Name: Francesca Redman (Fran)
Current role: UX Researcher at UCAS
Former role: Information Specialist
What led you to move on from libraries? I hadn’t been enjoying my job for a while, as it had changed from being an engagement role to one that involved a lot of project working, and the projects were not being run well. It was incredibly frustrating, as I’ve worked really hard to develop my presenting and networking skills throughout my early career. Had the projects been well managed, I would have probably enjoyed working on them, but despite me raising concerns to my managers throughout the early stages, they carried on with no change, so I felt that I needed to find something different. I couldn’t find any library jobs nearby at all, and didn’t feel like moving elsewhere for a job that wasn’t “the perfect job” I found the UX role advertised and thought that the job description looked like it would fit my skills nicely, and give me a chance to work in a different kind of project based environment.
What do you do in your current role?
My current role is quite varied, and enables me to use things from my first degree (psychology) and my library and information skills.
- I spend time talking to our users, either face-to- face or on the phone.
- I develop research based personas which we use to validate and inform designs.
- I design studies and surveys, put them out to our users and then analyse and feedback the results to the team to help them make decisions about design direction.
- I engage with groups of users and maintain relationships with them so that we have people available that we know are more likely to take part in testing.
- I do some design myself, using a program called axure to create wireframes to communicate concepts to users and internal stakeholders.
- I research different things and feedback to the relevant people in the team so that they know the background before designing, e.g. I recently researched criminal convictions to feed in to the design of a question we ask on the application.
What library skills do you use in your current role? Quite a lot actually - User engagement and presentation skills; Research skills; Information management (I organise the team’s information assets); The “research interview” to uncover the users’ needs rather than their wants; Displaying information in an engaging way (I have a room that I use wants the walls of as a place to display feedback to the team).
Do you think that your library skills helped you to get this position? I know they did, my boss said that the analytical, organised research skills that I have were what made them want to interview me in the first place. It probably helps that he’d worked in a library environment so was familiar with our skill set. My experience of working with lots of different types of people also marked me out as someone that would be good in this role.
What other skills have you had to acquire since leaving the library profession in order to enable you to carry out your work? I’ve done some fast learning around how to use our software: prototyping, survey and observation tools. I’m also learning about how to develop research personas. I’m doing lots of on the job learning, but hopefully will be doing something more academic to underpin that too.
Do you maintain any professional memberships or are there new ones which are more appropriate? No, CILIP membership is so expensive that I can’t afford to maintain it as it’s not directly of use to me. I use twitter to keep myself in the loop, as I’d like to re-enter the profession in a few years, if the right job becomes available. UX doesn’t have a professional body, which is something I really miss about being a librarian.
Do you have any future plans/aspirations? I’m not sure really, I enjoy what I’m doing, but I’m not quite sure what I’d like to do next. There are things I miss about being part of the profession; as I said, I wouldn’t count out going back. I have a sort of plan to spend a couple of years figuring out how to be a UX researcher, and then going freelance and doing it on a consultancy basis, but I don’t have firm plans around this yet. I have quite a laid back approach to my career anyway, preferring to work in roles that feel right to me rather than having a plan to follow.
The ad I saw: Embark on a tour of mastery in UCAS to develop and sharpen your skills – be it problem solving, advancing your information architecture skills, or facilitating workshops. Joining the ranks of our close-knit UX troupe, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with cross-disciplinary teams, and can expect personal development supported by training, mentoring and industry conferences. As a User Experience Designer, your mission will be to help craft a better experience for our users by identifying needs and barriers in their journey, as well as maximising their emotional engagement through our services. You will relish the challenge posed by meeting the needs of a broad range of users – from the future generations of students finding their next steps in life, to the teachers supporting their students using UCAS and other online tools. With user research and an inquisitive nature at the heart of our design process, you will need a good grasp of research methodologies, and the ability to adapt and develop testing strategies for a range of situations. A natural curiosity and empathy with others will impel you to reach out to our users, using discoveries and insight to inform our designs and services. The right attitude, as well as heaps of compassion, will put you ahead of the game – even if you’re not the most experienced on paper. If you feel you’re up to the test, and fancy the chance to grow and thrive in a challenging but rewarding environment, get in touch to let us know why you’d make the best new addition to our UX family.