Anthony had every intention to work as a professional anthropologist. But after finishing his PhD and teaching for a few years, that desire changed.
His decision to leave higher ed led to a different higher calling: joining the priesthood of the Coptic Church.
Once again, Anthony thought he’d found meaningful work he couldn’t imagine leaving. But three years after his ordination, serving in the Coptic Church turned out not to be a long-term calling.
After two previous career “certainties,” Anthony doesn’t approach UX research the way he did academia or the priesthood. Now, work is work.
UX doesn’t have to bring meaning and fulfillment into his life. He’s, quite happily, found other ways to achieve that.
Thread of Blood: Colonialism, Revolution, and Gender on Mexico's Northern Frontier by Ana María Alonso
Check out more from The Work Seminar
Visit theworkseminar.com or find @TheWorkSeminar on social media.
Sign up for The Work Seminar newsletter to receive updates straight to your inbox.
Support the show
Hey everyone. Thanks for joining me for another episode. I'm your host, Jesse Butts. Today, I'm chatting with Anthony Shenoda, a PhD in social anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard turned user experience researcher. Anthony is now a senior UX researcher at HubSpot, a customer relationship management, often called CRM, software company with over 135,000 customers. Anthony, welcome to the show. Delighted to have you on.Anthony Shenoda:
Thank you. It's a joy to be with you.Jesse Butts:
Excellent. Glad to have you here. Before we talk a bit about your journey from academic work to user experience, UX research. Can you tell us a little bit about your work? What exactly is user experience?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. So user experience research is basically a practice of understanding how people use certain products, what their pain points might be in their use of particular products, what they need to get certain tasks done, and so on. We want to understand what our, how our customers are using our product and the various aspects of it. You know, what's working well for them, what isn't working well, what new features they might need in order to do their work more efficiently and so on. But you can extend this to practically anything. I mean, think of a rain jacket, right? I mean, if you produce a rain jacket and it doesn't keep people dry, then it's not doing the basic job that it's intended to do. If you make a rain jacket for people that want to use it when backpacking, but the zippers are where the hip belt goes, that is, the pockets, I mean. Then they can't put their hands in their pockets if they want to all they have their backpack on. So that needs to be designed in a way where the pockets are further up on the jacket. So every product that we use needs some user experience research to, to be quite frank.Jesse Butts:
So what does that type of research look like? Are you conducting surveys? Are you chatting directly with customers? How are you actually conducting that research?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. That's a great question. The basic answer to it is all of the above. So it's a combination of what we refer to in the field as unmoderated studies. So where we're not speaking directly to people. So it could be in the form of a survey or any of a number of other methodologies and moderated studies where we are talking to people. And I think that the choice of what method to use really depends on what questions we're asking. But at the end of the day, I think good user experience research requires a number of methodologies to get both that deep qualitative sense of what's happening. And then maybe to scale that by doing more quantitative kinds of studies, like surveys and such to get bigger numbers, basically.Jesse Butts:
And earlier you used this term CRM, can you just give us a quick definition or overview of CRM and, you know, what customers are using software like HubSpot for?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. I'm going to try, I'll try to do that. Um, you know, let's say that you sell software, you have a little company that produces some certain kinds of software. Now part of that process is you might have a sales team that calls people up and says, Hey, you might be interested in using this software. We think it will help your company. The thing about that is you need to track that, right? Who are you talking to? Who's doing the talking? When is that happening? And let's say, somebody says, You know what, can you give me a week? I need to talk to my manager about this and we want to have a meeting about it. It sounds interesting, but not sure we're ready to commit yet. Well, you want a way to track that too, right? Reach out to so-and-so in two weeks. Now if you try to do that kind of thing in an Excel worksheet or something, there's a point at which it's, it's incredibly burdensome and very difficult to keep track of. So what a CRM does is allows you to keep track of these contact records, like who you've reached out to, the companies they're associated with, where they are in a kind of pipeline in terms of say making the sale of your software in the example that I'm offering, right? You've got people at different stages in that pipeline, so to speak. And you want to know when you've closed the deal ,when they've actually made a purchase, or when they've decided they don't want to go with your product, right? So CRM software helps people keep track of that kind of thing. The other components to the HubSpot software in particular is that there's an entire marketing component to it. So sending out emails and other ways of, of advertising and marketing your product. Um, there's a service component. So if people have certain issues with your product and they don't, they need help troubleshooting, or they don't know how to fix something. And so on, then they can put in a kind of service request that a service team would keep track of in, in the software as well. , and so on. There's a lot, there's a lot more to it, but just on a pretty basic level, these are some of the things that a CRM software helps companies do is to just keep things in one place, keep track of what's going on in a relatively easy and efficient manner.Jesse Butts:
