Suggestions for Late Career QA to UX Change


#1

Hello to my friends in the @UX_Researchers group!

I was wondering if anyone might be able to help me suggest a path for a friend that’s looking to move into UX Research. Her situation is a bit unique, and your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Background Info

I have a friend who has been doing QA for more than 20 years, but now that she’s approaching retirement age is finding that a job that fits her particular QA skillset. She has about another two years of work under her belt before she wants to retire, and is mulling a decision to move towards a UX Researcher role.

This person has a Masters Degree in Psychological Counseling from Notre Dame, and has focused her QA career from a user-centered perspective. I’ve always thought that given her background, love of interacting with people and data, and her psychological experience, she’d be a great fit for a UX gig.

The Ask

She’s interested in learning more about UX Research, but I hesitate to give her too much advice about direction to take. I’m sending her over links to UXMastery’s list of UX Courses and this discussion of UX Research classes from a while back.

My question is this: are there any particular training courses or other paths you’d recommend for someone in her position who’s looking at moving into a UX researcher role within the next six months?


#2

Hopefully someone in the @UX_Researchers group who saw this over the weekend will take pity on a lonely thread and give us a hand!

Come on, UXM, you haven’t let me down before. I know someone out there has some thoughts on this :slight_smile:


#3

Coming to your rescue! :wink:

So, I’ve often advocated for a mixed approach to learning----meaning, an appropriate mix of learning-by-doing, theory, and practice. I could just be speaking for myself, but I truly think those ingredients are essential to knowing something (anything) deeply and being able to do it really well.

Based on that…

DesignLab’s UX Research & Strategy course is a really good opportunity for learning-by-doing. It’s not cheap ($400) and there are a LOT of projects to do in just 4-5 weeks’ time, but it’s a great opportunity for people who are literally just getting started. I have my quibbles with it, but I think it does do a great job of laying the foundations.

Interaction Design Foundation’s courses (specifically the combined undertaking of their Design Thinking course and their User Research course) would be excellent for the theory/mind-training aspect.

The foundation of those IDF courses would have already been introduced in DesignLab’s course, but IDF will go into much greater detail and explore additional topics. (Just without the projects.) So, a good jumping off point–especially after already having the experience from DesignLab. She’d also gain access to the other courses. Given the low cost ($100ish?) of annual access and the unlimited, high-quality courses to choose from, IDF is an excellent value. If you take those two courses I recommended at the same time, they’d last for ~2 months.

If she wants to spend as little money as possible and is confident in her ability to teach herself, Understanding Your Users by Baxter and Courage is a great book. It has a nice mix of theory and industry tips.

The practice part, of course, will be whatever “real” projects she chooses to take on after the fact (or during) to get her feet wet.

I’m naturally skeptical of any course’s ability to launch someone into a new career, but these are the resources I’d recommend to anyone serious about learning how to become really good at UX research.


#4

Thank you so much, Jade! My friend, @cyndi_naumann - has recently joined up and I know is watching this thread. I know she may have some follow-up questions on your advice.


#5

Thank you so much, Jade! I appreciate the thoughtful response and have been looking at both programs tonight. In fact, it’s late so I’ll be brief-ish and come back to this again but I wanted you to know I saw your words of wisdom! Last weekend I spent hours looking through lists of courses, recommendations, reviews, costs, content and everything else. Overwhelming and I didn’t find a good fit.

IDF in particular really appeals to me because of the large number of classes that would be available to me for $100. An incredible bargain for highly regarded education that even comes with certifications. I think I’d start there for a foundation to build upon. Design Lab sounds like a great way to create projects but could wait until I had a foundation. I was also looking at local Denver Meetups for UX and there are several. It’s possible I’ll get leads there as well in terms of creating real projects.

I’m just excited to be able to take my 20 years of software QA experience and combine it with my background in psychology and human behavior. Believe it or not, my M.A. in Psychological Counseling and experience in the behavioral sciences was never given the weight and worth I think it deserves. In my years doing Software QA I have always been the lone wolf fighting on behalf of the end user.

