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Diving Into UX Research With Hillary Omitogun
Senior UX Researcher At CreateApe
Hillary Omitogun has to be one of the most prominent UX researchers in the Nigerian and African tech ecosystem. If you put out a tweet seeking a UX researcher in Africa, her name will definitely come up.
Hillary started out as a market researcher and did some work at Wonder working for clients like Bloomberg, Citi Ventures, etc. She has been a UX Researcher for over 2 years working with companies like Welkom-U, Nestcoin, and Meta (specifically Whatsapp). She currently works as a Senior UX Researcher at CreateApe.
Her journey to UX research was about doubling down on doing the thing that she enjoyed doing most.
“I have just always really enjoyed learning and I have always wanted to be on the next innovative thing. So, combining tech and market research just led me to UX research”. - Hillary
Starting Out In UX Research:
Something Hillary mentioned that I found interesting is that many UX Research courses out there are expensive because it’s still an emerging field. The upside is that UX Research is not just about completing courses, you need to show proof of work.
“The courses I took actually helped but what helped more was actually doing the work, watching Youtube videos, listening to podcasts, and reading books. Most companies don’t care about the courses you take, as long as you have the experience, it’ll be good enough”. - Hillary
Getting Opportunities In UX Research
UX Research is fairly new which means that it’ll be tricky to get a role in the field. Hillary dropped some valuable insights into what it takes to get opportunities in the UXR space.
“I would say it’s a very tricky field to be in, especially if you are in this part of the world. The opportunities are not really available because not a lot of companies in West Africa seek out UX Researchers”. - Hillary
Getting into non-technical roles is quite tough but the upside is that there are opportunities to compete for. You will almost always find a job ad for a product manager or product designer. But it’s a bit more difficult to find a Job ad for a UX Researcher in and outside Africa.
“Even companies abroad that want UX researchers usually just focus on hiring people in that part of the world or in the country the company is located in”. - Hillary
Now, this is not to discourage you from searching for a role, there’s a way to do it which Hillary shared with me on the call.
Talk To People That Are Already In The Field
“Network as much as you can. Get to know people that have been in the field longer than you. Not just wherever you are in the world but also in other parts of the world. Figure out what worked for them, what did not work out for them, get advice”. - Hillary
Update Your Network On Your Progress:
“Make sure you update them (the experienced folks you reached out to) on the progress you have made with the advice they gave and your progress with other things you have worked on”. - Hillary
Work On Projects:
“Practice as much as possible. Practice on products you use everyday and products you are trying to use”. - Hillary
Pitch Yourself To Companies:
”Pitch yourself to companies, let them know that they need you. If you use an app and you figure out the app has issues, do an entire case study and reach out to the company”. - Hillary
How To Conduct Great Interviews For UX Research:
This section was personal because it took me a while to learn how to conduct great interviews, there’s the issue of going off-context or coming out as boring. Hillary gave some incredible insights on how to approach interviews for UX Research.
Work with an interview guide:
“I think it’s best practice, especially if you are new in the field to have an interview guide. It shouldn’t be a strict guide. You will want to go with the flow but it helps to have main things you want to go over and create questions from that. There are a lot of great interview guides online that can help you know what to ask”. - Hillary
Listen with intent:
“I will say that the key to asking great questions is listening. So, you have an interview guide with 5 top of mind questions. Actually, listen to what they say and don’t be scared of pauses because most times, they have more to say when they know you are willing to listen to them”. - Hillary
“You should probe, so if they are saying something, ask why they are doing that thing. What time of the day do they do it? What do they get from doing it? So, ask more questions about whatever response they give you”. - Hillary
So, how do you make interviews feel less daunting and more enjoyable?
