A Day in the Solstie Life: Monica Moskiewicz, UX Research

When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them, “I talk to customers to create human-centered digital products, like websites and apps.” A lot of people interpret my work as market research or assume I’m the one designing the products. But my job is to engage with the end users of an experience to understand pain points and find opportunities we can leverage to improve their lives through technology.

Why Solstice? First, I love the people I work with. They are caring, funny, and crazy intelligent. Second, Solstice is special in the way user experience design and user experience research are separate practices. Designers and researchers have the opportunity to hone their skills rather than be pulled in many directions, and this specialization makes our UX practice stronger as a whole. 

Third, because of Solstice's flat structure, everyone can have an impact. Even as an intern, and now as an analyst, I've contributed to the strategy of my project and can inform others through research, which is pretty unique, especially given that I’ve worked here less than a year.

Without further ado, let me take you through a day in my life of a user researcher at Solstice.

 

5:30 AM: Wake Up 

I have my morning routine down — makeup, hair, outfit, brush teeth, breakfast, pack lunch, and I’m out the door, walking to the train. You can find me reading on the train (I’m currently enjoying Kafka on the Shore), listening to some jams (James Blake, SZA, YG), or listening to a podcast (My Favorite Murder)

IMG_57687:45 AM: Arrive at Solstice

I get off the elevator, say good morning to Ginny and Carly, members of our office management team, and head to my desk.

Our desks are organized in pods of six to eight agile development team members. I sit with Gil, Nevena, and Adam (UX designers), Scott (quality assurance), Michelle (digital strategist), and Ellie (program manager). We have one empty desk because Ian, my research counterpart, relocated to our New York City office. Miss ya, Ian!

I start my morning by grabbing Earl Grey tea and a glass of water from the cafe. I also catch up on Slack messages and write my to-do list for the day.

9:15 AM: UX Stand Up

We have team members in Michigan, Chicago, New York, and Buenos Aires. We always begin the meeting with someone sharing a favorite song. When it was my turn, I shared “See You Again” by Tyler the Creator and Kali Uchis.

Then we go around the room sharing what we worked on yesterday, what we’ll focus on today, and any blockers (or impediments). We use the rest of the 45-minute meeting to share work and bring up opportunities for improvement. 

10:30 AM: Analysis

Part of my role as a researcher is analyzing the data I collect through user interviews. My favorite way to do this is through affinity diagramming — writing each insight on a sticky note and then organizing the sticky notes to find trends within the data. Yes, this requires a ton of sticky notes. There’s a huge whiteboard wall right by my desk that I use to keep all the sticky notes in one place, move them around, and visualize trends.

Next week, after completing the analysis, I’ll give what we call a “readout” of my findings. It’s basically a presentation that I give to the product owner, product analyst, UX designer, and others about what we found through research. It’s an opportunity to provide insights and recommendations and also increase empathy for the end user.

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11:55 AMMeeting Prep

We spend some time looking around the office for an OWL, a video conferencing tool, so remote team members can see everyone in the room. Funny enough, these tools resemble owls and “coo” when they turn on. We currently have four and have named them Hedwig, Big Mama, Owl Contreras (after one of our product owners, or POs), and Owlton John.

Al, the PO, was more than happy to have an owl named after him.

12:00 PMRefinement Meeting

As a team, we discuss upcoming features on the road map and outline the goals and anti-goals. Ian and I join to provide the user’s perspective and chime in with relevant research. We’ll also decide if it’s necessary to validate the feature with users — that is, put the feature in front of users to get feedback and mitigate risk before sinking the cost of development.

1:00 PMLunch/Catch Up on Slack 

I eat a salad while catching up on Slack and reading through transcripts from user interviews. Our digital strategist, Michelle, jokingly updates the whiteboard by our desks with “Days since Monica is back to the cord: 4” so everyone is reminded I lost my Airpods somewhere in the office — it feels like forever ago. Since my team travels together for our project, we’re a tight-knit group, and teasing each other is a daily occurrence.

2:00 PM: KickoffIMG_5795

Yay, one of my favorite meetings. We’ve already outlined the goals and antigoals of a feature and now we’re ideating around what the feature could look like. The designer leads a Crazy Eights exercise, where we write down eight ideas in eight minutes. It’s a great way to get creativity flowing!

3:00 PMContinue Analysis

I go back to my whiteboard to continue analysis and find trends within the data. I begin to keep track of possible quotes I can add to my deck that exemplify the sentiments of users.

I listen to some music to help myself focus and try to avoid tripping people as I sit on the floor.

 4:00 PM: EX Circle

At Solstice, we have a number of networks — or what we call "circles" — that join together to make decisions about different initiatives. Over the past few months, I’ve been working with employee-experience (EX) team members and others in the company to talk about improving our job-leveling guide and mentorship process. These circles include one person from each practice in the company, so everyone is represented in important decisions. 

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5:00 PMLeave Work

I clear off my desk and say bye to my pod mates.

5:30 PM: Pilates Class

Reformer Pilates is the best way for me to decompress from the day and clear my mind. The classes I take play upbeat music, which makes the workout go by fast, but by the end of it I feel as if I’m dying.

7:30 PM: Arrive Home

I’m doing Whole30, so my dinner consists of some protein and cauliflower rice. Oddly enough, I’ve really gotten into the Great British Baking Show. I’ll typically watch an episode or two.

9:30 PM: Sleep

I need at least eight hours of sleep to be a fully functioning human. I’m an old lady at heart.

 

Want to work alongside Monica? Check out our careers page for more information and to apply.