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A research pro explains why it's so important for user researchers to have a deep understanding of the business they work for.
[3:52] Get to know the business by taking the time to conduct stakeholder interviews.
[7:31] Talk to people as high up the ladder as possible.
[10:01] What happens when what you learn in research doesn’t line up with business goals?
[20:14] Striving for business impact with your research projects.
[24:38] Examining your internal drivers can help you do more meaningful work.
Zack Naylor is the CEO and Co-Founder of Aurelius. He’s helped organizations from startups to Fortune 500s build and establish user experience design practices to deliver valuable products and services.
[00:00:00] Zack: Don't come in and expect to change the world and meaning. Do the blocking and tackling, and do the hard work every single day. When you look back 12 months from now, I promise you that you'll see a lot more progress than you would have expected. And it just doesn't feel like that because it isn't like the fun thing.It isn't the sexy thing. It doesn't give you the quick turnaround of immediate impact that we all want, next week and next month. But that's absolutely how we get there.
Hello everybody and welcome back to awkward silences. Today we're here with Zack Naylor, the CEO and co-founder of Aurelius. Today, we're going to talk about understanding a business to be good at doing UX research.
[00:00:55] Erin: So you've got to understand what's going on in the business, what the business cares about to do UX research well. Zack, thanks for joining us.
[00:01:03] Zack: Yeah, for sure. I'm happy to be here. I appreciate you having me on.
[00:01:06] Erin: JH here too.
[00:01:08] JH: Yeah. I actually had a very similar conversation with a design friend recently. So I'm curious to put the researcher's lens on this topic.
[00:01:14] Erin: Was the designer pro or anti understanding business?
[00:01:19] JH: Yeah. Good question. No, it was just saying that it's, there's been a real evolution in the design field over the last few years where it felt like historically they used to kind of be off on an island and it'd be very idealistic just like, do great design. And there's been a real transition to like, Hey, let's get them a seat at the table and make sure they understand what the business outcomes are that we're trying to drive and how a design factors into that.
And then you said it's been a lot more productive as you've seen that shift happen. So.
[00:01:41] Erin: Yeah. Great.
[00:01:42] Zack: I'm actually really glad that you brought that specific saying up the whole get a seat at the table, because we've been saying that for a really long time and very early on the teams who did that well, in my opinion, were the ones who understood business well.
[00:01:56] JH: Yeah. It's like, it's helpful if, to have some commonality of like, we're all trying to level up our work to this overarching business outcome. And we're just trying to put our departments our function specific lens on how we can help do that to some degree. Right.
[00:02:09] Zack: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:02:11] Erin: Fantastic. Zack, When we talk about user research, We think about researching users as the name suggests, of course it goes by different names, product research, UX research et cetera. But why is it important to understand the business also, or maybe even first?
[00:02:34] Zack: Yeah. So, We can research people all day long and we can uncover problems to address or solve or opportunities to act on. In my opinion though, without understanding the business and the way that's going to have an output that matters for the organization, we're doing research within, you're just picking problems to solve.
For me, what it really does is it sort of, it gives you the compass of where to direct that effort. So by understanding the business, you understand what's important and what you should be learning about. Then, as you're discovering that stuff and learning those things, it helps you understand, where to dig deeper and apply those learnings rather than suggesting something that, that we build or address that like costs too much, or doesn't do anything to move the needle on strategic goals we have for the business and stuff like that. So I like to think of it almost like a compass, to know what rocks to pick up and look under and then what to take away from it when you do. Right.
[00:03:35] Erin: Yeah. And so how might you go about sort of understanding a business, like, maybe you're working in a new industry or when you already know, walk up to the CEO and say, excuse me, ma'am, could you explain the business to me? How do you go about it? And obviously it's going to take time to deeply sort of understand all the dynamics happening, but where's a good place to get started?
[00:03:58] Zack: It's the same thing we would do as researchers go and talk to people, the first thing. And people do go and talk to your stakeholders and executives, if you can get access to them and you can get their time, obviously these are busy people but it benefits everybody. And in fact, there's actually several benefits to that.
So there's the first one which you already sort of mentioned, right? Let's learn about the business. Let's learn about why we even exist right here, working at this company. I'm sure that's fine. You sell widgets or whatever, but like, why do we do that? Understanding that's a really important piece.