“That’s a tricky question because I don’t think interviews are an enjoyable process except with people that like to talk about themselves. But my advice is to make them feel more comfortable, ask them things they will feel comfortable talking about, recognize questions they feel uncomfortable answering, and try making parts of the interview a conversation”. - Hillary
Stakeholder Collaboration During Research:
Stakeholder collaboration and management are at the centre of everything you do in product teams, even if you work in Silos, the output of your work is connected to a team outcome.
UX Research is one field where research output is a huge determinant of team outcomes, let’s get into how Hillary carried her team along during and after research:
“I personally prefer working with stakeholders while doing research because I don’t want to have to do the extra work to get stakeholder buy-in. Which is why at the beginning, I involve PMs, customer service, and engineers”. - Hillary
It’s one thing to get stakeholders involved in the research but you are in for another ride when it comes to getting them involved in analysis. Hillary brought up a methodology she had used at Nestcoin;
“At the end of the research phase, I like collaborative methods like affinity mapping. I did it a few times when I was at Nestcoin and it was very interesting & influential. I worked with a PM, a designer, and a growth person. When we did the Affinity mapping, we talked about things we learned and grouped them together with colours and we all enjoyed the sessions”. - Hillary
Everyone might be too busy to be a part of the research process, how do you get them involved? Hillary talks about how simple Slack threads can align everyone that might be actively or passively involved.
“I like to provide updates to Stakeholders as I go. If other internal stakeholders are not able to be heavily involved in the research, I’ll provide key takeaways. So If I am interviewing 7 people and I have interviewed 3 and noticed a theme, I will update the team on the Slack channel”. - Hillary
How Do You Do Competitive Analysis?
I had a limited amount of time with Hillary and I wanted to take advantage of the time I got her to give me details about conducting a competitive analysis.
“Competitive analysis is a very interesting one because one thing most companies in competitive markets fail to understand is that it’s very important to know what pre-existing companies are doing, specifically what they are doing right and wrong. Just know their progression and use that to inform how you build your product”. - Hillary
It’s quite difficult to say when and how frequently you should do competitive analysis. Hillary shares some insights into the best possible time to start and why:
“I would say it can be very helpful at the beginning of the product development stages. While you are trying to build your product, observe the products, observe what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong”. - Hillary
How do you actually do the analysis to spot the gaps that exist with the competition?
“There are several ways to know what they're doing right or wrong, it could be from the expert reviews of product-focused people at your company. You can tell them to review the product. It could also be from actual customer reviews online. You could also do keyword research to find out what people are looking up on Google or social media search engines concerning the competitor. There are also guidelines you could use like heuristic guidelines”. - Hillary
A Mini-Case Study:
To conclude, Hillary did a min-case study on how to approach market research for a Fintech, to make it more comprehensible, I sliced it into bits:
Understand market trends:
“As a researcher entering the fintech space, I would try to understand trends in the market, both present and future trends. What are some Fintech trends that have been capitalised before, how did they capitalise that, and what failures did they have while capitalising that? That’s easy to find, you can use ChatGPT, use Google Boolean Search”. - Hillary
Figure out the players in the market:
“If there’s an indirect competitor, find out who they are, and what they are solving for. Dig deeper into companies solving the same problems and find out where they are executing and what mistakes they are making. Take it a step further and reach out to your competitor’s users or check out review websites to find out what their complaints are about”. - Hillary
Read Up From Experts
“When you are looking at Market trends, look out for what websites like Forbes and HBR are saying about a market. Look into what economics and other experts are saying about that market”. - Hillary
I asked Hillary what she was reading and listening to and she made some outstanding mentions:
321 Newsletter By James Clear.
No Stupid Questions Podcast
Huberman Lab Podcast
Talk By TED
I also asked her who she would like me to interview next in the African Product ecosystem and she dropped some very interesting names. Comment if you can make an intro. Check the names below:
Shelly Lingham, Senior UX Researcher at Chipper Cash,
Henry Uku, VP of Product at Nestcoin.
Husseina Yesufu, Head of Partnerships & Global Expansion at Flutterwave