January 2022 • project + program highlights!

Heatherlee Nguyen TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT, workshops


there’s no question, time flies by! I do so much in a week, a month, a quarter. I typically publish a quick Insta post & call it well enough. but I’ll be pausing about once a month this year to write about exciting new updates related to my freelance work, community engagements, and Think Olive Creative. this new year is off to an energetic start!

full-circle moment!
on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, I spoke for 30 minutes at Optum about community-led design and the origin story of Black Designers Ignite. 111 people attended (when I checked), and the response both during the session and behind the scenes was touching. so many of us feel the same way (about tough things that are hard to speak on at work) but when we do talk about it.. it reflects in people around us, something ignites, and it transforms us. community strengthens. and this matters!

feeling so thankful for this full-circle moment, which I’m honestly still unpacking. will share more about this later. till then, here were some of my favorite slides (swipe the IG post below!)


Femmecubator mentor matching!
on Friday, January 14, 2022, I hosted a happy hour workshop for Femmecubator’s very first wave of mentors for, Mentor Matching, a new program launching soon!

I have been working in the field in Minneapolis since 2009 (12 years!) and I love how I’m meeting people everywhere now. Mentors and mentees are matching all over the country through this program.

I left feeling inspired and ready to continue these budding relationships..

and all this reminded me of the one beautiful thing the pandemic brought to us, the mainstream acceptance of all-virtual events and doing it all from home 🙂 busy working moms like me actually have greater access to being able to show up, support, attend, advance, and connect now easier than eever before. and I don’t know about you but we are taking full advantage!

[sidenote: if you are a mentor (experienced or first-timer) who is interested in mentorship circles, being a one-on-one career coach, serving as a technical mentor to women getting into UX + tech?! get in touch by filling out this mentor matching interest form @femmecubator.


at our workshop we reflected on how best we can serve as mentors. the goal at Femmecubator is to create a flexible, yet impactful program where people can connect on their own time, and where mentors have support, tools, and resources for successful mentorship moments. this is just the start!


Brand Design!
on Monday, January 18, 2022, HL-UX met an exciting milestone! We delivered the final logo for our client, along with an initial icon set and full-on brand guidelines. this was a supplement to the foundations of the fresh new design system I’ve been building with them the past few months.

as a UXer I haven’t had many opportunities to both lead product design AND design the brand. (talk about another full-circle moment!) I have loved building a relationship with this client over the years and this was an exciting deliverable. Swipe the post for the polaroid highlights 🙂

here’s to many more milestones this quarter and year!

with love,
Heatherlee
#theIndieConsultant

How are you hacking the diversity & inclusion gap?

defending diversity, heatherlee nguyen

Our differences create opportunities.
Opportunities for a more equitable world.

How are you empowering those people who look and who talk and who live & love differently than you? How can you do better? We all need to confront our biases and check our privilege at the door. I see promise in our future products in services. I believe we can build a more equitable world!

Don’t you?


Peace & love are universal concepts.
Now, more than ever is the time to defend diversity.
We all belong.


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Translate Direct won first place at Hack the Gap!

heatherlee nguyen

Translate Direct, my service innovation won 1st place at a (virtual) hackathon this weekend! I’m so grateful the judges saw my vision. Thank you Hack the Gap! I’m going after this idea. This is a real problem right now (and it always was) and I care about fixing it.

[To watch the demo video (below) please reach out for the password. Would love your thoughts! heatherlee.ux@gmail.com]

What’s next? I’m looking for people willing to watch my short video demoing the concept. If one of these bullet points fits you, and you’d be willing to email back & forth, get on a call with me, or demo this service, please reach out!

Looking to connect with:
• ESL Teachers (and staff)
• Teachers and administrative staff at language/immersion schools
• Public servants: care givers, community organizers, volunteers regularly communicating with bilingual and/or non-English speaking families
• Anyone specifically working with multilingual communities during this crisis

The survey I circulated during the hackathon is still open. Add your perspective right here: https://lnkd.in/eD98Hum

(Thank you for sharing with your network).

Gratefully,
Heatherlee


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Quotes from clients, reframing with empathy

defending diversity, Embracing Change, product research, user research

“They’re not using it the way it’s designed to work.”
“This is a training issue.”
“We just have to train the users to do it that way, not this way.”
“We don’t want to design things that enforce behaviors we don’t like.”