It also then helps you understand those individuals and their roles. One of the questions I like to ask when I meet with people, if they're new stakeholders or a new team, especially executives, is just like, what's your boss care about? Then you start to get some very real answers like when you're interacting with them.
And when you're talking to them about research outcomes, what's gonna matter to them, and then uh, you know, the other thing that does is it really helps establish rapport. It helps build trust. These are all things that we try to do as researchers with our participants anyway. Why aren't we doing this as much with our stakeholders, right?
We're expecting them to sort of take recommendations from us, act on insights that we share, the more they have the sense that we understand their needs and that we've truly understood what's important to them and how to move the business. The more they're going to be likely to want to hear what we have to say and how we can contribute.
[00:05:22] JH: So when you put it that way, it sounds kind of obvious, right? Like go ask people like, Hey, what are your goals? What does your boss care about? You're going to build the relationship in the course of that conversation and learn a lot more context at different parts of the organization. Why do you think some researchers don't think to do this or don't do it?
Is it that it just isn't top of mind. And so they just get so fixated on the craft that they spend their time there? Is it a fear and imposter syndrome thing of like, I can't go ask somebody in sales, like what they do. I'm going to sound like an idiot. Like what, like where do people get stuck?
[00:05:50] Zack: The short answer to that question is yes. To dig in a little bit deeper. I do think it's a combination of all the above. It's probably depending on the person, but I think the one thing that comes to top of mind for me in my, in most of my experience for sure as somebody who's practiced in this for, I don't know, more, a little bit more than 15 years now, it's almost.
Almost always the case where they just don't think of it because you're so focused on your job. And so you think about coming into any new organization, as a researcher, as a designer, what you probably want to do is impress them with your skills as that professional. And so it's not top of mind to like, do all of this groundwork.
You've just assumed that maybe somebody else has this figured out and as you're interacting and working with them they're just gonna be able to give you those answers, but like the reality of it is we're all people and we're all trying to figure this stuff out all the time. And so there's not somebody who always just has the answer to that stuff.
Right. And even if they do, I find that they really appreciate having the space and someone with the hunger and curiosity to want to really learn more rather than just take their direction at face value. So I do think, to answer your question.
[00:06:57] JH: Hm.
[00:06:59] Zack: think most of the time, people just don't think of it.
We get so focused on our jobs that we want to do really well at that thing. And we may be considered that as not part of our job, if that makes sense.
[00:07:08] JH: From like a practical standpoint, is it something where, you know, depending on what level you are in the organization as a researcher, designer, whatever, maybe like go talk to your peers in other departments or go try to get like the senior most person that will give you time. Right. So if I'm like a junior UX researcher or something, an associate, do I just kind of go find like that person in marketing and sales and pick their brain?
Or should I try to level up and see if the directors will talk to me and, chit chat for 15 minutes, any advice on how to do that part of it?
[00:07:36] Zack: Yeah. I mean, I tend to say speak as high up the ladder as people will, say yes to. And so it is, where a lot of us are working remotely still now because of the pandemic and all in all that happened. But when, and if you do get back in the office, it's always a nice thing to just kind of show up in person too, and just say, Hey if you're new, "I'm new", Kind of would just love to learn.
I know that I work in your organization or adjacent to your organization, whatever the case may be. I would love to learn more about your job, what you do, kind of what you're responsible for. The thing we have to remember is people kind of love talking about themselves. It's not a bad thing. It's not a vain thing, but folks like talking about themselves and they like feeling heard.
That right there. It goes a long way. Even just sort of extending that curiosity to say, I want to learn more about you because I want to be able to work with you better. That shows a lot, and so anyway yeah, absolutely learning the highest up because then another thing that happens is if you are working with somebody who's more of a peer, and this will happen.
It doesn't matter how good you are at your job. It doesn't matter how awesome the team is. There will be conflict. There will be disagreement. It doesn't have to be an unhealthy conflict. But there is going to be something that comes up and says, I don't know that. I agree with your idea, the more understanding you have of where this is going to ultimately go, right?
So like escalation or asking the ultimate stakeholder kind of thing, the better position you're going to be in to sort of, and I don't like to use the word, defend your position or defend your ideas but really help articulate them and say, here's where this is coming from, because then you can have a really productive conversation.
About why you're suggesting what you're suggesting. It's not your opinion. It's not that you think it's cool. This should be rooted in something you learned there. And so then the more you can do that, actually the better alignment you can build across the entire organization.
