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Awkward Silences #77 - Breaking Into User Research – with Eniola Abioye

How to Break Into User Research: Practical Career Advice for Aspiring UXRs– with Eniola Abioye of SVB

Honest and actionable advice from a seasoned researcher on how to start doing UX research, build a portfolio, and make the career switch.

Last week we were joined by Eniola Abioye, Senior UX Design Researcher at Silicon Valley Bank and UX research career coach for a special live episode of Awkward Silences. 

Eniola answered audience questions and shared some of her best tips for crafting a research portfolio that stands out, transitioning from different fields, and why not everyone needs a bootcamp. 

Eniola talked about…

  • Ways to translate your resume into "UX speak"
  • Building a user research portfolio, even if you’re a beginner
  • How to skip the $$$ UX bootcamps
  • Learning to assert yourself, gain confidence, and earn the trust of stakeholders

Watch or listen to the episode

Click the embedded audio player to listen the podcast episode in this blog post. For the full recording, including live Q&A, watch the video below.


[6:16] How to learn more about user research on your own.

[17:17] Tailoring your resume to UX research roles.

[22:38] Building a standout user research portfolio.

[26:40] Eniola’s honest opinions on bootcamps.

[34:14] Q&A: Advice for people switch from psychology to UX research?

[35:47] Q&A: Book recommendation for people switching into UX.

[36:49] Q&A: How to assert yourself and build trust with stakeholders.

[40:17] Q&A: Ageist classifiers in job postings and making the switch as someone already well into their career.

[42:14] Q&A: Transitioning to UX research from an adjacent role.

[44:01] ​​Q&A: What to look for in a UX research bootcamp if you choose to go that route.

[45:05] Q&A: What's the best way to get a job in UX research right now?

[47:52] Q&A: User researcher salaries.

Resources mentioned in the episode

Psst—before you start looking for your next opportunity, prepare for the interview with these common UX research job interview questions and tips for answering them.

About our guest

Eniola Abioye helps UX Researchers improve their research practice. From seasoned researchers looking to level up to new researchers looking to get their bearings, Eniola helps researchers focus their practice. She’s also a Senior UX Design Researcher at Silicon Valley Bank. With a background in biotech, healthcare, fintech, she enjoys holding space for users to have real conversations.

Sign up for a coaching session at:


[00:00:00] Eniola: And so if you work with your end user and try to make sure that their experience makes sense for them. That's user research. Right? So translating that and building a really strong narrative around with the skills that it is that you do is what's going to be most important to get that first job, right. To get that first UX title after you get the first one, the second one's a hell of a lot easier.

[00:00:19] Erin: Hello everybody and welcome back to awkward silences. Today we're here with Eniola Abioye. She's a senior UX design researcher at Silicon valley bank, but also a UX research career coach. She's got a website, which is her name dot com, E N I O L A A B I O Y

And there, you can find an offer for a free consultation. So definitely go check that out. Today we're going to talk about how to break into UX research and you can do that and skip the boot camps if you like. And we're going to talk about, you know, the pros and cons of boot camps and other options to break into UX research.

So Eniola, thank you so much for joining us.

[00:01:22] Eniola: Hi Erin. Yeah, no, I'm happy to be here.

[00:01:24] Erin: We've got JH here too.

[00:01:27] JH: Yeah. We've talked to so many UX researchers who are in the field and they all come from all sorts of different backgrounds and walks. But I don't always know how they all got there. So I'm super curious to hear how you think about it and kind of help and coach people through that.

[00:01:39] Eniola: Absolutely. So I've been a UX researcher for about six years. I studied biology in college and then, you know, like in college I have always been kind of a science nerd and thinking about systems and how to solve puzzles and things like that. And I've also been very much of an extrovert my whole life.

Right after college, my first role was at a user research and market research firm and the biotech space. So I was very much into the therapy areas and the drug mechanisms, but also I gotta do people research and I got to talk to people and it just clicked and, you know, and made sense to kind of merge my loves there.

And so I got into it through kind of through exposure right through that first job, and didn't necessarily know it was a career path in college. And so now I, you know, talk about it all the time, because there are tons of people who love science and love people. And there are more ways to kind of merge those and your job than what I thought when I was in school.

[00:02:33] Erin: So HCI has been around for a while. Right. But it feels like we're really entering. I don't know this kind of first generation of people now that tech is so enmeshed in every aspect of our lives. People that are maybe entering college or leaving college with the idea, they might want to do something like this.

So it feels like a kind of new thing that people are maybe wanting to deliberately set in on that path versus falling into it. So cool time to be in UX research, for sure.

[00:02:59] Eniola: Absolutely. And there are so many different pathways, like, you know, there are the degrees that you see on most UX job postings, like psychology and cultural anthropology and HCI is a big one. Human factors are a big one.

But there's really no one path, you know, and as far as UX in fields, like it's everywhere, right? Like UX research is everywhere and it says it's a discipline in so many different industries and so many different job roles that it's just about honing in on the skills that are transferable and honing in on the experience that you've had.

Because a lot of people don't call it UX but do you add.

[00:03:34] JH: And so since, because there's a lot of different backgrounds that can be successful in this role. Right. And I think you've seen that. I think we've all seen that. How do people go about actually getting some of the relevant experiences? So they get taken seriously for some of these opportunities and stuff, right.

If you're in an organization and you can move laterally, that probably is a little bit more natural. If you're in a different field and you're like, this sounds amazing. I like this. And I think I probably have the skills for it. How do people get some reps? Like how do you figure out if it is for you and how to show future employers that you can do it?

[00:04:00] Eniola: Absolutely. So I would say get as much exposure as you can to this kind of UX theory, right? There's tons and tons out there already. If you search UX research on Google so much will pop up. And you know, LinkedIn learning is a really good area. Coursera has a bunch of classes. YouTube has a bunch of classes to get a sense of, you know, day to day.

