45. Reggie Murphy of Zendesk (part 2)

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features part 2 of my two-part conversation with Reggie Murphy of Zendesk. We talk about psychological safety at work, Reggie’s career journey, and online career resources for UX researchers.

That helps the team be better researchers when they feel like they have a space where, man, I don’t have to be perfect every time. I’m going to definitely strive really hard to do great work and try to be successful. But I have a leader who’s going to have my back if something goes wrong. It works. I want every people leader who’s listening to this to understand that. That you’re not going to get it right every time. But if you set the environment and the intention of being a leader who understands that people will make mistakes, but it’s not that you made the mistake. It’s, okay, how do you learn from it and not do it again? And how that we can set up parameters within the team to address that particular mistake if it was something like a research protocol or something. – Reggie Murphy

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Steve Portigal:Welcome to Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk with the people who lead user research in their organization. I’m Steve Portigal

In this episode, I’ve got part two of my two part conversation with Reggie Murphy of Zendesk.

But before we get to that…hire me to speak at your next in-house event. You may see that I speak at conferences and meetups, but most of my talks and presentations are done for in-house audiences. If you’ve got an all-hands or a retreat or a speaker series, book me to deliver a keynote, participate in an Ask-Me-Anything session, or engage in a fireside chat with your leaders. I regularly speak on topics like research skills, the impact of user research on business, innovation and product development, optimizing research influence, and more. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have a specific topic in mind. Go to portigal.com/services and portigal.com/speaking for more information.

I was recently a guest on Matt Valle’s Rock and Roll Research podcast. Matt interviews insights and user research pros about research but he also talks to them about their own creative endeavors that may not be related to user research. Here’s a short clip that is about research, but you can check out the whole thing if you want to hear me talk about not only about research but also about Rolling Stones fan communities and creative writing.

Matt Valle: You’ve got a very interesting perspective because you’re sort of growing up when this discipline was nascent and helping to sort of create it to some extent. At the same time, you’re a consumer and a user like all of us, and you experience good design and bad design. Once upon a time, you know, you were able to fight through all of the difficulties and challenges to get things done with technology. So as you think of where it is today, where user research is today and where it’s headed, you know, what does that look like as you look forward?

Steve: Right. I mean, I think, you know, right now we’re in this inflection point of difficulties depending on your industry or geography. And it’s an interesting one because I feel like companies believe that research is important.

Matt: Right.

Steve: but companies don’t necessarily believe consistently that researchers are important.

Matt: Right.

Steve: It goes back to that people who do research thing that, you know, that we talked about before. But I think a lot of things are on a pendulum. And they go back and forth. And it doesn’t mean that if we’re anxious right now about individual prospects or career prospects, I think that’s very valid. And so I’m not trying to negate any of that. But I think what you see over time is that there’s demand and then there’s the demand softens, then the demand increases and then it goes back and forth.

So I don’t know, I mean, I hope I don’t get proved wrong by this. But I think that the demand for researchers to do research will come back. I think it’s going to come back large. And it’s not that oh people who aren’t researchers do poor quality research. I think it’s different. And I think there’s so much need.

And again, right now, I think companies are kind of saying, oh, we don’t need it right now. And they’re justifying that economically. When have you ever worked in a situation where the amount of questions that there were that were important for decisions outpaced and exceeded the resources available to respond to that. So that hasn’t magically gone away.

So I guess I feel medium-term enthusiastic that there’s just a lot to learn and it doesn’t go away. It’s not like, well, we’ve got the answers. Now we don’t need any more research. Even in more mature product companies, I think they continue to be faced with questions of all kinds, like tactical, operational, future, meaning, story, narrative, culture, all this stuff. There’s all across the board. I think there’s lots to be learned that lots of disciplines care about. Strategists care about research, product people care about research, designers care about research.

They don’t care about research. They care about the answers. They care about insights, right? They care about what we can help them understand and decide. So I don’t think that’s going away. And I think it might keep reshaping itself in terms of what we mean by research and who’s doing research, like what activities and so on.

