Why I left Harvard and became a UX Research specialist


Tags: #CareerDevelopment

Three years ago, I did a talk with my friend Katie Langerman about being a UX Generalist. At the time we used the word “hybrid” to mean wearing multiple hats at work. Oh how the times have changed.

In 2019 I had just started working full-time at Harvard, and my work involved anything from running usability studies, to leading design workshops, to wireframing, to visual design, and even CSS. And for a time, I loved my work, but I reached a point where something was missing.

Working at Harvard taught me a lot and made me into a mature UX professional. I learned to build relationships with stakeholders, and become stronger at both defending my design decisions, and taking feedback. I also found ways to democratize UX Research practices in my team.

But I found myself craving for a change of perspective. UX at Harvard consisted of a small team. For this stage in my career I really wanted to be somewhere where there was both more mobility and more opportunities to learn from other team members. My work at Harvard, also involved some design and research ops work, and I wanted to dedicate more time to my craft.

So I began applying. I applied to designer and researcher jobs, as well as jobs that involved both, and I discovered that I wanted to focus more on research. I found Fidelity Investments, and immediately hit it off with their researchers and research managers. And I felt incredibly excited to learn that they had a whole ops team who took care of figuring out what tools we needed and how to acquire them. Financially, the offer from Fidelity, also made sense.

That’s when I finally decided to switch, and accepted a role as a Senior UX Researcher at Fidelity. Nothing dramatic happened. Nothing bad to say about my previous job. I felt like I needed a change to grow. And so far, I feel good about this choice! I’m already learning a lot, and I hope to post soon about what I’ve learned.

I’m sharing this story, because so often we wait until something is wrong to leave. Sometimes we just need to listen to our intuition. In the face of “the great resignation,” when everyone is seems to be leaving because of burn out, I want to emphasize that burn out is not the only good reason to move forward. People don’t just “leave managers not jobs.” Sometimes they do, but not always. I’ve left a job because of burn-out and dissatisfaction before, and I’m glad I did. This time, it was different, and I am still glad of making the change.

Considering how much I enjoyed being a UX generalist, now that I’m specializing in research, will I miss coding and designing? Probably…shortly after joining Fidelity, I spent my free time reprogramming my website, taking it from Gatsby to Eleventy. But this just shows that I can enjoy other areas of tech while I specialize in one. Plus, I’ve learned that my career is not a straight line. I might switch specialties in a few years, who knows?