Last week I just tested and closed a bug that was written in 1993 and deferred until now. And it was such a small fix they could have easily done it years ago! I commented on that and they just said it couldn’t have been that bad since no one had mentioned it again! I always picture the poor user staring at that screen every day - that defect glaring at her more each day. She’d made the effort to write steps to reproduce the issue and attached a screenshot which is a lot of effort as an end user. I see her hopefully waiting to see the bug she went to that much trouble to report get resolved. New users she trained would point it out and she’d say, yes they already know about that. Eventually, perhaps they all just gave up and accepted it would always be that way. At any rate, I’m pretty sure the original reporter of the defect will not be looking at the screen with gratification when the fix is there in a few months.

Thanks again, @jadejenkinsUX, especially for introducing me to IDF. So much for being brief-ish but I got carried away. I’m passionate about the end user’s experience and believe that when companies listen to them, both users and companies profit.

Also, thanks to my dear friend @dougcollins for thinking about me enough to get this out there!

Cyndi


#6

Awesome! I think you really will be pleased with the quality of the IDF courses. There’s more than enough there to learn and to keep you busy. And unlike some of your other options for online learning, IDF is used by so many companies all over the world for employee professional development and its quality has been praised by many well-known UXers (some of whom even contribute to the IDF curriculum). So, I wouldn’t say there’s a huge danger there of a potential employer expressing concern over the quality of the training. From time to time you may come across a course that sort of sticks out in terms of quality (i.e., I’ve heard the Human-Computer Interaction course isn’t as good as the others and is primarily video-based, which I know many people don’t like), but overall it is an excellent value. And no one paid me to say that. :slight_smile:

That’s crazy about that bug from 1993! And actually–you may know this already–but there are more than a few people here with backgrounds in either QA or counseling. So, it can be done. Will have to pick your brain on Denver sometime; my spouse and I would love to relocate there in the coming years. :slight_smile:


#7

I moved here from San Diego and I love it! Wonderful friendly people. Beautiful nature and so much to do. Hiking, camping, skiing, climbing, night life – it’s never boring. In fact, I am going to get into these courses this weekend because it is cold and snowing. :slight_smile: Thanks for the info about IDF’s reputation – I wondered (and still wonder) how I am going to tell my story on a resume. Thanks again, Jade.


#8

@cyndi_naumann - needless to say, I’m always happy to help, however I can!


#9

Definitely a perfect background! From a UX/Developer viewpoint the best QAs I’ve worked with were the last line of defense for the users’ experience.

Besides the course recommendations, I would recommend trying to work in as much user research as possible in your current role. Get early development versions of features in front of users and any stakeholders you can. Hone your interviewing, post analysis, and stakeholder management skills. Start switching from “find the defect mode” to finding broader user issues and misses in user requirements gathering. Start identifying ways you may be biasing your interview subject. This will also give you specific instances to refer to when referring to experience for those sweet new research gigs.

If your current job isn’t flexible enough, try local business networks. I generally offer some of my time for free in an office hour format to new entrepreneurs seeking help. It’s helped me expand my skill set to new industries and outside of software, plus get referrals.

Cheers!
Wes


#10

Thanks, Wes! I’m so happy you think I’ve got the perfect background. Since you’re a UX/Developer that carries weight. You are so right about QA striving to be the voice of the User. When there is an issue or defect I’m the one speaking up because I’m shaking my head saying “Wow! Imagine this happening to one of our customers!” A lot of people lose sight of that. Reading the description of a UX Researcher fills me with excitement to be able to do what I’ve battled to do for 20 years!

Excellent advice! Unfortunately, where I currently work is the perfect example of what-not-to-do. It’s a huge medical device company where they’re still using basically the same software they’ve had for 15 years. Several bugs were just fixed that were written in the '90s.

I will think about how I can apply your ideas. I may be able to help a small company I do business with who is embarking on a web redesign. They’re trying to figure out how they can pull in new business and I already see many usability issues that put off potential clients. I have some ideas about how I can apply the UX researcher skills to help them.

Thanks for the great ideas!

Cyndi