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Career Journey Map from my time at IBM

Within the last 9 months, I’ve had many people reach out to me (primarily via LinkedIn) asking how I got into the field of user experience research. I decided to compile this article about my personal story to provide advice and ideas for others.

I do want to preface this article by saying that one of the greatest (and understandably confusing) aspects of user experience research is that people come into this profession from a variety of industries, varying levels of experience, and diverse areas of study. There’s no single path to follow, and I think the discipline benefits greatly from the fact that people bring diverse backgrounds and apply them to the craft. …


Welcome to the world of digital keynotes.

As we continue to work remotely, many of us, both new and seasoned keynote speakers, are finding ourselves working with at-home recording equipment and PowerPoint as we attempt to translate our in-person presentations into a purely digital and virtual forum.

If giving an important keynote isn’t stressful enough in-person, there are some unique challenges when doing everything digitally. Sure, you can wear pajama pants and don’t have to travel, but you miss out on the feel, feedback and environment that is characteristic of giving a talk in-person.

While these tips are targeted specifically for improving your digital keynote game, many are relevant for any presentation, whether virtual or in-person. I’ve learned these through my own experiences as a presenter as well as helping others (from subject matter experts through to senior executives) prepare for digital keynotes. …


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Photo by Esther Kim & Jingya Zhang

On occasion, the proverbial water cooler conversation actually takes place. Recently, Nick Hahn (Design Principal, IBM Cloud Platform) and I were by the 7th floor coffee makers and started chatting about different methods and practices that UX researchers at IBM adopt across various product teams. We realized that in both of our personal experiences, when the UX researcher identifies themselves as a designer, the entire team and the products or services they create are superior in both process and end result than when the UX researcher views themselves as a non-design member of the team. In an enterprise environment and the context of this article, we are defining a designer as someone who solves human-centered problems to contribute to discrete, usable, and business-related outcomes.


After writing our first article about progressive disclosure, Michael Lee Kenney and I were able to present its content in several contexts to hundreds of participants. While our first write-up addressed what progressive disclosure is and why it’s valuable, in this article we will provide concrete steps and metrics for success in terms of how to bring progressive disclosure into your product team’s workflow and get buy in from teammates and stakeholders. We received a lot of requests for how to truly implement progressive disclosure on a product team.

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Progressive disclosure should not be owned by any particular discipline. It is a cross-discipline responsibility that spans product owners, marketers, user experience designers, content designers, developers and support teams. Depending on the phase in the product design process, progressive disclosure will alternate between a hand off and a series of collaborations between the various disciplines on a team. …


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A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation at General Assembly alongside Michael Lee Kenney about designing for progressive disclosure. At its core, progressive disclosure is about moving a user through an experience in a way that escalates from simple to more complex, showing only the necessary and relevant information at any single point in time.

Progressive disclosure should not be thought of as an exclusively digital approach. It is quite literally the progressive disclosure of an aggregation of experiences, regardless of the medium. …


Several months ago, I gave a presentation during a Best Practices in Design Research session alongside Rick Sobiesiak (Design Research Lead, IBM Security) and Tim O’Keefe (Design Lead, IBM Systems) about complexity analysis. Rick and Tim developed the method with IBM Research and I was fortunate to learn from them. I’ve applied the method on my team’s product, IBM PowerAI Vision, to quantitatively demonstrate the value add of user experience design in terms of lowering the complexity of a task or sequence of tasks for the user. After this presentation, I received many Slack messages and emails from other product teams wanting to implement complexity analysis. …


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During my first week at IBM, a few of my teammates and I were trying to find a meeting room. The rooms on our design floor were all booked so we ventured out. As we tried to navigate the lettered halls, we happened upon some relatively discrete placards outside of individual offices that read, “Master Inventor.” Pictures were taken, terms were Googled. Is it a job title? How does someone get one of these? Without realizing, it was our first introduction to patents at IBM.

As new hires, we were challenged with an accessibility exercise to help people with low vision (impaired visual ability but not complete blindness). We worked in groups and pitched our ideas to accessibility experts at IBM. It was after this pitch that a reviewer said, “You should patent this,” and handed us his business card. We were all a bit surprised since we knew nothing about the patent process. Although our ultimate patent idea varies from the initial solution we pitched, I’m hoping this article will help other designers feel more confident about filing their first patent. As the design discipline continues to evolve from a niche trade to a set of skills for creative problem solving, patents can be a measurable outcome of this shift. …


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General Assembly ‘Talk Data to Me’ Series in Austin, TX

For software design teams working on enterprise-level technology products, our users are often highly specific and highly technical. This can be a difficult challenge, as our opportunities for relevant feedback are limited. Gone are the days of design school when we could set up interactive surveys on street corners and end up with several hundred relevant data points and a long list of insightful user quotes about a particular research question or offering. Within enterprise technology design, we have to be more strategic and more creative in our methods for acquiring user feedback to inform our designs.

During the past eight months, I’ve been been able to work with a team of designers, developers, and product managers on an enterprise technology product that democratizes the power of deep learning for computer vision by being intuitive enough for non-technical, line-of-business users. Due to the excitement to design for a broader user group, as a user experience researcher I wanted to take the opportunity to engage our design team with local communities for relevant and iterative feedback. …


5 Practical tips for maximizing your product’s exposure and support

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It was a hot Texas summer day in late July. I was sitting in my car, AC on high, wondering if I had arrived too early. It was my first day of my first full-time job as a software designer. I was about to embark on a 3-month immersive training program known as IBM Design Bootcamp. To be honest, I was mainly concerned about getting along with the other new hires, and figuring out where we would have happy hour.

7 months later, I’m adjusting my new, and only, business-formal jacket in a conference room at IBM Headquarters in Armonk, New York. I’m waiting for the clock to strike 8:00, so that my teammate, Michael Lee Kenney, and I can sit down with Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, and a team of her trusted SVP’s, VP’s, and general managers to give our pitch on the advantages of design-led product development. In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder: how did a group of new hires, fresh out of IBM’s Bootcamp design program make it all the way to the CEO in such a short amount of time? …


As UX design and research continue to become integral for business decisions and product development, we need to broaden and curate our methods for gaining actionable and quantifiable feedback from users. We want realistic data that informs product management, sales, and executive leadership on the right decisions for products and services.

Typically used for market research, conjoint analysis employs the more realistic context of asking respondents to evaluate potential product profiles (sawtoothsoftware.com). As user experience researchers, we can expand this definition to include the evaluation of service, experience, and design profiles in addition to product profiles. …

About

Gabriella Campagna

Director of User Research | Futurist | Writer gabriellacampagna.com

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