22. Vicki Tollemache of Grubhub

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I speak with Vicki Tollemache, the Director of UX Research at Grubhub. We discuss how to manage incoming research requests, running a weekly research session for testing designs, and why candidates should come into job interviews with a point of view about the company’s product.

To me, researchers are educators. They’re there to translate and educate the organization that they work with about who their users are, what they’re experiencing, where their pain points are, what they care about, what their motivations are. There’s a number of ways you could communicate that and you can educate. Experience is probably one of the best, but due to time constraints, not everyone can come into the field with us and experience that. If you just rely on reports and communicating from the researchers there’s something that’s left out in the details. There’s a richness that’s not there that I think even researchers realize. – Vicki Tollemache

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Steve Portigal: Thanks for joining me on Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk with people who lead user research in their organization.

I’ve mentioned a public workshop happening in San Francisco; it looks like that has fallen through but I will be speaking at the Mind the Product Conference in San Francisco next month. I’m also doing in-house training workshops so let’s talk if that’s something your team might want to pursue.

In my consulting practice I have the opportunity to work with different organizations with varying levels of investment in research, varying levels of maturity in their research and product practices, and so on. I started this podcast as an extension of that, as a way to highlight the emergent practice of user research leadership. So supporting me and my business is the best way for you to support this podcast. My consulting work informs the podcast. It also pays for this podcast. If you have thoughts about the Dollars to Donuts, email me at DONUTS AT PORTIGAL DOT COM or write me on Twitter at Dollars To Donuts, that’s d o l l R s T O D o n u t s.

In 1961 the new chairman of the FCC gave his first speech, addressing the National Association of Broadcasters. He saw the potential of television, but complained that watching the programming currently available revealed a “vast wasteland.” That phrase echoed down the decades. In 1992 when cable TV executive John Malone coined the phrase “the 500 channel universe.” While that might have signified opportunity to the industry, but to the viewing public it felt like the vastness was simply increasing in scope. Yet somehow we made it today where 500 channels seems almost quaint, and critics herald the Golden Age of Television also known as Peak TV. Well, we purchased a Roku TV set recently. Roku basically provides an operating system for the television where you can add apps, just like you’d add apps to a phone. So we added all the usual suspects like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, NBC, Vimeo, Amazon, and some others that we discovered like Pluto which is a free streaming channel with a ton of programming. But what I didn’t realize was that Roku is a somewhat open platform that allows interested parties to add content. Looking into how to do that, it doesn’t seem that much harder than putting out a podcast. And while the choice isn’t as overwhelming broad as with podcasts, there are an astonishing number of Roku channels. I found a blog that every week or two updates with the latest channels, not all of them, just the ones that they’ve reviewed! Here’s some of their latest update reviews.

Funny TV Network – A collection of funny clips from Family Feud hosted by Steve Harvey
Know Your Tools – Tool reviews, safety tips, recommendations and innovations
The Home Depot Channel – Tips and tutorials for home remodeling, home maintenance, and tool use
Louisiana Cajun Recipes – A Cajun cooking show hosted by a self-taught cook
Smoky Ribs BBQ – Essential grilling recipes
Stories of the Century – A 1950s Western TV series about a railroad detective who roams the west, tracking down outlaws and bandits who are preying on the railroad
SOS Coast Guard – A 12-chapter 1937 film serial starring Bela Lugosi and Ralph Byrd
Sci-Fi Zone – 19 vintage Sci-Fi movies from the 1940s and 50s
DramaTV – Vintage public domain dramas from the 1940s and 50s
Scary TV – 20 vintage horror movies from the 1930s, 40s and 50s
Shemaroo Yoga – Yoga tutorials from Anushka Malao
Aircraft Channel – Aircraft accidents and near accidents reconstructed with analysis of what actually happened
Rockwell Off Road – Mud-bogging and proving grounds videos

It’s not particularly different from what’s already online on some platforms, but I was surprised at how the bar for “television” had got, I certainly expect a lot of crap from TV in general but this is barely curated Internet detritus that mingles with TV channels from established media players. I’m not saying all this content is necessarily garbage, or isn’t of interest to some people, perhaps many people, but that my mental model for changing channels on a television set, even if I can’t pick anything over the air where I live and haven’t had cable for many years, that’s still an entrenched mental model, so to find that this new television lets me watch NBC and the Opossum Saga at the same navigation level in the menu is just surprising. I think they’ve got some way of streamlining the experience so searching on the platform will more likely reveal big brands that have more traffic or that perhaps have paid slotting fees. You won’t come across The Lawnmower Channel unless you know to look for it, I think. And just like I’ve mentioned in previous episodes these shifts in mental models, in how producers expect something to be used versus how consumers expect something to be used, these are fantastic things to explore in user research, especially as systems grow in complexity and scale, like this 5 zillion channel rokuverse.

Well, I think it is time to get to the interview. I spoke with Vicki Tollemache who is the Director of UX Research at Grubhub. All right, well, thank you for being on the podcast.

Vicki Tollemache: Thank you for having me.

Steve: Why don’t you start by introducing yourself? Who are you? What do you do?

Vicki: I am Victoria Tollemache, but everyone calls me Vicki. I am the Director of UX Research here at Grubhub. Essentially, I manage a team of researchers across our ecosystem and my job is really to make sure that we are working in a way, doing research that’s going to impact our organization. So, it’s a lot of strategy. I’m working with product leads and our design VP to make sure that we are positioned correctly and chasing the right questions.

Steve: Hmm, chasing the right questions. What does that mean?

Vicki: That means I mean – my research team – I think generally research teams are much smaller than the design organizations and product organizations they’re supporting. We have a million questions coming at us of all shapes and sizes and it’s determining which questions make the most sense for where we are as a business and which questions, if we get answers to, will the business be able to respond to and we’ll be able to have impact? So, making sure that we’re positioning in the right space.

Steve: Right. You mentioned impact as well right off. So, what does impact look like?

Vicki: Impact to me is, in the scheme of things maybe it’s identifying needs within our users ecosystem that we could create solutions for, to better solve for pain points they’re experiencing. Or it is – maybe we’re creating a new experience and we’re not quite certain if what we’ve created matches the user’s mental mindset. So, doing research at that point that our product and design teams can respond to and make changes to.

Steve: Does that fall under the label of evaluation? It feels like there’s something else to it.

Vicki: It can be. What do you mean?

Steve: I mean maybe you’re just describing the way I’d like to see evaluation done where it’s not just thumbs up/thumbs down on…

Vicki: Oh no, no, it’s iterating right through the process and we’re working with design to be like what can we change about it to make it a better experience? And then potentially testing again.

Steve: And you’re framing it around mental mindset which is sort of the underpinnings of a concept.

Vicki: Sure, absolutely.

Steve: Not the implementation of a concept. I think that’s why evaluative to me is like – evaluative is maybe about the details of the design?

Vicki: Sure.

