User Research at a UXR Company with Roberta Dombrowski of User Interviews

It’s our most meta episode yet. Today, we chatted with Roberta Dombrowski, VP of User Research at User Interviews (and a User Research Yearbook Class of 2022 member—check out her profile here), about doing user research about user researchers at a user research company. Listen in to learn about how adding a formal user research practice has benefited the UI team, the challenges of going from an IC to a leadership role, and building a research practice from the ground up. 

Roberta talked about…

  • Why a ReOps backbone is important to a research practice that runs well.
  • What she’s learned from talking to researchers all day.
  • The importance of stakeholder interviews, even if your stakeholders are bought in.

Psst—can’t get enough of podcasts? Here are 30+ more of the best UX and User Research podcasts to add to your listening queue.


[2:58] What’s different about being a user researcher for a user research platform.

[11:04] Roberta’s biggest wins from adding a formal researcher to the UI team.

[16:27] Tackling insight management when lots of people do research.

[22:33] Lessons from talking to lots of different researchers about their work.

[27:57] Why are so many researchers introverts?

[30:50] On making the transition from an IC researcher to a research leader.

[34:26] Our hosts reflect on what’s changed since Awkward Silences began.

About our guest

Roberta Dombrowski is the VP, UXR at User Interviews. In her free time, Roberta is an adjunct professor through Boise State University’s Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) program and mindfulness teacher.


[00:00:00] Roberta: I often tell people that research is about holding space for people’s lived experiences. like on one hand there is the rigorous, like what’s the method? What are the questions? How are we doing this? And then there’s also the continuous interviews, passive research, insights. You are a real researcher. I think everyone is a researcher in some way. 

[00:00:40] Erin: Hello everybody. And welcome back to Awkward Silences. Today we’re here with our very own Roberta Dombrowski, our first ever VP of user research. She’s been with us about six months and it’s crazy we haven’t gotten her on the show yet, but here we are. Roberta, thanks for joining us.

[00:00:58] Roberta: Thanks for having me.

[00:00:59] Erin: Got jH here too. 

[00:01:01] JH: Yeah Roberta you’ve always been telling us that like, you’ve been a long time listener and a big fan and stuff. And it sort of felt like pleasantries, like you know making friends with the new people. And then we got the Spotify wrapped stuff and 

[00:01:10] Erin: I know it’s legit. 

[00:01:11] JH: She’s a real listener.


[00:01:13] Erin: She, 

[00:01:15] Roberta: A few hundred hours. 

[00:01:16] JH: It’s like the first time, a long time thing, people doing radio shows like longtime listener first time caller or whatever. 

So, yeah. It’s exciting. I’m glad, we’re glad we’re doing it. 

[00:01:24] Roberta: it definitely circles back to the whole meta, the entire role in being on the team a little bit more. So, yeah.

[00:01:31] Erin: Well, thanks for joining us. So today we’re going to talk about building a user research team at a user research company, which is maybe not exactly what anyone listening is doing, but certainly has all sorts of juicy meta stuff, but hopefully some applications to other folks when you come into a company and are really building a practice from scratch.

So Roberta let’s just start from you know, kind of. An open-ended, how’s it going six months and not stopping from the beginning. We’ll start in medius rests, right? Where we are. How’s it going so far right now?

[00:02:07] Roberta: It’s good. I have days where I’m just like, I have the best job in the world. I get to talk to researchers every day about a research product. As a researcher, every day is different. So it’s like the wild west. I still can’t believe it’s been six months. Honestly, some days it feels like it’s only been like two months, some days it feels like it’s been a whole year.

So I’m like, I don’t know if that’s, COVID losing track of time. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun. And I would say that building research practice from scratch is not for the faint of heart at all. There’s a lot of challenges that definitely come along with it. For people like me, it’s very energizing. It’s exciting. 

[00:02:45] JH: I’m curious as somebody who was pretty familiar with user interviews ahead of joining the team. You probably had some preconceptions about what it would be like coming in and stuff like lined up with maybe your read on things and what’s been different? 

[00:02:58] Roberta: Yeah, it’s interesting because I was aware of the user interviews brand, like all the free forever plans that we do, the promos, I was a reader of the blog. I saw the field guide. I listened to the podcast, but I’d actually never used the product before. I was so excited to get in. And I think the most jarring thing for me, like the first day, I’m used to being a solo researcher on a team.

So usually you do a lot of buy-in with your teammates. Tell them why research is important, why it’s valuable. Here’s the impact that I can have. And I didn’t need to do that. Like the team already loved research. We know about research as a research product. And I could just do my job, which was very new for me.

I could just, oh, I can do research and get started and like kind of cut off all the other stuff. So that was something that was definitely jarring for me. Um, Getting in the product for the first time. Like I had browsed around it before, but never got into it, setting up a project before on user interviews.

