Out of the Office

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Breaking into User Research

A friend of mine who works for a startup – Hot5 – hired a PhD in Social Psychology to run some usability studies for their app. As a contractor, she was really enjoying the field of user research and wondering how to take the next step.  She had experience in other industries doing surveys and focus groups but little else.

Here’s the advice I gave her to get hired:

  1. Get Variety. Work to build a diverse portfolio. Build personas for the startup. Run a card sort study. Do some field research. Do a competitive analysis.
  2. Synthesize. Package up the usability work to show what recommendations came from it and how it improved the product.
  3. Learn. Get a book on user research methods to see how they fit with product design (Understanding Your Users or Kim Goodwin’s Designing for the Digital Age are good surveys of research methods).
  4. Network. Sign up for the BAYCHI jobs mailing list, attend some meetups with UX professionals.
  5. Talk. Good researchers need to be great communicators. Most companies will have you present your portfolio as part of the interview process.  It’s a test of how well you can explain what you did, why and what the benefit was.

What other advice would you give?


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At a recent Watermark event on Innovation both Ericsson and Intuit showcased their design thinking programs.

Gabriel Broner, the leader of Ericsson’s Innova program, hosted a two-hour design thinking session in which participants redesigned a car interior. It culminated in the participants receiving an Action Worksheet which helps you create a mini-research plan on one-page. The focus was on quick testing of the idea and it’s value proposition.

Kaaren Hansen spoke about the journey of design thinking at Intuit. Of note, they are teaching “elements” of design thinking in modular formats that sound to be more tailored to the audience (e.g., tools for fast prototyping, how to interview). They have different types of “jams” that they help lead (pain-jam, solution-jam, code-jam) which sound like workshops with a specific focus on user pain points, ideation or hacking prototypes.

Their innovation model has combined Lean Startup with Design Thinking.  They look to how many prototypes or experiments are deployed in the field as a success metric. (They are counting >2000!)

She described a good “vision” statement as being ambitious, tangible, memorable, solution-free and focused on the customer. She cited Amazon’s “any book, anywhere in 60 seconds” or Apple’s “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Similar to Ericsson, they also have reward and recognition programs that allow engineers compete for funding to build out some of their novel ideas and move them towards a product.

Her three lessons learned are:

  • Fall in love with the problem, not the solution
  • Scrappy doesn’t mean crappy (make a good idea into a well designed prototype)
  • There’s no right answer other than getting started



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Sharing with Sierra Leone

This month I’ve had the good fortune to be a professional mentor in the TechWomen program. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and run by the Institute for International Education’s Center for Women’s Leadership. The program send 78 women in STEM from 16 Middle Eastern and African nations to the bay area.

At Citrix, we’ve been enjoying hosting two amazing women from Sierra Leone.

  • Marina is an IT professional who wants to build the country’s first digital library to support students.
  •  Josette is a mechanical engineer who wants to bring a petroleum engineering program to her country (which has recently discovered offshore oil).

We exposed them to our training in design thinking, to the business model canvas and to a lot of great UX thinkers (including Leah Buley who just published UX Team of One).

While I’m sure they learned some new things, I learned a lot too. Here’s just a few….

  1. We’re lucky at how quickly we can network and find opportunities and people willing to help. I sent an email on the Valero website to their community relations team. It went to San Antonio, TX and then back to Benicia, CA. An amazing group of women in Benicia agreed to host Josette on a visit to their refinery. (back in Sierra Leone, theirs stands idle having been shot up during their long war) Turns out, petroleum engineering is one of the highest paid majors.
  2. We’re lucky to have an abundance of technology. As Marina has been working on a plan for her digital library, she realized that she was going to need to get computers in the schools. One day she said “I know a digital library is very common here. But in Sierra Leone, this would be the first one.” [We are heading up to the SF Public library this week to meet their head of technology. See #1 above. Networking + Nice Helpful People.]
  3. As women in technology, we share a lot of experiences. We’ve all been one of very few in science and engineering classes, one of very few in technical jobs and one of very few in leadership roles. We all share a desire to encourage girls in the STEM fields and to make the careers attractive to women.
  4. There is an African grocery store in San Jose. Need to check that out!

It’s been a great four weeks sharing our world with them…stepping back to see our world through new eyes and learn about theirs.