– clients’ response to your UX design concepts..

I have heard these comments many times in the enterprise UX world. Sometimes we have this idea of how things should work in our head. We have ways in which we wish users would do things. Or we’re attached to the way we designed a system to work. And even when we find out users aren’t using it how we’d expect, how we might prefer, we turn it into a training issue rather than a design exercise. 

Sometimes, “the customer is always right.” Design should be in service of a users’ process, not a deterrent. Products should be designed to be intuitive, not require weeks of training. Instead of the above mindsets, I encourage team members to reframe the problem and riff on some “how might we’s..

How might we design it to work the way people want to use it?
How might we learn why people are not using it as trained?
How might we let users’ natural behaviors guide our design decisions?
How might we respond to users’ workarounds?

– reframing the “training issue..”

Elon Musk says, “Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.” 
— For the most part, I kinda agree! How about you?


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Voice of Customer booth!

heatherlee nguyen, product research, user research
At my clients’ conference collecting user feedback this week. Two software companies are merging and it’s our job to embody DESIGN AS A STRATEGY. We were here collecting what people love, wish for and what they hope we don’t change as the integration roadmap planning begins. We also held a workshop where we collaborated directly with the customers, it was a big hit! What else did we do? What did we learn? How did these activities help the product team? More to come.. HeatherleeNguyen_C3-03

TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻 I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for. Contact info & more about me here.

Product promises

user experience

There’s this known thing in the industry… “customer commits” – it’s this concept in which sales teams make promises to customers before making a sale, in order to get a sale. Essentially, they are making a promise to the customer that a certain feature or functionality will be in the software they buy, without any input from design and development teams. Even if that feature does not exist today, the salesperson promises it will included to close the sale.

And what happens to these promises?

They are added to the top of the product roadmap, as a top priority. So, all the other priorities the team is trying to focus on gets shifted, and they have to work to satisfy the promises made by the sales team. This is risky and problematic for every team involved.

Why is this a major issue? Well, I’ve seen many of my clients suffer through this, and not deliver on these important promises because their product teams are stretched too thin. Oftentimes, teams are not organized to handle these prioritization shifts. So things like bugs, usability issues, and backlog items fall down on the list, sometimes, not being worked on for several months or even years because they must satisfy the promises made by sales.

More often than not, your existing customer base suffers just so you can satisfy your newest customer. New product features, enhancement requests and known issues are not fixed because a whole new thing needs to be built. And this is why there are so many bad or half baked products out there. And why even some of your favorite products seem neglected in certain areas.

These are blind promises. Sales people are not always technical. They are not always lock & step with their design & development teams. And they almost certainly don’t know how to properly assess and estimate the work they are promising.

So why do we do this?

Why is this an accepted industry practice?

It’s the classic chicken & egg scenario. Do you make it before you sell it!? Or sell it so you can make it?

My take? People don’t want to be sold to.. When you design great products & services they should sell themselves! Also, people who love what you made will actually sell it for you. If we spent more time building the things we want to promise people, vs. selling things we hope we can build, not only will great products emerge, but happier and healthier teams will, too.

Let’s only make informed promises we know we can keep.

Better yet.. let’s make less promises. And go make the product itself!

Heatherlee Nguyen
TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

[The 4 D’s of My Design Process] Part 1: I start with the people…

Heatherlee Nguyen •  IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT •𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 ≋𝗖𝗫≋ 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻•

HL-UX-Process_png-24

As a seasoned designer you start developing your own framework for the work you do. Ideally, you follow your well-intentioned design process to a tee, never compromising on the phases or pacing you recommend to your clients.

As a consultant though, joining many different product teams with varying levels of maturity, capital and design thinking, it’s no secret we designers don’t always get to follow our preferred process. We get the job done. We compromise, bending to the budget, the team culture, scope and timing set before us.

At least that’s what I do. I don’t believe there’s one perfect way. I love learning and making new ways work. The work we’re doing deserves openness and flexibility from all team members. As long as we’re following the basic design tenants and applying empathy the process we follow is malleable. That said, here are some notes on my preferred design process. It always starts with the people..

