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Researcher Spotlight: Crystal Tan

I'm Crystal Tan and UX Researcher at Grab. I've been in the craft of understanding humans for as long as I can remember.

Crystal Ta
Crystal Tan

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?

Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Crystal Tan and UX Researcher at Grab. I've been in the craft of understanding humans for as long as I can remember. My first memory is a professor telling me “When you know how anything works, you can deconstruct it” ...and reimagine it, I thought. I went on to specialise in social anthropology (MSc) and tumbled into fintech as a UXR. From doing ethnography in a homeless shelter, to building trust on a personal finance website, the focus has remained the same for me: to make sense of people’s lived experiences and under their gaze, transform inanimate objects into meaningful ones. Outside of my role, I continue to tease the boundary between the new and the known through meditation, free painting and possibly hazardous baked goods.

What are some of the things that helped you in your research journey?
Start writing a book, a manual, a guide, right now. It’s not for others to see or to publish, but for yourself. I’ve gathered every tip and shower thought I’ve ever had since the start of my journey. What started as a one-pager of scattered thoughts is now an extensive Notion database known as my “Research Base Camp”. Inside are philosophies and templates that I've put together over the years. It has allowed me to go beyond imitation - the first phase of learning - to experiment and revise all that I've learnt. The best part about this is it allows me to form my own perspective and stay creatively rigorous, assembling new approaches as needed.

Have you ever had "imposter syndrome"? How did you deal with it?
Oh definitely! For me, that feels like being a child in an oversized pants suit speaking to grim-looking adults that tower over me. But I’ve learnt to embrace that feeling of unease, because it means I am being courageous and putting myself out there. It takes a certain amount of bravery to be an imposter in the first place! As a mentor recently reminded me, “No one knows everything”. It is okay to say I don’t know, to feel uncomfortable and to fail, but do it again and better the next time anyway.

How can people learn more about you and your work?
A few of my defining a-ha! moments are made public on Medium, but I am mostly knee-deep in drafts and conversations in the day to day. Simply say Hi on my LinkedIn, all roads lead to creative collaborations even if we can’t connect the dots now. I’ll be happy to get to know you! :)

Thank you, Crystal!