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From Academia to User Research Consultant

Vivi Gkofa
10 Jun 2022

Are you an academic and thinking of a change but you are not sure what that is? Well, I’ve got the answer for you.

The experience of an academic

Working as an academic has always been a great passion of mine. However, I did find myself wanting a short break from academia. Why you ask? Well, although a very exciting field, I think that most academics would agree with me when I say that in academia your work can be quite slow paced. For instance, it can take up to 2 years and even more, to get from planning your study all the way to your research findings being disseminated. Having said that, I kept finding myself in the position of wanting to raise awareness as quickly as possible. You might also hear junior academics discuss about the fact that the amount of work they put in does not equate to the financial rewards they receive. If any of this applies to you, I invite you to keep reading. If it doesn’t…well keep reading and maybe it will!

The motive

Ok, but how do you come to the point of wanting to take a break from a world you’ve worked for your whole life? Have you ever had one of those moments where you stumble upon something that gives you a great idea, which seems to be coming out of nowhere?

For me it went like this…

I had been trying to get on my Clinical Psychology Doctorate for a while without success. For any of my fellow readers who don’t know this programme, it’s a hugely competitive course with around 22% success rate. Some people spend years trying to get on without avail and I realised that I don’t want to be in that position and if I were to try something else this was the time. But what would I try?

It was a typical day. I went on YouTube to maybe find a song I was looking for, and I saw this video under trending that read “How I got a job as a UX researcher” and I thought to myself “UX researcher? What is that?” and the rest was history.

How is it really like working as a User Researcher (UR) when you’ve been an academic all your life?

In short, it’s great! But let’s explore further.

1) Similarities

You are going to use the same methodologies. As an academic, I’m sure you will have been exposed to both quantitative and qualitative methodological designs. From interviews to surveys all the way to statistics. So, you have an ace up your sleeve. A driving force in academia is of course the impact that your work could bring. What keeps us going, is that our work will add to the growing field and reach policy changes. Well, your work as a User Researcher (UR) will also give you that joy. You can work on projects and either create something from scratch or improve an existing service that will impact user’s experience.

2) Differences

A big difference is the fast-paced environment. One of the challenges we find in academia is that it can take years until you secure funding, publish your research and for the results to be implemented. As a User Researcher (UR), you will not face that challenge as depending on the project you are working on, some of the findings could be applied within weeks. You are also going to use a set of different tools to collaborate with your team and share your research findings, tools which could be learned within a few days. Additionally, although you are still going to be working in a multidisciplinary team, the roles of your team will be quite different and therefore some training might be required. Compared to a junior academic, as a junior User Researcher (UR) you will also feel that the work you put in does correspond to the financial rewards received.

3) Challenges

Although exciting, the agile way of working might come with its challenges as you would often have to prioritize your work effectively to meet the demands of the project. However, if you would like to be exposed to a variety of topics quickly, then UX is for you. Additionally, in academia although you can work within a team, most of the times you might find yourself working independently. As a User Researcher (UR), there is a lot of interdependency with your team members. As such, you might find yourself having to adapt, which might be stressful. But if you are like me, I’m sure you’ll be up for the challenge!

Why Capgemini Invent?

Making this decision is not easy. I caught myself many times thinking “Yes, academia has its challenges, but that’s all I know. I can’t work at a big company”. Let me give you a piece of advice. Yes, you can!

However, if you are going to embark upon this journey, I advise you to look for a job at a place that celebrates and values your diverse background. A place that will not only you give you the freedom to explore what you like but will even give you a platform to share your expertise. For me, that place was Capgemini Invent.

1) What are the projects I could work on?

I’m sure that if you are taking this step, you want to experience as much as you can in this new chapter. Well, at Capgemini Invent you will have the opportunity to be placed both in public and private sector projects.

2) How about my personal development?

You will have the opportunity to get the most out of your time as a User Researcher (UR) since fully funded courses, such as the ones provided by the Nielsen Norman Group or the Interaction Design Foundation, will be offered. As such, even individuals with no prior experience, will have dedicated time to receive thorough training in UX, Consulting and Research.

So, what are you waiting for? The demand for User Researchers (URs) is currently at its highest point, so there is no better time to enter the field than now. Your journey starts here.