At the Always be learning podcast Pieter Koenis interviews specialist from the field of product development, user experience design and UX research.
In this third episode I have a very interesting conversation with Mileha Soneji, Senior UX researcher at ASML. We talk about her experience on integrating UX research at a high-tech company and how she helped her uncle with Parkinson through a human centred design approach.
As mentioned in the podcast, you can find more about her research on Parkinson, the “No spill cup” and her staircase-illusion here: https://www.milehasoneji.com/user-insights
Check our podcast page for all our episodes.
More of a read-person? Scroll down for the full transcript 🤓
00:01 PK: Hi there. Welcome at the Always Be Learning podcast. I’m Pieter Koenis and in this podcast series, I interview people from the field of product development, user experience design and UX research. I want to hear their story, learn from their cases and share their experience and best practices with you.
At Always Be Learning, we believe one can only build a successful product with a great customer experience when you consistently base your product decisions on customer insights and validations.
We empower product teams to build successful customer-centric products by helping them setting up processes, teach them skills and embed a customer-centric mind-set. We let customer-centricity become a habit. Hopefully this podcast inspires you and helps you making your product even more successful for both you and your customer.
I’m here with Mileha Soneji. Have I pronounced it right?
[0:01:07] MS: Yes, you did.
[0:01:07] PK: Good, thank you. Senior UX researcher at ASML and she’s a keynote speaker at the topic of human-centred design and has some really interesting cases. I came across a TED Talk of her and I invited her for my podcast and I’m really happy that you’re here. Please introduce yourself.
[0:01:33] MS: Thank you Pieter. I’m really glad to be here as well. So hello everyone. I’m Mileha. I originally come from India and well, to tell a little bit of what I’ve done before when I was India, I studied as a product designer and then I worked at a company called Visteon which designs interiors of automobiles.
It’s a B to B company so you must not have heard it. But that’s where I got introduced to a course called Strategic Product Design Interior Dev. Now as a product designer, you design products. But how do you actually find the problem that you’re solving, use tools to actually research the reason and the right way to solve the solution and design a product? That intrigued me and I think that was the focus sometimes in my study but not so much in India. So I thought OK, let’s do a master’s and that brought me to the Netherlands.
[0:02:31] PK: OK, nice.
[0:02:32] MS: Yeah, and now I am here at ASML working as a UX researcher. So yeah, that has been my journey.
[0:02:39] PK: Super interesting. I find it interesting, interiors of cars?
[0:02:44] MS: Yes.
[0:02:45] PK: Is there any brand that we know or …?
[0:02:47] MS: Yeah. So actually, so the company designs for Ford, Porsche and everything. But we were focusing more on the Indian cars because I think they have this notion that we should just pick up cars from abroad and put them in India. But we were trying to educate them to design for the Indian context and yeah, and basically do research and then design products.
So they were mostly infotainment systems or the clusters and even an app to connect with your car that shows you the latest information of how much fuel your car has, the tire pressure, stuff like that. So we really did some research where I was involved and that intrigued me.
[0:03:28] PK: Oh, yeah. Was it there where it started, the spark of UX research started?
[0:03:33] MS: Yes, that’s actually where it started as well.
[0:03:36] PK: Nice.
[0:03:37] MS: Yeah.
[0:03:38] PK: Because that was my next question. Where did you start your interest for human-centric design as you say and UX research?
[0:03:46] MS: Yeah. I think this is also a bit of a story from the past because my grandmother always triggered me on my creative side. So there were summer vacation projects which I did with her to make small things, to work with different materials and that triggered me to think, “You know what? I want to use my creativity further down,” and I don’t know if you know it here. But in India, design is not that reputed – if you score well, you become a doctor or you become an engineer. You do not become a designer.
[0:04:25] PK: I think few – like 10 years ago was not known here neither.
[0:04:29] MS: Exactly. But for my times, that was the moment where I heard of product design and I heard of graphic design and I thought, “You know what? This study is interesting. Let’s get into it.”
I must say I scored very well as well. So that’s the reason I could have become a doctor. I chose to be a designer.
[0:04:49] PK: That’s really good.
[0:04:50] MS: But that’s how it came up and since then, yeah, the journey has led me to UX research now.