PEOPLE FIRST
Who exactly? Well everyone. I start with gaining insight into the team I’m working with. Where’s everyone’s expertise, where are their passions, where do our abilities overlap and where are there gaps? I consider the stakeholders. I gauge their expectations, their specific interests in the project/product and gain an understanding of how closely we’ll collaborate. I also learn about the people on the perimeters of my team, maybe outside partners or other internal teams that I may be developing for or with. How will we leverage each other?

Last but certainly not least..

Who we design for. Who we think we’re designing for. Who we want to reach, who we want to impact. One of the main things I do is gain a deep understanding of, and empathy for, those using, affected by, and relying on this thing we’re designing. Who are they really? I consider their lifestyles, their interests, where they live, how they do the things they do, how different and how similar they are from other people using the thing. I interview them, observe them and put myself in their shoes. I create artifacts for the team that keeps this front and center at all times.

It’s ALWAYS, always people first. Just scroll through my blog posts, you’ll see the proof is in the pudding. They are the center of the process. The nucleus, if you will.

After the people I focus on data, defining, designing, and (re)discovering.

DATA: What is it?

I get a close look at the following..

Product History: Is this thing new? If not, how long has it been in-use? Why was it originally developed? What needs does it serve and where is it lacking? What do people like/dislike about it? I take a look at the existing product roadmap (or lack of) to gain as much knowledge I can on how this thing works, what it’s purpose is, what the vision of the team is and where any barriers are.
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Analytics: What’s being measured, how is it currently being used? What’s not being measured that should be? Is there an analytics team I can partner with as the project evolves?

Research: How has this thing been researched for? What should now be in place? Is there a research team that gathers and analyzes competitive data and market research? What are the trends? How will we continue collecting research as we move forward?

Once the data is looked at and research has a foundational start it’s time to define some things.

DEFINE: What is it?…… to be continued..

Read more about my process in my next post. Hit the follow button below for email notifications when new posts go live. Thanks for reading!

TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Get to know your users

design work, human centered design, user research

Personas should always be developed as a result of real observations, interviews and true qualitative data. Sometimes you have assumptions about your users. No problem. Just make sure your team is validating these. Do not make this up and design to it. Make it up if you must but then validate, iterate and design for the people you meet, not the ones you’ve made up in your head.

I recently created some theoretical persona docs based on my experiences studying 4 separate call centers. Over the years I’ve met 3 types of call center agents, the temp agent, the forever agent and the rising agent. I look forward to this new product team carrying this research forward.



Personas are just one tool designers can use to create alignment with stakeholders. How is your team working to understand their users?




When you can’t design for everyone, how are you deciding who to focus on; when and why?



As an employee, the temp agent is not loyal to one company. They may be a college student working part-time or a seasonal agent, but it’s temporary. They view their role as a means to an ends and typically don’t stay long. They’re likely on a different career path, using this role to gain customer service experience in the short-term. More than other agents, temp agents value time flexibility and the ability to adjust their schedule on-the-go. In most cases, they learn and adapt quickly to change.

Temp agents can sometimes skew younger in age, but that depends on the industry and geography. Freshmen agents may be completely new to the industry and/or not as skilled with the software, while seasoned temps may be extremely knowledgable. Designers should consider this range of experience levels and design for both novice and power users.



How might you empower your teams to start authentic relationships with those you design for?



The forever agent is a lifer. They are confident in their role and know customer issues well. They are task-oriented, often with a ritualistic approach to their work. They know the software and like the familiarity and predictability of process. They are used to having less autonomy and choice in scheduling and they don’t mind, even prefer, a schedule set weeks in advance.

Forever agents have been around for years, they’re aware of the pros and cons of the software. They approach tasks with less urgency and are not always inclined to report pain points, they simply navigate their way around them. These employees are more resistant to change, mostly out of fear. They are more reactive and traditional in nature. They are so used to the tools they have and generally report more satisfaction than their counterparts due to their experience.



How might you continue the conversation and include your users in the design process?



The rising agent is a star employee. They are very engaged and loyal to their company, likely on the path to team lead. Floor supervisors and other agents rely on the rising agent due to their computer experience, job knowledge and willingness to support the bigger service goals. They are great customer service agents but will not stay on the phones forever.