Is this something that you're interested in doing? Because obviously I love talking to users and that's not what I do every single day of my job. I do a lot of that, but not every single day. And then I would kind of hone into which part of UX most interests you. Obviously there's design and research.

And for those who are more inclined towards research, there's qualitative, which is why I'm a researcher. And that's what I do. It's quantitative. So folks who are more on the number side you don't necessarily have to like to be extroverted or talk to people a lot to be a UX researcher.

And then there's what we call the mixed methods. So people who are kind of in the middle are likely to employ, you know, methods from both. And so I would just get as much exposure to different methods to see what, where your affinity is.

And then I would get into it, right? There's so many like job titles that are UX researcher, but you don't necessarily have to have that job title to start, right? Or to gain experience.

There are tons of classes you can do. There are research projects that you can do to start to build up your portfolio. You know, I've done smaller projects where I'm asking a bunch of my friends about their experiences moving to a new home or getting a new job, or, you know, kind of like the day-to-day things, how it's been to survive in COVID, you know, all the different realms of that.

So you don't necessarily have to be paid by a company to do UX, to actually like to get into it. Right. And learning those methodologies and kind of flexing that muscle and talking to users who are, you know, we're users our friends are users our families. It's really just to get into it. Cause there's so much that you've learned by doing and by talking to people.

[00:05:52] Erin: Yeah, taking a step back. I imagine we have folks listening who. Are interested in breaking into UX research and already know that maybe we have some folks listening who are UX. I'm hearing about it all the time. Like, why UX? What you know, is this like a growth field? What's it all about? Where is this going? What's my career maybe look like if I get in here?

[00:06:15] Eniola: Well, especially in the past, like five to 10 years, UX has really popped up as a very sexy kind of field to hop into, especially within tech. And that 's, I think it's part of the reason is because companies are really realizing that focusing on building user centered products and focusing on including users in building out the experience of their company or their product is what really sets them apart, right?

And folks are investing so much money into that because it proves itself, it proves its value. And it's a really good return on investment when it comes to how they see their participation and their use of products go up based on, you know, people having an experience that they love. And the best way to get to building those experiences is to ask people.

And so, you know, UX design has been around for a little bit longer and so companies tend to build out their design function more. But companies are really starting to incorporate UX research as a really important function that works in alignment with design and in alignment, with product and data to understand our users and build from there.

[00:07:19] JH: As you're trying to gain that initial understanding and doing kind of your own research on this area and of itself you mentioned all the free resources and all the things you can find online about it, which I agree with like very exhaustive.

Is that gonna cover it well enough? Or is it really helpful for people to try to reach out and connect with somebody actually in the field and maybe have a, you know, a coffee type chat or something like that and like, hear it a little bit more firsthand. Is that like, should that be part of someone's strategy or is that different?

[00:07:43] Eniola: Yeah, like you said, there are really exhaustive resources out there on learning how to do UX, how to analyze data and how to, you know, shape your insights. And I think having some kind of guidance from someone in the field to narrow it down, right.

Or to help, like, just guide you as you're walking through all of the different resources, so you don't get overwhelmed. I think it's really helpful to hear from someone who's in the field, like. What does your day-to-day look like? Because UX looks a little bit different depending on the industry, depending on the company you're in.

So yeah, you're right. I think guidance is really helpful and I think it depends on what kind of learner you are. And I know we'll get into this later, but UX boot camps really help with, if you need the structure and if you need kind of a curriculum, like I just need to show up to this class or this session, and you're going to tell me what it is that I need to know, and you're going to give me bite-size pieces.

If you are more kind of, open to ambiguity and you're fine to kind of organize information and that's how your brain works, then I would absolutely suggest finding the resources online and kind of perusing through and getting your bearings kind of on your own or just with some individual guidance. Because it'll save you a lot of money in the long run.

[00:08:54] Erin: Yeah. Which leads me a little bit to the question too. Like, how much do you need to know to get started or to let's say, have a full-time job doing UX research, whether that's your title or not, because obviously it's a lifelong process learning the craft or it could be, and you're not going to know everything you will ever know when you get started, you know, is a couple of modules in a Coursera course enough, or how do you you know, for someone new with this, when's a good time to maybe go from learning theory to more practice, more making it part of your job?

[00:09:34] Eniola: Yeah, well, I know it's a little bit different than when I started, but I started my first UX job with basically nothing. With just the core tenants of, I really had a really strong affinity towards talking to people and really holding space for people to understand you know, their experiences and kind of allow them to share their stories.

But as far as UX language and, you know, design thinking and human centered design, I started with about nothing. And I'm seeing so many apprenticeships and companies recognizing that junior researchers are really important and growing the research field is super important. And so they're investing into those earlier folks who are starting.

But I see a lot of job postings that are, you know, a year to three years. And it depends on really where the company is at too, because I see a lot of companies who are, you know, they're hiring their first UX researcher, right? So they're expecting a lot of people to come in and tell us what UX is and tell us how to do UX research and how to structure the function.

And it's a tall task. It's a really big ask. And so I don't recommend those kinds of first researchers on a team for people who are just starting out, because they're gonna look to you as the subject matter expert. So I would look more towards established UX teams where they have the resources to invest in you and grow with you, shadow folks and really get your bearings as you're you know, learning UX and getting into the job role.

But it differs everywhere, I think especially because so many of the skills are transferable. If you're working around products or you're doing any type of surveys or asking questions or really like serving people customer services are super close to UX. Things like product and design, because so many people incorporate user research without necessarily having the title, or I'll say good product design, incorporates user research.

Right. You know, even if you're not necessarily the researcher. And a lot of people are using tools online that make it easy, like dscout and like, you know, user testing. And so if you have, you know, familiarity with that, or you're just in general in your workspace, you work with your end user and try to make sure that their experience makes sense for them.