Steve: And so I feel like maybe there’s another word that describes what you’re doing which is looking at the value proposition or the construct, or the mental mindset.

Vicki: Sometimes we call it an experience audit here, but I feel like that’s a term we’ve made up ourselves. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that in the field or in the wild. Because we were trying to describe some of the things that we’re doing and we’re like are we auditing the experience?

Steve: Not that you asked my opinion, but audit seems more passive than what you’re talking at. To get at that gap between a mental mindset of a consumer of something and producer of something is more – that’s more – you have to extract that. You have to synthesize that.

Vicki: Sure. I think I’m speaking to two different types of research, right. One is when we’re going out in to the field and trying to understand that environment that our users live in, and especially where they meet, because we tend to find that that’s where a lot of the friction points are. And then working with design and product to be like how do we solve for some of these problems that we’re finding? Are these problems that we knew existed even? And then once we’ve gotten to that place where we’ve come up with solutions, then pairing with our users to determine have we solved for this in a way that actually makes sense for the users?

Steve: When you say “where they meet” in that first part?

Vicki: So, I mean Grubhub is an ecosystem, right? We have what we consider four distinct types of users. We have drivers. We have our restaurant partners. We have our diners – these are the people who are consumer facing. They’re ordering from us. And then we have internal employees. I mean the easiest, most basic way to explain that is we have an internal care provider that provides help to all our different users and those users don’t exist by themselves. They’re constantly interacting with each other, right.

Steve: Yeah.

Vicki: And usually they’re interacting with each other when there’s problems. And so either we can help them solve those problems, or sometimes we can maybe be a hindrance in how they solve those problems and they have to try to work around us. So, those are sometimes some of the biggest opportunities for us.

Steve: Okay. So, where there’s interactions or intersections between those different…

Vicki: Types of users.

Steve: In the ecosystem.

Vicki: Yeah.

Steve: Is opportunity.

Vicki: Opportunity, yeah, for us to – sometimes it’s about providing them more independence and building trust, right. And then there’s understanding why is there trust breakdown and why do they feel like they don’t have autonomy to kind of control the – the situation that they’re in.

Steve: Maybe we could step back.

Vicki: Sure, we did kind of jump right into it.

Steve: That’s me, not you. So, what is Grubhub? It’s an ecosystem of these things, but what is – how do they combine?

Vicki: I think Grubhub considers themselves a marketplace that is providing restaurants the opportunity to compete for consumers in regards to ordering food for delivery or pickup. So, that’s what we provide.

Steve: In what parts of the world are you running services?

Vicki: The U.S. and then we have a little bit of presence in London, but that’s generally on the corporate aspect of it, right. So, we also have a corporate platform where companies can partner with us and provide their employees a credit and then the employees kind of – it keeps them at work if they can order lunch at work and kind of eat through a meeting kind of thing. So, we have a little bit of presence in the UK with that. But otherwise, I think we’re in 300 markets in the U.S.

Steve: Is that a lot?

Vicki: I mean I think we have a very good presence in the United States. I think if you went into any major city, or even minor city, we would be there, right. So, we’ll be in Little Rock, Arkansas. We might not be in Jasper, Texas. And I’m using references from the South because I am from the South, so it’s easier references.

Steve: Okay. Alright. That’s good context. So, let’s – so, you’re sort of describing some of the things that you’re working on. And you made a point that research teams are often smaller than design teams.

Vicki: Yeah, product and design teams, right.

Steve: Yeah. And that’s the case here.

Vicki: That is the case here. I think – there are 7 of us currently, including myself. We have an open position, so that will be an 8th person. And then we also swell in the summertime because we usually bring in one intern. And last year we were fortunate enough to hire an intern, so it’s a good opportunity for interns as well.

Steve: What does a user research intern do at Grubhub?

Vicki: Well in the days since I’ve been here I always want to win best internship. That’s always my goal. I want that intern to get as much experience as possible. Usually they come in and they tell me they would feel more comfortable getting moderating experience, being able to run projects on their own. Last year we had the intern own – it felt like the easiest place for them to start was kind of doing more smaller research questions, so more evaluative research. So, they took over – I think we called it Research Day – and essentially ran that for the entire summer. But then we also took them out into the field with us for one project. So, they got to go on a trip and experience what it’s like to be within the restaurants, shadowing the drivers, us going into the diner’s home and learning about food. So, they’re owning one thing, which is kind of nice right, that they get to own something. They’re getting experience moderating. They’re putting projects together. They’re working with product. They’re working with design. And because Research Day goes across the entire ecosystem they’re getting exposed to everything. So, it’s like a really good place for them to start and then they will get to partner with some of the researchers. Kind of like a more mentor/mentee and go out into the field on some of our bigger research projects.

Steve: What is Research Day?

Vicki: Well we called it – at first it started as Diner Day. It’s just a standing day, once a week users come into the lab. The week before the designers can pitch ideas they have. We go through, based off how thought out, flush out the ideas, priority based against our organization’s needs. What are we going to be testing? Do we have access to it? Can we get the right users in? So, we go through and we kind of have a pitch day. We choose the idea and then 5 days later we test that idea in a lab. So, it’s supposed to just be really, really quick – 24 hour turnaround for findings. Just a bulleted list of findings that the designers can then go take action off of.

Steve: And that runs?

Vicki: Every week. It’s really frequent cadence. I found in past organizations sometimes people can push off doing research because they say it takes too long. It takes too long to go through scoping. It takes too long finding people to recruit. So, I felt like if we had this standing day setup for diners – just bringing 5 diners in once a week – it meant that designers could kind of come in last minute sometimes and we can get research done for them. And they can also experience that and watch that because we’re in a lab based situation. Or we can also go on the streets of New York. But in the lab base it’s kind of nice because we can also do remote interviews and reach out to people outside of New York, because New York is kind of an outlier compared to the rest of the country in regards to what our platform looks like. Also, people are very experienced ordering food from Grubhub or Seamless here and sometimes we’re looking for a split of like maybe less professional food orderers.

Steve: Seamless is another platform.

Vicki: Seamless and Grubhub are the same thing, just different brand. Eat24 is part of our brand as well. But they’re all the same. There’s just a different brand logo in the top left hand corner.

Steve: When you do Diner Day or Research Day, so a tactical question, you don’t have a lot of lead time.

Vicki: Um-mm. It’s quick and dirty.

Steve: So do you already know kind of what people are coming in before the idea is pitched? What’s the dependency there?

Vicki: Generally it’s a mix of diners, right. It’s starting to get harder and harder to find truly new diners to our platform, but it’s a mix of new or returning diners and we can sometimes switch what that ratio is within the 5 days we have from doing the pitch to actually doing the recruiting. So, we just know we’re going to bring 5 diners in. Some of them are going to be new to us, never ordered from us. A percentage of them are going to be returning to us, or we may shift that where it’s all returning based on what the project is.

