My Unsustainable List of Research Ops Projects

I Only Have Myself to Blame!

Working as a research ops team-of-one is wild.

Nearly every day, someone in our company talks to me about a resource that might improve UX research. Most of these ideas are brilliant and seem urgent, but there’s no way to deliver them as a solo practitioner.

When people approach me with ideas, I tend to point out my current projects as blockers to that work. Here’s what I have on deck as Q3 2020 wraps up:

  1. UXR Rotational Program

  2. Research Air Traffic Control

  3. Continuous Interviews Program

(Keep reading to the end…this does not go well… 👀)

UXR Rotational Program

A few months ago, one of my teammates from recruiting expressed an interest in UX research and research ops. She started to spend some of her time on ops work, helping me improve Zapier research ride-along program (I’ll have to write a blog about ride-alongs — they’ve been a big success in our company).

During this time, her interest in user research increased. I wanted to find an option for her to get practical UX research experience while continuing her recruiting role. With lots of help and collaboration with her and our managers, I created a 3-month rotational program.

The program involves:

  • UX research training

  • Practical experience running two research projects

  • Mentorship from senior researchers on our team

It’s been a brilliant experience so far. I didn’t account for how much time it would take, but this program lays the foundation for more people to develop their research skills. It may also serve as the first step for a Path into UX program for people who want to transition into the field from other parts of the company.

Research Air Traffic Control

When I joined Zapier in early 2020, several PMs and Designers shared that they’d run no research projects in the previous six to twelve months.

My first projects helped to get these folks in front of our users more often.

The good news? It worked! 🎉

The bad news? It worked! 😅

In the past five months, our team has run 40+ research studies. One person who hadn’t run a single study last year has led three projects over the past four months.

With this acceleration in research, we’ve also observed some holes in our research process and rigour.

I’m now attempting to put together a system to monitor research work across the company. This will help us better handle research needs, know when to assist teammates with their research work, track research spending, and more.

Continuous Interview Program

At Zapier, we have both users and partners.

Our partners are the apps that integrate with our platform. In addition to a Partnerships team that builds and maintains relationships with partner companies, we have a Partner product team that creates partner-focused solutions.

This product team is looking to have more consistent interactions with Zapier’s 2000+ partners. I’m helping to set up a continuous interview program where product leaders can learn from partners.

Two critical pieces for the success of this program are:

  • Ensuring the team tracks all research interactions with partners

  • Automating much of the admin work so that the team can focus on learning

I’m in the middle of this work right now. As with nearly every other project, unforeseen problems have increased the scale of this work.

Do You See A Problem Here?

On top of these projects, I have other smaller responsibilities that take up a few hours each week.

This is unsustainable, and I only have myself to blame! 🙈

Despite promising myself that I’d only take on a couple of projects, I somehow ended up with three initiatives and a myriad of other tasks.

Last week, I had a great conversation with my manager and shared my plans to scale back on Q4 projects. I’m fortunate to have a fantastic manager who appreciates how long it takes to deliver good work.

I can take on one big project every quarter. That’s it.

I need to stick to my own rules.


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