There’s so much like with any product or service, there’s so many different layers involved and nuances, which JH likes to 

[00:04:10] Erin: It’s like, you’re telling me

[00:04:12] Roberta: He talks a lot about Easter eggs being in there. 

[00:04:15] Erin: There’s still some old code in there.


[00:04:17] Roberta: it’s going to take me a while to find all of that out. But yeah, those are some of the things that have stood out for sure.

[00:04:24] Erin: Yeah. You know, the advice you hear a lot with you know, kind of careers and choosing where you want to work as a UX researcher is, you know, if you can and go somewhere where people believe in research, 

[00:04:36] Roberta: Mm. 

[00:04:36] Erin: going to make your job easier. I’m sure there are people who embrace the challenge of, know, maybe they’ve been brought in to be a change agent or, you know, someone here believes in this, but the company’s not bought in yet or whatever it might be, but glad to hear that’s been your experience as opposed to the opposite. Yeah. 

[00:04:54] Roberta: Yeah. And the, 

[00:04:55] Erin: trying to put our money where our mouth is 

[00:04:57] Roberta: Yeah.

And the change in and user interviews, that’s different, right? The team already has a level of maturity because when I joined product managers, designers were doing research. So it was pretty democratized already. And so I’m coming into the team pretty mature. How can we take it to the next level when it comes to research?

How can we introduce different methods? How can we actually centralize what we know? Cause everyone’s out there doing research. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges and it’s different. It’s a different challenge than I’ve encountered before. So definitely going to be learning a lot as we head into the new year.

[00:05:34] Erin: yeah, I was just going to say, I don’t think democratization was our problem,

[00:05:38] Roberta: Not at all.

[00:05:39] Erin: whatever democracy is extreme whatever that is what we yeah. What were you going 

[00:05:45] JH: I say, one thing we’ve heard some other guests on the show bring up is when you are in a role where you need to get, buy in and do some change management and stuff, a really effective approach can be doing something like stakeholder interviews. We understand what motivates them, you know, where they have concerns or fears and things like that, so that you can then go be effective in you know, actualizing that change.

Since you came into an environment that was more supportive of research, kind of off the jump. Did you still find a need to do stakeholder interviews to get that fluency and stuff? Or was that something you didn’t do? I’m just curious how that affected things. 

[00:06:12] Roberta: Definitely did it. One of the first conversations that I had with Basel who’s the CEO of the team, I told him that I wanted to do the stakeholder interviews and that I needed time to just understand what’s the current state of research on the team. And he was just like, yeah, go for it.

But yeah absolutely. How can you do your job if you don’t know all the history behind things? So I ended up doing a research study around what is research like on the team? I looked at our historical research. I spoke to stakeholders. There were probably like 50 people I talked to within four weeks.

[00:06:47] Erin: That’s the majority of the company for those listening. 

Yeah we’re 

[00:06:50] Roberta: 85 right now. that really is it allows me into like, what are the pain points? What are your hopes and dreams when it comes to research? What is the current state that’s preventing you from doing your role and delivering value to our customers?

And I got to just understand what mattered to people and built relationships, which is why I’m so glad I took the time during the first few weeks, because once you dive in, you don’t get that time back. Really? So,

[00:07:20] Erin: what did you learn other than like, research is happening? People believe in research, but what’s going well, where did we have needs? 

[00:07:28] Roberta: yeah. 

[00:07:29] Erin: start to, how did you start to figure out how you’re going to make an impact?

[00:07:33] Roberta: Yeah, I did. I took some time after I did all the research and what’s working well, is people are doing research, right? It’s happening. I’m a researcher. So I always look at it like, what’s the opportunity? What do I need to do better? And so I focus a lot on that. We need some new methods. We need enablement and education.

When it comes to research, we need to centralize what we’re learning. then there’s also like, that’s, what’s eternally what needs to happen, but there’s also the strategic project work that research is now starting to work on and hopefully helping to guide some decisions for the product and just the company as a whole too.

There’s just a lot of opportunity. I invested because of what I learned, I actually decided to build a research ops first practice because there’s so many people doing research. We really need to build infrastructure like that so that we can continue to scale as the business scales too. So.

[00:08:31] Erin: Yeah, I know. Like Kate Towsey at Atlassian would say, you know, once you hit like seven or eight kinds of researchers, then you need like a research ops person sort of like per seven or eight. if you figure. Everyone like these people who do research are doing X percent of their, you know, we’re at that 8 already.

Right. In terms of just the amount of research that’s happening. 

[00:08:51] Roberta: yes. 

[00:08:51] Erin: I think that makes a lot of sense.

[00:08:53] Roberta: And with it too comes, prioritizing the projects that are being worked on what work is the research team actually leading versus enabling and supporting. 