But I guess I just see more, more, more coming.

And again, I’m sorry for anyone that wants to slap me for saying that because that’s not where we are, like today feels very much like somewhat of a brick wall. But I think that’s going to change eventually. I don’t know when.
That was from the Rock and Roll Research podcast. Check out our whole conversation. And of course please pick up a copy of the second edition of Interviewing Users if you haven’t already. Now, let’s get to my the second part of my conversation with Reggie Murphy, the Senior Director of UX Research at Zendesk.

Steve: So we’re talking a lot about processes of collaboration, relationships internally, but maybe we could switch the focus a little bit to you and your team because you’re leading those folks, you’re leading them through change that companies ready for or not ready for. Do you have an approach or philosophy that you bring as a people leader?

Reggie Murphy: Yeah, one of the first things that I learned way back when I started training as a manager is that you can get to where you want to be by helping others get to where they want to be. And I used that philosophy in my mentoring, but I started out as a people leader early in my career. My second job I was managing folks. It was more of a player-coach role, but having deep empathy for teams and how teams need to be connected, build relationships and work together collaboratively has always been on my mind. Promoting diversity and being inclusive, all of that has been on my mind throughout my career. But one of the things that recently, I would say recently maybe over the past five, 10 years or so that I really try hard as a people leader to install in my teams is the idea of psychological safety and radical candor. It’s like two things. I talk about Amy Edmonson’s book, The Fearless Organization, and Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor, all the time after I read it several years ago. Because especially in tech, you can work on a lot of different types of teams with a lot of different types of people. And the way to get teams to work better together is to provide an environment and a space where people can feel free to share their opinions and ideas without fear of admonishment or being made fun of or anything like that.

And that’s one thing that’s really important to me, and especially in my team here at Zendesk, because we have a different setup than say a company that is just located in maybe two countries. We’re a global company. The 15 people that I have on my team, we are located in Melbourne, Australia, Singapore, Poland, Estonia, Canada, and various parts of the US. We’re a globally distributed team, just the 16 of us. So we’re not able to connect in person very, very much. Last year, we were able to get together everyone who was on my team then.

So number one, it’s just hard because of that, just not being able to be in person. So it’s important that we develop connections, team connections, and an environment where people feel like they’re building relationships with each other. And so we try to do some things in our team meetings in order to foster that. It is really hard. We’re not perfect at it, but I think we’re getting better at it than we were, say, two years ago when I joined this team. But we’re working towards growing as a team. And I want the team to be a family. I know that sounds very squishy or melodramatic, I don’t know. But I feel like you’re working with your teammates 80% of the week. So it’s important that you try to feel like a family. And within families, you want to foster the environment where people feel like, “Hey, I can do something wrong. I can fail at something, and it’s not going to count against me.”

And that’s what Amy Edmondson talks in her book. She talks about avoidable failure and intelligent failure and the differences. And avoidable failures are things that you can… Hey, if you put in the right protocols and controls, you can avoid having typos in your presentation. Those are avoidable failures. But intelligent failures are like, “Hey, you have the best intentions and you are working towards a goal to be successful on a particular project, but just something goes wrong. Let’s say you were trying to step out and do something different, but it just didn’t work very well. We’re going to applaud you if you fail.” And as a people leader, getting back to your question more directly, it’s important that we establish the conditions and the environment where this is possible. And people feel free to work not harder, but smarter, but be innovative, try new things. And if it doesn’t work out, learn from it and move on and do something else great.

Long answer to your question, but I really feel strongly about this, that teams that do this well, and I’ve seen them, they work better together. They’re more successful. People feel like they can grow their careers because their family is supportive of them. Their people leader is supportive of them. And teams where I’ve seen work like this and operate like this, I’ve seen people’s careers just take off and go. And that’s what I try to do.