Steve: So, you have kind of infrastructure in place such that you can quickly change.

Vicki: Yeah. That’s the nice thing about food, right. I mean I worked – I came from AT&T before this and I worked on the B2B side and we had to recruit network engineers and it was really difficult. It’s expensive. They don’t have much time. It’s hard to get them in. But so many people order food. It’s just an easier recruit, right. So, within 5 days we can get those people. We used a platform called userinterviews.com. Have you heard of it?

Steve: Yeah. I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard of it.

Vicki: It makes it very easy. And they’ll recruit anywhere for us in the U.S., so it’s super nice and they turn it around very, very fast.

Steve: So, once you understand what that flow is going to be…

Vicki: We have that relationship and they know that we’re doing that on certain days, so it’s just like an ongoing recruit that we have going.

Steve: Okay. Just coming back to one of the things you said, you mentioned a couple of times kind of aligning the research activities you do, whether it’s at that level or other things, with the business questions, the goals of the organization. And I think maybe you mentioned this, but maybe you could talk a little bit about how you come to an understanding of what those goals and questions are for the organization so that you can choose the research activities that support that. How is that input for you?

Vicki: I think when I first came – I mean I’ll be honest about this too. When I first came in it seemed like – and we still have this to a certain extent and I think a lot of companies deal with this – ongoing reprioritization of everything. We begin to work on something and then it will be like, no our priorities have changed. So, we had like a lot of like stop/start projects. And at the time that didn’t make sense to me so I wanted our research team to prioritize things based off what we knew our users needs and identifying those. And then we had little bit of leadership change and we had a new CPO come in, Sam Hall, he’s from ClassPass, he’s great. And he’s actually – I work pretty closely with him to understand like what the business priorities are. And I work pretty closely with our design VP to understand some of the design challenges that we’re facing as well. And even for something like Research Day we have an ongoing backlog of research questions that’s coming from the designers and/or product, but there’s some weeks where we don’t have anyone come to pitch and then my team has questions that we will go answer. So, we don’t not do a research day because product and design aren’t asking us questions, but we have questions as well based off things we’ve seen in the field and some of those can actually be themes that come up later. So, in the end, my answer is it varies. Working closely with product helps us from a business perspective. Working closely with our design leadership helps me because they have questions that they are also separately going after based off kind of some of the design questions that they have. And then I just work to prioritize those. We do a scoring. Does that answer the question?

Steve: A scoring?

Vicki: Yeah. So, certain people get a weighted score and in the end it’s also kind of what my team thinks is going to be the most valuable for us, and also where we’ll have impact. I mean I worked at organizations where they’re like every year they set a goal for the research team to do more research, like more projects. And that doesn’t make any sense to me. It should be about doing projects that actually impact the organization, right, that people actually make changes from. You can do a million research projects. If no one does anything with that research it’s like dealing into the abyss.

Steve: So, if I come to you and say I have a question about how people go through this flow in the app, how would you score that?

Vicki: Who are you? Are you a designer? Are you within the leadership team? And then what is that flow? Like what part of the experience is that? Is that something that we have as an initiative that we’re heavily focused on that we’re invested in as a business to like make a better experience? So, I’d have to ask some of those questions and then I’d also look at do we already have previous research that might be able to answer some of your questions? So, there’s a number of factors.

Steve: And sorry if I’m getting like obsessively detailed, but like are you – when you say score to me that means there’s a bunch of questions and you kind of apply a number to those and total them.

Vicki: Sure. Yeah. And it does work like that. It depends on who’s asking for it? Where we are in the product lifecycle? Like if we do this research for you will you be able to make changes from it within this release? Or are you telling us you might be able to make changes six months from now. So, we’re asking – do we have impact? Who is asking for this? How does it align to our business priorities? How does it align to our research and design priorities because we’re part of the design organization? And then there are certain scores that go with each of those answers.

Steve: Okay. I think I’ve heard those questions as kind of an intake or prioritization approach, but I haven’t heard it labeled as scoring which I think makes so much sense when you say it.

Vicki: And then I usually – because in the end our design organization is within our product organization and I usually also work fairly closely with our CPO to be like this is what I’m getting from the design organization. This is what I’m getting from your product leads. This is how we’re prioritizing. Just to make sure. Like it’s a gut check, like does this seem right?

Steve: So, I mean, there’s the example where if nothing comes in for Research Day you have your own things.

Vicki: Yup.

Steve: Are there situations where you’re proposing research to these kind of leaders that you’re working with?

Vicki: Absolutely. Last summer we had a new VP of design come in and one of the things he really wanted to push is quality of our product, right. And then the question came to me, like how do we measure quality? So, there’s a number of ways that we could go about measuring quality. I work with the data science team to go after certain metrics, or to understand how we might be able to measure that within some of our data. But then from my background I was like we could also do benchmarking. Like that’s something we haven’t done before and we rely really heavily on A/B testing which sometimes is like building things very piecemeal. So, I proposed that we go through and do a twice a year benchmark after some major releases to measure like what is this experience for users in our current product. And then if you look at the definition of quality you can only truly measure quality by comparing it to something of greater or lesser quality. So, the suggestion was where we can can we also do a comparative where we’re benchmarking against one of our competitors. And they were completely on board with that. And they allowed us to go to an outside vendor and go through the benchmarking process.

Steve: I thought you were going to say you’re benchmarking against yourself over time.

Vicki: You can do that – we’re doing that as well, but also against our competitors. When we can. We can’t do that obviously on the business side, but we can do that on the diner’s side.

Steve: You can’t do it in the business side because you can’t get access…

Vicki: We don’t have access.

Steve: …access to that part of it.

Vicki: No.

Steve: Okay. I see.

Vicki: And that’s always one of the things – I’ve heard of researchers who will ask – generally our restaurant partners or driver partners, they’re also using our competitors, but from an ethical perspective I don’t like to ask those types of users to share that information. I just don’t think it’s appropriate.

Steve: How do you benchmark – you know when you’re doing competitive benchmarking, how do you compare apples to apples?

Vicki: Our product teams are broken up into initiatives. On the diner side we have two initiatives. One of them is more about like the core product, right. And then benchmark is really about is our core product usable. Like where are there friction points. So, I worked with our product lead and our designers to identify like what do we consider core tasks? And those are based off like what are common like user flows, user journeys, through the app? But it also was based off where do we also know that we see CPO, so care calls taking place, because we also are always trying to lower those, right. So, from that we’ve mapped out like what our tasks were and then we took another one of our competitors, who essentially is going to have the same, similar tasks and we just did a benchmark against those tasks for those competitors. So like, you know task timing, success, ease of use. We also created this quality metric which is kind of based off of reliability. And then also just qualitative feedback, right. But there’s other things as well. There are things sometimes we hear from our users that are taking place that maybe we weren’t aware of and we definitely will go to product and design and be like hey we think that we need to do a deeper dive here. We’re hearing a number of things. There’s friction taking place that we weren’t aware of. Maybe we’ve made changes somewhere – and that’s the thing with an ecosystem, right. You might think you’ve made an improvement in one space and you’ve actually created two problems somewhere else and we’re definitely given the freedom to then go explore that and suggest solutions for those additional problems. Or maybe roll back the first solution to begin with.