[0:04:59] PK: OK. Interesting to hear. Is it – with your grandmother, it was more art things or did you really make like instruments or furniture or was it art or …?
[0:05:14] MS: Yeah. So mostly it was stuff you would hang on the walls but it could be ceramics that you use as pencil stands. So it would be different things at different moments. But let’s say when I heard of design, my parents also didn’t know what it was or why do you do it. But my father triggered me to actually visit some product designers then in the industry.
He made some appointments and they were willing enough to speak to me and that sort of increased the resolve in me that OK, this is really what I want to do. This is where I see myself going ahead.
[0:05:52] PK: That’s super nice that he encouraged you to go in that direction.
[0:05:57] MS: Yes. And I think more parents should do that especially in India. So yeah.
[0:06:02] PK: Well, anywhere I think …
[0:06:03] MS: Yeah, that’s true.
[0:06:06] PK: So I came across your TED talk and I’m not sure if anyone knows it or how many people saw it. But I was – I find it really an interesting story and the story is about you – it was during your study in India, you helping your uncle with Parkinson’s, with some – well, you call it – in the TED talk, you call it easy solutions, small solutions. But they actually make a big impact.
So I really liked the talk and please tell me how – or share with the listeners how it started and yeah, where – how did you come up with these solutions? Because that process I think is really interesting.
[0:06:52] MS: Yeah. So it was during my bachelor’s in India and there was a professor and he introduced a course to us called “Design for Special Needs” and that’s when I was starting to define what special needs means.
Of course I chose someone that I had seen suffer because of a change in their life, because of suffering from Parkinson’s. So I immediately jumped on that opportunity to make a difference in his life. That’s the reason I chose that scope.
But eventually now I know that special needs can be very vast. So you could have prominent special needs with someone with Parkinson’s, someone who does not have a hand, someone who is deaf. But of course this – if you design for them, you help even the ones in situational special needs. For example someone who fractured their leg or a parent who has to do everything with one hand because the other hand is occupied by a baby. So now I define it as design for all or inclusive design. But at that point, I didn’t know that.
So I just decided, “You know what? I’m going to observe my uncle. I’m going to understand what problems he faced.” I had not even decided what to do or what to design for him.
[0:08:08] PK: The only thing you decided is that you want to do something for him.
[0:08:14] MS: Exactly. That was it. So I actually started even from defining what is the problem I wanted to solve, which is an ideal situation as a designer now coming from a company.
[0:08:24] PK: Because he was really struggling with Parkinson …?
[0:08:27] MS: Yes. So he could – of course there are tremors that he was facing. He had problems even walking. So he would use a walker to walk. But there’s something called freezing of gait that – so if they’re telling their leg to move ahead, it still doesn’t move and they are sort of stuck. So that’s something that he faced. Also if he had to take a turn, he had to take one step at a time and it took him really long to take a turn.
So those kinds of problems. But only when I actually was in his environment I started speaking to him, understanding him, seeing all these problems and then I bucketed down to two things that I wanted to solve. One was of course drinking in spite of tremors because he was someone that enjoyed his chai. For those who know, it’s Indian tea.
[0:09:17] PK: Chai tea? Yeah, I love it actually.
[0:09:18] MS: Yeah. Well, chai tea is not actually chai tea but – no, OK.
[0:09:23] PK: It’s not the spicy tea?
[0:09:26] MS: It is but that’s the hipster version.
[0:09:28] PK: Oh, haha.
[0:09:28] MS: But yeah. But anyways, exactly that. But he had stopped doing it, you know. At home, he would take a big cup and take a little bit of tea in it. So that even if he gets tremors, it doesn’t spill out. But that’s not a very good way to solve this problem. So I targeted that one and the other one was I thought OK, let me see what I can do to help him overcome freezing of gait. So those are the two directions I decided to solve. Of course …
[0:10:03] PK: What to solve, to focus on at least, because he didn’t know at the time that you would solve it, right?
[0:10:08] MS: Exactly, that’s true. But I at least narrowed it down because I think there were more problems but I focused on ones that had massive impact. And yeah, when you go through your ideation, you go through – but at that point, it was a lot of sketching. It was a lot of – I was even complicating it. I was thinking of gyroscopes that stabilised themselves for cups or making it extremely heavy so that it’s hard to shake. But these are not very friendly solutions.