That's user research. Right? So translating that and building a really strong narrative around with the skills that it is that you do is what's going to be most important to get that first job, right. To get that first UX title after you get the first one, the second one's a hell of a lot easier.

[00:11:53] JH: Yeah. Yeah. Totally. There's sentiment from somebody I follow for just like creative work in general Austin Kleon, who will talk about, you know, focus on the verb, not the noun. So like, if you want to be a writer just focused on writing, like, don't worry about how you make yourself a writer. And it, it sounds like you're kind of saying something similar with research of like, if you want to get familiarity and practice with, you know, becoming a researcher, like find ways to do research.

And so it was curious on that part to double down a little bit like you know, obviously you can just come up with anything fictitious of, Hey, this is maybe a problem or pain point. I think people have, and I can ask friends or family and do research there. You can maybe do something for free for a small company that would like a game to like, let you do something.

What if you're going to try to go out and like, do some research to get your hands dirty, like how do you find a project that's going to be good or interesting so that you can go talk about it and take credit for it? Like, what are, you know, what does that consist of?

[00:12:37] Eniola: Yeah. Well, I always recommend to my clients, people will let you volunteer and do some user research for them. Right. Because it's usually something that's really expensive, especially when people don't have in-house researchers. So local organizations that you care about, or things that you volunteer with already ask them what kind of questions they have for the people that they serve and start there.

Right. Because it's going to be those, they're your stakeholders, right? The people who care about your research. And so it's going to be important to them, right? And it's going to teach you a lot. And then as you're building out kind of the deliverables for them, or, you know, sharing basically what you've heard from people that becomes part of your portfolio, and then you continue to build on that and you can start asking bigger questions or different types of questions.

So, yeah, there's no shortage of questions out there to answer that people really care about. Right. If you're choosing something that is kind of, you know, you're not with an organization that you don't have, anyone who has a question, think about the things that you are really passionate about.

Right. So think about the products that you use, what really is a pain about using them and then what you really like, right. Think about your phone or your computer, or, you know, certain applications that you're using. Right. Because, things that a lot of people are using these days, you know, like zoom and like social media and things like that.

There's no shortage of people who would be willing to talk about it. And if, you know, if you're pretty passionate about some of them, like either really good things or really bad things about using something, my bet is that other people are too. Yeah. And you can figure it out and then incentives don't necessarily have to be huge.

Right. They don't have to be gift cards. They can be like, you know, Hey, like come over can I ask you some questions and I'll, you know, make you dinner or I'll, you know, you can get really creative. It's just all about like, yeah. Yeah. That's cute.

[00:14:18] Erin: I can, I imagine a temptation might be to, I dunno critique, like the app, you work for something, right. Like I found all these problems, you know, I could imagine that maybe not going over very well. Right. For a new, and you know, maybe it's like a safer space to find an external kind of side project or something along those lines.

[00:14:37] Eniola: Start low stakes.

[00:14:39] Erin: I know, like right now, and it's early for a lot of companies and later for others, but accessibility, huge topic, very important. And when it comes to UX and UX research, right? One of the barriers potentially to accessibility can be this kind of insider language, right? Or just understanding what people are talking about when they talk about whatever.

Could you help us demystify some of that a little bit, like for people who are new to UX research, what are some of the lingo you know, to, to maybe, give folks a leg up?

[00:15:12] Eniola: Yeah. We should do like a glossary or something, but I totally hear you. Like folks will commonly say, end to end research. Right. And so it's pretty self-explanatory, but they want to know, you know, from the very beginning to like planning and strategizing, what kind of questions you're asking, what kind of methods all the way to the end of the different phases of research of evaluative. So like understanding and then getting into the iterative research, which is essentially you know, I've built a prototype, whether it's lo-fi or mid-fi or I've built a possible experience. Let's get it tested and let's see how people respond to it.

And then that validation phase of understanding, you know, okay people responded to it pretty well. As far as the design, let's get it on a bigger scale and see, you know, if people really like it, or if it works in different user groups or segments, you'll hear a lot, you'll hear stakeholders a lot. And that's essentially the people who care about your research.

Right? So the people that you're working with, alongside, or for. So, in my space, that's usually product folks. That's designers, that's content strategists, that's data engineers, or developers, people who are actually building out the project or the product. What else do you have in mind that you want to demystify in particular?

[00:16:21] Erin: No I know we, you know, we were talking about this episode, we were talking about, you know, how it's important when you want to become part of this or any community, right. To be able to speak the language of the people you're going to be working with. And so yeah. Any tips to help folks be able to fake it till they make it or sound like they know what they're talking about?

Or do you have any pet peeve buzzy words that you don't like or think are overused?

[00:16:46] Eniola: I have pet peeves in general. Yeah, so I saw in the chat ROI, return on investment. That's always huge too. And especially when working with stakeholders who aren't necessarily ingrained in research and don't know kind of how valuable research is, or ideally what the ideal situation of how to run research is.

So calculating there are ways to calculate the return on investment. And, you know, convey that to folks. You'll hear a sample a lot, which is how you know, who you're talking to, the people you're talking to when it comes to things on the resume, understanding what impact you made at a company is super important.

So I always say to folks that your resume should be translated into the language of UX, but also should read your impact on a company rather than what your job description says. Right. And I think it's especially important nowadays because folks who are kind of scanning resumes looking at LinkedIn and reaching out are often recruiters or sourcers.

And so not necessarily actual researchers are always looking. Recruiters and sources and people who are specific to you ex. No, these keywords that they're looking for and know how to kind of recognize experience, but oftentimes not to the degree of seeing a resume and kind of like deciphering what skills you have in what areas you may have done user research in order to do your primary job function.

