Four Key Lessons from a First-Time UX Research Manager

Claire Rowell shares the biggest career lessons she's learned about making user research more meaningful.

2 mins read

To create something truly exceptional, you must understand your customer. This is crucial for a UX research manager.

But we all know high-quality UX research doesn’t happen out of thin air. Someone must be willing to put in the time and effort.

Someone like you.

As Lattice’s first UX Researcher, Claire Rowell developed a user research culture from the ground up at the tech unicorn.

She shared the biggest career lessons she’s learned as a UX research manager about making research more meaningful and human for everyone.

1. Find actionable opportunities to do good work and build champions

Find an opportunity. Do really good work. Build that case study.

You must do two things as the first researcher:

  1. Build something impactful to understand the rhythm of your users.
  2. Build the foundation for the rest of the team to do their own user research.

High-impact, actionable case studies help build momentum for the research. When you see what your users are energized by, share your learnings around your org and find your champions.

Your user research may empower other teams to conduct their own interviews. You can’t be everywhere as a first researcher, so it is imperative you build a framework your colleagues can use to drive the culture of user research.

But make sure you’re not just answering immediate needs. Think of the big picture to dig in and understand the business needs. 

2. Measure what matters (and be creative)

What impact do you want to have?

Every organization needs a user research roadmap. It’s just as important as your product roadmap.

Get creative about the problems you want to solve, but Claire advises other UX research managers against over-engineering your metrics. There’s risk to your research when you get lost in advanced metrics that don’t actually tell you anything.

At Lattice, Claire pushes for keeping things simple. This means wrapping quantitative research into her research roadmap. She sends out surveys, looks at page views of research reports, and checks to see who responds to company emails, among other qualitative research tactics.

It’s really important to be curious when it comes to UX research. Strive to get feedback on anything you put out there.

As a researcher, you’re often a team of one. You’ve to be your own marketer, prioritizer, scoper, and tools person. So, you’re scoping the work, doing the work, sharing the work, and you’re broadcasting the results of the work up and down. There’s so much that you as an individual need to drive — you have to be energized by that.

You also have to…

3. Ask for help when you need it

People love to help.

Don’t be afraid to ask. That’s the only way we learn! You can learn from mentors across all areas of your org.

“There are so many people out there who have done this before you and made mistakes. You’re not the first to encounter a problem in the pioneering phase,” Claire said.

Help build a community with people who are not just UX research managers. Reach out to both new hires and tenured peers across the organization for a coffee chat:

“Have a Rolodex of people to seek help from when you need it. There’s no shame,” Claire said.

4. UX research culture is yours to shape

There’s not one right way to do user research

“You have to find inspiration from within: What are your research principles, what do you believe in?” Claire said. These foundational questions help determine what kind of researcher you want to be.

They also help you identify your cross-functional research champions and partners.

When you’re working with many different types of teams, you have to learn from one another. A diverse crowd of people is the strength of a research-driven organization. If all researchers came from a computer science background, that would be a huge disservice to the community, the domain, and the research itself.

Want to learn more from Claire? Watch the full fireside chat, and explore what it takes to elevate your user’s voice in a fast-moving organization, how to find (and activate) internal champions for UX research, and more.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

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