So that’s my philosophy. And I’m still working at it. It’s still a work in progress, but I am adamant about it. And I love collecting feedback on how I’m doing so that, “Hey, if I’m off center or off course, I want to know about it.” And that’s another thing that helps establish this environment of psychological safety is that the person who’s leading the team is open to this feedback. And you have to be to model that behavior so that your team sees it and they’re able to operate in the same way.

Steve: What’s something you do so that your team sees that you are open to that feedback?

Reggie: Whenever I make a mistake or if I either say something wrong or maybe something, I post the wrong thing on Slack or something, I immediately own it, apologize. Try to own. If you make a mistake, you just got to own it. You got to face it. And I’m trying to be vulnerable in that way.

And I hope that people see that. I’m not a perfect leader, but I’m certainly going to do my best and try really, really hard to push and to do the things I need to do in order to be a positive leader. But if I do something that doesn’t work very well, I’m going to own it. And I think that when people see that, that say, “Hey, okay. Yeah.” Reg is someone who admits a mistake and he can correct it. The burden is not on me to be perfect all the time.

We had a couple of errors on the team over the past six months. When I say errors, some things just didn’t go well with say research sampling or a protocol. Maybe somebody didn’t follow the right protocol for a research project. And there was a consequence where say a customer was contacted when they weren’t supposed to be contacted, that they had opted out of wanting to be contacted for a research study. It happens. And so when something like that happens, it’s very important for the people leader to address the problem, but to be open and to help the person who made the mistake understand that, hey, it was not one of those avoidable errors. You were doing the right thing, but it was a mistake. And in these couple of instances, we talked about the mistake in a meeting. And it’s kind of surprised people that I brought it up. I went at my team to see that, “Hey, yeah, this was a mistake that was made. Here’s how we learned from it.” So there’s no shame. There’s no disgrace. And I talked to them, of course, one-on-one and said, “Hey, I want to talk about the mistake that you made in the team meeting. Is that okay?”

And so I think that that helps the team be better researchers when they feel like they have a space where, man, I don’t have to be perfect every time. I’m going to definitely strive really hard to do great work and try to be successful. But I have a leader who’s going to have my back if something goes wrong. And that’s how I do it, Steve. It works. I want every people leader who’s listening to this to understand that. That you’re not going to get it right every time. But if you set the environment and the intention of being a leader who understands that people will make mistakes, but it’s not that you made the mistake. It’s, okay, how do you learn from it and not do it again? And how that we can set up parameters within the team to address that particular mistake if it was something like a research protocol or something. How can we get better as a team so that we all avoid doing that thing that was the error before?
Steve: The avoidable error and the intelligent error. Is this right: one outcome might be figuring out a process or some approach that turns the intelligent error into a future avoidable error. Am I even using the terms properly?

Reggie: Yeah, I think yes.

Steve: So, I’m going to just play back again. So you talked about the connections, the relationships between people. You talked about modeling yourself, making mistakes, vulnerability, taking responsibility.

Reggie: Right.

Steve: And you talked about reactively when something happens, having a safe, positive individual and group learning and going forward with it, improving the situation. Did I miss anything or are there other?

Reggie: No, that’s exactly right. You’re right.

Steve: Well, I’m glad to hear you unpack it because we use a lot of words like psychological safety and team relationships and trust. But sometimes we just take those as read, like, oh, we know what that means. But as a leader, you’re making specific choices that are tactical in nature in order to get to a more mature level of safety and learning and growth among everyone on the team.

Reggie: Yeah. And I think in this day and age when many companies are virtual or hybrid, it’s hard when you’re not in person. It makes human communication harder. And what I’ve learned in working for a really globally distributed company and team is that there is a human on the other side of that Zoom. And it’s utterly important that you get to know them and you try to provide a space for them to feel at home when you’re having a conversation and when the team is having a conversation. It is incredibly hard to do, Steve. And I think our team has grown in this way.

I think we try to find little things that help us. We’re still working at it. It’s not perfect. It’s still sometimes things get lost in translation on Slack. There’s some miscommunication of expectations about things, but I’m hoping that as we continue to grow together, we own it. We own the things that aren’t working. We identify. We’re not afraid to call it out, raise your hand and say, “Hey, this isn’t working. Can we get together and talk about fixing it?”