Rising agents are leveling up in their career, often staying in the same industry (and company) to develop into a more strategic role. They are open to change and actively solve problems. This is the type of employee who will read manuals, watch videos and play around with software on their own. They sometimes develop workarounds and become part of process improvement efforts. Rising agents make the perfect workshop and test candidates. They are committed and love helping.



How might your team create sustainable feedback loops and learning mechanisms?



What is the true essence of user-centricity? Prioritizing the relationship you have with your users, connecting with them and learning about them on a regular basis.


Persona work is never really done. Teams should be consistently visiting users to understand them as people. They are complex and they evolve too, just like our products. It’s our job to remain curious, empathetic researchers.


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Your local library.. the original co-working spot

defending diversity, heatherlee nguyen

Co-working spots are cropping up in all major metros. And who wouldn’t be lured by all the free coffee, networking and sexy surroundings? With remote work and startup culture in full swing, we all saw this coming.

In the Twin Cities where I am it seems like a new spot opens every few months. Very cool ones too, I dig the digs. Some spots come with the message of inclusion and female empowerment, some serving the savvy startups, some kind of exclusive and all come with a significant price tag.

One day driving I needed to duck into a room for a call and found I’d have to pay $50 for the day at one of the popular ones. Sure, everyone here can probably afford that. But what about the rest of the community? Are we actually closing ourselves off from people right in our neighborhood by creating these exclusive clubs?

I walked right into my local library and got to use a room for free as long as I needed. (Library staff are some of the best! 🙌🏽) There was no free coffee.. I wasn’t surrounded by women like me or people in tech.. but I saw cool art, people getting tax help, students, families, and I realized how important it is to support our libraries too. Not only a 𝙁𝙍𝙀𝙀 resource 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙡𝙡.. but they do 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 for our communities you might not even know about.

I love the swanky new coworking spaces as much as the next gal.. but is this actually filling a gap? Or could it be widening the gap between people like you and people not like you..


How might we show up for our libraries?





TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Designing a learning experience

design thinking, workshops

Design workshops / / through the years. .

Since 2013 I have been leading workshops as a way to design with my cross-functional team mates, to include users in the design process and to cultivate a culture of radical collaboration and rapid prototyping.

Here are some snapshots of those experiences over the years.



What’s the most memorable workshop you’ve ever experienced? How could it have been different? What will you take from it?






How might you turn a regular sitting meeting into an active, working session people are inspired by?










How might you design a group workshop that engages everyone in the room? How will you motivate people to participate?






How might your team facilitate discussions that turn into immediate action?










How will you make your next workshop count? 🙂







TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Living & working the gaps. .

defending diversity
Blog_FirstimeonPlane-02

5 years ago I was 5 months pregnant and about to step on an airplane for the very first time. It was for work. I was stoked to be visiting NYC, but not so stoked to ask my (frequent-traveler) manager for tips.

I swallowed my pride as I pushed away triggering memories. Like that one time my manager made me feel like crap for not having a smart phone (because everyone and their mom had a smartphone before me…) Just like that time I cut class because I was about to be picked to go to Poland, and there was no way I could leave my job and my rent behind…

Everyone in my professional circle had been on a plane before, duh. Everyone at MCAD, double duh! I learned to not embarrass myself by exposing my truth but I never straight up lied either. I mean, most people I met go abroad on the reg, no way I would reveal I took my first vacation at 30.


Shame..

Vulnerability..

It’s a thing.

I swallowed it, surrounded by the privilege of the industry and my cities elites, as I tried to survive student loans and leveling up. I felt left out, less than and embarrassed all through college because of this. Why did I think this would change when I got into my career?

 

We are still seeing and living the privilege gap more and more and more each year…. 😥

10919771_10203835098299461_7853115150660132635_o
Outside my hotel window they were building the Westfield World Trade Center – “The shops at the Oculus” while 70,000 New Yorkers slept on the streets…


We think we’re good, but we need to do better Twin Cities. Stop hiring your best friends. Start recruiting in the inner cities. Recognize how you speak and live and work widens the gap between people like you, and people not like you- and why this is systemically problematic.


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I was 26 and finally went on an airplane! You won’t believe the story of me getting this picture….


I have it good. I am so thankful for these awkward experiences. This silly travel story.. absolutely nothing compared to the absolutely crushing realities our neighbors live with daily.   We can do better.

 

How do we start to hack this gap?






TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.