User Experience

I recently had the chance to speak to two groups of young women who are thinking about their professional development and career aspirations.  I was explaining to them that the field of UX didn’t exist when I was in graduate school.  (Although many of the disciplines which make up UX have existed for many years, the field was named by Don Norman in 1993.)  One of the things I love about this field is how quickly it is evolving, and how that continually opens up new opportunities to learn and grow.  My career has continued to evolve in a synergistic relationship with the field itself.

Nearly half the posts on this site are in the category of User Experience or Enterprise UX, so I will not attempt to summarize them here.  This page briefly describes my current interests – data visualization and developing the next generation of UX talent.

Data Visualization

Today, the User Experience consulting team that I lead does a significant amount of work in dashboard design and data visualization, mostly using commercial Business Intelligence tools such as Microstrategy, Tableau, and QlikView.  In order to deliver the best possible outcomes to our clients, everyone in the UX team (myself included) has had to deepen our understanding of data visualization best practices.  Along with my ongoing interest in interdisciplinary collaboration, this has become a significant focus area for me.

I was recently asked to co-author a book about user research methods, targeted at the IEEE VIS community.  This is a fascinating space – and one that significantly overlaps with my current work responsibilities – so I am looking forward to the challenge.  Though (as is often the case with such projects) I expect I’ll learn at least as much as I teach along the way.

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The goal of our book is to help this community of computer and data scientists better understand the users they are enabling with their technology and visualizations.  Many of these individuals have had some exposure to the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), but there is a growing awareness they need to get past efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction as success measures for the solutions they are building, and most of them don’t have the skills to do so today.

Part of what is compelling to me about this topic is that there is an element of interdisciplinary collaboration required here too.  There are some individuals working alone (where they have expertise in computer science and visualization), and they have to collaborate effectively with domain experts such as biologists or security analysts.   And then there are large teams (at the National Labs, for example) which parallel what I’m experiencing in industry – a team comprised of one or more computer scientists, data scientists, user experience professionals, and domain experts working together on complex technical and visualization challenges.

My co-author and I are currently working on our prospectus, and one of the things that we’re seeing is that most books about research methods are focused on the web or on the consumer space.  I am looking forward to helping our scientific and very technical audience learn about the practical application of UX research methods for their highly complex data visualization work.  I’m confident the inevitable learnings that come with research and writing a book will help me in my own work as well.

Talent Development

me at the board-cropped

As our team grows in size and maturity, people development is a growing part of the priorities for myself and my leadership team.   I am really enjoying this aspect of my work; it is a real pleasure to shape and guide career development of the next generation of UX professionals.

We recently introduced new Competency Models, tailored to job tracks and levels, and we’re continuing to develop a Learning Roadmap that includes reading, classroom training, and on-the-job experiences.  We hope making all of these things explicit will help people achieve their professional development aspirations while working at ZS.

I’ve read numerous studies which show that happy employees make for happy customers.  I take pleasure in trying to create a positive climate for my team members so they can do their best work.

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