Steve: You brought up solution as part of the research process…

Vicki: Yeah.

Steve: … a couple of times and I wonder if you could just say more about what’s a researcher’s role in – what is…

Vicki: A researcher’s role in solutioning?

Steve: Yes.

Vicki: Um, well, at Grubhub, again because we’re a small team, I think in some ways I wish that we could be more hands on than we are. Maybe we’ll identify a need and our product team has also had a hypothesis that that’s a need as well, so they’ll be like how do we solve for this thing that we’ve identified? It’s an opportunity for business. We see that it’s an unfulfilled need for users. Perhaps we’ll put together – we’ll define what the problem is. We’ll put together a workshop. A researcher will usually be involved in that workshop, but sometimes they can’t be so then maybe one of us come in as like a speaker, to speak to like – see the work and solutioning that they do and comment on it or consult on it. But it usually begins there and then we’ll go through rounds of iterating on the design as we test it. And a lot of that will take place in Research Day. Does this make sense?

Steve: It makes sense. Maybe you have thoughts about sort of the philosophy.

Vicki: I think my team would like to be more hands on with what takes place in those workshops, but we just have a limitation of time.

Steve: Yeah. Why do you think that’s something that they want? If you look at researchers around the world, what – I feel like some are very interested in the product, the details, the solutions.

Vicki: Absolutely, right.

Steve: Some are – some maybe don’t see that as their role.

Vicki: I think there’s always like, just from a human perspective, a desire to control. So, I mean, from that basic level it makes sense to me that people want to be more involved in solutioning, but I also think – you know researchers, they’re out in the field. They’re witnessing that. Maybe they write a report. Maybe they communicate their findings, but sometimes they have to be fairly like theme, high-level findings and there’s a lot in the details that can get left out of reporting and I think they feel like they provide value to be in those solutioning sessions because they can speak to some of that nuance that maybe wasn’t communicated within a report, right.

Steve: Yeah. Well even in the example you gave where there’s just no bandwidth, that maybe you guys are working in a consulting role.

Vicki: Yeah. I mean when you have a smaller team, unfortunately it becomes that way, right.

Steve: And whether you’re consulting, or in those sessions, you’re still there to – it sounds to me – so, tease apart – I think what you mean by solutioning is a collaboration where solutions are generated, but it’s not that researchers are there to do design.

Vicki: No, yeah.

Steve: But they’re there to bring that extra detail to inform those design decisions.

Vicki: Yeah, I mean – I think to me researchers are educators, right. Like they’re kind of there to translate and educate the organization that they work with about who their users are, what they’re experiencing, where their pain points are, what they care about, what their motivations are. And there’s a number of ways you could communicate that and you can educate. Experience is probably one of the best, but due to time constraints of everybody, not everyone can come into the field with us and experience that and I think there’s something to be said about – outside of not having the experience yourself with users in the field, if you just rely on reports and communicating from the researchers you kind of – there’s something that’s left out in the details, right. There’s like a richness that’s not there that I think even researchers realize. Like if my presence is there I can speak to some of those one-off situations that maybe we didn’t cover in the report, but might get brought up within solutioning. Does that make sense?

Steve: Yeah, yeah. I think we’re sort of unpacking what solutioning looks like. That it’s not – that there’s a dialogue and a bunch of different perspectives that can come forward and that the researcher isn’t necessarily there to say oh I think we should start the task here instead of over here.

Vicki: Yeah. Yeah. It’s more about bringing that richness of like, if we start the task here this might actually happen to some of the users. Whereas if we started it here maybe that won’t happen, if that’s a good or bad thing. Does that make sense?

Steve: Yes.

Vicki: Just that deeper understanding. I really do believe that researchers tend to just be educators.

Steve: That’s a good metaphor, isn’t it?

Vicki: Yeah. It’s what it feels like to me. I remember – well I was reading this book recently, John le Carré – do you know who he is? He wrote Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Steve: Um-hmm.

Vicki: And he was talking about the role of a war journalist and it’s really not about reporting on just what’s taking place in the field, but it’s also about like building empathy and trying to encourage people to care. I kind of feel like in some ways we’re kind of like war reporters, based off his description. We’re out in the trenches.

Steve: Right. You want to bring it back in a way – I mean it’s back to your impact point early on.

Vicki: But there is a lot left out when you communicate through reports and findings, right. Sometimes you’ll have a user who’s extremely insightful, but do you just report to that one thing, or is that like a one-off? But then you’re in solutioning session and you’re like oh, well it’s actually useful here. This is where I should share it.

Steve: So, yeah, if we took away the constraint of limited resources or just the bandwidth that the folks on the team have, what are the ways that they could be educating?

Vicki: Well – I mean that’s the thing – not just taking constraints from my team, but I think one of the things realistically, I wish that we could take – or I wish the product and designers – product team members and designers could come into the field more and have that experience more, right. I think by them being better versed in what that experience is like within different markets, within different types of restaurants, with different types of users, they have a better kind of base to make decisions from. They’re more informed. They have a deeper understanding. They understand what some of the more nuanced situations might be and therefore they can make informed decisions. But unfortunately with meeting schedules everyone is like strapped for time, right. Like sometimes the reality is they just can’t come out into the field.

We have another program here at Grubhub called Parts Unknown. I’ve branded all of our research programs. We also do – it’s not all within programs, but Parts Unknown, started by – we were inspired by Anthony Bourdain, obviously – this was before, unfortunately, he committed suicide, but bringing people out into different markets and taking a deep look at what our ecosystem looks like outside of New York and Chicago, because we are kind of outliers, and understanding like what food culture is in these cities and how people think about food and what types of food they order and how that impacts our ecosystem and what our ecosystem looks like there, and we were able to bring – and we still do this – product and designers into the field and I feel like that has been some of the more like enriching, like those people come out with a much, much more informed – they’re much more informed and I think they’re able to make better decisions as a result of it.

Steve: That sounds like it’s kind of an immersion experience.

Vicki: Yeah, yeah. And sometimes we were partnering with food bloggers too to have a night with them, just to understand like their take on the market. It was pretty interesting. So, we still do that, but we’ve also kind of evolved that program as well. It’s not just about looking at different markets. It’s also about looking at different parts of an experience that maybe we haven’t looked at in a while and trying to determine we think it’s this, is it actually this for our users?

Steve: Right. Is this a category where you look at the different people in your ecosystem – is there – how rapidly do these things evolve?

Vicki: What do you mean?

Steve: I mean like how static are the things you know about different people in the ecosystem?

