Design Leader Insights - Subhasree Chatterjee on Designer and Data Analytics Partnership

July 27, 2023


Alex Smith: Hey, Subhasree. Thanks so much for joining the show today.

Subhasree Chatterjee: Hi, Alex, thank you so much for inviting me. It is a pleasure.

Alex Smith: Yeah, of course, and an interesting slash awesome guest, not a designer per se, but more of a data analyst. And I'd love to kind of learn about your career journey in data analytics. And then we'll hop into kind of how you collaborate with designers after that.

Subhasree Chatterjee: Yeah, of course. So I actually started as a software engineer, back when I did my undergraduate in computer science and engineering. But because of the projects I got at that time, I got interested in data, and started kind of learning by myself and got into the space of data analytics. And then I came to the US and I did my Master's in data analytics and kind of started working in this role. I started as an IC, so an individual contributor as a data analyst. And initially, my work was to help UX with data. But then I quickly realized that it's not about only me helping you with UX with data, it's about that collaboration, right? Like, we all help each other to make our product better. So that's kind of how I got interested in the UX space as well. And I started working very closely with UX research and designers. So now currently, I am a manager in data analytics, and I'm leading a team of five data analysts working in different spaces within the product. And I am part of a company called LexisNexis, which is a legal software company. So it's a very interesting space in terms of our customer in the user base. So I am trying to do the similar thing, which I started doing as an IC, that collaboration between UX and data habits, like natural intuition between all of my colleagues as well.

Alex Smith: Yeah, I love that. And I think what you just touched on is kind of one of my takeaways from your talk at UXDX, is that although today we're gonna dive into data, and UX and driving that collaboration better, I think the fundamentals of what we're going to talk about are applicable to anyone, which is interesting. But yeah, I think, really, let's dive into that. Because, you know, the designer mindset, and the data analysts mindset, and the tools they use and the way they think, and the way they approach problems are, oftentimes polar opposites. Right? And so one of the things that, you know, designers might experience is, here's a, here's a research report, there's a look at that data. And what are they going to do with that? That's not how they think or learn or operate? So I think, how do you, and vice versa, right, like, I don't expect the data analyst to come hop into Figma. And understand, you know, the design iterations that designer has done, how can people kind of translate their work for other stakeholders?

Subhasree Chatterjee: Yeah, so basically, like we have all of these very niche expertise, where we are kind of like working in our different capacities. But if we are not able to translate it in terms of cross team collaboration, then we are losing the impact that we can potentially create. So as you said, like as a data analyst, or even maybe as designers also, we tend to talk in those technical terms as well, or we want to showcase all the different platforms we are using, or all the capabilities of our skills. But for that other person, everything is new, right? Or everything is different. So it's very difficult to grasp that amount of information, if you're only getting a chance to interact with them in that professional capacity within those 30 or 45 minutes of meetings that you have scheduled. Right? So the main suggestions I have in that case is stop having that kind of transactional relationship, where the designers may be coming to the data analyst and asking about, can you give me that data. And that data analyst is just sending them that data, or similar for designers as well, like, if you just send me your design, I don't know anything like what to do with it. So that's why it's very important to create a relationship outside of that only set of data or only set of design. So I feel like that kind of communication builds that relationship and helps understand each other in a much better way. And the communication that you are having or the result of that communication is much more effective than just sharing stuff with each other. 

Alex Smith: How have you actually gotten those teams to continue this collaboration?

Subhasree Chatterjee: So we do have regular think of meetings with the product analyst, the UX researcher and the UX designer. We do have bi-weekly office hours where the idea is based on, can you just like come up with whatever questions you have, whatever you want to discuss, do you want to discuss about like a data analytics stock? Do you want to discuss about some design methodology? Like it's basically like a safe space? To ask what questions you have to discuss whatever you have, you have frustrations with stakeholder protected space to talk about that. So just making that continuous collaboration or practice. And then the other thing that we have started doing is including whenever we are talking about readouts, or analysis report, including each other's conclusions, or recommendations in the same document, so it's not on your stake reader to reach out to us when they feel that kind of need or like feel that it's appropriate, and reach out to data separately when they feel it's appropriate. It's about creating that triangulation in a way, and then making sure that everybody is on the dupe of exactly what's happening. And kind of like, what are the main recommendations?

Alex Smith: So I think like, you know, designers may be more acutely aware of this, because empathy should be built into their practice of understanding users. But you know, for other people, like data analysts, maybe not like, how can they understand the mindset of who they're trying to share these insights with?

Subhasree Chatterjee: Yeah, that's why as I said, like indoors, you know, kind of like have these hours or in the conversation that we are having, we encourage kind of understanding that person or that person's rules, they're like capabilities and their constraints, in some cases also, right? Because oftentimes, we feel like, oh, that person is not curious about AI, or they don't want to know about data. But there might be like, different reasons why that is happening. Maybe they are like already overworked, they already have so much on their plate that they cannot really think about anything else, and especially something else, which is not like always something they understand completely.

Alex Smith: What advice do you have for designers who may be looking to learn more about data analytics, or how they should approach data to inform decision making?

I mean, it will be great if you already have a data analytics team present who you can just reach out to, or if they have some kind of report and dashboards out there, maybe just like start interacting with a little bit. And if you feel like oh, no, this is like too much for me, I don't understand anything out of it. I am hoping that the data analytics people are somebody who you can reach out to and just like, again, start the discussion and start from the like very beginning with like smaller things, right? Like maybe you are very curious about something that you are currently working on. And you just want to focus on that it's fine, like you can start there. But hopefully with continued interaction, and with that kind of like personal relationship, it can go to the point where you are more comfortable working with them or just like broader understanding of how we do our analytics work as well. Actually, one more thing I want to mention here is like anywhere we are getting trained on whatever our expertise is like, whether it is data analytics, whether it's UX design, or UX research, we generally get trained on all of those technical aspects of it. But nobody really teaches us on how to again, like translate those permissions, or how to work in a cross collaboration or cross-team situation where that other person might not know anything about what you're talking about. So I feel like honing those skills and trying to improve those skills are very important as well, which is not always the most important thing you are learning when you are like studying with your core kind of expertise.

Alex Smith: I love that you brought that up. I mean, that's always my advice to designers is like, what do you know about product? How many product managers have you talked to? Because that's going to interact with and applies in most professions. Like no one understands the jargon, you're saying no one cares, because they have 50 other things to do. So like how are you collaborating with them in a way that is easy for them to understand and actually makes them interested in what your department or team is doing? So that is a great point, like education. From what I've seen really fails at this point, they teach you one point of view, one perspective, and that doesn't really take you that far. Unless you can collaborate with all the other departments and it takes companies to actually push great products so that, I love that perspective.

Subhasree Chatterjee: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So always keep in mind two things. One is know your audience and to give them what the most important thing that they need to know from. 

Alex Smith: Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Subhasree Chatterjee: Yeah, thank you so much, Alex for invite I think me it was a pleasure talking with you