A career is a journey. It used to be that once a person graduated from college or trade school, they secured a job with one company and stayed there until retirement. In today’s world, that’s pretty rare.
Our fast-paced, ever-changing environment requires that you pivot with the advances in technology and trends. If one career path doesn’t work, you change course and try a different direction. And of course, life has a way of creating a few stumbling blocks, obstacles, and mazes to navigate while you’re trying to achieve your goals.
Allovus Senior UX Researcher Daniel Lee is the perfect example of someone who knows how to pivot and roll with the times.
When we first met Daniel, he was just getting his Bachelor’s degree in Community Psychology at the UW Bothell. He had applied for the UW’s Human Centered Design and Engineering graduate program for the fall of 2017.
But then, things didn’t turn out like he expected…
Daniel: When I first applied, I was rejected admission. The school administration never tells you ‘why’ you didn’t get accepted, so I waited another year. In 2018, I reapplied and got rejected again. I had glowing reviews from my manager and peers, so I was surprised that I didn’t get in. I asked the board for an appeal and a couple of months later, the decision was overturned. I was accepted into the program.
The first 3 quarters were extremely difficult. The HCDE program is in the evenings, starting at 6:00 p.m. and ends at about 10:00 p.m. I was doing two classes a quarter and working my tail off. I was exhausted and ready to finish!
Of course, life happened which caused me to dial it back to one class a quarter… I’d gotten engaged to my girlfriend and it was hard juggling our engagement and the wedding. So, I decided to take leave from the program (still active) until I was ready to go back. So chronologically speaking, in fall of 2018 I started the program. In spring of 2019, I took leave of absence and that’s where I am today. I plan on going back soon. I only need one more quarter/class to complete my HCI certificate OR if I decide to keep pursuing the Master’s, I need 3 more classes to graduate.
Allovus: Since we met you, how has your career path changed or grown?
Daniel: My career path has always stayed the same, but it certainly has grown. Expedia launched my research career full force. I had a strong leader and peers to lean on when I had questions about different types of methods, how to effectively sell research to my stakeholders, types of questions to ask, thinking strategically and critically. After spending most of my time at Expedia as a researcher, I was ready to take on another UX team. My next move was to ResMed in San Diego where I played two roles: Research advisor and Research lead.
Allovus: How did you know that UX research was what you wanted to do?
Daniel: I shadowed a couple of researchers at Microsoft when I was a senior lab tech and what they did really piqued my interest in UX research. I was going to become a nurse before this, but after seeing my dad go through cancer, I decided that being a nurse wasn’t an ideal path for me. I didn’t want to fall in love with a product that I was working on with a team; that creates bias. Plus, products change over time. I wanted to fall in love with studying human behavior and that’s what I did. No matter where I go or who I work for, I’m always going to bring user-centered focus research to the table.
Allovus: What part of your recent work has been the most fulfilling for you and why?
Daniel: The area I worked in at Google Health was complex. I specifically worked in mammography where our team was looking for ways to incorporate AI/ML Technology into current workflows of radiologists, technologists, admins, any other key players. I had a chance to talk to brilliant minds in mammography and it’s amazing what they are doing.
Allovus: Tell us about your latest opportunity with Allovus! (If your work is under NDA, you can just give us a general idea with no specifics.)
Daniel: Yeah! I will be working at Microsoft with the MS Digital Studio team and working in the Professional Services space as a senior user researcher. It’ll be more evaluative research than generative, but there’s always room to shift. I don’t have much info on this team and what they’re working on other than they’re building internal tools to help employees manage a complex set of selling experiences.
Allovus: If you could go back and visit yourself in 2017, what advice would you give yourself or what would you want your younger self to know?
Daniel: Good question. I would tell my 2017 self to be a little more patient on the dating scene and focus on completing your Master’s degree.
Allovus: What advice would you give people just now graduating in the same field?
Daniel: I often give advice to my alumni at UW Bothell through mentorship programs. I tell them to be passionate about what you want to do. You don’t necessarily need a degree in “Community Psychology” to do what I do. You can have a Bachelor’s in music and still become a researcher. It’s really about your aspirations and your passions. I also encourage them to shadow someone in the profession they are interested in to see if it’s of interest or not. Last piece of advice I give is to not give up on the job hunt. I’ve had a lot of rejections when applying and it’s a matter of sticking with it.
Allovus: One more question… are you still composing and recording your own music?
Daniel: I am! I have a few music projects in the wing. I’ve been working on a couple of single hits and working on a couple of EP projects with my good friend in Spokane, remotely.
Read our previous interview with Daniel here: Allovus hidden talents: Daniel Lee
“During a backpacking trip with my friends, I took this picture early in the morning, when everything was calm. Right after I took it, the winds blew and ruined the still reflection in the water. I couldn’t walk this life without looking at my reflection every time. I’m always self-checking and asking myself “who do I want to be, today?” Had I taken the picture a second after, you would see a completely different image. Ripples in the water, rustling of the leaves. But what does stay constant is the mountain. I have to be that mountain with all the changes that are happening around me.”