Vicki: Well I think as our industry changes and people are competing against each other within our industry that there are things that are happening that are changing the ecosystem on a pretty regular basis. Does that make sense?

Steve: Yeah. So, hence the need to – if there’s areas of the ecosystem that you haven’t looked at in a while, you have to go back…

Vicki: We have to revisit. Absolutely. And that’s kind of – this is again where I get nervous about if I should speak to this or not? So, some of the things – we have just certain areas that we haven’t looked at in a long time. I mean our company is 20 years old and we’ll be like oh this is our workflow and then we’ll have our CPO be like I want us to take a look at this because I have questions about what this workflow really is. So, we’ll go through and do this thing as an audit. The researchers will sign up as users and go through an audit with that experience, what it’s actually like as a user. And then we can pinpoint like this is what we thought it was, this is what it actually is. We think it takes 10 days. It actually takes 30 days and this is why it takes 30 days. That kind of stuff.

Steve: Yeah. So, if there’s so many different facets to the experience in the ecosystem and there’s change happening.

Vicki: Yeah. And you have – within our – I mean it’s not just our product organization, right. Like we’re working with an ops team, a sales team, we have a marketing team and sometimes different teams are building different parts of a flow and they aren’t coming together to check like does that all make sense. Isn’t it always like the idea of like your product is a reflection of your organization and how well they work together?

Steve: Right. What’s the cliché about don’t ship your org chart. I don’t know who to attribute that too.

Vicki: Yeah, I think that is a cliché, yes.

Steve: Okay. Can we talk about your team a little bit?

Vicki: Sure, what would you like to know?

Steve: What kind of people have found their way to your team?

Vicki: Well I inherited the majority of my team and they kind of have a pretty diverse background. We have a couple of – I think my team is comprised of a designer/comedian, an industrial designer, someone with a sociology background, someone with a psychology background and then two researchers who actually have like human factors degrees. And they come from a variety – most – only one of them, our intern from last summer, this is her first job. The rest of them come from a variety of other industries to get here. And one of our researchers, our associate principal, he and I have worked at like 3 to 4 other jobs together. I’ve known him for a very long time at this point.

Steve: I feel like I would be remiss if I don’t ask about /comedian because that’s just there to be asked about.

Vicki: He does like a whole bunch of live storytelling, but I think it makes him a very good presenter. He kind of has like charisma on the stage. I’ve actually had a – when he presents I have people reach out to me to be like you should hire more comedians. Because it makes him very engaging. He’s very good at telling stories, which is why I mention that he’s a designer/comedian background. But he’s worked in research for like, I think, the last 8 years.

Steve: I’ve definitely come across people in research who have either actual, or sort of – they have actual education in theater or some related field.

Vicki: Well you know communication is such a huge aspect of it and if you have that charisma and ease with yourself I think it just gets the message across better sometimes. People are more engaged and feel maybe less threatened by the message. Does that make sense?

Steve: Yeah.

Vicki: There’s something to it. He definitely knows how to charm an audience. I think it also makes sometimes the research a bit more stickier because people are more engaged with presenters like that.

Steve: I think – right, people that find their way into research eventually discover that so much of the work is about working with your colleagues and not…

Vicki: Oh, absolutely. It’s about relationships, right.

Steve: Far less than it is about fieldwork or research…

Vicki: I think that’s anything, right. Like in the end it’s all very relationship based, right. But I think there’s something too, I know the previous director here, he had us do an improv workshop and there is something about – my sister I told you is a comedian. There is something about like comedians in the end generally are introverts who kind of force themselves to be extroverts, which I feel like there’s parallels with that with research. And then there’s this idea like, with especially in improv, where instead of saying no to things it’s kind of that yes/and and building off of each other which also tends to work better with relationships as well. So, maybe it kind of facilitates that. I don’t know. But yeah, in the end it is all relationship based.

Steve: When you talk to people as prospective hires – I don’t know who you hire, but whether it’s the interns or other people, what kind of things are you looking at that kind of strike you as this person might be worth talking to?

Vicki: I definitely want someone who is very analytical. I mean we have – I’ve had candidates come into interview who, when you ask like what do you think of our platform, they just say it’s great. I want someone who has actually maybe taken a look at it from a critical lens and has identified things that they think might be opportunities. Even better if they showed friends of theirs, or family members, and kind of did a small usability test on it and came back with a critique. My team is very collaborative. We get along very well. So, huge egos aren’t a big thing. Like I want people who are going to come in – kind of say everyone brings something to the table, everyone offers something, and I feel like for researchers they learn a lot from working together as well. So, I definitely want someone who is going to fit into that culture and is excited to collaborate with other researchers.

Steve: But how do you look for that in a…

Vicki: An interview process?

Steve: Or whatever – the scouting or any part of that process before you actually are working with somebody?

Vicki: I mean for me, we have a recruiting group, right, who does all the recruiting and they bring in resumes. We talk about kind of what I’m looking for in the resumes. I mean a lot of it I’m sussing out when I’m doing phone interviews for the initial screen, right. And I guess a lot of it is me just trying to get to the core of who they are and how honest or comfortable I feel like they are with describing who they are. The intern that we have right now, I keep referring to her, she was probably one of the best interviews I’ve ever done and she just told me a very honest story about a research project she did, that they presented it, that the company rejected the idea that they came up with, and I was like what did you do? And she was like I drank a glass of wine, it was 6 weeks of work. And then she told me about like, she’s like but then the next day we went back to the drawing board and we decided to do – and it was just like a very honest – she exposed vulnerability. She was very much herself. She was funny. She could speak very clearly to herself. And I’m kind of looking for that. When I interview someone I want to feel like I’m having a drink with someone, that they’re comfortable describing who they are, which I also think is a sense of maturity where people aren’t – I mean interview process is kind of nervous, right, so you’re coming in maybe with a little bit more of a sense of yourself and a little bit more comfortable about who you are and being honest with who you are. I think a lot of people make the mistake of hiding themselves in an interview and I think you want to be very, very open and honest about who you are because if you aren’t it may not be the right job for you to begin with, right. So, I think I’m kind of looking for that. Just some who can speak to what they’ve done and who they are in a very clear and honest way. Does that make sense?

Steve: Do you think that’s a research specific way of looking at candidates?

Vicki: That’s human specific.

Steve: That’s just hiring someone you want to hire.

Vicki: Yeah, that’s hiring – but then on top of that then I’m looking for like, I want to hear examples of projects that they’ve done in the past and how they’ve approached research? I definitely like to hear about how they’ve handled failure in the past and what they’ve learned from it? Situations that they’ve had to work – environments they’ve had to work in that were not comfortable for them, and why? I think generally the most basic questions anyone asks in an interview though. But it’s definitely about how comfortable and honest and open I feel that they are in the interview that is the thing that probably sways me. But also that they have to be analytical. I do have an issue when people come in and they haven’t done any research about Grubhub, or looked at our product or had any thoughts on it at all. Because if you’re a researcher you should be asking questions, right, and doing some research.

