Major: Cognitive Science
Profession: Associate UX Researcher at ServiceNow
Hometown: San Jose, CA
What are you doing now?
I currently work as a User Experience (UX) Researcher at an enterprise software company, ServiceNow. I use different research methods (interviews, surveys, site analytics, etc.) to understand how people experience and use our products. Then, I synthesize and tell these stories to engineers, product managers, designers and writers to help improve products or build new ones.
How did you get there?
At Pomona, I worked closely with Professor Lise Abrams in her PRIME (Psycholinguistic Research in Memory Experiments) Lab, where I grew to love conducting research about people and cognition. However, I wanted to do research at a faster pace and in a more applied environment than academia. I came to UX research as a possible career option by Googling career options for research in industry.
The way that I actually became a UX researcher was very roundabout. Around the time that the pandemic hit, I applied to dozens of internships in a frenzy and luckily landed a technical writing internship at ServiceNow. I had worked as a Writing Partner at Pomona and thought that maybe, I could use those writing skills for a job. By serendipity, the team that I was placed on worked closely with UX researchers, so I was able to conduct a UX research project in addition to my technical writing tasks. After I gave a presentation on my UX project at the end of my internship, I was hired back full-time as a UX researcher.
How did Pomona prepare you?
Pomona taught me how to ask meaningful questions and problem solve from multiple perspectives—which, at its core, is what I think research really is. Through Professor Abrams’ PRIME Lab, I learned how to ask precise questions about murky areas of human cognition and to design solid experiments to find answers. Through anthropology courses, I learned how to closely observe the ways that people create meaning and culture. Through statistics courses, I learned how to zoom out and observe greater quantitative trends. Now, at work every day, I mix and match these frameworks and methods from these classes, as I try to build a nuanced understanding of why and how people use software and technology.
Working at jobs and student organizations at Pomona also taught me how to listen and communicate. As a Writing Partner, I loved listening to students’ thoughts on writing and helping them craft essays or creative writing. I do the same at my job now, when I interview people and help them articulate why and how they have difficulty with software. Through the Asian American Mentorship Program (AAMP) and the Asian American Resource Center (AARC), I learned how to lead workshops and team-building exercises, which I now use to gather research perspectives and build excitement for projects at work. I’m really grateful for these programs for helping me learn how to facilitate conversation and build rapport.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Honestly, I don’t know. I initially wanted to work for a couple years, then go back to school to get my PhD in linguistics or anthropology. I really want to study how Asian Americans use language to build, maintain and break down their communities. But now that I’m working, I could also see myself doing UX research for a long time. I’ve been thinking about working specifically as a UX researcher in accessibility, in order to make technology more accessible and inclusive.
Any advice for current or prospective students?
Talk with your professors. That’s what makes Pomona so unique—your professors really care about you and your personal growth. I learned how to ask and then pursue questions, even when I feared that they would lead to dead ends or failure, because my professors took them seriously and helped me figure out how to answer them.
Also, make an effort to keep meeting new people. People at Pomona are all so different, interesting and overall open to sharing. I learned a ton from my friends and classmates about different modes of thinking and living, which has influenced the ways in which I want to live my life.