And that’s like, we’re going through 2022 planning right now on the leadership level and dealing with that and trying to create a way of working in prioritizing.

[00:09:13] JH: Cool. And I know you’ve done a lot of reflection on your time here and, you know, we’ve had some blog posts and some other stuff there. I’m curious, you know, if you could go back to the beginning and kind of run through this again, anything you’d do differently or lessons learned. 

[00:09:26] Roberta: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think like I did take time during my first month to do my study, but, and like to talk to people. I think I would’ve spent more time looking at historical research. And knowing what exactly is out there, because there was a whole team of researchers at UI that was doing projects for a year and a half.

And there’s so many insights there. And that. I need all of that knowledge now. I think that’s one of the biggest things. And then I went pretty deep into one research project within my first month and a half. You always as a first researcher, when you’re working on a project want to do really well and like to drive value and impact.

I think I would have taken a little bit more time with the methods and pulling apart the sequencing of the questions for that. Because we tried to boil the ocean in our first project. And we’re revisiting, we’re going back and answering questions now, but I think my approach would have been a little bit different there.

[00:10:25] JH: Nice. 

[00:10:26] Erin: It feels like, I mean, An unavoidable thing to, of course, you’re going to learn lessons from doing and that’s part of right. You said 

part of what’s going well is we’re just doing the research. You don’t learn to improve until you get out there and start doing stuff.

[00:10:45] Roberta: Yeah, for 

sure. Because you can create the perfect research plan, which when I crafted the plan, I was like, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this. We learned so much along the way. And that’s part of learning and research too. It’s like, yeah, we learned about the state of our just how we recruit people and that I didn’t know anything about the type of data that we have and how we can target and segment people.

So all of those things will be used as we head into the new year and focus on new studies too.

[00:11:13] Erin: Yeah.

[00:11:14] JH: Yeah. Yeah.

There’s a meta point, there is like, I feel like bringing it up to the product team. A lot of, like, we can only mitigate risks so far. Right? Like at some point, you know, I was preparing stuff and discovery and research and stuff, but sometimes you gotta do the thing and see if it goes the way that you were hoping or iterate and learn from it.

And what you’re describing with the research plan itself was kind of the same way. You can do a lot of upfront work that’s worth doing and very valuable, but sometimes you have to get into the doing of it to realize where it is, maybe it needs some adjustment or a course correction. I’m curious on the other end of the spectrum, like, what do you think has gone well? What do you think some of the biggest wins have been from adding research to the team in a formal way? 

[00:11:46] Roberta: Yeah, it’s really fun. I, something I do, I’ve battled with like imposter syndrome as a researcher for so long. So I actually have a kudos folder on my computer. I like taking screenshots and it’s been filling up with, I see slack messages like our product managers talking about how they deliver the insights after they come off in the interview.

They’re using templates and like resources that we’ve been creating. And they’re like, oh, I learned this from Roberta. That’s all like behind the scenes, that’s qualitative feedback that I’m getting from the group. That’s really exciting to see working well. I think on a leadership level to the project that I just described, it was pretty meaty seeing delivering the insights.

We had our offsite, our company offsite, and then. The same week J H has like presenting the product strategy. Basel is presenting the company strategy. That is very unique. I’ve never been in an environment where you do a study and it’s immediately filtering the direction of the company. And that’s more than I honestly could have asked for in a new role.

I think any researcher can ask for it. And those are like, I try to do a lot of reflection, like once a month, be like check in with myself. I don’t want to take those for granted. Cause it’s such a special environment that we’re in to see all of those amazing things happen.

[00:13:14] Erin: Yeah. And I think the point about getting positive feedback from the PM’s, changing their practice so that they can get more impact from the research they’re doing is, you know, we’d call that a growth multiplier, right? And it’s also in line with what you’ve set out to do. Like this research is already happening.

How can I make that research better, more effective? So that’s almost the best result you can see. 

[00:13:40] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:13:41] Erin: So that’s great to hear. So it’s, you know, the end of the year, I don’t know when we’re going to publish this thing. So, you know, it’s either the end of the year or the beginning of the year. Life’s a circle, I don’t know.

Yeah, exactly. It’s somewhere in the middle of the end of the pandemic. I don’t know Omni Crohn’s or is that how you say it anyway?

[00:13:56] Roberta: I think so.

[00:13:57] Erin: That’s what’s up? So everyone’s thinking about the year ahead, right? And planning for. For that, including you Roberta. So I’m curious what you’re excited about for the year ahead for 2022.

[00:14:07] Roberta: Yeah. I mean, Erin, we’ve talked a little bit about it, but. Part of the reason I decided to join the team is to partner around thought leadership and marketing. So we’re going to be doing a lot of market research and market studies. We have some persona like really foundational research around personas, who are our customers?