Tactically, yeah, I do hear psychological safety being thrown around a lot. And so that’s why it’s super important for me as a people leader to make sure that we’re actioning on what it means every day. And that is in one-on-one conversations, that is in team conversations. This is in how we treat each other. One of our core values at Zendesk is we care for each other. I believe that. And the way we do that is to have empathy and all of… That’s another word that’s sort of thrown around. But true empathy is really seeing the world as the other person sees it.

One of my graduate school professors talked about that when you’re conducting qualitative research, it’s seeing the world as other person see it. Well, I use it in a different context. It’s developing empathy for your team is seeing the world as they see it. And I’m hoping that we’re doing well in this area. And I just feel very strongly about it as a people leader that we have to set the tone. We have to set the stage for our teams. And hopefully our teams see that and they’re better off because of it.

Steve: You mentioned up front from this part of our conversation that you’ve got people in all these different parts of the world. So presumably coming from different international cultures themselves, is that a compounding factor besides time zones and lack of being in person? Does culture, in terms of where people are from in the world, impact how you approach creating psychological safety?

Reggie: I think at Zendesk, Zendesk is such a global company. Everybody is in a lot of different places. So from a cultural standpoint, when you step into Zendesk, you know you’re working for a global company. So a variety of geographies. So I don’t know if there are a lot of cultural differences that we have to work through, maybe a little bit. But I think when you establish the environment that no matter who you are, where you are, your background, your life experience, what you look like, you can join Zendesk. You can join the UX research team, the product design organization, and you can fit right on in. We’ll accept you open arms.

Yeah, maybe there are some norms or social norms that’s different from folks who grew up in Europe versus Asia versus Indonesia or South America or in the States. But I think that when you join Zendesk, you’re joining a global company. And I think the people who we attract to our company come in with that thinking in mind, I’m going to work for a global company. And so you understand what that means. But I do think, and this is something interesting, we can kind of go off on a little tangent here, but you do have to install some helpful rules, especially if you’re working virtually, to maybe limit the thing that a cultural difference might be concerning about, if that makes sense.

I think what helps, I remember sometime last year, we did a workshop on something called digital body language. And in the workshop, they talked about what it means to have virtual communication most of the time with the people that you work with. And so in Slack messages, when somebody posts something, we flood it with emoji reactions. We respond with a thumbs up or happy face or how we feel. We let that person know digitally that we heard them. That’s one. Second, I have one of my senior managers is based in Singapore. 12 hour difference right now from me to Singapore. There’s no great time to meet. Somebody has to take the hit. So either it’s 8 p.m. in the evening for me, 8 a.m. for my senior manager or vice versa. So we accept that and we make it work.

The other thing is when we’re working async and I know my colleagues in APAC, in Asia Pacific area, Melbourne, Singapore, when they’re Slacking me and I receive that message, whenever it is that they slack me, I wake up, I get that message, I respond immediately or I try to respond so that when they wake up, they get it. It’s that kind of thing. It’s very minor, but that means you’re heard, you’re responsive, you’re prompt. That’s having good digital body language.

I think those kinds of things, when you do them well, it fosters the type of culture that helps minimize what your question was before, any cultural differences that might sort of stand in the way of great communication. You have to be intentional about it though. So I try to foster that. It’s not perfect for everyone at the company, but I think we try. That’s the good thing about working at Zendesk.

It sounds like I’m doing a commercial for Zendesk, but I love what I do. I love where I do it. So I talk about the environment and the culture. I think we do really, really try hard to get it right.

Steve: You’ve mentioned just throughout our conversation, graduate school, some previous employers, some of your training. It’d be great to hear how you found user research, a little bit of how you got to where you are today.