Steve: I want to pull apart some of what you’re saying.

Vicki: Sure.

Steve: Because you’re saying analytical, but the example you’re giving is them having looked at Grubhub. Those seem like different things to me.

Vicki: Well, I want them to have – I mean when you go – when anyone goes in for an interview, haven’t you done a little bit of research on the company that you’re going to work for? You’re curious about the product, like what is this product? Like what kind of research will I be doing? Let me take a look at it. Are there a huge amount of problems that I see? Is this going to be like a battle, or is this like oh, I can see like some big – I want someone who has like thought through like what am I going to be working on? What seemed to be the problems here? And I want them to speak to like problems that they’ve identified. Does that make sense?

Steve: Yeah.

Vicki: It’s kind of like they should have been a little heuristic, or maybe even like shown it to a couple of their friends and have an idea of like these are some of the things I think that you might be dealing with. And even speak to like how they might solve some of those problems. I mean we usually also have them go through a practice where we use a site that is not Grubhub to understand like how they look at something? What problems they identify? And then what kind of research solution they would put together for that? But that’s after the phone screen.

Steve: Okay. So, I understand a little more what you’re referring to when you say analytical. There’s a bit there of initiative, but also thinking through something before you kind of get into it.

Vicki: Yeah. And to me, if they can speak to that – like because one of the concerns I have is the communication aspect, especially when you’re doing any sort of like generative, ethnographic work, I mean that’s – I used to have a researcher who called it the big messy and it’s – you go into the field – there’s a lot of stuff that you can focus on, like what do they – how do they hone into what’s important, right. And I kind of feel like I get that from talking to them about like what they’ve seen within our own product. If I have someone speak to the fact that UberEats changed their app logo color and they didn’t like it, I don’t know if I think that that is necessarily a big important finding. Whereas, if I have someone talk about problems they experienced within our search results and like how that might not be conducive to someone looking for food, that makes more sense to me. So, what are they honing in on? What do they consider a finding? And how do they communicate that to me? That speaks a lot to how they might do that for the organization.

Steve: I’ve worked as a consultant my whole career, pretty much, and many years as an agency and I think – maybe the reason you’re hearing me sort of check in on this approach is that I think in the agency lifetime that I had, and certainly my own practice, there’s kind of a consultancy hubris of like coming in and like let me tell you about your thing. So, when you say you want your prospective hires to tell you about your thing.

Vicki: I want them to have an opinion, right.

Steve: Yeah.

Vicki: And I want them to be able to communicate that opinion. And I want to understand what that opinion is based on. And if they don’t that’s concerning to me.

Steve: Yeah. So, I think there’s something here about the process more than the substance of their opinion, but the process – because they don’t have access – like I never want to be the person, personally, just to come in and say look I don’t know what strategy decisions you have, but here’s what I think you should do.

Vicki: I’m not wanting them to lead that, but I’m wanting them to have looked at our product and been like here’s some things I think might be weaknesses, right. Like I’ve considered what your offering is. I’ve looked at it and I’ve noticed these things. I mean that’s the least you can do when you go in for an interview, right? Whenever I go in for an interview I review whatever I can access of the product, depending on what part of the business I’m interviewing for, and I make sure like, if someone asks me what do I think of it that I have like feedback based off some sort of heuristic I’ve done and I can tie that back to some sort of best practice of some kind, right. And so I kind of expect that as well from researchers coming in. If they haven’t looked at the product at all they kind of haven’t prepped themselves for the interview.

Steve: Yeah.

Vicki: And then that concerns me. And also researchers should always be asking questions, right. Like you should want to know like who would I be dealing with here? I’ve had companies reach out to me where I’m like oh my God that taxonomy would be crazy. It’s so much, like how do they deal with that, right. Like I can look at that and then I’ll have those questions for like how do you guys handle that. You can tell a lot by the questions people ask as well.

Steve: Right, that’s another aspect. What kind of questions are you looking researchers to bring you in the hiring process?

Vicki: We definitely want them to ask questions. I’m always shocked at how many people have no questions for me. I mean I expect them to ask about typically how we do research. I know right now we’re hiring for kind of an entry level person. So, a lot of times I’m trying to understand have they approached certain methodologies? How are they like wanting to expand or grow as a researcher themselves? I want to understand from them – like where they want to work, what experience they want to gain? And then also like how we handle research at Grubhub, kind of similar to all the same questions that you asked me at the beginning of this interview. I kind of expect them to be asking those same questions, right.

Steve: Now they’re just going to listen to this.

Vicki: I do think sometimes on Fridays – I call it 30 minutes with like a college grad, because I get a lot of college kids reaching out to me through LinkedIn, asking me how to get jobs. And I’ll talk to them for the first 30 minutes of my Friday and just give them feedback about what I think is a good interview and we’ll go through that. It’s very similar to all the questions that you’re asking right now.

Steve: I’m just the college kid, right!

Vicki: So, from the agency side – I came from an agency background as well. I worked for a company at the beginning of my career called Usability Sciences. They’re based in Dallas. They’ve been around like 30 years. It’s always interesting to me the agency side because I feel like even though agencies want to come and be like this is what you should do, there’s always kind of like this sphere of like overstepping that with the client, right. There’s that like kind of thin boundary and I know talking to researchers who are just from an agency background, they sometimes feel like they have no voice. Or they can’t push back hard enough because they’re afraid they’ll lose the client. And so therefore sometimes they’re not quite – especially if they’ve only had agency experience – I think that’s one of the things they talk about experience they want to get is like being able to work closely with product and scope and push back when they feel like they are more empowered to do so. And that’s something that they lack from agency.

Steve: What about for you? So what are the key things you’ve seen as a difference when you’ve worked in-house or worked as a consultant?

Vicki: Well I started – I left consultancy in 2013 and for me I’d started in 2007/2008 and I just saw a change in the industry, right. 2007/2008 sometimes we’d be working with someone from marketing. They would come in. They would want us to do like just the usability test. That same client would come back year after year, same usability test, no changes. Same usability test, no changes. And then as time was progressing I would see that companies where all of a sudden you had like a research director. Or you had a researcher and they were our go to person. And I could see that people were staffing up inside and that I think the industry was swaying maybe from like agency, or definitely what my consultancy offered, to that offering taking place within the business. So, yeah, I wanted to go see what it was like. Like why are people not making changes and coming back to us year after year? What is the political landscape that they’re in that maybe is leading to something like that? How do you maybe have more control or more say when you’re internal vs. some of the limitations you feel like when you’re consulting? And just to be more embedded, right. To get to work closely with designers and to work – I mean we would come in and do like maybe 3 weeks with a company. We wouldn’t do like a long, long embedded process. So, it was just that understanding of like what is it like to be embedded and work with product and design and what are the limitations they’re facing? Because I could see those within the projects that I was working on, like that was happening, but I didn’t understand why that was happening?