What’s the buyer experience like? Part of the reason why research at user interviews is so exciting is because you get to do UX product research, but then also market research too. So dabbling we’re gonna be focusing on insights management, which is going to be a beast. JH and I have already started talking about approaches to that.

Yeah, and the team’s going to be growing too. That’s really exciting. We have an open research role right now. We’re growing the team and we’re going to be learning and iterating how we’re working on the team over the next few months. And I’ve been thinking about the org structure. Should we start to dedicate researchers to specific product teams as well as like how we’re centralized to, so we have context.

That’s all stuff that I like to nerd out about too, so,

[00:15:16] Erin: I love a good org structure too.

[00:15:19] Roberta: yeah. I see all your diagrams all the time. I love it.

[00:15:22] Erin: Yeah. It’s the illusion of order. 

[00:15:25] Roberta: Yes, for sure.


[00:15:28] JH: I know one thing that you’ve really learned is making sure that the research we do is very around decisions we’re making. I’m curious, any thoughts on how we kind of lean into that even more in the next year? Like I know we’ve already started to do some of that and interim what we’re doing in ways before, but maybe not always the most intentional or structured and the enablement is help there, but yeah.

H how do we kind of continue to get better at that? 

[00:16:28] Roberta: Yeah, for sure. And for context, the team does use it. When I joined the team, the product team used Theresa Torres’ continuous discovery habits framework. And so. With that. One of the things that I wanted to do was really introduced because research resources are like completely strapped. I can’t answer all the questions that all of our stakeholders have.

So introducing this decision driven framework where I’m planning right now with the team is asking our stakeholders questions. What questions do you have? And then once I get that out of them, I take a step back and I’m like, all right, what decision do we need to make with this?

And then I’m trying to see the frequency of questions. has, like, where are the most questions? Why, and then what decisions will they inform and then try to prioritize things? I think for us, I’ve been seeing the team has been really adapting. I’ve been doing educational sessions around this framework.

I think one thing that we’ll be expanding on is. The methods we’re using. Once you know the decision you talk about the decision with your team too is, do we actually already have the data to inform this decision or do we need to actually go out and do research and gather the information?

Because sometimes you don’t, you already have it internally. So I think that tied to like insight management is going to be huge next year. Cause we may realize we actually don’t need to gather more right now, but yeah.

[00:17:57] Erin: Yeah. And I think, you know, Roberta, you and I were talking about just to get a little, when we talk to researchers, they can always share the research they’re doing for, you know, 

[00:18:05] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:18:06] Erin: and all this sort of stuff. And I work at this company as I’ll say what I want. But you know, you and I were just kind of talking about your, like, you and I’ve noticed you have a lot of kind of segmentation questions, right.


[00:18:15] Roberta: Ooh. 

[00:18:16] Erin: Kind of reflecting on that and like, is this like, you know, an Erin obsession or just kind of like where I am and what I’m thinking about, like right now. And just kind of thinking about that and you know, With the user interviews view of the research world it’s who says it is really important to the understanding of your research.

Right. Which is not to say some insights are more valuable than others, which they are, but like really understanding, okay, well, like what was this person’s use case, you know, where do they fit into our buying journey into our business goals? That context is so important to what to do with insight.

Yeah. Where to put it in your head or in an insights management tool. 

[00:18:57] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:18:57] Erin: I’m really excited to see how our insights management framework can push forward this vision of participant centricity. You know, I think that will be very helpful to me in my work on, you know, as a marketer.

And I think it will be very interesting just to push my own agenda.

[00:19:21] Roberta: Always, and I think something we’ve been talking about that we’re kind of hitting the nail right on the head is I’ve seen a lot of talk in the industry. Like even a few weeks ago, there were conversations about what’s the difference between market research and product research and how do we define segments, personas and all these things?

Yeah. We’re facing that head-on, as we talk about insight management and how we segment our own customers. And even as we create a taxonomy for atomic research, because it’s a shared language that everyone in the company is going to have to be able to understand and share with each other. And so, yeah, I’m really looking forward to it, there’s so much nuance in there as we start to dig in.

[00:20:03] Erin: Yeah. Cause it really it’s like, how do I make better decisions and how do I make them faster? And that’s what, that’s the whole ball game. And 

[00:20:10] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:20:11] Erin: it’s with a persona or a segment or this method or that method or whatever is just in means to the end. Right. Which is not to. To mitigate how difficult all of that 

[00:20:23] Roberta: yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:20:27] Erin: better decisions faster.

[00:20:29] JH: Yeah.

You see this come up sometimes in research or writing around like habits and how people like, you know, we make these cognitive shortcuts and it allows us to deal with the world because the world is so complex and overwhelming. And if all of our senses were firing all the time, right. And, or like, and it comes up in biases and things like that as well.