Reggie: I went to undergraduate school thinking that I would be a news reporter, live on the scene, Reggie Murphy, Channel Nine News. I worked at the campus radio station. I majored in history, minor than communication, thinking that I was going to be a news reporter at some point. Didn’t work out that way. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated. So I went immediately to a master’s in communication program at the University of Tennessee. And there I learned media. I learned research though. I mean, in a graduate program, you’re going to learn research methods. And I leaned into that. And so some of my first job was working as a salesperson at a radio station. And I didn’t really care about the sales process too much. So that didn’t make me a really good salesperson, but I loved showing the client or potential customer the research that would help them make a decision about whether or not they wanted to buy advertising on our radio station. That’s what I love the most. So after a couple of years of being unsuccessful as a salesperson, I decided to go back to school and to the doctoral program and learn more research methods. At that time, I still didn’t know. UX wasn’t even a term then. It was human computer. I don’t even think HCI was a coined term at that point. It was mostly human factors at that point, showing my age. My seniority, I should say.

Steve: They’re really old term, if you want to just feel less bad, when I came in, there were still people talking about the MMI, which was the Man Machine Interface.

Reggie: Oh my. Yes, that is back in the day. So when I left graduate school in the PhD program, I had a couple of options. I interviewed for several academic jobs. I thought maybe I’d want to teach, but I found a company called Frank Magid Associates. Right now, I think they’re now just Magid Advisors, I believe. And this company hired PhD researchers to work for their company. Folks with PhDs to work as research analysts. Love that job. That’s when the first research trip I took in that role was in Singapore. Conducting was in Taiwan and Singapore. So three months in, after getting a PhD, I find myself in Taipei doing focus groups with a translator, Mandarin translator. It was an amazing experience to just be dropped into that environment. And so I was hooked on just, at that time, I was a market researcher.

But then at that moment, the internet was becoming the internet. So a lot of our clients were television, radio stations, startup internet companies developing websites. And so we began a practice of doing usability testing for these websites. I remember the first one was excite.com. Now I’m really showing my seniority. And I should say the rest is history. I was hooked on this idea of understanding how people were interacting with technology. So then my next job was the company that I referred to earlier in the people leadership role, the Gannett USA Today company. And that’s where I was for 12 years.

And during those 12 years, I moved from being a market researcher to this kind of, when UX became UX, sort of this amalgamation of market research, UX researcher, and the iPhone came out and we were developing USA Today to be on, well, we already developed the website. So now we were building iPhone apps and iPad apps at that time. And so I was bitten by the tech industry bug at that moment. But then 2012 happened and I was laid off. So that was a pivotal moment in my career where I had been working in the media industry primarily for the first 10, 12 years of my career.

And so after I was laid off, I joined a company which was a boutique enterprise research and design consultancy. And so we basically, our customers would hire us to come into their company. And so let’s say they installed a very big enterprise system like SAP or Oracle or one of these big platforms so that their company could do financial management or recruiting. SAP is a big platform. It may not work very well in certain places depending on how you implement it. And so companies would hire us to come in and understand why their employees weren’t adopting it. And then we’d go in and do contextual inquiry, ethnography research to help figure out what the problems were to help the company redesign these interfaces so that their employees could use it. I was hooked.

When that moment happened, I was hooked because I began to… I mean, I was doing so much research with people who were working on business tools and business platforms. And I would sit there and watch them painfully work through a system that was not helpful in helping them get their work done. And I just develop a lot of empathy around that. And I just remember… That’s why it’s really interesting I’m working for Zendesk now because at the time I had a customer who was a utility company and we were conducting research and I was sitting there watching them. And if you think about a customer service representative, this is why I now have a lot of empathy when I have a customer service issue and I’m calling or I’m messaging on a platform. There is somebody behind there, there’s a human being trying to navigate four or five conversations, find data and information to help you with your concerns. And I watched it with my own eyes in several projects with that company. And it was just amazing to me that software isn’t developed very well for certain industries.