Steve: What was the first job that you got post-agency?

Vicki: JCPenney. That was one of our clients and I jumped over to them. But probably after – I don’t know if you know anything about JCPenney? They went through a big shift where they hired this guy, Ron Johnson, from Apple. And he decided to kill all of their rewards and sales programs. And if you know anything about the JCPenney customer, that’s – customer shops sales first at JCPenney. And their loyal customers are very much versed in that whole points/rewards program, so by getting rid of that they alienated their core customer base, the company kind of took a dive that I don’t know if they’ve really come out of it. I think it’s also like retail has changed, right, and that was taking place in the midst of that change of retail because of online sales. So, I went there. It was interesting, but also the company was doing massive layoffs, constantly. So, then I went to AT&T after that.

Steve: What were you doing at AT&T?

Vicki: AT&T was a closer commute. At the end JCPenney was a 2 hour commute for me each way which is bananas. I was in Dallas at this time. AT&T, on the business side, essentially they had a portal of portals and we came into a product organization that’s first question to me was we don’t know who are users are or what they do. So, there it was just like starting at the very bottom and trying to help inform product who was just desperate for information. So, that was a lot of talking with network engineers. And I have mixed feelings about personas, but that was actually one of the best scenarios I’ve seen for why you build personas. Like if someone is like we don’t know who our users are, maybe you build some personas to explain who your users are. They didn’t have much access to data either. They had little knowledge of who was using the platform and how.

Steve: So they didn’t know anything?

Vicki: Yeah. It’s interesting. There’s like a spectrum of like not knowing anything to like then working in a place where people assume they are the user themselves and that they know everything, right. I mean both come with their own challenges and problems. It’s probably better to be somewhere in the middle.

Steve: And from AT&T?

Vicki: Came here.

Steve: What’s the role that you came into?

Vicki: Manager of the New York – so I manage the New York team which is all the diner facing. And we had a director that oversaw everything. He left, I guess about a year ago now. And then they gave me 6 months to progress into his space.

Steve: So, is this your first…

Vicki: Director position?

Steve: I was going to say leadership in general around research?

Vicki: I’ve been a manager since JCPenney. But this is first director. But I don’t have a manager beneath me. So, I’m still managing as well, right. Everyone direct reports to me.

Steve: Is that the difference between a manager and a director? Can you tell I don’t have a job inside an organization?

Vicki: I think it’s different for every company, but within our org structure most directors have managers and I do not. So, it’s me and six, soon to be seven, direct reports.

Steve: Can we go back then before this agency – what was it that led you into that kind of work?

Vicki: I started my career in marketing research at a small ad agency in Dallas who handled all of McDonald’s local DMA markets. McDonalds provides an allotment of money for national coverage and then depending on the size of the DMAs, the DMAs are given money to do local advertising and then sometimes the DMAs themselves fund additional advertising. So, my agency handled all the local advertising for markets.

Steve: Is DMA direct mail?

Vicki: Designated marketing area. And through that I started doing – they started investing in like creating microsites for like ad campaigns and we would track those through Google Analytics. And what – I was in charge of helping tag those and I’d have to come up with like what’s the user’s journey? Where should we tag? What do we consider success? What are we measuring? And then I was at a Christmas party and I met someone and explained to them what I did and he worked at Usability Sciences and was like oh, you should come work for us. It sounds like you’re just doing like heuristics. ‘Cuz oftentimes when I went through tagging I would discover like there’s no clear path how to get from here to here and that’s one of like the core paths that users would try to accomplish on this microsite. And so from a Christmas party I got hired at Usability Sciences. Yeah, but it was just – I went to school with a business degree. I came out and worked within marketing research. I did a lot of – I essentially was like a data analyst if I’m honest. And then just through the fact that they had certain jobs that they didn’t know who to give to and they gave it to me. I started working with Google Analytics and Omniture and tagging and then somehow that led to me getting hired as a researcher. I had not even considered that this was a career when I was in college that I could – I mean I was in school in the 90s. No one talked about it. This was not like a career path I’d ever heard of.

Steve: Right.

Vicki: But I did enjoy research. And also I had – part of my degree was business, computer information systems, and so I had a pretty good understanding of databases and database structure from that which helped a lot with doing data.

Steve: So, when you think about your team now, like there’s probably a few different ways that people have come up – come into research. Like what you just described. You said some people have come through different kinds of designs, some human factors trained people – like what’s the…

Vicki: A successful background? I don’t know if – is that what you were going to ask?

Steve: No, I wasn’t, but you can answer a different question.

Vicki: I don’t think there is one. I think it kind of comes down to the person, right. I don’t – I don’t know – I have a weird view of education. I kind of – my mom is English, my Dad is South African and generally there school is considered as a way to make you a more well-rounded person and then once you leave school maybe you specialize in something and then you pick up those skills somewhere else. And I kind of feel like, just from all the different researchers I’ve worked with and the different backgrounds that they have, that I don’t know if having like a degree in human factors actually means you’re going to be the most successful researcher. I’ve worked with researchers who have nutrition degrees who are amazing. So, I think it just comes down to the individual.

Steve: I feel like there was a period of time where most – I think most researchers, some came from a very heavy social science background, but most in industry came from just ad hoc backgrounds like what you’re talking about, or my own background.

Vicki: But that’s changed, right? Or it is changing.

Steve: Yes. And, right, so what does that mean – we’re probably at the early stage of that change, but…

Vicki: I don’t know if we are. ‘Cuz I have a question. Like a couple of years ago when I, like maybe like 2012/13, I was considering a move to the Northwest. And at that time I felt that it was very difficult to have an undergrad degree and experience I had, which was a decent amount of experience, like 6 years, right, and find a company in the Northwest that was willing to hire someone who hadn’t specialized and done a post-grad, or a PhD. Now they might hire someone with a PhD who had no experience in the field over hiring someone who has 6 years of experience, but not PhD. And then I feel like since then that attitude has changed, but I’m not quite certain why that attitude has changed. It seems like people are more open to hiring people from various backgrounds. Is that just my experience? Have you experienced that?

Steve: I mean my sense with research is that demand exceeds supply.

Vicki: There’s a low supply, right.

Steve: So, doesn’t that mean we have to revisit sort of who gets to play?

Vicki: I didn’t know – I thought maybe – I’ve worked with a number of PhD candidates, or people with PhDs and they are very strict and maybe one-minded about how research has to be done. Whereas I think sometimes, especially within the world of business, you have to be able to maybe make compromises, or like maybe take shortcuts, but feel comfortable with those shortcuts, and sometimes I find that people with the academic background are less comfortable taking those. Have you had that experience? And I didn’t know if that was actually what was impacting? Like maybe the application of research within the business world, maybe academics, it was a hard blend. Does that make sense?