But I think what we’re talking about with like segmentation and how you organize a taxonomy for insight management, If you can do those things in an explicit, intentional way, like you need those shortcuts, you need a way to like, organize the world a little bit, to be like, I need to know about this type of user in this type of like, part of their experience or journey.

Cause that’s where, like, we think there’s opportunity right now. And like, if you don’t have some of that it’s really hard to move forward. So yeah, I think that’d be huge for us and super excited to work on it. 

[00:21:08] Roberta: Yeah. And you can get overwhelmed too. Like I have moments where I’m a researcher doing research on a research product. And so I talked to our customers all day long about their experience. I have to constantly check my bias at the door, just like, oh, this is what they’re describing and how they’re doing research in their environment reminds me of my experience at this company or this.

And it’s constantly trying to make sense and find the patterns out of all of this data and not get overwhelmed by all of these insights too. And I think it’s cognitive load really. 

[00:21:48] JH: Yeah. 

[00:21:48] Roberta: And it can amplify. Yeah.

[00:21:50] JH: Do you find it hard? Not to be almost judgy as a researcher, talking to researchers being like, huh? You do research that way. Like, I wouldn’t do that. Like. 

[00:21:56] Roberta: It’s not so much judging. I try to be aware and I practice mindfulness a lot. So if things come up, I’m just like, huh? Roberta has this thought or observation. Yeah. Noted. It’s interesting now as I’m hiring though, because. I talked to researchers so much about their workflow and now I’m hiring and I’m like, this is what I’ve noticed of the themes.

When we talk to customers, here’s what I’m looking for. I think I get a little bit more judgy in the hiring process, so

[00:22:28] JH: Yeah, 

[00:22:28] Erin: to have standards.

[00:22:29] Roberta: yeah, 

[00:22:30] JH: one, right? There’s there’s a really good metaphor from a, the guy who runs a Shopify Toby, where he talks about like kind of product development being sort of like jazz, where like, you all 

[00:22:37] Roberta: Mm. 

[00:22:37] JH: kind of playing by the same, like loose rules so

that it can fit together.

But It’s very improvisational because we’re solving these complex problems and we’re iterating. You should find it. It’s great, it’s like, I think it’s on the observer effect if people want to look it up. But it is a little bit like, when you’re adding a jazz player to your ensemble, like they do have to match your style a little bit.

Right? Like 

[00:22:55] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:22:55] JH: have somebody who’s different, but like, you need to make sure that you’re not biasing in a systematic way, but you do, like, there is some style match that you need for hiring. Right. And I imagine that’s true in research to some degree. 

[00:23:04] Roberta: Oh, definitely. I was just on a call earlier today. And one of the things I try to probe in when I’m looking, talking to researchers is like, how do you share your insights? How do you do the storytelling about what you’re learning? And I listened. Is it a big presentation at the end? Or are you sharing?

Because that’s how we do it internally. We have slack updates, we do bureau board sharing. And so when you get to that final presentation, It’s easier to have the buy-in because everyone’s been brought along the whole time. And so I listened to those little parts along the journey as a researcher is like doing their work.

Whether it’s in interviews or even in customer interviews too. So

[00:23:48] Erin: What have you learned about researchers talking to how many researchers have you talked to? Like ballpark a hundred.

[00:23:54] Roberta: least

[00:23:55] Erin: Yeah. Okay. So that’s a lot like what is in, so yeah. What have you, like, I know you talked about, we kind of over-indexed on generative research here. So we, you know, we know some things about researchers.

What have you learned that maybe surprised you or just reaffirmed something you already thought


[00:24:14] Roberta: There’s definitely patterns that have come up. I usually start off my sessions by asking people about broader context outside of user interviews. What’s your life like? What is your job as a researcher like? The biggest pain point that we hear time and time again is time and bandwidth 

[00:24:30] Erin: Yeah. 

[00:24:30] Roberta: and burnout from researchers.

And so that’s something I think about a lot. I’ve also seen some patterns around enterprise companies. So researchers who do work inside of enterprises, typically they’re in like a pod structure, very cross-functional teams smaller sized companies. It could be a product manager or a designer doing research.

So I’ve been seeing patterns like that. And then also there is the theme of. Each company is different and each researcher’s different too. And so like, it definitely varies and people’s work flows are different. The state of data and how they store customer data and different companies are like very so yeah,

[00:25:12] Erin: That’s the, that’s where the segmentation comes in. That’s why it’s so important.

Yeah. There are certain commonalities though, right? I mean, I think when we talk about the jazz metaphor too, right? It’s like, there’s this baseline. You’re not gonna fit if X, Y, and Z are true, like, we need you to add your trombone or whatever.

Like, we need you to add something 

here too. And so I think, I don’t know, researchers are like that where there’s some traits that tend to. Span a lot of researchers, maybe not all of them. always am amused by. I feel like every researcher I talk to is like, you’re not going to believe this, but I’m an introvert.