Anyway, I was there for about three and a half years. The company was acquired and then I moved on to Facebook now, Meta. And that’s when I think my career really took a turn for the better. I mean, it went up because I was able to now to work for a growing company. That was at the time when it was hockey stick growth. We were hiring many people. This is maybe eight years ago and it was amazing. I worked on groups, the first iteration of groups, Workplace, which was their enterprise tool. I think their competitor was Microsoft Teams at the time. I worked on the camera effects platform. So this is when Facebook was trying to be Snapchat and they built the Me Too features to do the frames and bunny ears and all that stuff. Amazing work.

But I was drawn back into enterprise work when I decided to switch to an IC role. So that was an interesting thing. I went from a people manager and about halfway in my career at Meta, I transitioned to an IC role and worked on the internal recruiting platform that they built internally. And I was helping the platform that recruiters use to recruit folks for jobs at Facebook. Spent a couple of years there and then moved on to Vanguard, a financial services company, very popular, 40 at that time, 40 year old company. Grew a team there, had a lot of success there. It was like a left turn going from social media to financial services industry.

But it was great. I’m glad I know now a whole lot more about 401ks and change of ownership transfers. So I increased my finance acumen by working at Vanguard. But then the pandemic hit and I wanted a remote job, a fully remote job. And so Twitter came along, a company formerly known as, had an amazing time there until, well, we all know what happened. But I left before all of that happened. But I was a director of a creation and conversations team. And our main focus was primarily the tweeting experience. And that was really fun to work on. We worked on now, I think it’s still called Twitter Spaces, but the audio feature where you can talk to anyone in the world on Twitter. We worked on that. And that was a really cool experience. But I left, we had some changes in the company and I was looking for a new opportunity and that’s how I found Zendesk. And it’s where I am now. Yeah. Yeah.

Steve: You mentioned that approach called “I Wish I Knew” that came from Twitter. People might also know that as the brand of the public-facing podcast that Twitter ran.

Reggie: Right. Yeah. So if you go to that podcast, I am in the first episode of that podcast. It was,

Steve: Did you have an involvement in that?

Reggie: Yeah, we named that podcast that, it was a great experience. I think we did maybe five or six episodes. Yeah, it was great. We were basically telling the story of how research informs decision-making at Twitter. And so I can’t remember all the episodes, but then this was three years ago when we produced those episodes. I still go back and listen to them every now and then when I want to relive some of the glory days of Twitter, I would say when I was there.

Steve: I’m not sure if I know of another example of a corporate research team podcast about research. There are obviously other research podcasts, but I haven’t seen a company share what they were doing that way.

Reggie: We loved it. It was galvanizing for our team. Everybody wanted to, I wouldn’t say everybody, but we had a lot of hands raised to, “Hey, when can I do an episode? When can I do an episode?” And it was an intentional effort. We really were doing some great things on our research team to influence product strategy to grow and develop the understanding of how people were navigating the Twitter platform at the time. And I loved being able to tell that story and tell how we were doing it. And so those episodes were in service to doing that.

Steve: So just hearing you reflect on your own research career. You and I had a conversation before we had this one. And you used this great phrase, I’m going to read back to you. I don’t know if I tripped or fell into user research.

Reggie: Yeah, I think it’s — I feel like that’s what happened. I did not know in graduate school that I’d be doing this job that I’m in now. I didn’t — you know, you don’t know what you don’t know when you’re that young. And many people who are in PhD programs, they may work for 10 years and go back. And that’s what it was like in the cohort I was with at the University of Tennessee. Many of my colleagues, they had already had pretty successful careers doing what they were doing. But I was one of the only ones who sort of was pretty junior in my life at that point in time. So I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I think just working in the market research industry and being in this business during the time of the development of the internet was really helpful in developing my career as a researcher, but a researcher in tech. And once the discipline of UX was established at some point in the early 2000s, I sort of just, yeah, tripped and fell into it. I was already there.

