On the first steps as a new UXR

On the first steps as a new UXR

Today we'll dive into the crucial steps you need to take when you start as the first researcher in a company. This post will guide you through the initial phase of your journey, setting you up for success and helping you build a solid foundation for your role. Let’s explore the key strategies that will make a difference from day one.

Preparation Starts Before Day One

Before you even join the company, there are some preliminary steps you can take to hit the ground running. During the interview process, it's essential to dig deep and ask questions to understand the company’s research environment. Enquire about the challenges you’ll face, the company’s familiarity with research, and the reasons why they decided to hire a researcher. This will give you insights into the kind of impact you can make and how research is perceived within the organization.

Leveraging the Onboarding Phase

Once you’ve landed the job, your onboarding experience will significantly influence your effectiveness as a researcher. The first 30 to 45 days provide a golden opportunity to set the stage for your future work. While people operations might handle the administrative side—such as setting up your accounts and software—it’s up to you to delve deeper into the company’s culture and values.

Learn the backstory of the company: who founded it, why it was started, and its core mission. This foundational knowledge will help you align your research goals with the company's vision.

Who, How, and Where

Understanding the “who” aspect of your role isn’t limited to knowing job titles. You need to gauge each team member’s familiarity and comfort level with research. This helps you understand how they view your collaboration and their expectations from research. Identifying potential allies—those who are open to or experienced in research—will smooth your initial projects and build lasting partnerships.

These allies can become your advocates, helping you champion the value of research across the organization. Pay special attention to their connection with research and their past experiences. This knowledge will be invaluable when you start collaborating on projects and can identify potential allies who can amplify the value of your work.

Then let's move to the "how". How Has Research Been Conducted? Even if you’re the first official researcher, some form of research likely predates you. This could be informal surveys, customer feedback, or initial product market fit experiments conducted by the founders.

Understanding how research was conducted will give you a baseline to build upon. Ask about past methodologies, data storage, and any previous research outcomes. You might even hold a workshop to map out all research activities, identifying what was done well and what can be improved.

While historical research is important, understanding current research activities is crucial. Find out where and how ongoing research is being conducted. This insight will allow you to assist and elevate ongoing projects by offering your expertise. Sometimes your most significant impact comes not from starting new projects but from enhancing existing efforts.

By supporting others, you’ll raise the overall quality and appreciation of research within the organization. Think of yourself as a playmaker in football: facilitating and elevating the team’s performance, rather than just focusing on your own goals.

Establishing Research Ops Foundations

As the first researcher, you’ll also need to focus on operational aspects such as setting up participant management systems, research repositories, and training initiatives.

Establishing these processes early will save you time and ensure smooth operations as the volume of research requests grows. Investing time in building this infrastructure from the start will enable better scalability and more efficient workflows.

Balancing Act: Hands-On Work vs. Playmaking

It's crucial to balance hands-on research projects with efforts to elevate others’ research capabilities. While diving into your projects might seem tempting, offering support and training to team members conducting their research can have a multiplicative effect. This isn’t about research democratization per se; it’s about ensuring the research already happening meets a certain standard. By doing so, you’ll cultivate a research-savvy culture, increasing both the quality and quantity of research conducted across the board.

In summary, your onboarding phase as the first researcher in a company can set you up for long-term success. Understand who’s who, how research has been conducted, and where it's happening now to make impactful contributions. Balance your direct research activities with efforts to support and elevate the work of others. Establish strong operational foundations early, and remember—you're not just there to do research; you're there to build a culture where research thrives.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to discuss these topics further.

I recorded an episode of the podcast on this topic, find the full episode here:

Until next time, keep building!