Proto-un-typical Internship Experience at UBER

Getting Immersed

Last November, I applied to be a UX Research Intern at Uber. What could be more exciting than working for a company that is changing the world at an incredible speed? So I was thrilled when I got the position.

When I arrived at Uber in February this year in San Francisco, CA, I immediately started working with the Customer Obsession (CO) team. The CO team is in charge of customer support. As a researcher who takes a very user-focused approach, it was a perfect fit.

My First Field Research Trip Abroad!

The Philippines trip with members of the CO team

I got to work right away diving into Uber’s customer support system. In the short four months of this internship, I researched Uber’s ticketing, phone, in-app and in-person support systems. It was great to get such a comprehensive view in such a short time.

Not only did the research scope and pace exceed my imagination, but I also got to experience our international operations first-hand. It is such an incredible opportunity, and it is abroad! We spent three days at the Customer Service Center, observing how our customer service representatives take care of our customers’ requests, and studying our representatives’ workflow & pain points. It was amazing to see first hand how I could impact our customers day-to-day operations.

While I was abroad, we also got to do use eye-tracking technology, which is very useful for UX research. I couldn’t believe as an intern, I was getting the opportunity to travel across the Pacific with a team of top talents and state-of-the-art tools to conduct field research.

The Eyes Have It

Uber Research invests in new tools and technology to enhance our methods and outcomes. In this case, we used Tobii Pro eye-tracking glasses 2. With the help of these glasses, we were able to precisely record our representatives’ views and gaze points, to figure out how to make our UX even more intuitive.

Tobii Pro eye-tracking glasses 2

Tracking eyes and gaze is a difficult. In particular, recounting how and where our eyes move is something that is difficult to self-report. With the Tobii Pro glasses, we generated heat maps and gaze plots to show our representatives’ behaviors. We calculated time spent on different tools and different functions. While the technology isn’t perfect, I was thrilled to have such a powerful tool to aid in our research.

Uber is known for being highly efficient, and that efficiency is apparent in smart and hard-working employees. To use eye-tracking my mentor Huadong got in touch with another UX researcher, Bjorn, who is an expert on eye-tracking devices. We scheduled a 1-hour onboard session, and Bjorn taught us about the device. The whole process happened within one week.

Huadong (my mentor) & I (in black hoodie) giving a research report about our Customer Service Center. I am wearing the eye-tracking glasses.

Team Experience

We always have fantastic team outtings: mini-golf, archery, baseball games, etc. It’s a lot of fun, but more importantly, each event brings us closer as a team.

Archery team event with designers. Huadong (second row in the middle) and I (second row, second to the right) were the only two representatives for researchers. We had so much fun with the other species ;)

During the internship, I got a lot of support from my UX research team. My mentor Huadong helped me plan out the whole four months, guiding me through different kinds of research and methodologies. He always put my interests first, and thinks about what would be most helpful for my career.

My direct manager Anuj talked with me every week about any concerns/questions I had. I was also able to pair up with some of my team members for several cross-domain research opportunities. Even a team member who was not directly connected to my internship, our UX guru, George, was happy to have bi-weekly discussions with me. And Molly, Uber’s head of research, provided me so much valuable advice for my career. Besides work content, I have a lot of fun with all of them too. For example, my dear teammate, Lauren, gave me the cutest nickname ever — Wennifer ;) I think that one will last far beyond my internship.

Team gathered for Lauren’s birthday (in green), eating the most delicious marshmallow birthday cake! Anuj, our manager, who is holding the camera, organized this surprise party for Lauren.
Molly, helping me find the perfect angle for our goodbye selfie. How many times can you expect your manager, three levels above you, to do this with you?

Parting Thoughts

The people I have gotten to know at Uber are amazing, talented professionals. They’re welcoming, embracing human beings with warm hearts. I am so grateful to have met such wonderful people to support my career, to help me grow, and to become my friends. As I finish up my internship, I am headed for my true love: New York City. I won’t be working with Uber there, but I will take with me all of the knowledge that I gained in my four months here, and all of the friendships that I feel so lucky to have made. Even though I’m saying goodbye, this experience is and always will be ingrained in my heart.

So long, Uber. So long, to all the projects & research I have had the privilege to work on. So long, to all the people and the team that I love.

Saying goodbye to SF with my beloved French horn and Uber badge, proudly sporting my Uber hoodie!

Thanks to Erik, Chris, Lori, and Huadong who helped with the editing. Special thanks to Huadong & Erik who pushed me to write this article :)