So it's really important to give them what they're looking for, if that's the case for you. So building that strong narrative and like building a resume, or kind of translating your resume, that makes sense to folks who are looking for it is super important, especially when you don't have that UX researcher title just yet.

[00:18:19] JH: And to build on this, there's actually two questions in here. One from Yasmin and one from Diego that are similar to a question I was going to ask anyway. So I think we're all on the same page here is when you don't have that real world experience yet of being, you know, in a proper UXR role, how do you make like a great portfolio that stands out and shows that you've learned stuff and you've been doing some research on your own and maybe volunteer basis or whatever it may be.

Especially in Diego's point here is that, you know, research can be a little bit of a harder thing to visualize, right? If you're an entry-level designer, you can show off some of your design work or stuff like that. But what are the things that stand out? Cause I look at a lot of entry-level design portfolios or software engineers coming out of boot camps and there are certain things that separate different design case studies. I'm curious what those things are on the research side.

[00:19:40] Eniola: Yeah. Yeah. I remember working with a client and I was talking about portfolio and they were like, no, I'm not a designer. I'm a researcher that I was like, well, you still need a portfolio.

Some key things that separate portfolios for me are folks really want to see, one, a range of projects. So like, I want to see you asking different types of questions. So if you're, you know, a common research method is IDIs, those are in-depth interviews. And it's essentially, you know, kind of, one-on-one having a conversation and delving deeply into something. IDIs are great, but they're very much so not the only research method.

So I want to see a range of methods. And are you comfortable with kind of getting creative based on the type of question you're looking to answer and the type of people you're looking to talk to? I'd say the biggest thing is it's important to see why you made decisions that you made. And though that the why is honestly more important than the what, because as your, as someone is looking through your portfolio or you're doing a portfolio review, folks want to understand how it is that you think, right.

So what your research process is. The methods that you chose and why the sample that you chose and why the length of time of the project and why, you know, and if your project took two months fantastic, how would you do it in two weeks? If your project took two weeks, how would you do it if you had six months? Kind of where the questions came from.

They want to see decisions that you've made along the way and why. They want to see what you are responsible for and impact what your deliverables look like. Because essentially when you're doing a portfolio review or you're showing you're presenting your portfolio, you're giving folks whether it's a job interview or or a presentation or something you're giving folks a preview of what it would be like to actually work with you as a researcher, because your portfolio is essentially what we call a research readout.

And that's at the end of a research project that presentation where it's really a conversation between the whole team where you're presenting your findings and talking about next steps and you're talking about your sample and kind of why you did the approach that you did having those kinds of like background you know, this is what we were looking at, and this is why we did it this way.

In the portfolio it's super important to, to kind of assess if something, if anything were different or if you could have the chance to do it over again, what is it that you would change?

[00:21:45] Erin: Is it important to show? And then what happened was like the changes that were made in the product or the ROI of those changes or how excited all the stakeholders were, or is that sort of you know, I'm not responsible for what happens with this research, but just the quality of the research and the insights.

[00:22:05] Eniola: Yeah. You want to show your impact. Right. And we know researchers don't necessarily have the final say and we oftentimes never have the final say. Right. But we present what it is that we found.

And what it is that we hear to be true. And it's really our responsibility to, because we're user-facing to communicate what we heard, whether it's, you know, good, bad, constructive or not. And then, you know, you can be honest about what your next step was, whether that's doing a research readout, whether that's creating, you know, principles to design based on whether that's doing some co-design and iterating on a product.

And a lot of times when it comes to portfolios, people are concerned that, you know, things are private, right? And that's not necessarily important. Folks don't need numbers, they don't need names. They don't need kind of the specifics of who this was and what the project is and how well it's been doing on the backend.

But they want to know how you approach the research. So you don't have to, even if it's private or signed an NDA. And oftentimes when you're working with a company you're not going to share some of the inner workings anyways. And folks understand that kind of interviewers understand that, you know, speaking engagements will understand that.

What's really like on, on, in the spotlight is your approach.

[00:23:16] JH: Yeah. I especially liked the point of being honest and open about, you know, what you would do differently if you're doing it again or things you learn and stuff. I think sometimes people are afraid to share that earlier in their career.

Cause it kind of feels like you're admitting to a mistake or a misstep, whatever, but I think if you're actually on the other side of the table it's a real sign of maturity. And like, self-reflection to be able to identify those things. I remember talking to a junior software engineer who came out of a bootcamp.

I'm just sharing this about this, like, you know, an app he had made to apply himself and stuff. And there's a story in there where he told you, I hit this thing and I couldn't figure it out. And so he put in this huge hack just to get it working. Cause he had a couple of friends using it and and he's like, and it got working. And then I spent the next couple days refactoring it to actually be written well and be code. And it was just like, it was like the best story to hear, because it was like, you understood that, like, you know, you want it to get to a working version and you didn't let yourself spin your wheels forever.

You got something done and then came back to the problem and it's like, that's how you do it. And in sharing those examples, I think it is really important. So, I love that tip as well. Okay.

[00:24:14] Eniola: And it shows a level of analysis too, which is super important as a researcher because oftentimes I spend time, you know, analyzing insights and kind of getting creative and building out strategy.

So it shows that like humility in that approach of, okay, I'm going to get creative as far as research because the end goal is the end goal. It's not about ego or, you know, whatever. Like I make mistakes all the time. And if you're not, if you're like sitting in a rigid space and you're not willing to be creative, that speaks to some hangups you'll have as a researcher.


[00:24:46] JH: The last thing I just did is that, while we're on the portfolio topic, I can quickly, what sort of format did people do this in? Is it like a blog post it's written out? Is it slides, should you record yourself talking through it? Like what, what seems to resonate with people?

[00:24:58] Eniola: Yeah, I've seen people get really creative.

