I am a graduate student at New York University, currently pursuing my MS in Management of Technology. My key interests lie in Business Analysis, Strategy Consulting and Project Management. At STEM-Away, I was the Project Lead for my team that focused on UX Research and Design in the June session. Currently, I am the overall Pathway Lead for UX Research and Design and this is my Self-Assessment for the June Session.
Prior UX Knowledge
Implemented principles of UX Research into project/working models during my undergraduate studies. Created small projects like redesigning a traditional pizza cutter and mop to large projects like redesigning and fabricating a traditional vacuum cleaner and an electric 3 wheeler. What I learned extensively was empathizing with the users in order to come up with an excellent prototype of the products. I had developed a deep sense of user empathy while implementing UX Research methods during the 4 years of my undergraduate studies.
Overview of Things Learned
Technical Skills & Tools:
- Quantitative UX Research: Collecting user data and analyzing it in order to deeply understand user needs
- Low Fidelity & High Fidelity Prototyping: Incorporating the UX Design on a blank canvas by reflecting upon the UX Research based results. My team used Balsamiq and Figma for prototyping. It was a unique experience to see how thoughts and observations came to life using high fidelity design tools like Figma
- Asana: My team did not use Asana extensively, but as a Project Lead I did dive into understanding the basics of Asana. At first it might seem complex, but in reality it makes lives easier for PM leads when working with larger groups to track progress.
Leadership and Soft Skills:
- Virtual Communication Skills: We all know how difficult it is to communicate virtually, especially when we’re trying to convince someone on something. Imagine convincing a team of 8 and making sure everyone is on the same page. I was grateful for a wonderful set of participants and observers and they did make my task a little easier. However, in the beginning it was difficult to communicate seamlessly as we did not know each other. Fun conversations, Ice-Breakers and Tasks associated with UX certainly helped break that barrier.
- Project Management Skills: It is difficult to keep your team members engaged when you’re working remotely. I took upon this challenge with a unique approach of assigning interesting tasks related to UX Research and Design at the end of each meeting. The purpose of the tasks was two fold - 1. Keeping participants in the loop while they’re away and not attending meetings and 2. All tasks were directed towards understanding our problem statement in depth so as to facilitate a deeper understanding of the internship’s goals.
- Emotional Intelligence: Empathizing with the users is a crucial part of the UX Research process and I made sure that my team was dedicated towards making a wholesome approach. For every aspiring Product Manager or UX Researcher it is important to understand, comprehend and translate the users needs into product/service specifications. The process of empathizing with STEM-Away’s varied user base helped me and my teammates define our problem statement better and also narrow down our focus on the key pain points that existed within the platform. I am sure that my team and I developed a higher level of emotional intelligence by actively empathizing with our user base.
- Applying UX Research and Design principles to design a Personal Dashboard, Landing Page and Communication Channel for STEM-Away
- Build project plans and execute on project delivery along with participating in cross-functional process improvement activities
- Conduct meetings with internal stakeholders in order to understand their needs and execute them into design prototypes
- Track, manage and execute the daily progress of a team of 8 participants
What I learned for this Experience
- There is much more to the UX and Product Management field than just design prototyping and running technical design iterations - it is more about connecting the human element into the product/service
- Empathizing with your users can take you a long way and it can bring forward key observations - ones that you hadn’t even imagined could be possible
- Assumptive empathy is good in the beginning stages but it is important to ‘actually’ interact and connect with past, current and potential users in order to understand more about their expectations from the product/service
- Qualitative UX Research is an excellent way to start navigating through the process of finding the key pain points within your problem statement
- In times when data is the king, it always helps to back qualitative ux research finding with quantitative data - conducting surveys is key to supporting your hypothesis
- It is extremely important to learn an intermediate degree of prototyping either through Figma or Adobe XD - learning these tools and representing our ideas on them helped us talk about our product/service in a better and seamless way