But there was a period of time, Steve, in my early on in my career where I was trying to learn a new methodology every year. I was challenging myself to learn, you know, something like predictive analytics and data science. And at one point, I went to a conference and saw an eye tracking machine. I was introduced to that. I learned that. And then ethnography came into play. So as a researcher, I was — every year, I was trying to learn something new. And then once UX became a thing at some point in the mid to early 2000s, you know, I was there. Yeah, fell into it, loved it, and began just nurturing my career in it.

Steve: What are ways in which you are helping, whether it’s Zendesk researchers on your team or the community of researchers that we’re all part of in general, what are ways that you are supporting them?

Reggie: When I was at Twitter in 2021, we had a program that we installed on Black History Month that year where we had opened our expertise to folks from underrepresented groups across the world to help nurture their careers or interest in research and design. And I had a couple of people who I began to mentor during that month. So we had basically four weeks of connecting with our mentees. And during those conversations, I began to start compiling. I would give advice, and I would find links to articles or tutorials or, you know, how-to articles and tutorials, and I would put it in a Word doc. And my mentee and I would — each time we met, we’d go through it, and I’d offer some advice. So that doc started filling up. I had already had a Google Sheet that had a bunch of links to design thinking materials from my days of being trained at the IDEO company. And so I kept those links. One of my colleagues and I, who I worked with at the time, had first developed it, shared it with me, and we sort of kept it as a doc.

After that mentorship program was over, I said, “I have all these links that were helpful in these conversations. Why not just put them in a doc?” And because it was helpful, because after that period of time when I was doing a lot of mentoring, more people were reaching out that year because that was the year we were really in the middle of the pandemic. There are a lot of people transitioning from one career to another. They were looking at UX research as an opportunity. We were on Twitter Spaces a lot doing something called Becoming a UX Researcher. So that was something that we started, and each month we’d have an episode where we invite people to come and talk about their career and their role as a UX researcher. It was so much fun. I think we did five episodes. We archived those episodes and put them as a link in this Google Sheet.

And so, Steve, by the end of that year, that Google Sheet became this mammoth link farm. It was like, I called it my Craigslist sheet of UX research. That’s basically what it looked like. It wasn’t sexy at all. It wasn’t pretty. And now I had like seven or eight tabs of different things that was linked. Well, let’s fast forward. I began talking to my colleague, Laura Cochran, who’s my former colleague and dear friend. We’ve done a lot of work together over the years. And I said, Laura, can you help me build a website where we can merge all these links together and offer it as a UX research career platform, a place where you can go and get information, career resources, tools, information to help you grow your career.

And so over the past few months, we’ve been building out this website, and it’s now in soft launch mode. We don’t have a name for it yet, which I want to ask you a question about that in a little bit. But it’s just called UXR. And the purpose or the goal of this site is really to help you grow your research career. That’s number one. Just understand what it takes to be a great researcher. Maybe you’re a junior in your career. Maybe some of these materials will help you get to the next level. The second thing we hope this website will do is it just inspire maybe folks who are thinking about entering the field of UX research. And so we’re trying to collect stories from others who have made the successful leap from, say, finance to UX research or marketing to UX research or something else to UX research. And we want to highlight those stories, what were the lessons learned, how tos, so that folks who are interested can learn from others who have done it. And then we want to connect people who have shared this information on other platforms. We want to connect them here on this platform so that it’s all together.

So if you’re someone who’s sort of junior in your career, we’re hoping that this website sort of helps you grow, develop your skills. If you are trying to go from one career field to UX research, it’ll help you sort of inspire you with stories that you can learn from others. And we’re super excited by this. And so to your original questions, what am I, you know, mentoring is one thing. And this is sort of the next level of mentoring is that, you know, all the advice I’ve been giving people who were interested in becoming a UX researcher or growing their career, I’m trying to put it in this website. But here’s the interesting thing that we want to try to do on this website is provide curated information from others. So like, obviously, there are companies all across the world who conduct research. And we have articles on the site now from, say, user interviews, dScout, some of the platforms. The Nielsen Norman Group distributes a lot of information. So we have a few articles there. But we want curated articles from UX researchers who have written a blog post or have logged, have a video that they’ve shared. Like I have some of my friends and colleagues who have written articles about their experience going from one industry to UX research, or maybe there’s a methodology that they’re an expert in that they have shared information about on Medium or Substack, some of those places. We want to curate those articles.