A lot of people have online portfolios that are kind of just like on their websites and available for folks to see. Some people do Prezi, some people do PowerPoint. And I say depending on what you want your portfolio to do, you can structure it in different ways. If you're looking for, you know, consulting work and you're open to, to come on as a contract UX researcher for different companies, I think having your website out there and marketing your skills is awesome.

And I think it's most accessible for folks. If you're in a job interview and you're reviewing your portfolio I like a structure that's similar to how you would present a research readout. So even if you have a website, I find it helpful to put it into a PowerPoint. So you can present kind of slide by slide and it's not as overwhelming, and it's easier to craft the story.

Cause when you're giving, delivering your insights, you're really telling the story of what it is that you heard and who you heard and describing their journey or their experience within a product. So PowerPoint is often really easy to create a story kind of slide by slide and not make it overwhelming all at once.

[00:25:59] Erin: Awesome. Yeah. I love that. You made me think about the idea of a portfolio really telling the story potentially of your career and the progression and what you learned over time. Which is opposed to a static, here's the thing, here's a thing, here's a thing. But obviously you have more of a story to tell over time, the longer your story is, but I think that's sort of beautiful.

We have a ton of questions, but before we jump into those, I wanted to ask a little bit about boot camps because I know as part of our title and I think, you know, your take is not no bootcamps, never. Always a bad idea, but there are some good alternatives for a lot of people in a lot of situations.

So let's talk about, you know, what are some of the pros and cons of like a UX or UX

[00:26:40] Eniola: research bootcamp? Yeah. So I'm not fundamentally opposed to bootcamps, right? I think they do what it is that they're supposed to do really well. And I think it's just important to understand what they're meant to do.

I think bootcamps are meant to expose you really quickly to a field that you're looking to go into. So when it comes to UX specifically, it's meant to show you different types of methodologies. And let you get your hands dirty and kind of participate in, you know, build-outs are building out products and practicing UX research.

But I found that a lot of bootcamps are 1) incredibly expensive. They're just so expensive and they're very lucrative. Right. And they're good at what they do. And it's a good business model, but they're so expensive. And a lot of the UX boot camps that I've seen have been more so oriented towards UX design with maybe a module or two towards UX research.

And so if you know that you are wanting to go into UX research specifically I think being really particular about the type of boot camp that you go into is going to be super important. You want a UX research focused one because the other ones will only give you just a little bit. And that little bit, especially you can find online I think also it's a big time commitment, right?

So some of them are really fast. And you kind of have to give either a full-time commitment or, you know, give up all your weekends for, you know, months and months, which just isn't feasible for some folks. And so I just like to make sure that folks know that a bootcamp isn't the only way even to be recognized, right.

There are tons of kinds of low cost and free courses and things and certificates to get into the link, the things like lingo and get some confidence as far as knowing your background in UX and you don't necessarily only have to do it in a bootcamp. One of the other things I'm cautious about with bootcamps is that a lot of people go into that when they're switching into a different field.

And so an important piece is, you know, can I be exposed and can I build out a portfolio and understand what the field looks like, but also can I get my first job because that's what's going to make this worth it for me. And I've seen a lot of bootcamps who don't really focus on that second part. I'm going to guide you and help you to get your first job because that pivot and getting that first job is the hardest one.

And then after that folks will recognize, okay, you know what it is that you're doing. So there, I advise like coaching and that's something that resonates well with you one-on-one as a better option in a more tailored option, as far as looking specifically to get into your first job.

And I find that bootcamps, you know, expose you to different methods and kinds of theory. But there's some stuff about UX research that you just can't learn without doing. There are things that are really important to me because I'm in UX research to really drive inclusive design, I'm here to drive accessibility and product, and really talk to people who are, you know, part of the major segments of our product, but also folks who are at the margins.

And that holds the product accountable to be building for all of our users, not just something from it, right. Whether that's repeating our narrative over and over again, but really, you know, it's our responsibility as research to drive that inclusion and drive that diversity of product. Some, you know, bootcamps just focus on kind of like the tactical skills, but there really is a lot of empathy work that you have to do coming into the field.

There's a lot of, you know, understanding what it is, what your why is because folks can tell when you are checking off a box and when you're, you know, kind of just like want to know what they, what feature they need to build or what you know, kind of UI they liked versus I'm here to actually listen to your story.

And as researchers, we hear all types of stuff that are absolutely not directly related to the product, but are part of our user's experience, right? So it makes sense. We hear about their relationships and their families and trips and hobbies, and getting them to kind of feel comfortable bringing their whole self to the interview is super important because otherwise they're not going to tell you the truth.

They're going to tell you things that you, they think you want to hear. And oftentimes in interviews, there's this dynamic where users come to an interview, you know, with this kind of energy of, I hope what I have to say is important. I hope it's on par with what other people are saying. I hope, you know, this is worth your time and it's not disappointing.

And it takes some time in the beginning of each interview. It's important to take that time to like, disrupt that. Right. And so to express how grateful we are, because in reality, we're so grateful when people show up, people are willing to participate because we literally can't do our job without talking to people and communicating with our users.

So disrupting that dynamic of I hope it's okay that I'm here to we're so happy you're here and absolutely anything you say is so helpful. Like those kinds of things that I really like deeply caring. One of my pet peeves is when I see researchers who are doing, you know, obviously we're mostly remote now giving a, an in-depth interview or running an interview kind of on zoom and like in between questions, like looking down and like writing and I'm like, you're the whole point is to connect with your user and you kind of disconnecting right.

And doing something else is hard. It's really hard to stay connected with. And so it kind of goes against that tenant.

[00:31:48] Erin: Always get a note-taker, pro tip.

That works so transcription all of that, but I wanted to say. All those soft skills are so important then, like tangent, you know, we need to really stop calling them soft skills. Right. Because I mean, they're so important in life, but certainly in UX research, like what even if it can't connect to other people.