Steve: Yeah. I mean my perspective is anecdotal at best.

Vicki: Yeah, mine too. I’m just like guessing. Like I’m trying to understand like is that what happened? Or like maybe your point. Maybe it’s just there’s not enough supply so they’re like we’ll take anyone.

Steve: Right. But is – and I feel like early on I met academics who were sort of early in the industry and who represented some of that mindset that you’re talking about and that just constantly I meet people with high levels of education who are so excited and hungry to extend what they knew how to do.

Vicki: Sure.

Steve: Kind of in the kind of work that we’re talking about. So, what I don’t know is how much did sort of academia shape and maybe limit their mindset. But then I’m also excited about teams like yours where you have different backgrounds.

Vicki: Yeah. I think you want the blend, right? Like everyone should kind of have a different mindset, right. Because they’re all bringing a different lens. That’s one of the reasons I also like designers and product people in the field. Everyone is seeing something different through their lens because of their background and their experience. And so it’s much more insightful when you have a pretty good mix, a motley crew as I like to call it.

Steve: Yeah. That’s a great phrase. And maybe if someone you know, for example, comes from academia and has kind of a here’s how I was trained to look at problems, that person is going to do well among a motley crew where they’re going to be kind of creatively elbowed once in a while.

Vicki: Actually, at AT&T we had a researcher I loved and her background was anthropology and the rest of us were maybe a little more – had come to it a different path, and she definitely pushed the rest of the team in a very good way. It was a good balance.

Steve: Yeah. If you look at research as a team sport which is kind of where you started off.

Vicki: I think it is, yeah. I think it is a team sport.

Steve: Then you’re casting a team to have this great thing together.

Vicki: Yeah. That’s one of the things – a lot of the people I interview are coming from backgrounds where they are maybe one – a solo researcher in an organization, or they’re one of two researchers and they don’t get to work together because they’re only one of two and their desire is to work with a team of researchers and I actually do believe – in my consulting life we always worked as a pair and I actually think it just strengthened you because you were learning from another researcher and I feel like you picked things up and learned just from seeing what that other approach was doing or talking about – like understanding how people communicated things. Like there’s something to be said about research as a team is much stronger. I always feel for people who are doing it – they’re on the path alone, by themselves.

Steve: What do you think about researchers and research in like 2029? Who is it going to be made of? How do we kind of…

Vicki: I don’t know.

Steve: What’s the desired future? How do we get there?

Vicki: I mean I kind of go back and forth on this. I do feel like if companies – I think researchers are always – if research is a team they’re always doing to be less than there are of design and product. And in some worlds design and product need to take on aspects of research, right. And so, then is it that people will just be – we’ll have design and product or maybe jobs will begin to blend together more and there won’t necessarily be a dedicated researcher? But I can go back and forth on that where I’m like no, I kind of thing you’ll always probably want at least a research team who can oversee and maybe help teach people how to do their own research, that maybe don’t necessarily do all the research on their own, or it’s not its own kind of thing, because I do think the more involved product and design are in research, the more that they take on, the better they become. So, I don’t know. The future is – I’m wondering if design and product and research will all kind of blend together and people will begin to own all three of those skills which might be a lot to ask from someone.

Steve: But even think about your motley crew metaphor. You’re talking about sort of motley crew – it’s hard to say without sounding like I’m saying the name of the band.

Vicki: Well it is the name of the band.

Steve: I know, but I feel like the emphasis is different. Motley crew, I’m trying to just use the original phrase, but it’s coming out like the band. If research as a team, the way you have it now, is built up of a motley crew, imagine – what you’re talking about makes me think about like if you’d sort of change the departmental structure there’s a different make up of a motley crew that includes the skills of design and the skills of product and the skills of research in a diverse way.

Vicki: Sure.

Steve: And so what is that? Is that a new thing that’s like a hybrid?

Vicki: I don’t know the answer. I mean my tendency is to not be that extreme. I think that design and product and research will have to blend because they talk about like embedding design and research and product together, but then at some point people are going to be like, well can’t the designer also do part of the research, or maybe own the product? So, it will blend, but to the extent I think depends on the company and where they are in that evolutionary process. And in some ways, I mean design, even research, like to take that on – I feel like researchers themselves wear a lot of hats and then designers doing researchers, that’s a lot more hats. And then mixing product – I don’t know if a human is possible of like being that multi-faceted, right? So, I don’t know what it will look like, but I do imagine that they are going to have to blend together more. I don’t know exactly what that will be. Having a research team, especially if these research teams working more in like a consultancy basis because they’re so much smaller, and knowing that you build a better product and design organization by them being more involved in research just lends me to believe that there will be more blending, but I don’t quite know what that will look like and to the extent of it, and I’m sure it will be different on a basis by basis situation, depending on how evolved that company is.

Steve: That’s a very good, specific, non-conclusive…

Vicki: Did I just dance around that?

Steve: Well, we’re talking about what the future is going to be and how to get there. So, it’s not like you have the magic answer.

Vicki: Yeah, but I don’t want to be like it will be this, ‘cuz the future – do you ever read Chuck Klosterman? Are you a Klosterman fan?

Steve: Yes.

Vicki: Did you read his last book about where he’s like essentially everything we know now might be wrong? And it’s like trying to think through what we know now
and how that might be wrong and therefore what multiple instances of the future might be based off us being wrong now is the only thing that we know.

Steve: Yeah.

Vicki: So, that is leading me to my roundabout way of answering that question. It’s a very good book if you haven’t read it. It’s really, really good.

Steve: That’s a nice pivot from my Motley Crue reference.

Vicki: To Klosterman. It melds well.

Steve: Okay. It seems like maybe that’s where we should look to wrap up. Is there anything else that we should talk about?

Vicki: I don’t know. Have I answered all of your questions?

Steve: It’s not possible to answer all of anyone’s questions.

Vicki: That’s true. I mean my greatest fear for this is that I would be your most boring interview.

Steve: Well, my eyes were just fluttering. It’s for the listeners of this to decide if they’re bored or not. If they made it this far.

Vicki: They’re engaged in some aspect.

Steve: Some aspect. Whether it’s just rage listening, or, I don’t know.

Vicki: Rage listening!

Steve: Is that a thing?

Vicki: I’m assuming it must be for someone.

Steve: Alright, well thanks very much for being a guest. It was great chatting with you.

Vicki: Great chatting with you as well.

Steve: All right. That’s the wrap on another episode! Subscribe to Dollars to Donuts wherever you get podcasts. If you’re using Apple Podcasts, how’s about giving the podcast a rating and even a short review. This helps other people find out about the podcast. Portigal dot com slash podcast has transcripts, show notes, and all of the episodes. Follow the podcast on Twitter, and buy my books Interviewing Users and Doorbells Danger and Dead Batteries from Rosenfeld Media or Amazon. Our theme music is by Bruce Todd.

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