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UXR Spotlight: Diba Kaya

Diba Kaya
Diba Kaya

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, Diba Kaya.
My name is Diba Kaya, I’m a multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual researcher. My background is in cognitive and behavioral psychology, neuroscience and industrial engineering. I made my way from focusing on forensic psychology and working on models of the psychobiology of decision in clinical settings into the open arms of human computer interaction and have worked in big tech (xoogler, ex-amazonian) and multiple sectors (healthcare, telco, academic etc. etc.). After being in the for-profit sector and grazing government space, I wanted to better understand the not for profit world and am currently fortunate enough to be working as a senior researcher alongside a great group of engineers, data scientists, designers and product managers on the Search and Discovery team @Ithaka where we build recommendation and search models utilizing the latest and greatest in technology.

What’s the best career decision you’ve made?
I think the best career decision I’ve made was when I decided that my career would be a meta study of what it’s like to be a researcher in industry. So, I’ve made conscious decisions to work on the projects, companies and areas I’ve worked on to sharpen my skills and developed that deeper awareness of what it is to be a researcher (e.g., working on software, hardware, B2B, B2C, embedded in teams, agency/centralized models, FAANG companies, start ups, government, private sector etc. etc.). Having done that for last decade or so and gratefully having the experience under my belt, my focus now has been on culture and really seeking out cultures that, for a lack of a better word - vibe with me. We spend so much of our time at work, with co workers and being in a place where people have similar values and communication styles can make the difference between a day feeling busy vs. stressful. Culture as a priority, by far the best career decision.

How would you explain your work to a 6 year-old?
I help technology be useful to people, because if technology is not useful to people, it doesn’t matter and will sit in dust and be forgotten. I do this by helping the people who make technology (like engineers, data people, product people, designers) understand how people work, and figure out where technology would make sense for people so the people can do the things they want to do. Hazzah!

What would you like to talk about with other researchers and how can they find you?
I would love to connect with fellow researchers! We’re carving a space for this career and are among the first generation to do so, what an honor! Would love to connect on a variety of topics so if you feel called to, send me a LinkedIn invite! I’m also really into natural language models and digital ethics right now, (as aren’t we all 😛). Thanks for reading and thanks to Jan for setting this up and keeping us connected 🙏 👋

Thank you, Diba Kaya!