[00:09:20] Erin: Yeah, So you start to put this patchwork together over time, I know who these people are and you know, how they fit with what I'm trying to do and kind of what they care about. Kind of what the businesses are going on. I want to make some charts go up into the right and create some smiley faces and make some money.
And these sorts of things. And you start talking to users, you're talking to users, you're doing your user research job. And you're getting a sense that maybe our users want something that I can't connect to one of these business goals that I know about, or in fact, maybe they seem at odds with each other, what are you going to do in that scenario?
[00:10:07] Zack: Yeah, that's a great question. And that can absolutely happen. Although, I'll say this is my opinion, if you've done that work well, if you've really done that discovery and understood the business really well, I don't actually believe you should run into a situation where it's completely at odds because otherwise the business wouldn't exist.
Like there would be no success there whatsoever. So what I've found is if you've done this work really well. One of two things happens. You get to that point, right? And you can say 80% of what we're trying to do does not line up with our customer's expectations, their needs, whatever the case may be. And you can have a conversation about that from a really well-informed point of view.
You're not just saying, I don't think this is right. Like you can come to them and say, I've understood what you're doing. Guess what? Now I've also understood what our customers need and what their pain points are. Here's the small sliver we can act on, right? That's actually going to move the needle on both.
That's actually a really good thing. That's not bad. It's good to say. This is specifically where we focus. Remember I was talking about that compass type thing. It helps you choose exactly where to act. That's one outcome. The other outcome I've found is that people's expectations of what the business ought to be doing or the goals or the direction has to change wholesale.
Now, if you haven't understood what their goals and outcomes actually are for the business and you come in and just suggest that they're wrong, that is a very poor position to come in and start that conversation. But instead, if you say, I understand where we are here. I think that the goals need to change for reasons, ABC and D all of a sudden, you can have a very productive conversation about that rather than a conflict or confrontation to say, well, we've learned from users and you don't get it because you don't get research.
You don't get UX or whatever. And you also don't look like a person. Who's just telling someone who understands the business really well, that they're not doing their job, because of course that's not true. Nobody comes in here to any meeting, wanting to do subpar work. I've very rarely found that we all kind of want to make the best decisions. And this helps having a really good conversation about that rather than it seeming like it's at odds.
[00:12:13] Erin: Yeah.
[00:12:14] JH: It seems like it's often kind of like a let's get to like a second order effect. So sort of right. Because on the surface, things might seem like they're in conflict, but if you actually have a better grasp of some of the dynamics and how things might play out over time, you can unpack it a little bit more.
Like just for a hypothetical example, you're working on some sort of app on everyone's mobile phone and there's maybe some growth product marketer, whatever. Who's trying to get engagement up for some short-term goal. And so they start sending more push notifications or this or that.
And they see some results and they have positive success. And a researcher happens to be talking to those users in that window. And they keep hearing a few people bring up. Like, I don't know. I feel like I'm getting a lot of annoying notifications all of a sudden, one person mentions like, I've actually turned off notifications now on the app.
Like it feels in conflict, but like that's actually really important information to work through. Cause like there's some balance thereof like, we can do this a bit to get the short-term goals, but we have to be really mindful of how this could backfire on us. And there should be a really productive collaboration there, but on the surface, it can maybe seem like there's tension.
If you don't understand all the different dynamics at play. Is that like a way that this can go?
[00:13:15] Zack: Yeah, you nailed it. I mean, I think that's describing it very well. I'll share a story that happened. So a really big project. I was working on one time. Many years ago, this company wanted to improve the onboarding of their customers. So they had some ideas about how that was going to happen.
Of course, we needed to do research to understand a number of things. Number one, how onboarding happened today, both internally and customer facing. And then we also needed to understand the needs of those customers to get what we would define, well, onboarded that is its own conversation because that's going to change in every company.
But the fact of the matter is this company had a number of ideas on how to do that. They were very focused on actually something very similar to what you just said. Having a lot of these sort of automated messages and it was going to use if I'm remembering correctly, a lot of like Salesforce automation and do all these things that like pushed notifications out and automated this data.
Cool. So we took that, we understood it. Here's the thing. We took those goals and understood the why behind those goals. So it's one thing to say, well, what do you want to do on this project? A stakeholder person. It's another thing to then understand why they think that those things are.
