Design Leader Insights - Kati Driscoll

January 16, 2023

Alex Smith: Hey Kati, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

Kati Driscoll: Well, thanks so much for having me. I'm really excited to sit down and chat with you.

Alex Smith: Yeah, for sure. And as we get started, can you give the audience a little bit of context and background and your history in UX research?

Kati Driscoll: Sure, yeah. So right now, I'm a UX researcher for Warner Music Group. I specialize in working in complex applications, and data systems, which are tools used by most of our internal users, which, if you're me, is a lot of fun. I'm a huge fan of data and insights, which is partially what led me to working in user research. I have a background in social media insights and analytics. So one of my favorite things to do as sort of like a pastime was when I started working in social media look at like what was driving performance. So I would look at the Excel file downloads coming from Facebook, I would use social listening tools to understand how things are performing. And that ended up being a really useful tool set as well as skill set to bring into user research currently.

Alex Smith: Yeah, awesome. That's cool. So you're talking a lot about the quantitative side of user research? How do you pair that with the qualitative side? Or are you more focused on on like analytics of user research?

Kati Driscoll: I would love to be able to call myself a quantitative researcher at some point.I think anybody who's like looked at a quantitative role or interviewed for quantitative role realizes that it requires a lot more rigor and understanding of advanced methodologies. So in some organizations, they would maybe say, like, I'm in mixed methods research, or even quant because I have a lot of analytics experience a little bit of data science training through data science for all. But overall like, I still need a lot of help when it comes to like writing code, I still need a lot of guidance when it comes to statistical significance in some instances. And so I wouldn't call myself that by any measure, but I am always looking forward to or always kind of thinking of ways that I can build on that skill set through additional trainings and tools.

Alex Smith: How do you.. I think, like a lot, like as a designer, passing it off to a product or design team showing complex numbers to people that maybe some are, but some might not be super, you know, data driven or, or analytical like myself, how do you like make sure that that's digestible?

Kati Driscoll: Yeah, that's a great question. I think you have to really know your audience. I used to go to like managers with my like, with my little databases and my spreadsheets that I wrote and built and was like, oh, well, if you look right here, here's how it's performing. And my manager at the time, was like, she referred to it as going into the matrix. And that kind of made me realize you know, I'm doing a great job of extracting information from the data. But I'm not really like creating meaning. I'm not an effective storyteller. And so I had to practice really hard to figure out not just like, how do I take this and not just give you like, here's what the data says but here are the insights behind that. Here's the next actionable step you can take. Here's where this comes into strategy. That just took a lot of, you know, time and practice. There's a really great book too called storytelling with data that I've bought, like 10 copies of I think I give it to like any single person that like would ask me for a copy of like my Excel database, or would talk to me about like building presentations, I'd be like, oh, you have to get this book. It's fantastic.

Alex Smith: So I guess what does that look like then? Is that like a Deck? How are you designing that presentation of data? How do you make sure that that's getting used throughout the product cycle or, or whatever it's being researched for?

Kati Driscoll: That's like the researcher a struggle for sure. It's always like, you don't want to be the person kind of like parroting over and over again, like the, you know, oh, don't forget when we were in our sessions, this person said this or like, hey, please remember that this user does this. Or you know, asking questions about like, oh, where did we think about this particular scenario that we uncovered in our research? That can sometimes feel for a researcher like they're not being listened to, but the reality is, is like that is your area of passion and expertise and your team is only going to be able to carry so much of that over because they are, you know, responsible for their own realm. And so, for me, I think it's really important to partner with your designer, and your product team and figure out how  they learn as individuals, what's most effective for them? What's your learning style? Thinking about it more tactically, some things I've seen that are really useful are creating little like persona cards that you can include in a Figma file. So when a designer is working on something, you would be able to just have a little card that's like, hey, you know, we're building this thing for this particular task. Here's some questions you could think about. Or here's like, this user's, like, unmet need that we're trying to solve for here. And that way, it's like right there not in some like repository in the middle, like, no one's gonna look at the confluence page that you wrote, you know, all this documentation for. And I think another thing is like being comfortable with your design team to annotate some of their design work, like having a really collaborative system where you can kind of get in there and annotate it with like some of your research findings. I think that's proven pretty useful from my experience in the past. 

