How my work as a standardized patient is good training for a career in user research

While I’m looking for my first job in UX design (ideally focusing on user research), I’m working part-time as a standardized patient at a local medical school. If you don’t know what that is, in short, we help medical students practice their people skills. We also check their clinical skills — for example, did they do the steps of an abdominal exam in the right order — but a large part of the job is giving feedback on their interpersonal communication.

If you want more detail, I wrote a magazine article about working as an SP in 2015, during my first stint at the job. Here it is: Playing hurt: Life as a standardized patient (Louisville Magazine).

I chose to return to it recently because I really enjoy working with the students, and I feel like I’m doing some good by helping train future doctors. I also think it’s a good opportunity to practice skills that I’ll need as a user researcher. Here are a few of them:

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I didn’t get that really awesome job I interviewed for. Here’s what I’m learning from the experience.

A week ago today, I got the email that I didn’t get selected for a job that I’d gotten really excited about. It was a user research job, and I’d had two interviews that I felt had gone well. I knew there was a possibility they’d pick another candidate, but still, the news hit me pretty hard.

I felt like I put everything I had into the interviews for this job. I’ve been on interviews where I was like, “I’m just going to go to this and see what happens,” but this wasn’t one of the. I had everything carefully prepared and I was able to skillfully make the case for why the company should pick me. It took a lot of time and energy to do that.

Right after my initial cry over not getting the job, I knew I could either use the experience as a jumping off point into the pit of despair, or a platform to grow from. Here are a few ways I’ve been making this into the latter:

Continue reading “I didn’t get that really awesome job I interviewed for. Here’s what I’m learning from the experience.”

OM Sanctuary project: Improving information architecture

In my last blog post, I talked about a project I’m working on to improve the website for the OM Sanctuary, a place that I love to stay when I’m in Asheville, NC.

I tested it with a couple people and they were confused by many of the options on the front page, just as I was when I first visited the website in 2017. One tester remarked that the flow of the site seemed “haphazard.” It was pretty obvious the problems they encountered stemmed from the information architecture.

What exactly is information architecture? Basically, it’s how content is organized and labeled. A small example of this would be deciding which options to put in a dropdown menu on a navigation bar. Keep reading to find out more about the process.

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New project: User research for the OM Sanctuary website

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for new projects!

My latest is streamlining the information architecture of the website for the OM Sanctuary, a retreat center in Asheville, North Carolina. This is one of my favorite places on earth. We’ve stayed there three times and plan to go back again. However, I definitely love it in spite of their website, not because of it.

Read on for more about my process of user testing to identify areas for improvement.

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5 things I’m trying to remember during my job search

Now that I’m finished with my Code Louisville classes, I’m starting to hit the job search a little more seriously. For the last few months, I’ve been applying here and there, but now I’m really polishing up my resume, practicing my interviewing skills, and doing the networking thing. And it’s hard. I don’t think anyone loves searching for a new job. (If you do, please, please, please tell me how you do it.)

It’s hard to put yourself  — in the form of your resume and cover letter — out there and be met only with silence, or auto-reply emails. Even when I do hear back, every part of the process is nerve-wracking. The phone interview, the in-person interview, the questioning, the waiting for some kind of closure.

The whole process can leave me feeling pretty bad about myself sometimes. With that said, here are a few things I’m trying to keep in mind:

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Wrapping up ButterBox, my JavaScript React project

The JavaScript React class I was taking through Code Louisville ended a few weeks ago, so I guess it’s about time to post a wrap-up. This class was a huge test of my development skills, and my ability to remain patient while learning something challenging. I had to constantly ask myself the question, “Am I uncomfortable because this is hard, or do I actually hate doing this type of work?” The answer was always the former, but it’s easy to tell myself I don’t like something, or I’m not good at something when my limits are being pushed.

Anyway, I ended up being quite proud of my final project, and of the crazy amount of work I put into it. Here’s a look back at the project’s evolution:

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Overcoming tech fears: Working with WordPress and its API

I have a long history with WordPress. Almost 10 years ago, I started a blog on the platform as part of a college class. (It’s long been deleted, btw.) Five years ago, I was part of a local blogger group and I heard about this thing called WordCamp. My first thought was, “Getting together with a bunch of WordPress bloggers to talk about blogging? That’s so cool! Where do I sign up?”

I found out where to sign up, and I signed up. But I must not have read many of the actual details of the event, because if I had, I would have known that there’s a whole other side to WordPress: the developer side. I walked into the event all excited, but within the first 10 minutes of the first presentation, I realized I didn’t understand a darn thing they were talking about. I walked out after maybe an hour. I felt defeated, embarrassed, intimidated, and I assumed that those people were just smarter than me.

At that point, I hadn’t heard one of my favorite Moth stories. I highly recommend you listen to it, but here’s the quote: “I don’t think that smart people are smarter than me, I think they read a book I didn’t read.”

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