Ultimately it was to inform those customers of AB and C really well to get them to this one point we defined really well. Well through the research we did, none of that stuff would have actually done it. Now that saved us a boatload of money because building automated stuff in Salesforce for this was going to be really expensive and really time intensive.
So, what the research did is it actually refocused the conversation to say the goal is the same. We're chasing after the wrong tactics. What we need is X, Y, and Z, which I can't talk too much about because it was a past project, obviously under NDA, but basically it was a lot more simple. The solution was far more simple, right.
And helping to find a, in this case, like those customer's goals and then getting them to the right people. In the organization, not automating anything, but rather just facilitating what was happening successfully already. So you can imagine just a ton of things like operations, infrastructure and engineering that didn't need to happen right away, because we did that.
[00:15:30] Erin: Yeah. And in that case, it sounds. Like to your point the tactics, the solution changed the thing that it was you're trying to solve for didn't, I'm thinking about, that case where, you know, I do some research and you know, in that venn diagram of business need and user need, where we're always trying to find the overlap.
And maybe there's a scenario where there's not a lot of overlap in a particular small slice of the business, or it's not as big as we'd like it to be, or we just see a big opportunity in this user only piece. But like, because I understand the business and what we're really trying to do, like, can we move that conversation forward about maybe stretching or redefining some of our goals or strategies?
To keep the spirit of the goals of the business, the same, but to expand whether that be new use cases for users or rethinking some of our metrics or things like that, that Don't say, well, I care about the user, not the business, but we really need to maybe expand our definition or understanding of what the goals here could be to, ultimately grow the business more maybe than we thought was possible.
Is that something that can happen from user research if someone understands the business well?
[00:16:46] Zack: I absolutely think it can. And what you're describing to me is. Folks in the UX industry talk about being strategic UX designers or UX strategy or UX research strategy, like anything sort of strategic. That to me is what that's speaking to. And I will say, yes, absolutely. That can happen because I've seen it and been part of it myself.
And also that is not something that happens on your first day or week when you walk in. So you shouldn't expect to come in. And have those kinds of conversations right off the bat. If you do, and that's something you value, you should never leave that job because that means that organization is already at that level of maturity, which frankly I've never experienced on my own personally.
But the thing that matters here is understanding that you've got to put the time in. You've got to create those relationships. You've got to build that understanding. Because it is very much, stepping up different layers as you go. So you do this, you start on a project and you understand the project goals really well in the product goals.
And you help deliver on that and you help people make better decisions based on the work you do. That's the goal of research, right? The more you do that, the more people want to listen to you. The more people want to listen to you or tend to be higher up. And you say, well, you know, I've got some ideas on how you can do that too.
And now all of a sudden you've got their ear. Because they know you're worth listening to, and I know that you should be worth listening to right off the bat, but that's just how humans operate. So the more that you can kind of demonstrate I'm here, I'm on the same page as you are. The more you've established that trust and built that rapport.
There comes a time when you can walk into the room or the meeting and say. I don't actually know that the goal is right here. Let's talk a little bit about some of the things we're learning, connections across maybe multiple research projects I've helped you with in the past.
There's an undercurrent theme here that we should address. That could be a new business opportunity for us. Let's talk about that. That's when stuff can get really exciting.
[00:18:45] JH: Is there I'd imagine there could be some perception or I don't know what the right framing is here, but like, of a researcher, of like All right. I'm going to open my eyes and go learn about some hashtag business and figure this stuff out. But then wanting those business folks to kind of reciprocate well, let me tell you about my craft and like why research is valuable and stuff.
Does this kind of naturally happen? Or did they have to kind of make a point of being like, all right. You know, I picked your brain and learned some stuff like, can I throw a couple of things on the table too, that I think would be valuable for you to know? And we can kind of cross train a little bit?
[00:19:57] Zack: So is your question. Have I seen that happen or do I think it should happen?
[00:20:01] JH: Yeah, I guess I'm guessing. Imagine imagining some people might have that expectation of like, cool. I asked you a bunch of questions. I was curious about you. And I would like you to do the same to me. Like, does that happen or are there other ways to create that loop so that both sides are learning or is it tend to be more one way and you just build the relationship and over time they see the value of research kind of implicitly?
[00:20:19] Zack: Yeah, I'm giggling at that question simply because I think this, my answer is going to be very heavily biased as a by-product of my personality, but I don't care. I don't care if they want to know more about my craft, because what I'm personally driven by is being able to help with these outcomes.