I’m like, I hear that a lot. 

[00:25:46] JH: That’s exactly what I was thinking of. My next 

The question for Roberta was gonna be like, we hear all the time that everyone reads everyone’s inner introvert apparently. And I was curious where you 

[00:25:52] Erin: Yeah. Yeah, Yeah. Yeah. Well, I hear that a lot, which is not to say, you know, I haven’t done the survey. I don’t know, you know, how folks identify, but I hear that a ton, but anyway there’s, you know, there’s a curiosity. There’s. Like these 

[00:26:07] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:26:08] Erin: do have in common, but certainly there’s a lot of variance in terms of, you know, especially as the field has 

[00:26:13] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:26:14] Erin: and there’s more room for niche and specialization.

You’ve got your like very quanti researchers. You’ve got your speciality in diary studies. I specialize in research ops. So, now, certainly there are different kinds of researchers doing different kinds of research in different kinds of organizations.

[00:26:31] Roberta: Yeah. It’s so meta, because the first time I actually talked to J H wasn’t in the interview process, we met a few months ago, like at the beginning of this year. And I was describing to him this like a research maturity framework I had in my head. And I was just like, oh, these qualities of these types of companies, he was like yup.

I’m entertaining this. Yeah, absolutely. And now it’s like, what? 12 months later? Seeing those, and those are like the super meta moments for me. And I’m just like, oh, wow. But yeah, I say. Those curiosity traits, the introversion, all of that. I have that, and I think my self-awareness around what I’m good at when it comes to research has also shifted because I’m seeing so many trends and talking to so many other people.

It’s allowed me to refine my own professional development and what I want to grow into. So that’s been cool as well. 

[00:27:24] JH: I always feel a little uncomfortable bringing this up with guests that have brought up the introversion thing, or know what the right word is. you since we’re pals Do you have any, like, do you have any theories to posit? Like, why does that seem to be a theme? Like, because on the surface it’s like you go out and talk to people all day.

So that, that seems, you know, on a surface level, kind of 

[00:27:42] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:27:43] JH: to do, people who seem to self-select in this profession also self-report often, you know, at whatever frequency it is, feeling introverted. I’m just curious if you have any ideas, why that might. 

[00:27:52] Roberta: Yeah, it’s funny. So I used to work at a behavioral assessment company called the predictive index and that’s literally what we did. We had assessments about people’s working styles and I have a few ideas. Usually introversion relates to the big four-factor model. And so where do you derive energy from?

How do you process information? Introverts usually process information like heads down. It doesn’t mean that they’re, they don’t ever engage with people. It just means like, Hey, I think things through deeply alone. And so I think like when you think about our researcher, you’re typically observing that’s when you’re out there or you might be engaging with participants.

You also need that deep work to process what you’re seeing. It’s funny. Cause my mom used to call me an owl when I was a kid, which I’m like, yep. That makes sense. Why I’m a researcher. Because I observed things and then I still need to process it and it’s balancing and I think that’s why researchers don’t get overwhelmed or there’s so many introverts as researchers because it’s balancing that.

If I was alone in a room with a spreadsheet all day long, I would probably die. That doesn’t sound fun. But I balance my deep work with the social aspects and exploring.

[00:29:07] Erin: It’s also so much listening, like it’s 

[00:29:09] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:29:10] Erin: but a good researcher. Is listening right? Which is not necessarily something extroverts are always the best at. 

[00:29:19] Roberta: no. 

[00:29:20] Erin: You know, I also have a, I don’t know this isn’t a theory. This is just like, a counterpoint potentially like we do hear, you hear from the introverts, you know, a lot, there’s just like an extrovert dominant and they don’t feel the need.

To confess there, know, extrovertness. 

[00:29:38] JH: That’s true. Yeah. 

[00:29:39] Erin: that PR like, I, again, I have no idea what, how it breaks down. We hear the introvert thing. It’s also like the golden age for introverts. I feel like there’s books about it. Ted talks about it. like, come out, you know, it’s okay.

You know, to be an introvert these days.

[00:29:54] Roberta: one thing I’ve been balancing with my transition into research leader and being an introvert is like I was a researcher at balancing the introversion, but now adding leadership as a component is completely different because there’s more of getting the buy-in. And I often think like it was after I met J H actually in person, was like, oh my gosh, I didn’t know how extroverted he is. gotta be so much easier for extroverted leaders you can process life. 

[00:30:23] JH: I’m not a listener. 

[00:30:25] Roberta: And so yeah, it gets even more important to, as you’re a research researcher moving from IC to research leader to build in that deep work time, us, you can process things too.

[00:30:36] JH: Yeah. The process makes a lot of sense like so much of the research is, you know, you’ve gathered all this data and then the fun part is going to connect the dots and pull these themes out and stuff. 

