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 George, tell us a little about yourself.
Hello there! I am George Zhang, the director of UXR at Course Hero, an EdTech (education technologies) unicorn that helps millions and millions of students graduate confident and prepared. Previously I spent four years at Uber managing UXRs over several key product areas including four-wheel cars and two-wheel bikes, safety and support, quantitative and qualitative methods. Prior to it, I had spent almost a decade crafting Google’s search experience. I obtained a PhD in industrial and organizational psychology in China, and had led research at Lenovo, Intel and Google China before moving to the states in 2010. In my spare time, I love reading, hiking, traveling, advising, and mentoring.
What energizes you about your career?
Opportunity. I am profoundly an optimistic opportunist including through daily routines and career turn-points. When I chose a new job, I often observed, interviewed, and deep-dived into its product experience to make sure that the overall ecosystem is Good for now and for the future (see my thought on EdTech), the team is Good for me to thrive, and the product experience is Suboptimal (a.k.a. “Bad”) so that I can do something to help. See the Uber example. Everyday, I pay attention to UX quality gaps, user pain points, unmet needs, and so on. Big and small, implicit and explicit, accidental and intentional, they can inform new product opportunities individually (which is very rare) or collectively (very often). I feel good as a UXR lead because we are in a unique position connecting/bridging users and systems. I am confident we can always make a difference as long as we follow the UX research excellence framework (impact, method, partnership). Read more.
What do you remember most about your first UXR job?
Resilience. I can easily relate the pains we suffer right now from COVID-19 pandemic to my first job as a usability analyst at Lenovo in April 2003 in Beijing, China which has been one of the epicenters of the SARS outbreak. I still appreciate the support and camaraderie I have received from my fellow researchers during that difficult time. We had each other’s back and checked in with one another regularly. We quickly switched to remote research approaches (mostly telephone-based) to conduct research activities, and then cautiously restored in-person studies when SARS was contained in July 2003.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
Feel free to follow or connect with me on LinkedIn, read my Medium portal, and set up UX coffee hours with me. Of course please keep an eye on our open roles because I am hiring!
Thank you, George!
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