And I mean, I would just, I would ask anybody, listening to this or anybody who does that work, like search yourself. So I give a talk. It's actually about this topic, right? The surrounding topic that we're kind of discussing today. And I tell people, if you want to understand how to like, sell your ideas better and have an impact more, the first thing I would challenge everybody to do is understand why.
Understand why in yourself, you want to have a bigger impact? Is it ego? Because that's not going to work, right? Like it's just not, your intentions aren't as pure as they need to be. So if you're really just driven by outcomes, I don't think that you're going to be all that bothered by somebody wanting to learn more about your craft.
Now don't get me wrong. The more impact that you've had, I have absolutely seen people become more interested in the mechanics of that. Just like any other part of the business, you learn about creating awesome content. And that's how people find your company. You're like, oh, cool. Well, tell me more about that.
So we can become better at that, so I think that's inherently going to happen. If people just care about the outcomes, they're going to see that what you do helps affect that. But I don't think that should be your goal. And also because I subscribe to many tenets of stoic philosophy, I try to hold no expectations because then you're not going to be disappointed or just expect they don't care.
And then you walk away and say, and that's okay, because I walked into this expecting that they wouldn't care.
[00:21:54] Erin: Yeah, And it's sort of the show don't tell too. I've been thinking a lot about just making work visible, and we know for researchers to be impactful as for anyone people have to know what you're doing, right? Like, capitalism, meritocracies, you know, it's you build trust by exhibiting that you can do work that matters and people know about it.
And obviously if you're just sharing stuff to share it, people lose interest. Cause it seems like you're just sharing stuff that doesn't have an impact. But showing that you're doing work that is interesting and has an impact on the business, I think is a really good way to get people to care about what it is, cause it is like a little bit of an enigma for a lot of people. Like what is this UX research stuff? And I know Zack, we've all seen that change a little bit in recent years where people are starting to learn a little bit more about user research. I'm hiring a lot right now. And I'm finding the people I talk to are like, yeah, this thing that you're doing, your company is doing, like, I see a need for this everywhere.
And that's different than it was years ago, I think. But it's still because there's dozens of methods across qual and quant and moderated and unmoderated. A lot of unknowns about what this UX research stuff is. So.
[00:23:07] Zack: Yeah, totally. There's a number of points, I think we've touched on that sort of culminate into what you just said, so there's a, if you're so focused on the craft, you're just going to talk to people about the thing you did or the insights you shared. But at the end of the day, it's a, and right.
Like it's a question. So what's in it for me? And the more you understand business. It's really easy to connect it to that. And again, an example I've used in a talk that I gave in the past is like, see, this is when we actually went to conferences in person, right. I point to somebody and I go. If I told you I guarantee you that I could get you home from the conference today, faster and easier than the way you got here, would you believe me?
And this is always somebody. I never knew I've never met. They're just like, kind of in the audience hanging out. And nine times out of 10, they go, no, I wouldn't believe you. And so a non rhetorical question here. Why? Well, because I don't know where you live. I don't know how you got here. I'm not even certain you're going home after this.
But I'm guaranteeing you something that I have no information or basis to basically guarantee. So you don't trust me. The same thing happens in business. If you're going to walk into a room and make a suggestion about a big strategic change, but you haven't done any of the background to understand that you under or to show that you've understood the impact of that change the mechanics behind it, and the reasons why and how it helps us all in a business.
The same effect is going to happen from here. I don't think I want to listen to you until you can demonstrate to me that you get how to connect that. And so that's absolutely true that maturity is a by-product of understanding products well, features well, goals well, businesses well. This is very much like a ladder up into those things.
[00:24:43] Erin: Yeah. So we've kind of been talking a little bit about it. You know, You talked about people who like to talk about themselves, right? So that's a good way to kind of learn from folks is to just ask them questions about themselves and getting to know the business hitting some whether it's quick wins or just, the high intersection of business need and user need kind of stuff.
You can really start to build some Goodwill and really influence, and I know that's something you've thought a lot about Zack is, researchers creating business impact creates influence, creates what, like, influence sounds like something that we might want to have.
What can we do with it? Can we use it for good?
[00:25:22] Zack: Yeah. So I'm really glad that you asked that because this is why I make that point when I give this talk and I share this with folks. As I said, Examine your internal drive. Why do you want to have influence if it is for your own gain? That's not the, that's not the right intentions, right? You can actually still do it, but do you want to use it for good?
