Principal User Experience Researcher, Research & Strategy
Illustration by Michael Cho
What’s something you’re planning on doing in the next year that you’ve never done?
I have my fifteen-year sabbatical next year, so I’m hoping to do a longer vacation. My partner and I prefer more scenic/nature destinations (but I still need a comfortable bed at the end of each day), and we’ve never been to New Zealand, so road tripping around both the north and south Islands is on the top of our list.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?
The immediate answer that comes to mind is to wear sunscreen. I’m going to be dating myself, but when I was in college, the sunscreen song was popular for a period. It was a song based on an essay written in the form of a commencement speech, and it was filled with advice. Two lyrics have stuck with me: “Don't waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself,” and “Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance; so are everybody else's.”
Do you have a degree that “matches” the career you’re in now?
Yes. I started out as a computer science major, thinking I’d be a developer. During my first year, my resident advisor introduced me to human-computer interaction (HCI). It wasn’t until after my first internship that I realized that being a developer wasn’t for me; I enjoyed the research and design aspect of product development more than the programming. I double majored in HCI and computer science and eventually earned a master’s in HCI.
If you could get everyone to agree, what would you change about meetings?
I’d invite a dedicated facilitator and a dedicated notetaker for each meeting: A dedicated facilitator would ensure that the meeting has a purpose, that it doesn’t rathole, and that everyone has a chance to take part; a notetaker would help ensure that decisions and action items are captured concisely. Ideally, neither person would be involved in the project so they wouldn’t have to facilitate and participate at the same time.
Tell us about a dream project (either personal or professional) that you’re working on currently or daydreaming about taking on.
It’s a secret.
What’s your process when you need to solve a big problem? What’s the most important part of that process?
I don’t know if I have a process but more of a set of tactics for tackling problems. With big work-related problems those are: 1) questioning whether the problem can be framed differently, 2) questioning assumptions, and 3) tackling it from top down and bottom up (ideating potential solutions and breaking the problem into smaller chunks). The most important thing to remember is that we usually don’t have to solve problems on our own. It’s ok to ask for help.
What person, place, or thing is your greatest source of inspiration?
I am going to pick two things: talking to people and having time alone to reflect. Having talked to thousands of participants over the last 20+ years, I still find it inspiring and educational talking to people from different backgrounds and cultures. But, as much as I enjoy talking to people, I’m an introvert, and feel most creative when I’m alone, so I cherish having alone time to reflect and think.