So, yeah. Thanks for highlighting that. It's hard to imagine. I don't know. Maybe there are bootcamps that are really good at that, but like the idea of boot camp of finding empathy and human connection it feels a little weird.

[00:32:26] Eniola: No, some boot camps do a good job. I just bootcamps are definitely not. The only option is what I'm saying.

[00:32:31] Erin: Yeah. And it's a big leap to go from like, Hey, I think I might be interested in this career path to like, I'll quit my job and drop $20,000. And you know, that's one way to go.

[00:32:41] JH: And then you're really putting yourself on a tight timeline. Because getting that first opportunity is really tough.

And now you're under a ton of stress because you've made this huge change and you invest all this money. And you know, you're not giving yourself a lot of breathing room. It's not a bad path if you can do it. But you are, you know, you're taking on some stress

[00:32:53] Eniola: to go there. It definitely works.

[00:32:56] JH: Yeah. Yeah. The one quick thing I'll just throw on bootcamps, just cause I've met so many designers who've come out of them is and I think they can be really effective to your point about like a crash course and it just learning so much so quick is a lot of them will tell you how to kind of present yourself in a very similar way, in terms of the way you make your resume or the way you make your portfolio.

And as a hiring manager who's seen a lot of these things. You get to the point where you can honestly tell like, oh, this portfolio came from this bootcamp. And so just find ways to put your own personality still in there and whatever you do. Cause I think. Not that those things are bad practices and they're great portfolio templates, but you know, you still want your own personality to come through and to stand out a little bit and not just be, you know, cookie cutter.

[00:33:31] Eniola: So, I have no cookie cutter or rigid is definitely not the goal. You know, my portfolio always has. A little bit about me, you know, I'm from Oakland. I live here now. I love my city. What I do outside of work, the community work that I do, impacts how I show up as a researcher. And it's part of me, you know, like all the travel that I do and adventure and learning, and that's totally part of what I bring to the table as a researcher.

[00:34:01] Erin: All right, we have 20 minutes and more than 20 questions. So we're gonna just bang through these and we're gonna go for popularity and variety. Right. So we'll try to cover what a lot of people want to know about a variety of topics. So just to dig right in a few people want to know any advice for someone looking to make the switch from psychology, which is.

You know, there's lots of paths, but that's one for sure.

[00:34:26] Eniola: No, that's a really solid path. It was one of the more popular ones because in psychology, depending on what type of psychology you're studying really harps on the kind of emotional intelligence or studying how people think or, you know, and why they do what they do.

So getting into like a little bit of human factors, but I would emphasize the Kind of people's responses and people's actions based on, you know, what our psychology is in general and how tapping into that is really important to build things for people, right? Because people are going to use things that they're, that they resonate with.

So, tying that into whatever product area you're looking to go into will be really important. But as far as psychology, if you're in academia and you have a psychology degree, you're learning a lot of theory that comes into design thinking and human centered design. It's just about applying it into what, you know, a design space.

And oftentimes when you read job postings and they ask for a relevant degree, psychology is always on there. It's a really easy transition, I think. And as far as just guidance and turning some of that theory into practice, I think coaching can really help kind of narrow in your plan or your strategy as far as transitioning.

But that's a really solid background to transition into UX. Folks really recognize it. Yeah. Cool.

[00:35:46] JH: Here's a, Here's a quick one. I'll throw in. Do you have a number one book recommendation for someone switching careers interested in UX?

[00:35:52] Eniola: I read one of the first books I read around UX. I was thinking fast and slow and I'll find it.

I don't know if that's the exact title, but it's all around kind of, what the assumptions that we make in our brain and how we, what we do automatic, that we don't automatically, that we don't necessarily recognize and kind of just like breaking down how people think. And probably will act based on that.

In research we do, as far as methodologies, there are some that are attitudinal. So based on what people say they'll do, and then there are admin methods that are more behavioral. So what do you actually do? We know that there's often a distinction. So I think that kind of helps to demystify some of that.

[00:36:29] Erin: I've got one here as a queer woman of color. I often find myself in teams that are mostly composed of men. I recently transitioned from graphic design to UX design, and I'm still finding that I'm not as confident talking to devs about my decisions in UX, as I used to be when working with other graphic designers.

Do you have any advice on how to overcome this and appear more assertive?

[00:36:51] Eniola: Yeah. Oh, I love this. Thank you for the question. I would say it's when working with stakeholders, it's super important to understand what they find important and it's different in different groups of stakeholders. So, you know, whether they're developers or product managers, one of the things that really ties it together is people care how well the product does.

And so, at the basis of that at the foundation is what we are hearing from our users and how are they responding to what it is that we're building. So I always, when I'm doing a research readout or when I'm sharing research I bring in the user's voice, the actual user's voice, right?

So whether you're doing video clips or audio clips, whether you're doing quotes, you know, something that most people can't argue with is what it is that you're hearing directly from the user. Cause that's what people care about, right? As far as metrics, as far as, you know, am I doing a good job or are we as a company doing a good job is how our users respond, responding?

And as recently, We're very much so kind of the, I'm just communicating that. Right. So I, especially when it comes to like hard things that are coming through or constructive feedback, I let them hear it directly from the user. And that really helps in building that trust over time because as we go through, as I'm working with a new team and I'm building relationships, building the trust of, you know, we thought something was great.

And now we have feedback that's going to make it a ton better. You start to trust, research more and they'll trust the researcher more. Right. Because you obviously know what you're doing because you're getting really helpful feedback or insights.

[00:38:21] JH: Yeah. I think to just developers in general, that's all very like amazing advice. Just different people have different communication styles and in my experience you know, some developers you work with.