[0:10:38] PK: Like those things you have for cameras.
[0:10:40] MS: Exactly, yeah.
[0:10:41] PK: To keep them stable, yeah.
[0:10:42] MS: But it’s extremely complex. Eventually then somehow, I realised that actually it was in a restaurant, if I can tell you about it. I was – there’s a bottle and I was just playing with the bottle and on top it had a curve, which actually helped to keep the liquid in and eventually then that became my design for the cup. So I used the shape to make sure that the liquid inside deflects whenever they have tremors and less of it comes out. So it’s almost like a pear-shaped glass if I can –
[0:11:20] PK: Yeah, I saw it.
[0:11:21] MS: Exactly.
[0:11:23] PK: I will post a link at the website where we post the podcast as well, for people to see it because when you shake the cup, the waves – yeah, it waves inside actually instead of it spills outside. Yeah.
[0:11:38] MS: And of course I went through a whole process where I made prototypes with different weights and different sizes and shapes and tested it with them and eventually led to the final one. There were some ergonomic factors that I put in. But I think the key UX research insight that I found in this is that I made it a cup that could be used by anyone and not dedicated to people with Parkinson’s. It helps them but it could be used by anyone clumsy and that made them more included in the whole thing and made them confident.
[0:12:14] PK: Yeah, less – how do you call it? Special but then negative special. Like I’m disabled to drink in a normal – not from a normal cup, yeah.
[0:12:25] MS: And if I had not observed my uncle, understood his feelings, I would have never got to a solution like this.
[0:12:30] PK: No. This solution, like you see somebody shaking with his hands and drinking and struggling with it. It’s really product-driven but the other solution, what I got from your talk, which you got from the freeze, that solution really came from observing the user, your uncle.
[0:12:53] MS: Yes. So yeah, that one was very interesting as well because I was one day looking at him while he was struggling to walk to his couch and that made me realise, OK, but he lives on the first floor of the building. How does he climb the staircase? The building does not have an elevator. He does not have a special lift that takes him up. Then he’s like, “Oh, that’s not a problem,” and I was like, “What? OK, show me.” So he actually showed me and he could easily walk the staircase up and down, take turns without freezing.
[0:13:33] PK: Like you had a tape of it in the TED talk. It was like a normal person from walking really slowly with his walker and then the stair and then he walked like – well, like you and me.
[0:13:48] MS: Exactly. His symptoms vanished.
[0:13:50] PK: Is that something – maybe you researched it more with other people. Is it something that’s actually known?
[0:13:58] MS: Yes. So I researched this further and it has actually been under study even in the Netherlands after the TED talk came out and it’s known that some form of continuity helps them. So it can be visual continuity. It’s different types of Parkinson’s patients that are affected differently. So some of them need visual continuity. But even a strip. So if two, three stripes in a row, that can help then.
[0:14:25] PK: Like a cross-walk.
[0:14:28] MS: Exactly, that can help them. Exactly. But it can also just be paper. So just really lines can help. Also some people, rhythm helps. So if they hear a tac, tac, tac, it helps them move. So for different people, it’s different things. I know even someone who was put in a cycle in the Netherlands and all his symptoms vanished. So there’s some kind of continuous motion needed.
But there has been done research on 2D continuity so just these lines. But where my staircase solution comes into play is for people who need this 3D kind of continuity which is climbing a staircase or cycling for example and mine sort of comes in the middle of the two. It’s a 2D thing but gives this 3D visual effect. That’s what has been researched further. So there are some patients in Netherlands as well that have actually used the staircase and they love it, they love it.
[0:15:28] PK: Staircase illusion is what it is.
[0:15:30] MS: Exactly.
[0:15:31] PK: So it is a sticker on the floor which is – you have these artists who make those …
[0:15:38] MS: Escher [Phonetic].
[0:15:39] PK: Escher, yes, Escher. It looks actually like an Escher painting on the floor. It is an illusion of a staircase which triggers them to move more continuously without the stutter, without the stuck. Yeah.