So to answer your question more succinctly, what does influence turn into, I think it turns into real meaningful change. We talk a lot about things that we're trying to do in business, in our society to make things more diverse, equitable, inclusive. Those things only happen with influence only happens by helping make an impact.
So like, I think your model is great. And I think once you get there, assuming your intentions are right, it can turn into real meaningful change. And there's people doing that hard work for sure. And again when you get there, you're having conversations with those people. To your point earlier, you can start to.
I think our business goals need to change a little bit more for this big sort of societal reason, rather than just walking into a meeting. And it seemed like you're throwing a wrench into something, and just causing a lot more hard work. Well, that's not it, you're a much, you're now a much more trusted advisor and you're part of those big conversations.
And I like to say it all the time. You don't come in and expect to change the world and meet, do the blocking and tackling, and do the hard work every single day. When you look back 12 months from now, I promise you that you'll see a lot more progress than you would have expected. And it just doesn't feel like that because hard work isn't a, it isn't like a fun thing.
It isn't a sexy thing. It doesn't give you the quick turnaround of immediate impact that we all want, next week and next month. But that's absolutely how we get there
[00:27:03] Erin: If ego is a bad motivator. And to be clear, you can have influence if your intentions are not pure. I've seen it happen.
[00:27:11] Zack: All the time. Unfortunately, all the
[00:27:13] Erin: I can think of some very prominent examples, but no one in this room. But if your own ego is not a good motivator, a good way to get influence, what is a good way? Like what is a good kind of compass, a good thing to keep you blocking and tackling and grinding out those drip by drip wins that ultimately lead to seismic potential of change over time.
[00:27:39] Zack: Yeah. That is an awesome question and we can have a podcast all about that. I'm going to do my best to answer it, and I'll give a few, actually, I'll give you a few quick actionable tips. Cause I know people love that kind of thing,
[00:27:53] Erin: Yeah, they
[00:27:53] Zack: I usually say when you're looking for a job and I know that this is easier said than done, depending on what your position is, but I usually recommend that people try to find a job where that business does something that they care about.
It's great to love your craft, but you can practice your craft anywhere. What I usually say is like, think about where you want to practice your craft. Where would you want to do that work, where it's going to have an impact that you actually care about. And I understand that not everybody always has the luxury to do this.
But the more you can. It actually becomes less about the craft by default, because then you're just passionate about that cause, or that thing or, ego is actually okay. If you just really love electronics and you want to help people sell electronics and get to the cool stuff like that's okay.
I'm not saying there's actually any right or wrong answer here. I just usually suggest to people think about what you're passionate about. Think about what you feel really strongly about and that you would feel good trying to move the needle on. There's actually nothing wrong with a certain amount of ego, we will never get rid of it so long as you can recognize it in yourself and apply that for something that's gonna, that's going to move in a direction positively for your moral compass.
I'll say that I understand that's a bit of a wishy-washy definition, but that's going to change for everyone.
[00:29:15] JH: Yeah. I want to pick up the ego thing a little bit, cause I'm trying to work through this in my own head really quickly. I get the idea of like the ego of, I want to be important and I want to be like a senior person. And so I want influence so that I, I'm a big deal or whatever that feels like a bad goal or motivator in that kind of framing, but being a little selfish or self motivated where it's like.
You know I want to grow in my career and make a little bit more money and be able to do cool things with my family. And like some of those self-interest alongside, like, and I liked the problem I'm working on. And it's fun to collaborate with these people and solve things together and figure it out and help our users like that.
That feels, I don't know if that's ego at that point, but like it's okay to have some self interest and motivation. It's just not like that, I want to be important. And everyone looks at me. Is that kinda where you're getting at?
[00:30:01] Zack: A hundred percent. It would be foolish to say, well, you're being selfish because you want to improve yourself and you wanna improve your family situation, like in your case, like that's just, of course, that's totally fine. In fact, I would argue yes, that's not actually ego at all.
That's just like, that's something that drives you. And so you want to be better at your work. Because the outcome personally for you is that thing when I talk about ego or what I'm referring to, when I'm saying it in the context of this conversation is like, let's go back to where we started.
