Meet Alexandra Larger, who joined the UserTesting family in 2014. Read on to learn how she went from a Research Assistant to Sr. UX Researcher.
Before UserTesting I got a masters degree in cultural anthropology, and I did ethnographic work with street artists in Brooklyn.
I’d originally planned to get a PhD once I finished my masters, but I didn't feel that I was ready for that. At about that time, I had a friend in tech who suggested I look into UX Research. I looked into it and found that I was fascinated by it. It didn’t take long before I discovered UserTesting, but didn’t apply for a full-time job because I wanted to stay in New York and at the time they were only hiring full-time positions in the Bay Area. Instead, I applied for the Research Assistant role, which was a part-time role annotating videos which allowed me to work remotely. I was fortunate enough to be partnered with a full-time Researcher who allowed me to do more than just annotate, such as writing test plans and helping put together reports. After a few months, I was offered a full-time position out of my home office in New York!
I started as a UX Researcher. For a couple of months, my job was learning and shadowing. I tried to gauge what best practices different researchers adhered to, and from that figure out which of those best practices and techniques worked for me. I became familiar with our customers' needs and expectations. I also learned how to conduct moderated studies, longitudinal studies, card sorts, and tree tests, among other things.
That’s right—after two promotions! Now that I’m a Sr. UX Researcher, I’m leaned on to do a lot of projects on card sorting and tree testing and have developed training for other Researchers to learn how to do them effectively. In fact, a big part of my job is to mentor other Researchers on the team, which I really enjoy doing. Being a Sr. UX Researcher empowers me to own my own projects and processes.
Being remote is great. People ask me “how do you not just watch Netflix all day?” I always think, “well, I’ve got a full-time job to do!” Working in the era of video conferencing and Slack, I’ve never felt forgotten about or on the periphery of things. More and more companies are having remote employees and making it work, and UserTesting has done a good job of making remote work easy. The crazy thing is, when I visit one of our offices, it’s actually hard to get things done because of all the distractions. Additionally, being able to work remote meant that I got to live and work out of Brazil for a year!
Take whatever steps come your way. If you can go to job fairs, go. See if you have any connections who know UX Researchers. Read articles. Go to conferences. Just keep trying! I always had the methodologies in the back of my mind as an ethnographer, it was just a matter of understanding the context and lingo of the User Experience field to bring them out. It’s like learning a language, if you immerse yourself as much as you can you’ll get it eventually.