[0:15:56] MS: Yeah. Unfortunately in India, I did not have the bandwidth or the time, because it was a student project, to test it on other patients. But I have been receiving more and more requests for it. So I send out the digital copies, give them instructions on how to print it and I have received videos back as well and it works. So yeah.
[0:16:20] PK: Nice. And not for every Parkinson’s patient would you say?
[0:16:25] MS: Yeah, it can vary but this has not been medically proven. So that’s something that we are seeing if we can do a study but that’s in progress. But it depends on what sort of Parkinson’s they have and what is the massive effect. Yeah.
[0:16:41] PK: Super nice and sort of simple but not simple as you say it, solutions.
[0:16:47] MS: Yeah, but simple designs can be hard.
[0:16:49] PK: Yeah, exactly. That’s what I always say with writing. Good writing is hard writing. Good research is hard research, yeah.
[0:16:57] MS: Yeah. But I think what I also wanted to mention here was that when I thought of the idea, it was an instant thought when I saw my uncle climb the staircase. But what I did was I just said, “You know what? I’m going to try it. Let’s just go home, prototype it.”
So I quickly printed A3 sheets, stuck them together because as a student, you don’t want to make an A0 print and waste money. I took that role, ran to his house and I’m like, “OK, try this,” and it worked. So I think no idea is a stupid idea. If you think there’s potential, try it. Quickly prototype it. Find the easiest way to make a mock-up and test it. So that’s key in UX research as well.
[0:17:43] PK: Yes. So they’re the insights that spark your creativity, right? So they’re the insights of your uncle – seeing your uncle walking the staircase, which is quite a big spark. It’s hard to miss. Well, but it did spark your creativity and I think that is the thing with all kinds of insights.
Exactly when you were in the restaurant, you saw – you had the knowledge of your uncle drinking and you were in a restaurant and that sparks your creativity as well for the solution. So yeah, that’s actually a field research you did in the restaurant for the cup.
[0:18:21] MS: Yes, subconsciously. Yeah.
[0:18:23] PK: Yeah, exactly. So it’s like sparking your creativity with insights. What I always try to figure out is what is the process to come to these solutions? Where do you start – what were the first steps you did? You had a conversation with him. You observed him. Did you do other things? Did you do field research or …?
[0:18:48] MS: Yeah. So of course it’s embedding in their everyday moments, right? So really being part of your – shadowing your user actually. So that’s what I did not only with my uncle. I tried to join other Parkinson’s groups. So I visited a dance group where there were varying degrees of Parkinson’s patients.
So I tried to actually understand even other people and their everyday lives. So it was – I truly believe that you need to empathise but empathise also with the distance because they sometimes do not think they are doing this thing. But you as an observer realise hey, you did that. You for example used this cup easily. And what happened? So you need the distance as well, which then sparks creativity I think.
[0:19:43] PK: For sure because your uncle walks the stairs every day and didn’t come up with the solution and a lot of people didn’t.
[0:19:50] MS: Yeah, but he also did not think of telling me that. I was in his environment and I happened to observe and I happen to make the connection and asked him. Otherwise, it would have never come up. If I just did an interview or called him up and asked him the questions I had as a list, I would not have gotten to this. So I think it’s a combination of interviewing, observing and shadowing that gives the best insights.
Actually I can add a quote here. I think the person is David Ogilvy and he says like consumers don’t think how they feel. They don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say. So I really think we need a combination of observations and interviewing skills to get to the best …
[0:20:38] PK: Yeah. So is that – in general, at the research projects you do, is there a process you follow, where to start, which methods to choose? Is there a way? You have a checklist in your head or something. OK. If this is the situation, I will use these methods. How does that work?
[0:21:02] MS: Yeah, it’s a very interesting question because I think in my ideal world, I would like to do it the way I did it for my project, my Parkinson’s project, right? Start fresh. Just observe the user. Find the problem. But in the industry, that does not apply because you already have certain products. You have users to find you. You start with a lot of biases, a lot of notions.
So the way I like to start sometimes it just based on the knowledge we have within the company, with all the multidisciplinary people of product architects, software engineers, developers, UX designers. Let’s get into a room. Let’s map the customer journey. Let’s walk through it. What do we know? What are the environments these people work in?