I want to have a seat at the table. First of all, that statement started with you, right? So it's like, okay. So forget language, even though language matters. You know, I just think, I just think it's very useful to ask yourself, ask yourself that question. Why do you want a seat at the table? Is it that you, like you said, do you want to feel important?
Do you want to feel like you're telling other people what to do or do you feel like you have a meaningful contribution to add there? And here's the thing that usually happens too, despite the fact that it happens all the time, people driven by ego to acquire power and influence often get found out pretty quickly because a lot of folks. And especially a really well run organization, like you can sniff that out pretty quickly, and it's like your reasons for wanting to be here and be part of this conversation are not the shared reasons. And that's the thing the old saying goes, you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
And so I think you just need to be able to get on board with that. And that's why for me, it's really important to choose to work for an organization that you can care about a group of people you can work with, that you care about that allows you to have a lot more passion.
[00:31:37] Erin: Yeah, And I think to your point, like obviously not everyone gets to choose, unfortunately, work that's meaningful to them. I'm thinking of Scott Galloway who says, don't take the advice, follow your passion, like find something you're good at. And then passion will follow.
And I think, maybe one of the things that can happen over time is if you take that track right. And find a craft you're good at, and that hopefully you enjoy. You then over time can get the earned luxury of applying that to an industry or a job that you are passionate about. And that's sort of hopefully what we all want.
[00:32:14] Zack: Really, really, really strongly agree with that. And I actually think that's why a lot of people. We've seen this influx of people joining the UX field and they recognize like, wow, I'd actually just want to help make people's lives and experiences better. And maybe they didn't have a language to describe that.
And now all of a sudden they're passionate about that. That's great. That's enough. Start there. You can find some of these larger societal issues to connect that to absolutely either in your free time or through your paid work. But that's great. Absolutely. Start there.
[00:32:43] JH: Yeah. And it feels like something that as people are interviewing and considering different opportunities, like it's really important to poke on some of this to make sure there's alignment when you're considering a new role. Because I think if you're typically somebody who's kind of blind to this stuff, And not that interested, you can get yourself into situations that seem good at a high level, and aren't really aligned with your values, right?
Like maybe it is a business where they're really into minimizing their costs and they're just like, aggressive about doing that. And like, you don't really care about that, right? Like that's like, you probably don't want to be in that organization. And there's other companies that have a very different ethos in terms of, Patagonia is a for-profit company, but they try to do it in a way that they're respecting the environment. If that's important to you, like, you're going to want to factor that into your decision making. So I think it's also one of the things that having some fluency here and some willing to poke on it and dig into it. It's also going to help you land in a situation that you're probably a lot happier with.
[00:33:31] Zack: That is absolutely true. Very true. And a lot of the advice that I give to well, anybody, but especially new UX-ers right. Joining this field. How do I interview, how do I evaluate jobs and stuff? And I usually tell them, like, I know right now you're in a position that feels like I need a job, but you need to remember that you're interviewing them just as much as they're interviewing you.
And so, you know, as, as the scope of the conversation we have today, the more you understand business and how it works, the better equipped you're going to be to ask those kinds of questions. How does your business operate? One of the things I used to do when I was interviewing for jobs is I would say, how is this organization led?
Is it product led? Is it sales-led? Is it marketing led? Like, what's your impression? It doesn't matter if the answer was right or wrong. I wanted to get the impression of that, because that told me a little bit about how ideas work and priorities sort of trickled down to where I would be sitting. And so it's just little things like that. Absolutely. And do your homework on the company, Patagonia is an easy example because they're very public about that kind of stuff, but there's a lot of companies really trying to make meaningful changes that maybe aren't as public or or an old saying about it.
[00:34:37] Erin: Yeah, Zack parting words of wisdom or thoughts on, I know you've been in research for awhile. Why, what do you love about it? Why are you still doing it?
[00:34:47] Zack: Such a good question. What I love about it is because it gives you the cheat code, it's like back when I started doing this stuff, I thought design was magic until I found research. And I almost felt like I was cheating. I'm like, well, I have the answers to what we should design.
I felt like a fraud. But the reality of it's, that's not true. Like that's just what we should be doing. And how can you make decisions on what's going to be better for people and for business in the world, unless you go and learn about it. I just think staying curious, wanting to always learn is healthy for all of us as humans.
And I think it makes a better business. We do all those again, blocking and tackling every day. We make a little bit better dent in the world in a positive direction.
VP, Growth & Marketing
Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.