Being a user researcher was never intentional, but staying as one definitely is.
When I started with Georgia Tech’s Master’s in Human Computer Interaction program, little did I know that this discipline would also teach me life values. Along with technical research and design skills, a UXer needs to inculcate certain values such empathy, patience, mindfulness amongst others in order to do the job well.
To take it a step further, these values can be applied to our lives and could help us become better versions of ourselves.
Empathy and active listening: Human centred design has taught me the importance of active listening and empathy to understand the pain of users. It has taught me the importance of listening intently over talking. More important is to listen for things unsaid. When was the last time when you listened to a friend instead of chatting with them? It helps in becoming more understanding, dealing with people better and improving relationships.
Mindfulness, Persistence and Patience: Human centred design is an iterative process. Every iteration has a potential of getting better given that one is aware of what is happening and is patient and persistent enough to improve. Life could be seen as iterative process as well — one needs to be mindful of self, surroundings, choices and its implication and change when you think things are wrong. Last year, I took a step towards living more healthily, sustainably, gratefully and equanimously.
Calmness: A UXer is often found in stress inducing high conflict situations with product managers and engineers and at times even with the users. It is important to have a composed mind in such situations. This can be achieved by learning when to let go, trying hard but not being to attached to the outcome.
Questioning everything and reframing problems: Human centred design process hinges on identifying the right problems to solve. Right problems are uncovered by asking the right questions, questioning assumptions and reframing problems.
Gracefully accepting criticism: Constructive feedbacks are an integral part of the human centred design process. Initially, I had found it quite difficult (and sometimes I still do) to accept criticism. But criticism made my work better. Now I try to consciously ask for feedback in the other areas of my life and keep my critics close by.
No-Judgement: A user researcher is trained to de-couple the inferences from the observations; treating data as is and not making judgements. This taught me the importance of looking at situations as they are with an open mind and without a preconceived notion.
This is just a start and I have a long way to go. I’m sure that there are many more values and lessons to discover but for now I’m grateful that this discipline gives me opportunities to practise these values every day.