So I start from an overview of that and then see how our software fits in, where they provide value. Where do we see gaps where we are not fulfilling the user needs? So that’s where I start because I think sometimes we want to do ideal UX research but we don’t have the space too in the industry because production or implementation continues.
So I do it a little bit the other way around. I don’t think it’s ideal but we do try to take this back to the users, validate it, understand if our assumptions are right, see where we go wrong. So that’s where we try and do our research and then bring the two together.
Of course we’re trying to push and trying to tell people don’t start until we’ve done our research but that’s a way of educating, awareness, even making the user important enough and that’s a struggle right now. But that’s something I keep doing in my everyday life.
[0:22:58] PK: Yeah. From there on, how are the ways you would ideally validate things? Are there – do we have a checklist for that or do you have ideal methods or …?
[0:23:11] MS: Well, we do conduct a lot of in-depth interviews with our users. Sometimes in the semiconductor industry, it’s hard to even get to the users. So we get as close as possible to the users which I think is not ideal but hey, we have to make do with it.
We also do focus groups where we discuss it but then we try and invite them into co-creation sessions whenever we have design sprints because including them are your users and so this helps a lot as well.
But these are all things now at ASML we are trying to do. But that’s something that I at least in my work have done in the past. Also I used to work VanBerlo which is an agency in Eindhoven and with them, we did research and that’s a bit more product-based. But sometimes you wanted to know what Haptics of the product.
Maybe for example cue freshness. What is the colour? What is the shape? What is the texture? What sort of materials cue these things? So we’ve also done research with users where we give them different types of stimuli and try – and they try to make their own product that looks freshest.
From doing that with maybe 50 people, you actually find out cues and commonalities and even differences that help you then design for it and actually I think research is ammunition for product designers to design for the future. So that’s how we used to use research in that context.
[0:24:52] PK: So that’s a generative session. Together with the end users or the target audience, you create something.
[0:24:59] MS: Exactly, yeah.
[0:24:59] PK: Yeah, that is really interesting. That’s where you spark the interest or the minds of the users with creativity and let them get to their own solutions.
[0:25:13] MS: Yeah.
[0:25:17]PK: You named user interviews and focus groups. What do you see as the difference or when do you use the one or the other?
[0:25:27] MS: So the way I see it is the moment I need to go in-depth into a lot of details, really focus on a part of the journey and deep dive. I know every nitty-gritty about it. That’s when I choose to use in-depth interviews. But the moment we are doing maybe an overarching journey, really understanding their everyday problems or how does their day look like, that’s when sometimes I think focus groups help because they trigger each other and they trigger discussions and they say, “Hey no, I do it this way maybe.” But why do you do it that way?
And that gives you actually the key insight that you’re trying to find. So I think both methodologies are very relevant. Sometimes we use them together as well. So if there’s a specific research question, I try to do some in-depth interviews and some focus groups. But mostly when I want to trigger discussion, that’s when focus groups are very, very helpful.
[0:26:29] PK: Yeah. They interview each other.
[0:26:31] MS: Exactly. I love that.
[0:26:32] PK: Yeah, that’s great. You mentioned before the interview something about future scenario planning as well. What exactly do you mean by that?
[0:26:43] MS: Yeah. So that’s something that I was doing at VanBerlo as well. We were really helping companies design for the future. So actually we would look at trends and developments and see where it’s going and we would create scenarios for the company. So what would it look like if all the water in the world was destroyed?
But what it would look like where government and companies and the people are together building policy, co-creating together and stuff like that. So we would have sort of extreme worlds and the middle worlds and those led us to define new products for the companies but also define what sort of talent we need to hire. Maybe even which companies or start-ups they need to invest in, stuff like that.
So at least it gave them direction for the next 10 years what to do and this would be something we would do really in the form of multiple workshops and we would try and bring in people from the company but from different parts of the world if it was a global company and multidisciplinary. So it really helped to bring in all experts from all parts to together define the roadmap.
[0:28:08] PK: Yeah. So it’s really about trend watching, where the trends are going, how you can as a company – yeah, react on it.
