UX research at Zendesk: creating voices in all corners
Developing beautifully made, usable products that delight our customers starts with deep listening. That’s where our user experience (UX) research team comes in, and our new senior director of UX research is deeply committed to building and nurturing a team that can make that happen.
We’re champions of customer service at Zendesk. Why is UX research important?
UX research is here to help Zendesk make better decisions about what products to build and ship to our customers. We do this by deeply understanding the customer and translating those insights into a point of view that informs our product strategy.
As UX researchers we talk to customers and learn their preferences, desires, and overall behaviors. Then we’re able to see what they are struggling or frustrated with, as well as what they are really trying to accomplish when they are using our products.
Tell me about your role as senior director of UX research.
My team is responsible for going out and talking to customers in a deep and empathetic way so that we are able to get a true understanding about how they are using the product and what problems they are trying to solve. Today, there are 13 of us total. My role is to help guide and grow the careers of my team and partner and collaborate with other senior and executive leaders across the company on how to best utilize the customer insights we gather to build better Zendesk products.
What influences the projects you work on? How do you choose which projects to prioritize?
My responsibility is to help align the work that we do to the company’s most important priorities. We work with our cross-functional teams and leadership to determine the most important and urgent knowledge gaps that exist and design our team’s research activities around them.
Your work has shaped UX research across multiple tech and media companies. What compelled you to choose Zendesk for the next step of your career?
I chose Zendek because I saw an opportunity to lead a tremendous group of UX researchers at a company that cares deeply about designing for their customers. As a researcher, I spend a lot of time in my career observing people struggling through the various interfaces that they use. From ATM machines to cash registers and financial management systems, I’ve seen that this world is not at all designed perfectly for folks. And so when I learned about Zendesk and saw the way that we approach designing very usable and beautiful products, that’s what attracted me–along with being able to connect directly with senior leadership and influence product strategy.
You’ve been at Zendesk for about six months. What have you found that is different or unique here, compared to other places that you’ve worked?
The people here are extremely empathetic to customers and want to truly understand what they need. Something that is apparent in the teams that I’ve been working with so far is that they want more. They want to hear what the customer is struggling with and trying to solve, so that we can get it right. And that’s what separates us.
We do have goals to reach. But we care about the customer. We’re in the customer service business. We’re selling to customers who are in the customer service business. In order for us to be true to the mission, it’s important for us to understand who our customers are, and I feel that passion.
Zendesk offers a professional development budget for employees. How important do you think it is that companies have this type of benefit?
That’s part of why I join companies. It’s important that companies invest in their people; I’m of the mind that you own your career just as much as your mentors and managers who help you. I like that Zendesk provides us an opportunity through this professional development budget for us to chart our own course for our careers whether it’s through a training workshop, a conference, or career coaching.
We work really hard to make space for all voices at Zendesk, especially those that aren’t always adequately represented. How do you incorporate inclusivity into your work?
For those of us in UX research, diversity, equity, and inclusion is all baked into our very existence. It is part of our DNA to understand the world as the world understands itself. If we’re going to make better decisions about what to build and ship to our customers as a company, then we must have a plethora of knowledge about different people, across different walks of life, with all different abilities.
Zendesk is sending a small group to AfroTech this year. Why do you want to attend?
We have a global product. We have many individuals from all backgrounds and abilities using our product. If we want to build better products for our diverse world, we must attract and hire the best talent from a variety of backgrounds and abilities, and especially from underrepresented populations to design and build these products. AfroTech is an amazing
conference to meet and connect with some of the most talented Black people in the technology space. I am attending to help us get to know potential candidates, as well as to share who we are and what we do at Zendesk.
Any advice on maximizing your time at conferences?
Go to the conference with a plan and a great attitude. Go with a plan to meet and network, and learn two or three new things that can help you with your own growth and development. I am where I am today because of what I’ve learned at conferences over the years and the connections that I’ve made.