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UXR Spotlight: Brian Utesch

Brian Utesch
Brian Utesch

This spotlight was part of USERWEEKLY - a weekly email to understand what is happening in user research. It's the best way to keep up on trends, methodologies, insights across the industry, and meet new researchers. Each week, the newsletter captures the pulse of our community and answers a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?

Hey Brian, tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Brian Utesch and I joined Cisco after 20 years at IBM. I lead a team of UX Researchers optimizing the tools provided to employees. My background is in Human Factors Psychology but I’ve been focused exclusively on UX Research for most of my career. When I’m not at work, I usually have a camera in my hand taking photos, typically while traveling or at a sporting event.

What originally got you interested in UX Research?
Personal frustration as a consumer and having to deal with painful tools and experiences got me interested in UX Research. I enjoy taking on the role of advocate for those struggling with bad experiences and seeing the bad experiences turn into good or delightful experiences. It’s great being able to bring data into the decision making process while others speak in terms of personal opinions. It’s very empowering.

From your experience, what is one of the biggest challenges user research(ers) face today?
I’ve found executing the research to be one of the easiest (and most fun!) parts of the job. However, closing the feedback loop is a challenge. To keep our users motivated to continue providing feedback, we have to ensure they know they were heard and action was taken. Communicating insights back to users is the fairly straightforward part. It is maintaining the backlog and then periodically communicating actions that is the most challenging part to do well. I’ve spoken to many colleagues about this topic and no one ever sounds confident they have it solved completely.

What was the funniest/weirdest experience you had in a user study?
I’m going to classify this as weird and not fun. I’m still amazed at how participants will lose themselves in the moment and completely forget they are being watched, even after being told they are being watched. I’ve seen too many times participants examine themselves in the two-way mirror as if they are alone in their homes. Fortunately, this is usually when they are on their way out the door after the study is complete.

What would you like to talk about with other researchers and how can they find you?
Currently I’m most interested in operational efficiency of research and what tools and processes other UXR teams employ to conduct research at scale and with high velocity. I’m also interested in combining attitudinal, behavioral, and business outcome data to identify patterns and discover new business-relevant insights. Please reach out on LinkedIn and I’d love to collaborate!.

Thank you, Brian!