[00:30:46] Erin: Perfect. 

[00:30:46] JH: I think 

[00:30:46] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:30:47] JH: point probably does cater to certain personality or learning types or working styles.

The thing you were just touching on, that was a question I wanted to get into as well. Like from a background of doing IC research, works management, et cetera, but then stepping into a formal leadership position as the VP on it. I’m curious, like what that’s been like for you and for other researchers, hoping to make that kind of leap in their career.

What are some things that they should be thinking about or be aware of? 

[00:31:08] Roberta: Yeah. I had some real hesitations before taking the role, to be honest, I was questioning myself like, am I prepared? Am I ready for this? And I was like, I just like, screw this mental chatter I’m writing. 

[00:31:22] JH: Yeah. 

[00:31:22] Roberta: We’ll find out. It’ll be fine. I know enough. I think for me, when I first came in, I really went like guns blazing.

I was working on a study. I was doing a lot of IC work and then. I hired someone on the team pretty quickly, pretty shortly after. it switched really quick from IC to manager. Right now, what I’m really personally dealing with is that I love research. Like I love, I get energy out of doing research and now it’s switching to, I had always done coaching other people to do research, but that’s becoming more of the percentage of my time. And just making peace with that, honestly being okay with that. I’m always going to do research in some way. And then also just, I think J H we talked about this the other day actually is when I was an IC, I was often reporting into a VP of product or working with a director of marketing.

For me, I’m just like, what do I have autonomy over? Like, I have the vision. I’m aligning with my peers on the leadership team now. Wow. That’s like a mental habit, new behaviors that take a long time to learn. 

[00:32:31] Erin: Yeah. 

[00:32:31] Roberta: That’s been something that’s really new to me.

[00:32:34] JH: Yeah, it’s fine. I know the case you’re talking about. Roberta was thinking through this as a next step on insight management stuff. And I was planning all these, like, you know, we should go touch, feel and stuff. And I was kind of just like a report. I think you can just make this decision.

Like, this is just your, this is your call. Like just decide. 

[00:32:47] Erin: Yeah.

[00:32:48] Roberta: And it’s been, I feel really grateful for the partnerships with you and Erin that you guys can call me out on that and be like, no, Roberta, you can go. And so it’s like, I don’t have to do as much. still have to

[00:32:59] Erin: I’m just saying fast, better decisions. Just ask JH and Erin. Well, we’ll never say you’re wrong. You’ll always make the right decision 

[00:33:07] JH: except for. 

[00:33:10] Roberta: So true. Yeah.

[00:33:12] Erin: Cool. Well, we’re going to have you back hopefully a bunch of times, and we’ll get a cadence and kind of groove for that. And that’ll be a lot of fun, but what did we not ask you, Roberta? That you’re excited to kind of share this initial go around.

[00:33:26] Roberta: Yeah. I think it’s the end of the year. So what’s next for the future of research? One Thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is, and I’ve been hearing about it more in the industry, like ethical research. And we’re in such a unique spot as a research platform, as a research company, we’re building up things like informed consent internally, and that’s something that gets me, I’m really passionate about, excited about.

And I think we, as user interviews, can really kind of showcase the things that we’re working on. And be a thought leader there. So that’s something that I’m really excited about as we head into 2022.

[00:34:05] Erin: have the best lawyer to just a 

[00:34:07] Roberta: We do. 

[00:34:08] Erin: makes it fun to work on that kind of stuff with

[00:34:10] Roberta: We do. We do. 

[00:34:12] Erin: I love a growth lawyer.


[00:34:15] JH: Is there to flip it around a bit, since you are a researcher and usually ask questions and you’re a fan of the podcast, anything that you’d want to ask Erin and I put us on the hot seat a little bit. 

[00:34:22] Erin: Ooh 

[00:34:23] Roberta: That’s a good question.

[00:34:24] Erin: can’t tell a lie

[00:34:25] Roberta: What has been, you’ve talked to so many researchers and you’ve been with the team for so long too. I’m curious. What’s been the biggest change that you’ve witnessed since starting the podcast

and like joining the team. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

[00:34:44] Erin: Both.

[00:34:45] Roberta: Hey, generative question.

[00:34:50] Erin: The pandemic, I mean, was a thing,

[00:34:54] Roberta: Yeah, it’s a thing.

[00:34:55] Erin: is a thing that was like kind of the midway point for me, you know, it’s been four years here and 

[00:34:59] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:34:59] Erin: two years ago, so that that was a well, it was a bitter, it was a terrible pandemics, 

[00:35:06] JH: Okay. 

[00:35:06] Erin: full stop. However, you know, it’s interesting as it has been for a lot of SAS companies where it also correlated with a lot of business growth.