Okay. Thank you. So going back a little bit further, you know, before you started UX, uh, and I know that that you have a PhD. But I know that you also have a master's, which you obtained first. So what prompted you to enroll in grad school? Why did you decide to earn a master's in Latin American studies?Anthony Shenoda:
As an undergraduate student, I studied geography. And then in my final year, I took a course offered through the department of philosophy. This was at Oregon State University, taught by a professor named Manuel Pacheco. And I mentioned him by name because he passed away many, many years ago, and I actually dedicated my master's thesis to him. And the reason for that is because Manuel was teaching a course on what is often referred to as the Neozapatista movement. So this was an uprising largely of indigenous people in Mexico in, 1992, specifically, is when it began, although they had been preparing for at least a decade prior to that for the uprising. And I took great interest in this. I found the literature around that movement and the literature being produced by people who are part of that movement to just be really captivating and interesting. And I had already developed an interest in Latin America in general, but Mexico specifically. And so it was what I, what was in front of me in a sense. And it's what felt right to me and good to me. And so I went on to pursue a degree in Latin American studies. Because Latin American studies is an interdisciplinary program, at the University of Arizona, where I went to do that work, they required that each student in the department have a primary disciplinary area of focus and a secondary discipline. At the beginning, I wasn't sure what that would be. I chose geography cause that's what I had been doing and so on. But as I began to read and to learn more, I ended up reading a book by an anthropologist named Ana Maria Alonso, who is teaching at the University of Arizona. And it was a historical anthropology of the Mexican revolution, 1910 to 1920, of a Northern Mexican town. And I absolutely fell in love with that work. I went to meet her, chatted with her, started taking courses with her, and it was at that point that I knew that anthropology was what I wanted to do. And then my secondary area was history because it just became very clear to me that anthropology and history really go very well together. And it's important to have a sense of, of a history of anything, if you want to understand it well and do it well. So, in the course of doing my Latin American studies research and writing the thesis, which was about the Neozapatista movement, hence, my dedication of the thesis toManuel Pacheco. I also realized that my interest in Egypt and in the Middle East, and I'm of Egyptian origin, so that, that's where that interest came from, hadn't been very well represented in some of the anthropological literature. And what I mean here, specifically, is Coptic Christians, that's the community out of which I come. There's a very long tradition of, an anthropology of the Middle East, but, very little of that had focused on Christian communities in the region. And so it was at that point that I decided when I finished the master's degree, I am going to move on to do a PhD in anthropology. And I'm going to focus on Coptic Christians, which are, um, sort of the native Christian community, if you will, of Egypt.Jesse Butts:
What did you enter a PhD program hoping to achieve with that doctoral degree?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah, I think very simply my intention and desire was that I would become a professional anthropologist, meaning I would teach at university, that I would do research at least initially on Coptic Christians, maybe over time that would change to other places, other people, et cetera. But that was the initial desire. And I should say at that stage in my life, I had no idea what UX research was. I had never heard of it. And I also had no intention of not being an academic. Like there was never a sense that I would leave academia. It just, the thought didn't even cross my mind, frankly. And if it did, it was in very negative terms, right. I probably felt like leaving academia to go into some industry work would, would be a sellout move, frankly. Yeah, I'm being honest. Like that's, that's how I thought about these things.Jesse Butts:
So what did you end up doing after you finished your PhD?Anthony Shenoda:
I went on to teach. I went to Scripps College, which is part of the Claremont College Consortium. Scripps is the women's college in that consortium. So I taught there for a couple of years, taught anthropology courses, and advised a number of students there on their capstone projects, because the students at Scripps had to write a kind of senior thesis in order to graduate. And then I took a position at Leiden University College in the Netherlands. So that was a sort of liberal arts arm of Leiden university. And in that part of Europe liberal, or the liberal arts college concept is not very big. So this was kind of new there. And it was meant to be international. So we had a number of students from around the globe. So at Leiden University College, I taught anthropology and I would say religious studies courses as well. , I did that for, um, just under a year before leaving academia.Jesse Butts:
So thinking about the timeline and actually the geography, I mean, so you, you went from Oregon for undergrad, to Arizona for your master's, to Boston for your PhD, to Southern California to teach for three years... to the Netherlands for.. Did you say a year or two?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. Just under a year.Jesse Butts:
Okay, so, , and that's where you seriously considered leaving academia? What, what prompted that? What, what were you thinking at that time?Anthony Shenoda:
It's a complex story, and I don't know that I even fully understand it, right. And this is where, like the reality of human life and circumstances and all the things come together. At the time this was 2012, the summer of 2012, when I started. My father had been diagnosed about two years earlier with pancreatic cancer, which as I'm sure you know, is, is not, not easy on a person, right. It gets pretty bad, pretty quickly for most people. So it had already been two years. He wasn't doing well, but he wasn't in horrible shape either. I left to move halfway across the country or the world rather. And shortly after moving got a phone call from my mother, that it would be a good idea to, to return home for a, a spell because my father wasn't doing well. And indeed it was good that I did that because about a month later, he did pass away. Um, so that was happening. I was living in a different country. I had small children. I was starting a new job, like lots of things going on at once, right. That, that in any sort of, for lack of a better term, normal circumstance is already difficult. But you know, with my father passing away, my mother now being alone in a sense, you know, these were complicated things to try to navigate. And on top of it, I think just overall pressures of academia made it difficult for me to, to strike a balance between being the kind of son, the kind of husband, the kind of father that I wanted to be, and also to be the kind of academic that I wanted to be. I didn't know where that balance was. I didn't know how to draw lines, if they needed it to be drawn. I'm not the kind of person that's good at compartmentalizing different aspects of, of my life. I would go so far as to argue that that's probably, it's not healthy to do that, but some people are good at doing that and they want to do it and there, they can pull it off. I'm not one of those people. So I think all of that came to a head in that moment and it became clear that I just couldn't sustain being in academia, being an academic and living the kind of life that I wanted to or aspired to, to live, again as the kind of son, husband, father that I wanted to be. So that's really what led to the decision to leave.Jesse Butts:
And when you made that decision, did you stop teaching? What did you end up doing once you had come to terms with ending your academic career?Anthony Shenoda:
I'm just trying to remember how it all worked out. I think the decision was made and I knew that it had to be done. I needed to finish.. I can't remember if it was a quarter system or exactly how it was organized. Forgive me that I don't have a clear...Jesse Butts:
You had a lot going on then...Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah, I mean, it was almost, it was a quarter system in a literal sense. Quarter system in the U S is like a trimester or whatever, right? It's like, it's not actually quarters I think, they're usually like three, whatever it is at any rate. I had to finish the quarter that we were in and already, I was responsible for certain courses for the following quarter. So I had to figure out who could fill in for me and take care of that. You know, I didn't want to leave just sort of abruptly and say, Too bad, suckers, do what, whatever you, you need to do. I, I, don't, I don't like to work like that. I think at that point, my wife and I had wanted to serve the Coptic church in some capacity. And so it was really a matter of talking to a few people that I knew to see if that might be possible. And it seemed like it was. And so I put in my letter of resignation, made sure everything was in order on the Netherlands side of things. And then we moved back to California, honestly, without a very clear sense of what would happen next. Except that probably we could serve the Coptic church in some way. And indeed, that is what happened. That I ended up being ordained to the priesthood in the Coptic church and did that for three years. So yeah, that's sort of phase two of all of this.Jesse Butts:
Were you leading a congregation? Or were you operating in some other capacity after you had obtained that priesthood?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. So once I was ordained to the priesthood for one year, I was serving at a church in Orange County, California with another priest. You know, it was sort of like having a mentor who had been doing this for a long time and could sort of teach me and help me and so on. And then I was asked by, the Bishop there to help establish and start a small parish in San Diego, California. So we moved to San Diego and, I was working with a group of people there to find a place where we could gather, and you know, getting to know the community and so on. And then I, I served in that capacity for two years where I was effectively leading if that's the right word that, that parish.Jesse Butts:
And I don't ask this at all , to be reductive, but the, the structure of the Coptic church, is it similar to what we might think of as either east, sorry, Eastern Orthodoxy? Is it similar to that?Anthony Shenoda:
Yes, absolutely. In fact, they share the same history and roots. It's just in the fifth century, there was a division between what eventually would be referred to rather strangely as the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Coptic church falling under that rubric of Oriental. Other churches in that... that are part of that family, if you will, are the Ethiopian church, the Syriac church, which is largely in India, but also partly in Syria itself. The Armenian church and so on. Whereas Eastern Orthodoxy would be the Greek, Russian, Bulagarian, Romanian, et cetera.Jesse Butts:
Okay. So , so you're in San Diego in this new parish... is this feeling like , a stepping stone or maybe kind of a interregnum in between things? Or what happens where after two years you decide to try something new or something outside of the...vocation?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. Again, I mean, similar to my approach to academia, I went into this full force, so to speak. Like this is it, this is what I'm doing. It's the right thing. And this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life. Like there was no, there wasn't any part of me that was experimenting or trying something out. And I should say that ,with priesthood, especially in these sort of Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox traditions, it's not, it's not typically a thing that you just try out. Like you are committing your life to it. So for somebody to then say, I'm leaving... and to be doing that in a context where there were no problems, right. There weren't any scandals or political problems or anything that, that would push or drive me out. It's not at all common, I should say. And it's certainly not something that is looked upon very favorably. It's a very strange thing to do, I would say from these communities' perspectives. So again, I had no ...how should I say there was no sort of, foreknowledge or inkling that this might happen. Like it was not something that would have ever crossed my mind that I was going to leave or that I had the option of leaving priesthood, really. But what happened, because I'm sure you and, you and our listeners are curious about this...I, I got to a point where I felt that I wanted to be part of the Eastern Orthodox church. And since these churches are not in communion, it ultimately meant, at least in my circumstances, that my priesthood wouldn't be recognized. And I wouldn't necessarily like seamlessly move from the one to the other and just be ordained a priest in the other tradition. So it was upon making that move that sort of the third phase of this life journey happened, which was, What do I do now? What sort of work will I be doing now? Because suddenly I'm unemployed and I need to find a job.Jesse Butts:
So when you're at this point... When you're able to kind of start thinking about what's next... are you a blank slate? Do you have some inclinations? What, what happens then?Anthony Shenoda:
I think a pretty blank slate without very many ideas of what I could do beyond teaching. I was reluctant to try to get back into academia. Although I did apply to a few like community college, teaching gigs, for example. At one point I got desperate enough to apply, to teach at a high school level, not to diss high school teachers, but it just like, I don't mean that at all. And I hope it didn't come across that way. I, what I mean, is it, it just, I knew myself. Teaching at that level would be a big, big challenge for me. I'm just not good at it. I love teaching. I think I'm pretty good at it, but only with sort of adults who want to be in a classroom and want to be learning. And that's not always the case in high school, right. High school is its own thing. And it, it can be complicated. So I really didn't know what to do, frankly. I was at a total loss. And part of that is because part of graduate training, especially at a university like Harvard and at the level of attaining a PhD, nobody talks about other possibilities, other work, in, in at least in the social sciences and humanities, obviously. And some of the so-called hard sciences, industry work is always an option. Not so in the social sciences and humanities. So I really had no idea what was out there, what was possible, until to make a very long story short, I met somebody who happened to be doing customer experience research, and she planted that seed for me. In our conversation, she mentioned that with a background in anthropology, I might be pretty good at CX, customer experience, or user experience, UX, research. And it was probably a full year before I returned to that, like returned to that seed and actually started to water it a bit so that to see if something would grow out of it.Jesse Butts:
Was this a total happenstance meeting? Were you actively networking? How did this come about?Anthony Shenoda:
It was a serendipitous, as serendipitous things get. I, so... in the process of trying to figure out what the next move would be, I took a part-time job working at an REI store. This was in the Seattle area. Yes, now we're in Seattle. Don't don't ask how or why, but... yeah, it's, it's a wild story. So I took a part-time job working at REI. I'm a huge outdoors person, love backpacking and hiking and so on. Hence my rain jacket backpacking example earlier on right now, now we're making like, the circle is beginning to close. So I was working part time, you know, running the cash register, that kind of thing in an REI store and the person I mentioned earlier, who is working in customer experience research, worked at, REI headquarters doing that work. You know, so that, that, that team's concern was, you know, what is the customer experience like in the stores and how can we make that experience better for people. And so she happened to come into the store where I was working one morning and set up a little table with an iPad that presumably had a survey on it or something. And, you know, some coffee and donuts and so on. So she was stopping people on their way out of the store. And if they were willing to do the survey and have some coffee and donuts, they were welcome to do that. And so, of course, curiosity got the best of me. And so when I had a break, I went up to her and asked her what she was doing and she explained it to me. And that's how that conversation happened. She ended up connecting me with her manager, and we hit it off because he had a degree in near Eastern languages and civilizations and spoke Arabic and so on. But here he was managing this customer experience research team. And basically what happened is we eventually, we, we moved back to California at one point. And I continued to work at REI, I just transferred to a different store. And I continued to be in touch with this manager. And to this day, we're still in touch. This was probably three years ago now. And at one point, he asked me if I would help them with some of the work they were doing. Cause a lot of their work was Seattle-based, but he wanted to extend beyond Seattle. He knew I was in California. This point, he knew me. He knew what skill set I had as an anthropologist. So he asked if I could help with some of the work. I agreed. And I was beginning to explore UX work more seriously at this stage and starting to, to network and meet people and build relationships with folks. So, you know, that was a nice little break for me because it gave me hands-on experience with this work. And eventually I would meet more people and learn more and find my way into UX, which is what I'm doing now.Jesse Butts:
Did you take a full-time UX role at REI, or did these opportunities somehow parlay into a role with another organization?Anthony Shenoda:
More the latter. So there wasn't a full-time position available for me at REI. But maybe six months or so of experience combined with me now, knowing how, or at least getting better at referencing my experience as an anthropologist in UX terms, those two things came together such, and having connections, you know, people that I had met along the way who were mentoring and helping me out, helped me get my foot in the door into a UX research agency. So not in-house work, but agency work, meaning that as an agency, you have a number of clients who come to you for research services, and you provide those services, whereas in-house work, which is what I'm doing now, is more internal, so to speak. HubSpot I'm recruiting customers and so on to speak with and to do research for the teams that I'm working with. And there, there isn't sort of a client kind of relationship there. If that makes sense.Jesse Butts:
You mentioned that you were learning to frame your anthropological anthropology, anthropological, I'm not sure which would be correct there. That experience into UX language and for a UX community. Were you also spending any time picking up new skills, reading up on this discipline? How, how much, if at all, did you have to learn before you landed that first full-time role in UX?Anthony Shenoda:
I would say I had to learn a lot. I don't know. I don't know what a lot means, right? In the sense that I can't really quantify that for anybody, but I, I mean, this was all new to me, so I had to learn what the methodologies are, what they're called. I had to learn what UX researchers actually did. You know, I knew how to research and I knew how to do research with people as an anthropologist, but that style of research and the outcomes of that research were very different than what a company looking to sell a product is doing, right. Or to make a product better or whatever. Like it's just, it's a, it's a completely different way of, how should I put it, using research, so to speak. So there was a lot of learning that I had to do, and that happened through reading, through talking to people. And of course, I mean, I knew how to learn because I spent most of my adult life doing that. So it wasn't, I don't think it was hard to do, but I, I, I, but I'm still learning certainly. I mean, I'm not... there's never a point when that somehow stops. But yeah, there was a lot of that happening. I had to, like I said, I had to be reading a lot, communicating with people a lot, really trying to understand the language of this world that I was trying to acclimate to, which was a very different language than the language that anthropologists and other academics speak.Jesse Butts:
What are you enjoying most about UX research as an occupation?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. I love that question. I think I certainly enjoy the research part of it, but to be honest, like the parts of that that I enjoy the most are just talking to people. Interviewing our customers and learning about what they're up to and understanding what is meaningful and important to them when using the HubSpot CRM. I love the collaborative component of the work. That's not a thing in anthropology, like it's not typical to work with other people. You know, you share your work with other people. So there is, there is a certain element of collaboration in that regard, but you don't make decisions about what to do necessarily with other people. You don't have other people pushing back in the same way saying, We're not going to do this. Right. We need to do this other thing. And so, there's a lot less of that kind of thing happening. And, and at least the academic spaces that I'm familiar with. But , in a company like HubSpot or practically any industry, you're, you're working with a lot of different people who have different roles and different ideas, and really trying to sync with them in a way that allows you to do the work that you need to do for the company, but in, in a way that matches up with what all of these other collaborators need to be doing.Jesse Butts:
I'm trying to think of how to best phrase this. You had two, two paths, academia and the pastoral route in both, you, you thought those would be... it in a sense. After going through two experiences where, you know, that certainty was shaken, what did you have to learn about yourself to, to find work that would fit you?Anthony Shenoda:
Again, I think this is a wonderful question. I don't know if I fully know the answer to that. This is not some weird way of me trying to get out of answering the question. I, I genuinely am not sure that I fully know. I guess what I will say to that is I don't think of UX work in the way that I thought of my academic career or priesthood that, this is it. And yet I don't think I'm going to leave, but I just don't think about it that way. And I think that I now approach work as work. I don't expect the work that I do to bring meaning into my life or to be fulfilling in any profound or substantive way. I have other ways that I achieve that. But it also makes working easier because I'm not expecting certain things from it.Jesse Butts:
I'm curious about that transition from work being a central component of a fulfilling life to work, being work and, and doing other things to find joy, fulfillment, whatever you want to call it. Did that take some initiative? Did, did you have to actively find things to kind of round out life when work didn't play that, you know, seemingly enormous role it did in academia and in the priesthood?Anthony Shenoda:
Personally, no, I didn't have to seek something out. I think I already had it. I mean, obviously I'm a religious person. I have been for a good part of my life. Not always. But since I was probably 20 years old, so for a long time. And I would say that's where I find my fulfillment, and where I find meaning and in my relationships with family and friends and so on. So I think what it took was more just how do I put this sort of a maturity and a growing up and a recognition that the idea that work has to be meaningful and fulfilling is, I think a little bit deceptive, frankly. I mean, it's, it's embedded in, in the way American culture, at least today, operates. So it's not, how do I say, I don't think that that idea is, is like an honest or innocent one is what I'm trying to say. This idea that work should be fulfilling and meaningful and so on. I, and I think it just took me a long time to almost organically fall into a view of work as not being that not being this thing that has to bring meaning into your life. I mean, if you find that great, right. But I think that the deception is in thinking that that is what work should be. And then people find themselves terribly unfulfilled for so much of their lives or maybe all of their lives, precisely because they're looking to their employment as a thing that should provide a certain level of meaning in their lives. And it's never doing that. Once you get rid of that expectation, then your perception changes and frankly, work gets easier. At least that's my view. It's my experience. I'm sure there are lots and lots of people that would find this, like just an awful approach. But yeah, I'm just being honest about where, where I sit with all of this.Jesse Butts:
Yeah. But, but I am wondering, you know, obviously, you don't seek that fulfillment in work, but, what do you personally need for work to be enjoyable?Anthony Shenoda:
Yeah. I mean, I think what makes it fulfilling, if that's the right word to use, is the relationships that I build with people. Like, I really love my colleagues, and I enjoy working with them. And that makes like the, the moments where the work itself is difficult, challenging, frustrating... It makes that easier for me because I have all these other people that are, that are there, that I can talk to, that I can... that I'm working with. And I enjoy that very much. So it's, it's largely about what maybe, what many people today would call company culture or something like that. And HubSpot happens to have pretty good, maybe even great, company culture, at least relatively speaking. So that I find makes the work enjoyable. I will tell you this, like, Never is there a day for me when I do not want to work. Like where I think I don't want to go to the desk and I don't want to do this. Like that, I had that feeling sometimes in academia, but I've, I haven't had it doing UX work or at least not at HubSpot.Jesse Butts:
Say there's a listener out there who's, who's in grad school or out of grad school, maybe a few years, or maybe longer. And they're at that inflection or pivot point considering work outside their field of study. What question or questions should that person be asking themselves?Anthony Shenoda:
I think they should be asking themselves what they want to do. What ... even before that, I think one has to be very introspective here. And maybe I'll share this to try to materialize what I'm saying here. There were many moments in graduate school, as much as I loved it. And I did love it. There were many moments when I would wake up in the morning with a sense of angst, some kind of almost paralyzing anxiety. And I think I ignored that for a long time. I didn't know what it was because I didn't bother really exploring it. But it was there. It was there. It was a real physical and emotional experience that I was having. And I was just suppressing it. And I think, Why was I suppressing it? Because underlying it was some deeper sense that maybe this isn't what I should be doing, right. Not that I had another idea or what I... of what I should be doing, but I think that sense that, Is this really what I should be doing? Am I really, even that good at this? And so on. I think those questions were, were, were very much sort of bubbling beneath the surface there. And I never gave them a chance to kind of come above the surface and to really take hold of them and think them through and try to understand what was happening. So I would say that folks should, should not do that. Like don't let that stuff sort of... don't keep suppressing that stuff and ignoring it. I think that's, that's... not only is it unhealthy, but it's potentially dangerous, I think. So I think there's that. In terms of questions, like if one already reaches that point of, you know, I'm not sure that this is what I should be doing, despite the fact that I've committed so much time to this, so much energy to it, perhaps so much money to it. I think the next question is, Well, what should I do? What do I want to be doing? I think that's important to try to understand, like, what is it that you want to be doing and how do you get there? And maybe you don't have answers to those questions, but then you start talking to other people because other people will have answers to those questions. And I think that, in a sense, the story I told of the woman I met, who is doing customer experience research at REI, she had the answer to the question, right. I maybe didn't even have the question fully. And she didn't know she was answering the question, but that's what happened in, in our encounter.Jesse Butts:
If somebody is curious about UX, is there any reading or, you know, videos, podcasts you might recommend to them?Anthony Shenoda:
I mean, there's a ton of stuff out there these days, and I don't have any specific recommendations necessarily. And it's partly because I don't keep track of these things very well to be quite frank. But, you know, there are a bunch of articles, of bunch of people on LinkedIn, a bunch of YouTube videos. I think, the question is just vetting that knowing like who to trust and who you should be a little bit leery of and everything in between. I, I don't know that I've thought enough about this to be able to say, Look out for this or that sort of thing. I do know that boot camps are fairly popular these days, so lots of people are, are attracted to that. Many of these so-called bootcamps promise jobs after you've finished and fulfilled all sorts of things for them. They guarantee job placement or your money back sort of thing. I think at this stage there's probably enough experience and information out there to suggest that one should be leery of that. So I think I know that much. Not that it's always a bad idea. I don't think that it is, but I think, I think one just has to ask oneself, Like, what do I need to learn? How disciplined am I to do this? Because you could do it on your own. And, how am I going to learn what I need to learn? T o be fully transparent, I actually started a bootcamp of sorts at one point, partly because I knew that I wouldn't be disciplined enough to just sit down every day and read all the things and learn all the things that I probably needed to read and learn. But there was a moment at which I think I knew myself well enough to say, All right, I've learned as much as I can from this. I'm applying for jobs. I'm ready. Like, I just felt that, um, and it worked out and I was able to get at least a partial refund on, on this thing. So, I will say like, sort of one last note about this, because I think this is a huge struggle for many people coming into UX is that, it's not just a matter of having the skill. I think many, many, many people have the research skills. They know how to do research. They know how to work with other people well, and so on. But it's actually having a grounded experience doing the work. Most companies will expect at least a little bit of that. And that's, I think the biggest hurdle, for, for most people who are new to the field is getting some semblance of experience that they can bring to the table. The skills, if they're there, great. But people are gonna want to know, Can you apply these skills in this environment? Show us that you can do it. And I don't think very many hiring managers and committees that do hiring will accept a more theoretical answer of, I can do it and I know that I can do it kind of thing.Jesse Butts:
Well, Anthony, thank you again. It was really a pleasure.Anthony Shenoda:
Likewise. Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time.