Not because of any judgment they're making us, you can sometimes come across as more direct or less engaged in something. And it can be just the way that they communicate with people. And obviously it can give off different impressions, different folks, depending on how you're engaging with them, but being aware that some of that may not be as a result of who you are and just maybe the way that they tend to communicate.

And in, you know, I don't know what to do about that necessarily, but but something to be aware of they have a different communication style than sometimes the designers do.

[00:38:55] Eniola: –so really quickly, if I can I find something that's really helpful as far as communicating you know, hard feedback or like talking to people at the end of the research project is laying that foundation for that in the very beginning.

So in the calls where I'm, you know, talking to people about some questions that are coming up, kind of before even kicking off a project I'm asking them, you know, how do you manage. You know, with your product or this feature or this experience or whatever it is that you're testing around, what does good look like?

So what do our metrics look like? You'll hear, okay. Ours, right. Objectives and key results. And so you want to know from the very beginning, okay. Looking at this new area that I'm looking to do work with, how do you measure good? So that informs the type of questions we ask and then vice versa. The insights that we're getting back from users should inform our OKRs.

Right? So it's this triangle of like, that needs to be in lockstep for research to be the most ideal. So, in the very beginning, when you're getting on the same accord of how do you measure good, you understand what they're looking for as far as this is the driving force for the team so that you can communicate things that make sense as far as how they're looking at the product.

Then they're more inclined to listen to you and they're more inclined to find helpful what it is that you bring out of research.

[00:40:10] Erin: Going on the kind of theme of, I guess, sort of inclusion and diversity. We've got one about career switchers who are maybe 40 plus or, you know, not right out of school.

I often read entry-level job postings that have vaguely ageist classifiers, like being part of a young dynamic team, or are only open to recently matriculated students. What's your opinion about some of that language or, you know, if you're maybe not brand new in your career making a switch.

[00:40:39] Eniola: Yeah, I think job applications shouldn't or job posting, shouldn't say that I figured out,

but I think that to me communicates that the team is a little bit immature because really as researchers, when you have diverse kinds of perspectives and you're coming from a non-traditional like background or path that adds so much to what you bring as a researcher. Like I started out in biotech and then I was in healthcare and now I'm in finance.

Right. But that brings, that helps me bring more as a researcher than if I was on like a traditionally just a finance path. And because I started out in healthcare and in biotech, Quite used to talking to people about very intimate comforts, intimate topics, right? That's you don't necessarily want to talk to a stranger about, so this, like, it grounded me in this importance of holding space.

And so that's just an example out of non-traditional backgrounds or diverse perspectives coming into research is a plus. So I am sorry that there are job posts that say that, but they really shouldn't. And it just communicates that they don't know exactly how much of an add on that is. But I would flex the different perspectives that you bring and I would flex the path that you took because it makes you, and that's what you bring as a researcher.

[00:41:52] Erin: Would you apply or would you run away from a posting like that?

[00:41:57] Eniola: I think if it's, I mean, it's up to the person, but if it's a, in a space that you really want to be in and you really like the company or the product, and really resonate with it, and I think it's worth reaching out directly.

Right? So not necessarily just like submitting an application.

[00:42:12] JH: Yeah. There's a handful of questions around people trying to transition from adjacent roles, right? So I'm a product marketer. I'm a PM. I'm a UX designer. I'm a business analyst. I think I got most of the ones that were mentioned.

Is that easier because you're kind of already in that world or is it you go about it differently? Cause you have some of maybe the overlap on the Venn diagram but you're not a researcher. How did people in those types of roles go about it?

[00:42:33] Eniola: I think I think for some people it may be easier, especially since you're exposed to user research, those roles, or you should be exposed to the research to some extent in those roles.

And so I would advise to first start with building out a strategy of how you incorporate user research into your mate, your key role and how, you know, a lot of designers run user research themselves or product folks, depending on the resources that accompany. So I would, you know, if you're working with a researcher, try to figure out how to take some of that on.

And if you're able to consult with a researcher even better to understand like, okay, well, can I draft a recent plan based on a template and then, you know, get your feedback, or can I draft an unmoderated test and get your feedback? Watch user research sessions. I always add an offer for my team to hop in and kind of be a fly on the wall and be on mute, no video, but watch and see what kind of conversations are happening and how you know, there's a discussion guide.

It's just a guide, right? So oftentimes the conversation will take us where the user wants it to go, but I would definitely get as much exposure to the discipline and then try it yourself as far as like working with a researcher there and then kind of hone in on how user research plays a role in your work and how you incorporate it.

And what it's important to help you do. And then speak to that when you're looking to pivot.

[00:43:50] Erin: Back to boot camps for a second. What's the least worst option?

[00:43:56] Eniola: I did see that question. I am not like well-versed on which boot camps are out now

[00:44:02] Erin: or what maybe to look for

[00:44:03] Eniola: So as far as names, I'm definitely not going to bash it. Right, right, right, right. Like I mentioned the worst names.

I, like I mentioned... if you're into UX research, looking for one that's specifically UX research, because otherwise there might not be very much UX research. I'm looking for one that has job placement or career coaching or help there. I'm kind of weary of the boot camps that are like there's a guarantee.

And if you don't get a job within six months. You know, I just, I've never been through it. But I've kind of been wary just based on what I've heard, but make sure there's some type of job placement help and coaching there and make sure that the format of the bootcamp works for you. Right. So are you a more of a one-on-one person?

Are you in a small setting? Do you know, looking at pre-recorded sessions and being able to jot down the notes and just make sure that the format works for you and that they have the resources to give you what it is that you need out of the bootcamp before you put down 15,000, 10,000, 20,000?

[00:45:04] JH: Yeah. There's a question here of, you know, in the current environment what do you think is the best way to get a job between networking and applying online? Like how would you split your time if you were?

