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An image of a person looking at a map
Cherry by Maria Shukshina

I have been a mentor at a UX bootcamp since early 2018. While it has been fabulous to see students acquire hard skills, such as wireframing and usability testing, I also have been worried about how they might limit themselves by focusing only on the tangible skills that can be taught more easily in those programs. They may be unaware of some critical intangible skills that would help them break into the industry and advance their careers.

I would like to share three critical skills for UX researchers that eventually will be needed at work, but are hard to learn…

Illustration by Natasha Remarchuk from Icons8

I joined DoorDash during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite not having worked with any of my colleagues in person, the journey has been both exciting and rewarding. When I reflected on the ride so far, three things stood out to me that made being a user researcher at DoorDash unique.

1. Having Strategy & Operation (S&O) as a key stakeholder, in addition to product teams

Like other companies that are at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, DoorDash is an operation-heavy company. What I appreciate is how closely the Strategy & Operation (S&O) teams work with the product teams and researchers. When there is an idea, S&O and product work together on an execution…

Reimagining UX strategy and the role of researchers.

As a UX researcher or any kind of UX practitioner, what would you do if you were asked to come up with an experience strategy to help an insurance company grow its user base? You might start with understanding the existing user experience and journey, identifying gaps and pain points along the way, and come up with what to do and what to stop within the existing product scope.

Ping An Insurance, China’s biggest insurer, took a different approach. They realized most people in the addressable market already had basic insurance, and there was not much more to optimize within…

Photo by Will Porada on Unsplash

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my current and past employers.

In September 2019, without warning, Uber laid off almost half of its researchers globally. This followed a similar lay-off of market researchers only a few months prior. In an open letter from the leadership, it was made clear that the company intended to rely more on rapid AB testing to make product decisions, rather than on user research.

From that moment, researchers who survived the lay-off went on a soul-searching journey, exploring our self-worth and the meaning of existence. Some…

Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

I came to Uber looking for a fast-moving environment, and the experience did not let me down. On the first week, I ran a usability test for the product team. Within two weeks, I planned a global foundational research project, took almost twenty stakeholders from multiple disciplines with me to three continents, conducted six types of research with four target audience groups.

The pace was just the tip of the iceberg. Within less than a month at Uber, I was particularly impressed with a couple of things, which will be addressed in this article. The early experiences with Uber made…

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

I joined Uber as a researcher in August 2018. Within my first few days at Uber, I drove my car to a Greenlight Hub*, had it inspected, took the Seattle knowledge test, and became an Uber driver.

I sometimes joke to friends that I drive with Uber because I didn’t make enough money working for Uber in the office job. In fact, the idea of becoming an Uber driver arose even before I started to work at Uber.

At one point, Uber was a share-economy platform where people would offer spare resources (namely, their car seats) to others. However, now…

Scene at Beach St. via PhotoPin (license)

How can someone new to the United States know the differences between T-mobile and AT&T? Is a box of blueberries that costs $7 considered cheap or expensive? What are people’s impressions when hearing someone is from San Francisco versus from New York?

High-end, low-end, hipster, sketchy… local people have their own perceptions about brands, areas, and products around them. It is hard for those who’ve just arrived to a country to instantly form the same perceptions and see the world from similar perspectives as the locals.

One of the challenges in cross-cultural or cross-country user research is that we only…

NPS is tricky. In my business consulting days, we loved and highly promoted NPS. Our clients, who were usually C-suites, tended to buy in easily as well because it’s simple, straightforward, and proven to be correlated with revenues.

As more and more companies started to adopt NPS and use it as their North Star Metric, I also see more criticisms. Interestingly enough, I have found that UX researchers are especially no fans of NPS. Some have critiqued it in a very constructive and systematic way. Some had a good time making fun of it.

My colleague shared this and evoked a long email threads which included gems such as “I talk about way more interesting things with my friends”.

Is NPS really that useless?

A few months ago, my product…

In-house UX team versus consultancy — What are the differences and which one should I work for?

You can roughly divide user experience (UX) design teams into two types — internal teams that work exclusively for their employer, and external teams that provide service to multiple third-party clients. The former is usually called in-house, while the latter is known as an agency or consultancy. “What are the differences?”, “Which one should I choose?” are questions often asked by people who are new to the UX industry.

If you have experience working on both sides, you might find that sometimes people…

Photo credit: framepool

I worked in a Tokyo-based Japanese company for several years. Being the first foreign employee and a non-Japanese speaker, it was enlightening to see how a Japanese company struggled in foreign markets, trying to find a balance between its unique culture and fitting in to how other societies work.

Japan has long had a close relationship with the U.S., especially politically. Nonetheless, the country maintains its uniqueness in many respects, including recruitment and workplace cultures.

Prefer generalists with cultural fit and no work experience

When the company I worked for opened its first overseas branch, I joined the Japanese founder in conducting almost a hundred interviews with local talent…

Elsa Ho

Research@ DoorDash. Ex- Facebook, Uber, Microsoft, and strategy consulting. San Francisco based. Worked in Tokyo, Singapore, Seattle, Taipei, and Shanghai.

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