[0:28:20] MS: Yeah. But I think it is applying trend watching almost, if I can put it like that, because yes you have the trends. But how do you see the interconnectivities and how they connect to each other and how they impact your company as your strengths or weaknesses? So I think it’s bringing it together and making it more actionable. That’s future scenario planning for me.
[0:28:46] PK: Interesting. So how does a typical day of a senior UX researcher as you are at ASML looks like? What do you do?
[0:28:57] MS: That’s a really good question. Well, I need to give some background and maybe very quickly but ASML is an extremely technical company. It’s a company that has been working on technology push as the world knows, right? And they’ve been extremely successful with it.
So being in a company that has done it in a good way and being the one that says, hey, think about the user. It’s extremely different. It’s difficult. It’s a mind-set change. It’s a culture change. It’s a complete change of way of working.
So I must say my days at ASML are a roller coaster sometimes. But I enjoy that challenge and I think most of my days right now – because I joined 10 months ago. So I’m one of the first UX researchers they have hired, which is amazing and I’m trying to …
[0:29:50] PK: Really nice chance, yeah.
[0:29:52] MS: Exactly. They accepted me, so that’s very positive. But a lot of my day is about building awareness, talking to key stakeholders, trying to actually prove business value for doing UX research. Finding ways to getting to the customer environments, our local customer support environment, so that we can get information about the users.
[0:30:16] PK: Customer support all over the world?
[0:30:18] MS: Yes. So every time there’s a customer, next to it there’s a local office that helps them. But what I’m trying to say here is before you even start doing customer journey mapping and sessions like that, you need to educate them why they should invest that time and that’s where we are. So we’re really at the nascent stages of building UX research within the organisation and improving it. So educating and awareness-building is key and finding the key stakeholders will be your active supporters. So that’s majority of my day.
[0:30:53] PK: Exactly. So you need – call it educating. I understand what you mean. Maybe you can share it like getting supporters, showing them the value of working more customer-centric. Is that what you mean with educating?
[0:31:12] MS: Exactly. So it’s actually eventually saying why to do UX research, why to understand your customer and why and how will it bring me business value. So it’s that and it’s eventually then proving business value.
[0:31:33] PK: So how do you do that with sessions or with – what are the things that – the tools that help you with doing that?
[0:31:42] MS: Yeah. I think we are still in the process. A lot of my colleagues, UX designers, have also been pushing to change that view, that UX design is not only about wireframes, not only about buttons. It’s really about the whole flow. It’s really about seeing eventually what’s the goal that the user wants to achieve.
So they have been doing it in the past. But it being an extremely technical company, they want to complicate things and we are there trying to tell them, hey, let’s simplify it for the user and I think it takes time and it takes effort and it takes a lot of talking to a lot of people.
So we’re in that process and we’re also trying to figure out how to set us up as a team and stuff like that. But that’s the challenge that I wanted to …
[0:32:34] PK: Yeah, it’s a really nice challenge.
[0:32:36] MS: Exactly. So coming from an agency at VanBerlo where I could do really frontend stuff and moving to ASML where now I need to actually prove why I should do that stuff. It’s extremely interesting and that actually brought me here and I think – let’s see. It has only been 10 months. So we need to see where it goes.
[0:32:57] PK: Yeah, that’s a big company. Things can take time and …
[0:33:02] MS: And I need to be patient and I’m fine.
[0:33:04] PK: Sure, yeah. You can learn a lot within this process and help the company really big time, a company that as you said indeed is already so successful. OK? It was really interesting to hear how it works for you at ASML and what you’re doing. What are your goals like at ASML or personally for 2020?
[0:33:31] MS: Yeah. At ASML, I think I have two goals and I briefly mentioned them before. But we always can get into a lot of technical discussion and extremely detail-oriented. So my goal is actually to always try and bring in the overview, make it simple. But also make it human. We always say the customer or the user and we put it as a pin there but we don’t make this person someone that has everyday problems, that wants to get his coffee but is sitting and waiting for the software to give him his output.
So I want to make the users more human and understand these frustrations and pains and show them at ASML. So that’s my goal, making our users more human. I think the second goal is – as I said before, I’m not very good at being patient but I need to be patient and try and find my active supporters, keep finding different branches to keep doing it and believe in what I do because it’s very easy to become or adapt to these technical complications.
