Researching the right career

27 February 2020

As part of our National Careers Week campaign, we chat to Senior UX Researcher Swetha Sethu-Jones about her career path, from choosing her university degree to working at Just Eat.

What course did you study and where?

For my Bachelor’s degree, I studied Software Engineering in India. Soon after graduation I landed a permanent job as a Front End Web Developer.

During my degree, I studied Usability Engineering as a module, which I loved. I decided to do further research in this area and learnt more about User Experience (also known as Human Computer Interaction) as an industry. I opted to pursue a Masters in this and enrolled at Kingston University, London, to study for an MSc in User Experience Design.

How did you get your job?  

I went to a lot of industry meetups and career events. I also applied to many different jobs. Finding a first job can be challenging, but ultimately, I learned that finding a job is all about making connections, which is why attending career fairs was so important. About four months after I graduated I applied for a research assistant role at a small user experience consultancy...and I got the job!

As I continued to build up my experience, I moved to a different consultancy and worked my way up the career ladder - from a Research Assistant to a Principal Consultant. Today, I work as a Senior UX Researcher at Just Eat.

What’s a typical day like as a Senior UX Researcher?

There’s no typical day. Some days I’m kicking off research projects by speaking with Designers and Product Managers. Other days I’m carrying out research sessions which involve speaking to consumers to get a better understanding of customer trends.

At Just Eat, we want to ensure we’re always providing the best experience for our customers. So, a crucial part of my role is to find and represent the needs of our customers and to then share these learnings with our teams so that we’re doing what we can to keep our customers engaged.

What do you enjoy about your job?  

I enjoy speaking with people and finding out what matters to them when it comes to using online platforms. For me, the most interesting thing is understanding behaviours - I enjoy and learn more when we go above and beyond current technology and think more about everyday habits and general consumer behaviour.

What are the challenges?

As user experience research is still a relatively new discipline, one of the key challenges is that wider teams are not fully aware of our role and what we offer. We often have to increase visibility by inviting colleagues to come and attend user research sessions, sharing customer stories and educating teams on the benefits of conducting user research.

Every company I’ve worked at has a different variation of this same challenge. And it’s always a journey to overcome this. It’s fun too - because through sharing, educating other teams and increasing awareness, I remember how much I love doing what I do.

In what way is your degree and work experience relevant?

My degree was very relevant as it helped me land my first job back in 2010. At the time this was a niche role and my Masters degree helped me to stand out. It also allowed me to really get into the details of the theory behind User Experience - which I needed to feel more confident in my role.

My work experience during my time in consultancies has been super valuable. This is where I learnt how to actually do the work, and practised my researching skills. The consultancy atmosphere gives us the opportunity to learn from others, and understand the various research methods as well.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have been in my current role since March 2019. And I’ve been a UX researcher for about 10 years now. I like being hands-on and being involved in the research we do. Though over time, I’ve become more interested in strategic pieces of research.

I’ve also coached, mentored and managed people through various stages of my career.

As User Experience is a relatively new discipline, my career ambitions include being able to widen the ways research is carried out across the field. For me, this includes conducting research from a strategic perspective, so that we can use it to predict future trends and help businesses be one step ahead when implementing tech features.

How do I get into User Experience?

  • attend industry meetups to network and get a feel for the industry
  • get some work experience - find a startup or a not-for-profit and ask if you can do a project for them
  • build a portfolio
  • apply to jobs - keep an eye out for grad schemes and apprenticeships