narrative and of the labels we use, particularly to describe ourselves, but even to describe the experiences that we're observing. Our identities, our experiences, they have a way of crystallizing around the terms we give them. For example, if I say, "I am sad," or "I am stressed," then my identity becomes fused with that expression. I become the sadness, I become the stress. Instead, if I say, "I am experiencing a moment of stress," or "I am experiencing a moment that lacks happiness," it creates a little bit more space between myself and, say, the emotion. And then it makes it easier for me to be a person that's experiencing sadness passing through me and then passing through time. It's much more transient, approaching the situation in a way where one is not defined by the reactions that they're having to them. So I think I alluded to this earlier when I was talking about kind of attending to how we even think about the narratives that are going through our minds or the labels that we use to define ourselves. But when I think about the context of, say, layoffs, the first thing that comes to mind is even like identities. So I was mindful when talking about research. When I think about research or researchers, I'm actually thinking about that in the broader sense, not just in the sense of professions. So we're all researchers, in a sense, regardless of whether we are professionally researchers tied to a particular company within a particular role, right? As humans, we naturally are information gatherers, information speakers. So by that definition, we are all researchers. And I think it's important when starting to cultivate a much more mindful approach where one sort of expands beyond their role. It allows them to have sort of a bit of that separation where they're not defined by a particular role, defined by a particular situation. It allows them a little bit more space where ideally, events won't be as impactful.
Erin - 00:21:30: All right, we've got two more for you. Our first keynote of the day was on Wellness and UX from Dr. Crystal Newman, and this was a really great, sort of minimalist keynote where each section was kind of a statement that she asked us to reflect on in a very soothing way. I found it, you know, to be a very soothing keynote. So some of them I thought were really interesting. One was about stress as being a big bias generator, which was a little bit of an AHA for me. When you kind of got your brain pumping full of cortisol, like, are you really having neutral, objective judgment? And when you put it that way, of course, you aren't. But I don't think we always think of stress as being a biased generator. But when you really pause to think about it, certainly probably is one in a lot of our lives at work a lot of the time.
JH - 00:22:24: Yeah, I think they might have described it as kind of like a narrowing, right? It's kind of like almost like some fight or flight type stuff. Fight or flight. I don't know if I said that right, but you're not going to be doing your best problem-solving or creative work when you're in that kind of state. And so being able to identify it and find ways to get yourself out of that is really important, I think, for knowledge work in particular. There was a recommendation in there as well around just being really thoughtful and intentional with the language you use and just how powerful the way you describe things is, both in terms of your identity and how you think of experiences. I think the example was something around if you say "I'm sad," it feels like it's a thing core to you versus just like, "I'm experiencing some sadness," or those types of examples are really powerful. I think that book Atomic Habits by James Clear gets into some of that. I know, like, people who are trying to quit smoking, I think is his example of saying, like, "oh, I'm trying to quit" is very different than saying, like, "I don't smoke." You know what I mean? It's just like because you're owning the identity in that other one. And so I really like the ideas of being really thoughtful with your language and self-talk.
Erin - 00:23:21: Yeah, wait, which one's better, "I don't smoke" or "I'm trying to quit?"
JH - 00:23:25: I think saying "I'm not a smoker" is better than saying you haven't done it yet, versus just my identity. "I'm not a smoker." Right. I've changed how I view myself.
Erin - 00:23:34: Right? Yeah. Cool. Anything else jump out to you in this one? Let's see. One was about someone asked about how to apply some sort of mindfulness practices if you're going through a layoff, which unfortunately we know lots of people are these days. So kind of related to what you were saying was just like, you are not your job. Your job is something you do, and it might even be a big part of your identity, but not to let it be your entire identity when that's kind of taken away from you. And like B, you can remain a researcher even when you are not in a researcher, right? And not letting those skills and interests atrophy even as your nine to five changes. So being mindful about where you focus your mind and focus your energy, letting.
JH - 00:24:18: Yeah, I love there's a saying. I think, "Pay attention to what you pay attention to." Whatever. It's a little bit of that as well. This one, I think it just had a lot of nuance. So we'll obviously play some clips here, but you should listen, you should go watch all the talks. But I think this one in particular kind of benefits from seeing it in a holistic way.
