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Meet the UXPA mentors – meet Jess Lewes

This month we talked to Jess Lewes.
If you are interested in being mentored by Jess, or if you just want to learn more about our mentoring programme, please email Misha or Tom at mentoring@uxpa-uk.org.

Who is Jess Lewes?
An expert in sourcing and recruiting participants for user experience research, usability testing and any other kind of research connected to this. Experience of over 1,000 projects, across consumer and business focussed research.

How did you start your career in UX?
I worked in traditional recruitment, sourcing people for administration jobs although the role never really suited me as I didn’t like the cold sales aspect of the job, I love having an excuse to be nosy. Being able to chat to people all day was my favourite part of the job, and one of the reasons I joined People for Research.  At the time they were looking for a Project Manager, someone to manage recruitment projects and actively source and screen people to take part in research.

What is a typical day for you?
In the last few years I have progressed with the company, and now I oversee all projects and current client requirements, as well as managing new enquiries.  Much of my day is taken up with internal communications, assessing if we have resource to take new projects, assessing if projects are going to be feasible.

Talking to existing clients about recruitment strategy for different projects is a key part of my role too, this could be anything from how to recruit from a customer list, to how to engage with a new user group.  We have experience of recruiting for very sensitive research subjects, such as bereavement support, as well as high level projects which require input from business leaders. Each user group requires a different approach and a different incentive to participate.

I am also responsible for developing the business, seeking out new clients who may need our support as well as looking at additional services we can offer to stay ahead of the UX sector as the requirements we are faced with continue to get more complex. So again… lots of talking, but also a lot of thinking.

What do you recommend to someone who wants to start a career in UX?
UX relies heavily on research. Often there is no distinct line between a digital product or service and the related off-line experience, and ‘digital’ is so integrated in people’s lives that as a UX designer or research you need to be aware of what people really need from your product or service. User recruitment is often overlooked in the process, but it can play a critical role to understanding the audience you are designing for.

I regularly speak with designers and even researchers who are new to participant recruitment, especially the way we approach it. Understanding the basics about how to plan for recruitment may help set you ahead of other people.  For example knowing how you  can reduce the risk of drop outs, or ensure that relevant people are going to turn up will all make the research, testing, and design process more efficient.  The answer isn’t always working with an external recruiter.

What is the best advice you have received in your career?
“Sell yourself, because no one will do that for you” – this was my geography teacher and form tutor when I was 16 talking about self-promotion and self-belief. You don’t get anywhere in life waiting for other people to open doors for you, and that is what has got me this far but also helped greatly in recruitment. It is surprising how helpful people can be if you just take 5 minutes to pick up the phone and ask for their help.

But it is also important to remember that most people are selfish, it is basic ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. So even though a participant may seem really keen to help, and interested in participating there is always a chance that something more beneficial may come up and they may pull out. So, another piece of advice would be always plan ahead and be prepared for the worst case scenario.

What is the future of UX for you?
I have seen People for Research grow by 600% in the time I have been with them and that is as a direct result of the growth of the UX sector. As more companies invest in UX and focus on anticipating their users’ needs, I want to continue to help people learn about planning and managing recruitment effectively to ensure quality research.

As digital interactions become more complex, and more people embrace connected devices, VR, and AI as a part of their daily lives, recruiters must become more deeply embedded with UX teams in order to recruit. As a mentor I am hoping to facilitate this process.

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