Skip to content

UXR Spotlight: Débora C. Dahas

Débora C. Dahas, PhD
Débora C. Dahas, PhD

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?

Hi Débora, tell us a little about yourself.
Hi there! First of all, thank you for the invite! My name is Débora C. Dahas, I'm Brazilian and I'm 29 years old. I have been a researcher for around 8 years now. Currently, I work with digital products, but - believe it or not - my background pre-UX is mainly in Law and Legal Philosophy. I also write poems, and all in all I have already published around 10 books. Still, research is where my heart is at. I am naturally curious and rigorous, which helped me a lot in this path to UXR. I truly feel like working with research can be productive and fun, in a way that captivated me deeply. So I am always happy to talk about research and UX.

From your experience, what is one of the biggest challenges user research(ers) face today?
There are so many! I was talking about this with a friend the other day. I truly believe the scenario is positive. Of course we had some issues like retaining talent, not having enough budget, lack of ResearchOPS, and those are all pain points that need to be addressed.  However, there are some deeper obstacles to overcome when it comes to structuring a UXR team in a company. The first one is mindset. There is a deep need to change the culture most companies have internalized, in the sense that research should be understood as a necessary part of the product cycle, and also as an important part of building internal processes centered on how to solve problems surrounding user needs. The second problem is tactic versus strategic. Everyone is still trying to figure out how to make this work. Some people think UX should be tactic only, and some people defend that to be strategic is the main goal of any outcome of an UXR team, and that tactic research should not be included in strategic planning. Here, the biggest issue is that people do not put UX maturity in this equation, and tend to look at the matter in a very simplistic way. These two matters converge: we need to understand how mature UX is in our organization, prove our value by merging tactic and strategic studies, and working very hard to come up with ways to make this shift in mindset and culture. In structuring research teams, this is what I always try to keep and eye out for.

What do you remember most about your first UXR job?
My first job - after making my way into UXR - was in a bank. I was not familiar with the nuances of all the products they offered and my main responsibility was to build a Research team from scratch. The whole experience was very interesting: I got to do mixed method research from the start and had the opportunity to develop a huge discovery project that resonated a lot in the company. Even though that was all very important for my career, what I remember the most was how vital great leadership was. Both my Coordinator and the Head of Design showed me that the ability to listen, to communicate well,  and to fight for what you believe is the right decision to make are the main skills that build assertive and powerful leadership. And that kind of leadership is essential to build a team that truly works together and comes up with valuable results as a whole.

What can people reach out to you about and how can they find you?
Well, generally speaking I am available for all topics of conversation regarding research, in English and in Portuguese. But to be more specific: people starting out in the UXR world, or people who are looking to further develop their research skill, can come to me for mentoring or for a fun "talk shop" session. I am on LinkedIn and on Instagram @deboradahas. Whoever wants to hang out and exchange some experience on UX and research, feel free to contact me anytime!

Thank you, Débora!