Kate - 00:24:32: This is just my opinion, but I think there are types of research you can democratize and other types that maybe it's a little harder to do. And I think generative research is where you really see the skill sets of a researcher come into play, and that's the type of research that I don't think is great for anyone necessarily to do. And I'm absolutely open to debate on this point, but I think when we talk about the difference between generative and evaluative research, I think evaluative is actually the better candidate for this. Over at Miro, this was Eduardo who led the effort to democratize research at Miro. He said conversations with users are already happening regardless of our investment to empower others, and we as expert researchers can facilitate and guide that process. And that was my experience too, that when I was a design lead or UX lead on the design side of things, frontera.ca, people were already doing design. And so if I wasn't facilitating and guiding that process, it was happening regardless. Especially in a large organization, depending on the hierarchy and the controls and checks you have in place, it actually might not even be in your control, people might just be doing it anyway. So you have to really be aware of where your organization is at and if you're just in denial about things that are already happening or not aware of them. Because oftentimes if you have a small research team, they might only be hitting one stage of product development and not the entire span of everything. Because when you have limited resources, where do you put the attention? Do you do it early? Do you do generative research to help inform product development? Do you do prototype reviews to help inform design? Do you do evaluative testing once people start building things? Do you do QA once the entire product is ready to launch? Do you do it after the fact when things are live to monitor AB testing and all those good things to continuously improve your product? If you only have a small team of researchers, how are they going to do all of that, right? That to me is the ultimate challenge where decentralization or democratization can help distribute research along the entire product lifecycle, position the researchers as experts and coaches, and they are there to guide others. There are parts of the research cycle that are more impactful and require specialized attention, and you put the research focus on that and also being coaches and trainers for everybody else.
Erin - 00:27:12: And then we had a second keynote. This one was on Research for All, which is sort of a double entendre: research for all in the sense of democratization but also in the sense of accessibility. So this was with Kate Kalcevich from Fable. And Fable, if you don't know, is an accessibility platform, good friend of User Interviews, and they do really great and important work. Which jumped out to you in this one, I think.
JH - 00:27:39: I really liked the hot take that if you're going to have non-researchers doing research, it's probably better to focus them on evaluative methods. They're a little bit closer to some of their, maybe, specific design problems that a designer or product manager is working through and maybe a little bit more structured in the technique or the methodology in terms of how you're going to go do that usability prompt or something like that. And then to take that generative research is an approach that really benefits from the user researcher's skill and craft and knowing how to do that really well, to probe and take that conversation where it needs to go. So I actually don't think I've heard that many times before, but once I heard it, I sort of agreed with it pretty quickly. I think that there is something there that tracks to me. I like a good hot take, and I thought that one was interesting.
Erin - 00:28:17: Yeah, for sure. And she also mentioned something we've heard a lot, but basically that for anyone out there who's still trying to keep democratization from happening, that's sort of a lost cause, losing battle where it's going to happen, it's happening, and it's really about how you approach it. And I think because that's sort of where the dialogue seems to have shifted, there's now a lot of really useful conversation on what do you do about it, and I think there are some really healthy debates and tests happening live in the market on how to do this well. I mean, obviously, that's going to look different for different kinds of organizations, but what some folks seem to kind of share in terms of how to do this well would be: A) it's happening, you got to let it happen, and B) you've got to put guardrails around the research. So maybe in your organization that's setting people up with templates for evaluative research or recruiting criteria, making sure they're being compliant and incentivizing the right way and things like that, and then setting up those systems to kind of run with less input from you day to day.
JH - 00:29:24: Yeah, I thought there's a lot of good stuff in here about just kind of working with the system and setting it up to be optimal given the realities of whatever's happening in the organization, versus kind of maybe fighting those currents. Going a little over my depth here, but I know in martial arts, I think the idea behind Jujitsu is that you kind of use the movements of your opponent to your advantage. And I think this is a little bit of that, right? Of like, if you already have people in your organization who are talking to users pretty often, find ways to influence that in a positive way and harness that energy and momentum to get better outputs, than trying to shut it down and centrally control it and stuff. And I think it's just a good mindset. It's not going to work in every case, but thinking about where you can coach and add enablement and guides, and then free yourself up in the research team to do the more impactful strategic work that you're really best positioned to do as a result, I think it's just a nice reframing. Probably not going to work in every case or always lead to the best outcome, but I think you can find a lot of opportunities that way and it's a good reminder.
Erin - 00:30:17: Research Jujitsu. I like that. I think that is also my very limited understanding of Jujitsu.
JH - 00:30:24: Yeah, I don't really know it, so if anyone is listening to this, please.
Erin - 00:30:26: What does ChatGPT say? Certainly, it knows. Awesome. Well, this was fun. We had a blast throwing this event. Thanks so much to all of our presenters and attendees and everyone at User Interviews who made it happen. Seemed to be a lot of interest in doing it again. So I think we'll probably do that.
JH - 00:30:44: Yeah. Nice work to you and your team. And I assume we'll probably end up getting a few of these folks on the podcasts. Go stuff to dig into here. Yeah.
Erin - 00:30:52: All right. To the loop. Thanks for listening to Awkward Silences brought to you by User Interviews.
JH - 00:31:01: Theme music by Fragile Gang.
VP, Growth & Marketing
Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.