Alex Smith: I assume some people out there might be, you know, feel like they're almost intruding on people's time when when they are looking for a mentor, how do you kind of navigate that that fear? 

Kati Driscoll: I think that's what I like about something like ADP list is, it's not like you're cold, calling someone on LinkedIn where you're like, hey, would you mind taking 30 minutes of my time please? Like or taking 30 minutes of your time and helping me navigate my career.and helping me navigate my career. Instead, you're like, these people are on this platform, because they have agreed that they want to be mentors that they want to help people. And so it takes some of that pressure off of you as someone who's just trying to learn to to find someone and connect with someone that you know is willing to invest their time and energy in you. And then the reason that I think it's good to have more than one mentor is like, sometimes mentors have burnout. Sometimes schedules get a little out of whack. Also, it's great to have perspectives that are different from yours. A lot of times people want to choose a mentor because they're like, this person is like me, or it's like future Kati, you know, but choosing someone with like a diverse range of perspectives. That means researchers reaching out to designers, designers reaching out to researchers, everybody reaching out to the product team, I think it's like, that will make you more well rounded. And also, especially if you're new, you will understand how each role participates in the product development lifecycle. You'll be better at working within people, like within teams that have a broad variety of these roles. And you'll get a sense of like, learning from people who are and aren't like you.

Alex Smith: I love that. That's the first time I've heard that idea. Diversify your mentors because different perspectives are super valuable for sure. Kati, you work in a super cool industry, music. I imagine it's a difficult one to break into. Tell us a little bit about working in UX research in that field. And any advice you have for people trying to get into that field?

Kati Driscoll: I'll talk to kind of both sides of that question. The first one being working in user research in the music industry. A lot of times when people think about a role in the music industry, they think like it's gonna be really flashy, you're gonna work with artists, you know, you're gonna see celebrities coming through the building at all times. But the reality is a lot of our work is around like data systems, performance measurement systems,  things of that nature, and working a lot more with like internal users. So my recommendation is, if you work on something like that you feel is you know, maybe less glamorous, like databases, or you're working on sort of like, I don't know, I can't think of like anything dry off the top of my head, because it's all really interesting to me. But I work on a data product. And I think it's like really cool, because then you're looking at the universe of information that's out there. So, you know, whether it's like taking data points from like a digital streaming platform, or from retail sales, or from an artists performance or event that they've done or, you know, a licensing agreement that they they've entered into, I think like, being able to help people make sense of such disparate pieces of information and how that's impacting their work as both a researcher and as a designer, like problem solving for that is super complex. So I would definitely say if you're interested in the music industry, and you're working in UX in a space that you feel, you know, oh, I'm not creative enough for this, like, trust me, you are looking at some of those job descriptions. And this is my advice that I always give to mentees. Take a look at the job description that you want, like future you really want and look at yours and be like, where are the gaps and work in the role that you have today or the role that you can get tomorrow to get to that point to work toward that. So I think like if you're interested in working in this space, and you have some experience that's like a great way to kind of like to relate to what an organization is looking for. The other side of that is just breaking in a great way to get closer to the music industry is just a follow folks, mostly on LinkedIn, but you can definitely find podcasts and everything for people that are in the industry space. So follow you know, some of the major players for music reporting, audio intelligent, music business news, stuff like that will not only tell you like what the landscape looks like for the industry, but also oftentimes those sources include job openings, and another piece is agencies. I, you know, I work through contract, contracting into the music industry is a great kind of first step to land that  first role to land a full time role. So being open to that I think is especially important.

Alex Smith: Yeah, awesome advice all around. Kati, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

Kati Driscoll: Thank you so much.