Key Takeaways from Lookback Jr. Researcher Fellowship

In April 2021, Lookback, a UX research platform collaborated with UXRCollective (now Learners) and put together a 6-week fellowship to uplift junior researchers who already have research skills and knowledge but are having a hard time breaking into the competitive industry.

These are the notes I’d taken during the Lookback Jr. Researcher Fellowship

I was extremely lucky to be selected as part of the inaugural cohort with around 30 other researchers from different countries, backgrounds, and ages. Each week, an industry leader would join us and shed some light on a selected topic. We would then have another assignment review session later in the week to discuss our learnings and thoughts.

This fellowship brought a lot of value to me—from recognizing the power of research in organizations to finding my niche as a researcher. Here’re my five key takeaways.

#1 Researchers represent the truths, not the users.

UX Research stands for User Experience Research. Some researchers would name themselves as User Researcher. Look…don’t we all think UX Researchers are advocates for the users, or “the voice” of the users? That was the first slap in my face when Alec Levin said the statement above out loud at the beginning of our first session.

Good research is the key to bringing change. When a researcher speaks truth through their research, it provides strong evidence for solid strategies, and that makes desired outcomes more achievable. Leaning towards what users want may not lead to business growth. A good researcher needs to understand the organization’s business strategies and what business impacts they can bring.

#2 Lift others up; Build trust

While researchers always spot opportunities for growth and come into meetings with actionable recommendations for improvement, it may be daunting for others on the team as plans may be disrupted, or more work is brought to the table.

Try to understand what each individual’s goals are on the product team and find ways to support them. When we help others achieve their goals, we gain trust. Celebrate small wins and create space for positivity. Harness your power as a researcher and make others feel comfortable and enjoy talking to you!

#3 Communicate insights creatively

The impact of research relies heavily on the work of others. That said, it is of utmost importance to not only conduct good research but make your research to be heard and received by others. Presentation decks and reports? Yes, but boring…and they usually don’t stick in people’s minds!

Think about your colleagues’ final goals, speak their language, and come up with ways to make insights stick. Make them fun, entertaining, and easy to digest. Reiterate them multiple times through different means. Now ramp up your creativity as a researcher!

#4 Be teachers, not oracles — democratize research

“Your job as a researcher is not to have all the answers; Your job is to help your organization make decisions correctly,” said Behzod Sirjani. Instead of overwhelming yourself with all the possible research that you can do for your organization, teach others and help them talk to customers directly.

We have the opportunity and obligation to make the organization successful by enabling everyone to participate in the acts of learning. Be it building an interview guide or setting up a survey template, empower others to learn and listen to the customers. Research Minions all across the organization—wouldn’t that be great?

Learn more about Behzod’s ideas on democratizing research.

#5 Own your superpowers; Reframe your stories

Researchers literally come from all walks of life. Oftentimes, we wish we walked the easy path to UXR; We hide the seemingly irrelevant experiences. But no, no time was wasted. Be it the skills that we built or the perspectives that we gained along the way, all of our experiences made us uniquely us.

In order to find that perfect job that we can add the most value to, all we need to do is to look deep into our past journey, identify and unleash our superpowers, and rewrite our stories. Sara Awada’s “The Three Stages to Uplevel” workbook will help you find clarity on what you can contribute uniquely and tap into the next level of professional development for any UX Researchers.

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Janet Chu

UX Researcher + Storyteller who stands for the arts and environmental sustainability. Check out janetchuhl.com/