30 Days in the Shoes of a User Researcher

Monisha Pattanaik
Experience Matters
Published in
5 min readAug 11, 2020

The phrase “Let us see what research has shown us” has always intrigued me how the researcher arrived at this conclusion. What are the challenges a user researcher faces in a project? How to define user research goals for a study? At what point do I know my research is complete? To find answers to these, I immersed myself in shadowing and exchange my role as a user researcher for a month virtually (due to COVID-19 outbreak); this would have been more interactive in-person.


As a user experience designer, I have always relied on design decisions made from research insights. The approach we followed here was to get onboarded into a real user research project, collaborate with 2 other UX designers, and also in parallel read about the value of user research. The project’s goal was to synthesize the user interview notes to derive user needs, pain points, goals, points of view. So my initial task was reading online and also based on recommendations made by my mentor. I had debriefing sessions with designers to understand the domain and absorb the existing research notes.

End of week one, I had to present my takeaways from the exercise. Most of my takeaways were follow-up questions that we parked to find out at the end of the exchange.

-How to match up the pace of user research in an agile development environment?

-Do we always need user research?

-How to calculate the ROI of UX?

-How to handle the “know it all mentality?


As a researcher, it’s not enough to understand user research value alone but to evangelize user research to product teams. I learned how SAP’s user research community is making sure user research makes its place in a project through its show and tells, talks, usability test events, workshops, etc. I collaborated with the team to refine persona based on user research findings. This week we actually landed in a situation in the project where we had to discuss the need for creating user journey maps and how do they add value to the project. So we started looking at the big picture and locate how various personas interact and what information flows between them and how. As my next task, I picked a few stages of the business process and detailed the user journey map.

This discussion was very crucial and made my experience real-time how to communicate the value of the research approach taken. I also read a few case studies from other tech companies on how they share the user research results within the organization. This broadened my perspective, and I will use some of these skills to communicate user research’s impact on my future project.

user journey map


Validating the critical findings with end-users at this stage was very important as the next steps in product development would be to identify significant opportunities and translate them into product features requirements. To gain a common consensus on top findings, we conducted a voting session internally with key stakeholders.

The validation workshop was planned virtually using the collaboration tool “Mural.” During my shadowing sessions, I learned what goes into planning and organizing virtual workshops, including mural prep boards and dry run session. We also planned to introduce the tool via fun warmup games. The games helped customers to get familiarised with the new tool. In the end, the workshop turned out to be very engaging, and we gathered valuable feedback for the next steps.


Facilitating research studies via a workshop is also a vital responsibility of a researcher. I shadowed my mentor in a series of user research facilitation workshops. The goal of the workshop was to determine the point of view from user research insights. Facilitation is very different from conducting a user research study as here we have to enable the team to asks the right questions and move towards the research goal smoothly.

A researcher should be a people’s person who values diverse mindsets and gives everyone equal opportunity to express their thoughts. The workshops were spanned across the week in multiple sessions. Keeping the team motivated, engaged, and enabling meaningful discussions by observing more and less intrusion are critical aspects of virtual facilitation. Though the workshops were online, the researcher ensured that everyone is on the same page with recap sessions, breaking the ice with online warmups exercises and added twist with music streaming during breaks making the virtual experience more delightful.


-Utilize learnings in a current project.

-Volunteering for design thinking connect sessions as a facilitator.

-Assist user researchers to recruit participants in research.


Answering the questions that I raised during the first week:

-How to match up the pace of User research in an Agile development environment? Do we always need User Research?

There is no perfect way to structure a research study. Depending on the requirement, research needs to be planned. Some projects can use past analytics to start with and later move to evaluative research to test new features. The need for research purely depends on the goals of the study.

-How to calculate the ROI of UX?

At SAP, it’s just getting started with Qualtrics, but it would be interesting to follow this up as a future topic.

-How to handle the “know it all mentality”?

This can be challenged with real-time end-user sessions and evaluate if the assumptions were valid. Also, expectations need to be set on the investment required for research, and its value adds to the product.

-Cultural exchange: Every morning started with some coffee and music. We would talk about our cultures, art, celebrities, favorite cuisines, and TV shows. I was able to introduce my mentor to some of the Indian musicians going global with cross location collaborations, and she introduced me to her favorite music bands, too.

A big shout out to my Mentor “ Alexandra Matz” for supporting me at every step and making our collaboration so memorable; Muktha Hiremath and Savithaa Rajendran for being excellent UX designers and making collaboration so much fun.