So, you know, the last two years have been very interesting in that regard. Obviously the industry is maturing. I don’t think anyone would argue that. I mean, we were just talking about how we’re like getting calls to talk about UX research from, you know, Networks and things like that. Definitely growing.

So that’s where you want to be. You want to be part of a growth industry and to your point, Roberta, that growth is not just happening in terms of revenue, but it’s happening in terms of ethics and accessibility and some really great things that are actually good for society. So, those are some things that come to mind.

How about 

you? J H. 

[00:35:51] JH: I mean the biggest one, that’s like the clearest intersection of the two of like the team and the podcast is, as the podcast has become more well-known and as we’ve been hiring more, it is cool to hear it come up when you talk to candidates, like people mentioned like rep like, especially for product roles and research staff of, oh, I’m a 

[00:36:06] Roberta: Um, 

[00:36:07] JH: of the blog, or I’ve listened to some of the podcasts and stuff, which has been a really cool

a weird moment.

I’m sure. Some of it is just candidates sucking up, which is probably a smart move, but it’s 

[00:36:14] Erin: It’s like, oh, it was your favorite episode. 

[00:36:16] JH: Yeah. Uh, 

[00:36:17] Erin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:36:18] JH: But it is fun to hear that and like it’s a cool moment that is very much at the intersection. What you just asked about I think early on when we started this, I had a little bit of a question of how much of the podcast needs to be like kind of research.

Like we have to ask questions a certain way and stuff, or can it be more kind of like free rolling and conversational. And I think we’ve kind of leaned into the latter and felt comfortable with that, which I think has served us well. But early on there and similar for me, I think very early on. A little bit like imposter syndrome that you’re describing earlier.

Roberta of you know, I’m not a researcher by trade or training. I’ve done in various capacities to move product things forward. And like I’m not bad at it, but I wouldn’t call myself a great at it. And, you know, then we started having these guests that are really well known in the research world, like Erica Hall or somebody we had on early who’s like literally written a book about research and how to do that stuff.

You know, am I going to ask dumb questions? Am I going to do this and that? And I think I have done this long enough now and talking to some people, like, you feel like some fluency. Okay. Like, I guess to lean on the music thing, since we’re in a music analogy today, like, you know, I’m not in the band, I can’t play instruments.

I’m not like a real researcher, but I’ve hung around with the band so much. Now that I feel like, you know, I know how to talk to these people and do this stuff. And that’s been a cool evolution for 

[00:37:28] Roberta: Hmm. 

[00:37:28] JH: And I think it has helped the team in ways too. 

[00:37:30] Roberta: Yeah, I kind of want to check there. You say you’re not a real researcher. I often tell people that research is about holding space for people’s lived experiences. like on one hand there is the rigorous, like what’s the method? What are the questions? How are we doing this? And then there’s also the continuous interviews, passive research.

insights You are a real researcher. I think everyone is a researcher in some way. 

[00:37:58] JH: Yeah. I know what you’re saying. I guess the point is and I appreciate that. I guess I’m not like, I’m not like a researcher, you know what I mean? Like I 

[00:38:05] Roberta: I’m a researcher, to be fair. 

[00:38:08] JH: you 

[00:38:08] Roberta: Yeah. 

[00:38:09] JH: I’m not a developer, but that doesn’t 

[00:38:10] Roberta: Yeah, 

[00:38:11] JH: pull requests. I’m not a designer, but 

[00:38:13] Roberta: yeah. 

[00:38:13] JH: prototypes.

You know what I mean? 

[00:38:14] Roberta: For sure. 

[00:38:15] JH: in necessity to like move product stuff 

[00:38:17] Roberta: Absolutely. 

[00:38:17] JH: I’m just trying to acknowledge that. 

[00:38:19] Erin: Yeah. 

[00:38:19] JH: I’m not actively trying to get better at that craft the way that like somebody who’s doing it full-time 

[00:38:23] Roberta: Yeah, for sure. 

[00:38:24] JH: some fluency. 

[00:38:25] Erin: You know, there’s only so many UX research podcasts out there. Good, good for us. But I think they each have something unique to offer to the UX research podcast. Meesh and so, for example, there’s like the mixed methods podcasts, which is excellent, which is hosted by a UX researcher. I, you know, it’s not better or worse, it’s different.

And I think it’s I dunno, I like to think, hopefully we can add some value by being more the beginner’s mindset where we know just enough to ask, hopefully not totally stupid questions, but I’m also are not the experts. And I think they’re both totally valid approaches.

Um, but I certainly learned a lot from our guests, so that’s been a lot of fun for me.


Cool, Roberta, we’ll talk again. It will probably be next year when you hear this, but I really don’t know. Well, it will be this year, whatever year that is. It’s relative then in any case, thanks, Roberta. 

[00:39:17] Roberta: Yeah. 

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