But I’m trying to separate myself and say, OK, that’s not why ASML hired me. They hired me for my expertise, to bring in human-centred design
So I have to stand my ground and I have to project that and of course use the help of these technical experts and together make it awesome for our users. So that’s my idea.
[0:35:04] PK: Sounds like really nice goals and I think you’re on the right way.
[0:35:08] MS: Yes.
[0:35:10] PK: And personally, you already said you’re helping people with sharing the document from the Parkinson …
[0:35:19] MS: TED talk.
[0:35:20] PK: Yeah. You said something you want to continue with or you want to focus on or suggest something that you do.
[0:35:27] MS: So it is something I just do. I do also go to different events and inspire people, give talks, give workshops also on how to do it. So that’s something I’m doing on my own. I always get requests from people but I am also seeing what certain students from a university – I think the Radboud University.
[0:35:54] PK: Yeah, Radboud University.
[0:35:55] MS: Yeah, and they are trying to do a minor and they are using or they are testing my staircase solution. So I’m helping them sometimes to answer their questions and let’s see where it goes. So if people are interested in testing it, trying it out, it’s open. It’s a very simple idea. I want it to spread. So I am open and yeah, so that’s what I do. But I use it as – to inspire companies especially to simplify ideas and create simple solutions that add extreme value to users.
[0:36:32] PK: OK. Sounds nice. It’s really nice, something voluntarily you add to the world. So that’s really good.
[0:36:41] MS: Thank you.
[0:36:42] PK: So there are always two final questions I ask at the end of the podcast because we’re – discussed some interesting topics already and heading to the end. So what tips or tricks or advice do you have for companies who are setting up UX research or starting with UX research? Where do you start?
[0:37:09] MS: Yeah. I think we as UX researchers love our tools and methodologies. We love service blueprints, customer journeys and everything. But like you said, it actually starts from awareness. It starts from talking to a lot of people and finding active support for your cause and for doing UX research and two, it actually is trying to make your organisation even talk about you as well, talk about their problems and not only think from the product or solution point of view because it’s very easy to talk about that.
It’s hard to make them speak about users and understand them. So I think that’s the second step and the third step is then to eventually apply our tools and methodologies and prove this business value. But I think the first two steps especially when you’re just setting up UX research are so key and take so much time. So I think that’s where we need to invest most of our time.
[0:38:10] PK: Yeah, nice one. Talk about customers. It’s the first – a really good first thing to aim for.
[0:38:17] MS: Yeah.
[0:38:17] PK: Yeah. And the last question, do you have any tips for people who want to become UX researchers?
[0:38:28] MS: So I think be passionate about problem solving but also be passionate about finding those problems, but the journey to even find them because sometimes businesses are maybe solving the wrong problems. So that’s why you’re there, to actually focus on the right problems and I think that’s very interesting not only for students but also for professionals.
This journey of setting up UX research, it’s so empowering and so enriching to then have people come in and get into the process and get results. But it’s not only using tools and methodologies. It’s really about this journey of setting up UX research. So I think universities don’t focus on that that much. But I think it should be part of the curriculum or something somewhere because coming from India, I always thought, ah, the West knows it all. Of course I can just come here and start doing everything. But no, there is this part of even educating certain companies here. So yeah.
[0:39:34] PK: Yeah. Well, it’s nice and I really like it from the case with your uncle, what you can learn from only observing people. It’s like amazing. So if you only start with observing and being really curious about what are their problems and how they do it now and can I be creative in solving it, you can get good solutions already.
[0:39:59] MS: Exactly.
[0:40:00] PK: Great. I really liked the information, the insights, the cases and the best practices you shared. I really loved it. Thank you for sharing.
[0:40:11] MS: Thank you so much Pieter for reaching out. It was lovely to speak to all of you.
[0:40:15] PK: Thanks. Thank you so much for listening to the Always Be Learning podcast. Follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our monthly newsletter at www.alwaysbelearning.nl and stay tuned for our next podcast episode.
I’m Pieter Koenis and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this podcast or if we can help you empowering your product team to build successful customer-centric products.