[00:45:11] Eniola: Yeah. I think networking is super important. I would spend when I'm working with clients and we're looking at jobs and we're building out a strategy of how to apply.

I'm really hands-on with understanding, like, okay, let's see what's out there. And let's start with reading some job postings that people feel really drawn to and let's dissect it, right? Because a job posting from a company will tell you what it is that they're focusing on. And there's a lot in between the lines of a job post.

So you can see kind of what it'll be like to work there and how mature the team is or how structured the team is. So I would spend a lot of time kind of looking at job postings over and over again, to kind of decipher what it is that you want to particularly focus on, because there's so much within UX research, right?

Networking is huge. So I would spend a lot of time doing informational interviews with UX researchers, and there are tons of resources out there for that. Like, I've seen UX, coffee chats and hexagon and their mentorship programs and things like that. So, there's no shortage of them. So I would find groups of folks who are also UX researchers.

I find it funny when I see you know, people who are joining groups are looking for mentoring and they identify as aspiring UX researchers. And, you know, are you a researcher, you know? Right. Whether you have the job or not, you have to paint that narrative off and know what it is that you want to do.

Because that gives other people confidence in you. Right? If I'm talking to someone who kind of sorta thinks they want to be a UX researcher you know, I ask them, what's your process around finding out if this is actually what you want?''

[00:46:39] JH: Yeah. You can also do the kind of combo where you apply and network simultaneously.

Right? So you see a job listing you're really excited about and you apply, and then you find somebody that works in an, you know, in that department or in a similar role and reach out to them. We've had people do that for some of our roles and it doesn't always work out, but like you will, somebody will take a stronger look at your application or you might get a call because of that initiative.

So there's some cool stuff like that people can do as well.

[00:47:01] Eniola: Yeah. And with interviews, if they don't work out or if it's not a good fit, ask for feedback, I know some companies don't give it. If you can ask for feedback and just at least take learnings from you know, every interview that's going to help you a lot in the job process.

I find that UX researchers who are in the field or who are doing it, are getting practice. One tip that I have, that's kind of outside of the norm, is to watch yourself talk or walk, go back and watch videos. Cause there's so much that we give away on our face. And in UX research bias is huge and being aware of bias is really huge.

So like, you know, people have a general bias towards yes. Especially at a UX research interview. Cause they kind of want to make sure that they're satisfying you or, you know, they're getting the answer, right. Even though there's no right answer. So be careful, kind of like when you smile and like what your eyebrows are doing and your eyes and like how you're responding to different answers and conversation.

[00:47:52] Erin: Question here about salary, which, you know, I know it depends, right. It was a short answer. But any rules of thumb for people to think about what they might expect based on location seniority, you know what,

[00:48:07] Eniola: Yeah. You know, I'm so weird to say any numbers because it just varies so much based on location, based on maturity of the company.

And what they're looking for, I would say before, if you're applying to jobs before even going into your first interview, know what the market is saying. So know what your specific market is saying. If you know what your specialty is, So, you know, qualitative versus Quan, how many years of experience do you have?

Are you mixed methods, kind of what industries are you coming from? To understand what you should be looking for, right. Because it's asking for what it is that you want or need right. For your life is one thing. But asking for what it is that your workload on the market or your skills are worth on the market is another.

So doing that pre-work and that studying is super important, because it never feels good to know that you're being paid under market.

[00:48:55] Erin: Is there a resource you'd like for that, like glass door or something, or is there something specific for UX research or talk to friends

[00:49:01] Eniola: favorite? Okay. Yeah, it depends if you're looking at bigger companies. FYI is great. There are also a lot of resources. There are reports like UXR comps did. I think now they're called Learners, but I can grab the links and send them to you. Well, we'll put a bunch of links in the writeup, just for folks, for all of the things that you're mentioning. Awesome. Yeah. So some of the resources I like they did.

There are some Excel spreadsheets on it, like just asking people to report their salaries, which are really helpful. And then you can see, they get a report based on the kind of market, what's average, what based on years of experience in something. And it's really comprehensive. So I'll definitely share that too.

And looking at those types of reports and there, I've been seeing a lot of floating spreadsheets of people reporting their salary. And which I always advocate is talking about your salary. Cause it doesn't hurt anyone, but it doesn't hurt you. Well, yeah, so there's a lot of resources there and I'll pull some of my favorite ones and share.

[00:49:54] Erin: Fantastic. And I think we have time for one more question, which JH is going to choose.

[00:49:58] JH: All right. There were a couple of things here cause we talked a lot about portfolio stuff. Any favorite portfolio resources like things people can use. Is it just finding a tool that works for you or do you think some are particularly good?

[00:50:07] Eniola: Yeah. I have some samples that I work with. Cause I think looking at different samples of different types of research or different types of portfolios, really helpful to figure out what you like about each and incorporate that into yours. So I don't have it off the top of my head, but I have some samples that I personally use, but I would say when building your portfolio look at as many portfolios as you can.

Right. So if you search for a UX research portfolio, so much comes up on LinkedIn, including other people's public portfolios. So I would say, just look at as many as possible and in court, make sure to incorporate those kinds of the why behind your, what you know, range as far as your research methodologies and I would say the three biggest things for me.

[00:50:47] JH: Yeah. There's a funny thing with research where it's just do your research, right. In terms of research, salaries, research portfolios, there's the deal. Yeah. It's a very meta world. Yeah.

And there people would tell me all the time that I asked a lot of questions and I'm like, this is literally what I do for a living.


[00:51:04] Erin: Eniola thank you so much for joining us, everybody it's check her out and really appreciate all the great advice and insight you shared with everyone

[00:51:15] Eniola: today. Thanks so much.

[00:51:17] JH: Thanks everyone for hanging out with us.

Erin May
SVP, Marketing

Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.

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