So eventually, hopefully over time, those are the majority of articles on the site from individual researchers who are sharing about their experience or talking about a methodology that they’re expert in. Because I think people learn better from other people. And I’m excited about this, Steve. It’s very new. We literally just the day before we’re recording this podcast, we soft launched it. And we’re now in the middle of sort of sharing it with our friends and colleagues, getting some early feedback so that we can, you know, do what you do when you launch a product. You soft launch it, get feedback, make some iterations. And hopefully over the next few weeks or so, we’ll find a moment to really launch it in a bigger way. If you can add it to the show notes so that folks can take a look and we have links there where they can give us direct feedback about the site or if you have a story of you that you posted about your journey from one career to UX research. Or if you have posted about something else that you’ve done or something that you’re expert in in the UX research field, you know, we’d love to highlight and showcase your story on the site. So there’s a place where you can share your information with us and we’ll speak with you and put it on our site.

Steve: Is there anything else you think we should cover in our conversation today?

Reggie: I think we’ve covered quite a bit today, Steve. I have a question for you. And this is probably a selfish question, but I love the title of your podcast, Dollars to Donuts, and I don’t know. I haven’t — I don’t know if anyone has asked you this before, but I imagine they probably have because we are searching for a name of the website that I was just describing and so I’m curious how you came up with the name Dollars to Donuts or does it have a hidden meaning that people don’t know about?

Steve: Well, the phrase “dollars to donuts” is sort of about hunches. It’s an archaic phrase, I guess, but dollars to donuts, if I don’t miss my bet, this is what I think is going to happen. So I think that’s how it was used. I’ve never really, again, it’s an archaic term. So my brute force method was to go to the Wikipedia page of, I think it’s aphorisms, or there’s some category of short phrases. And I think the aphorisms are much longer. And I just sat there and paged through it until it was, I guess it was at the D, so it was not too far. But I was looking for something to spark, because I didn’t want to call it, I don’t know, User Research Leadership Podcast or Steve Portigal’s, like I didn’t want that sort of obvious name, I wanted a name, right? Like, you know, I wish I knew, like, that’s an amazing name. And I didn’t know you had that source for it. But I had to kind of make it up. But when I hit it, there’s that moment of discovery where you find something. So the phrase, I think, speaks to the delight of discovery of research. People that have followed me on different platforms might have known that I am quite the donut enthusiast. So it had sort of a personal meaning to me. I think about the old trope of focus groups with the M&M’s in the observation room. And that idea of turning like junk food into profit, right? You kind of going from M&M’s to insights to new products. And I mean, that that one’s a bit of a reach, but that like, Oh, yeah, you go from from donuts to I guess it’s the other way around, right? It’s the dynamic between the food and the money at the end.

So that’s sort of my rationalization for it. But I think when I saw it, I was like, Oh, yeah, I mean, I just started scrolling through pages to try to find a term that I could kind of make a pun out of or co-opt or kind of reuse.

Reggie: I am looking forward to going through that exercise to create a name for this website. So I’ll let you know how it goes. When we rename it, I’ll send it to you.

Steve: Right, we’re gonna share it and it’s pre, it’s pre named, it’s pre named version, but the next.

Reggie: Yes. It’s a pre-named version.

Steve: Well, I just appreciate so much your generosity of time and sharing and all the great stuff that you’ve done that I think there’s a lot for me here to learn from. It’s just really great to speak with you, Reggie. Thank you.

Reggie: It was a pleasure, Steve. Thank you for inviting me on your podcast. I had a great time.

Steve: That’s it for today, and as always, I hoped you learned something. And of course you can always find Dollars to Donuts on all the places where you find podcasts, as well as at Portigal dot com slash podcast for all of the episodes with show notes and transcripts. Our theme music is by Bruce Todd.

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