Recently, we had the pleasure of talking to Eric Sjue, Director of UX at Careteam where we explored his personal UX evolution over the past twenty years, and how he has adapted his approach to fit the capabilities, challenges, and opportunities of each new professional environment. Eric also gave us a real insight into what it’s like to champion the UX cause given tight constraints and limited resources.
Sofia: Tell me a little about you, the different jobs you've held, and especially where you are now and what your role is there.
Eric: I started in graphic design about twenty years ago at eddiebauer.com before obtaining my Master's degree in New Media from Syracuse University and transitioning into UX design. After 4 years working abroad in Amsterdam with the companies Local Matters and Backbase, my spouse and I moved to Montreal, where I connected with Lightspeed.
Working at Lightspeed is where I began to really formulate my user research practices. At Lightspeed I combined direct user feedback from extensive on-site visits with feedback gained from remote user testing and internal user testing. That's been the model I've tried to replicate as I move to other organizations.
After Lightspeed, I moved to Vancouver and was one of the first UX designers at Avigilon, a company that specializes in video security solutions utilizing AI and advanced video analytics. At Avigilon I needed to be more ‘scrappy’ with my user research. Getting direct access to our users wasn’t always easy and because of strict internal privacy and security policies, remote user testing wasn’t possible. I had to leverage our product and sales teams for anecdotal information which I supplemented with some on-site user testing and visits when possible to piece together meaningful user interaction patterns.
Additionally, disseminating and tracking this information across the organization I have often found to be a challenging process. I’ve tried over the years different tools, such as Evernote or Confluence to capture, tag and track user research data but they were never a great fit. As designers, oftentimes we're forced to use tools such as Jira or Confluence that aren’t geared towards how designers work. With EnjoyHQ I’ve been able to filter external information into one area and build stories to identify patterns and share with the rest of the company.
Sofia: Based on your experience attempting to bring research into practice, when considering working with a new company, what are the things you'd look for to identify a positive user research culture?
Eric: Red flags for me include too much bureaucracy to sift through to get access to usage data or a focus on the feature and not the user. With Careteam, I see some impediments simply because of the nature of the healthcare industry and the sensitivity around patient data (and rightfully so). As a small startup, we’re working on crafting a user research process that’s as flexible and pragmatic as possible and that utilizes the right tools to track and document user experience related data.
Sofia: What do you think are the biggest challenges for businesses in becoming more customer-centric?
Eric: A lot boils down to the sales processes. Often in the companies I've worked for, higher-level product managers are closest to the customers, and the bureaucratic layers make connecting with customers or getting information from product or sales difficult.
As a designer, you also have to take a step back and put your product manager hat on sometimes. You need to be flexible and use different tools to get secondhand information as a supplement to what you're hearing from the customer.
Sofia: Based on your experience, what's your advice for people at the beginning of their career or for those who have never built a business case?
Eric: You can start online by researching sample business cases relevant to your particular needs. If your case is for the purchase of a new tool, try talking to their salesperson to gather useful information. In developing your case, you have to hammer home the importance of these tools as part of your overall user testing and research strategy and of course how it will save the company money in the long run.
Sofia: What are your hopes for 2020 in terms of your role in design and research?
Eric: I'd love to focus more on analytics. The product team and I are currently working on trying to capture more accurate analytics through the app on exactly how it's being used. I'll also be continuing to establish more concrete relationships directly with our customers to get closer to the end-user.