Marina Samba, Julie Baher, Josette Tehan-Cole, Catherine Courage on our last day together at Citrix


To belong, or not to belong

One of the projects I’m currently working on is to create a new Intranet for Citrix. As part of that, we’ve started to discuss “what does it mean to be a citizen of a company?”

We’re lucky to be getting some creative inspiration from  CCA’s dMBA 2nd year Experience Design class (taught by Nathan Shedroff).

The students are exploring the theme of membership and presented their research findings this weekend.

Here are my key takeaways:

Varying Levels of engagement:

  • Obligatory Membership v. Voluntary (e.g. draftees v. volunteers…however everyone is a veteran after returning home)
  • In body or in mind (am I doing yoga for exercise or for the spiritual side; likewise I may be at work for the job, my career or as a calling … go read Chip Conley’s Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow)

How membership works:

  • Rituals & Common Language (company acronyms, celebrations, etc)
  • Support Network or family-like relationships (think buddy programs and mentoring)
  • Defining who is “in” and “out” of the group
  • Feeling like you are part of something bigger
  • Sense of obligation; requirements to contribute
  • Some groups are defined by a shared struggle or challenge (e.g., weight watchers)
  • Leaving a group (alums)

Thanks CCA for the sparks!

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Reflections on A Raised Hand

What does journey mapping and customer experience have to do with preventing domestic abuse?

A recent HBR article, The Truth About Customer Experience, is a great primer on the topic of journey mapping and how the process can be beneficial in improving the customer experience.

When it comes to changing the customer journey, it isn’t easy and they write “delivering on customer journeys requires two high level changes… (1) modifying the organization and its processes to deliver excellent journeys and (2) adjusting metrics and incentives to support journeys, not just touchpoints.” What’s key is that organization become cross-functional (from siloed) and empower bottom-up innovation.

So what’s the connection?

Kelly Dunne is the COO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Amesbury, MA. She and her colleague, Suzanne Dubus, were inspired to find a better way to help victims of domestic abuse than just providing shelter after a woman whom they had tried to help was murdered by her abusive partner. (read the New Yorker Article A Raised Hand)

In brief, their quest to understand the break down the of system, led to the creation of the Domestic Violence High Risk Team where they coordinate the work of multiple agencies.

What struck me about the story, besides the depressing statistics about the prevalence of domestic violence, was that the best outcome for women was to do similar things to what one does with a journey map.

The first is to reframe the question (for companies, it’s a shift to thinking about the customer first, from the outside in, rather than inside out). For Dunne, it was to make the problem not about the victim, but about the perpetrator.

With the problem reframed, you often look for solutions in difference places. The High Risk Team broke the silos of the different agencies involved —  the crisis center, local law enforcement, hospitals, governments and courts – and through sharing information can now effectively issue restraining orders, change child visitation privileges, monitor probations and do other things to keep potential abusers away from the victims.

Without the cross-functional teams, each agency looked at just the one piece of the situation or one aspect of data, totally unaware of what the other group might know.

For my work, looking at customer experiences and improving them, it’s all upside….happier customers, stronger business, more innovative offerings. I don’t pretend to be saving anyone’s life.

In the work that Dunne and Dubus have done, improving the journey of victims of abuse is truly a matter of life and death. I feel very humbled to see how this same approach can make a profound difference in a totally different sphere.

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Prototyping & Chutzpah

We’ve spent the past few weeks refining our story of building a design thinking team and organization at Citrix for the Management Innovation eXchange

I look at everything we did over the past 3 years and it has been amazing! How did a little team do so much?

We are prototyping addicts.

One of our Senior Vice Presidents, Gordon Payne, was describing how he thinks about org changes — that he always considers them a prototype. And that then lets employees feel like it’s OK to try the new arrangement and give feedback. And it gives managers a way to make more changes and iterate the new structure.

Similarly, my team sees everything we do as a prototype. “Lets try it” is the answer to any idea that comes up. And if you have both a passion and some chutzpah for the idea, then voila, we’ve launched something new . And so,  we are constantly prototyping how our team works, how we change the organization how we engage with our business partners.

So when you read our story, there is no shortage of ideas, of approaches, of programs aimed at different aspects of organizational transformation.

Because it is all a journey and we’re prototyping our way through it with a little Chutzpah!