What is your role at Daedalus?
As Human Factors and Research Manager, I manage all of our research engagements at Daedalus, from exploratory ethnography—interviewing and observing users at the start of a project—to conducting summative usability testing near the end of a project in support of regulatory certification from agencies like the FDA and the FRA. My expertise in human factors and human information processing also allows me to conduct heuristic evaluations of designs, to isolate most of the usability issues before involving the end users. And as the User Experience Lead, I am also often crafting information architecture and designing UIs for many of our projects.
What’s your day-to-day like at Daedalus?
I’m usually one of the first to arrive at the office in the morning, so I would normally open the office for the day, and while waiting for my coffee to brew, make sure all of the coffee supplies are restocked… you do not want under-caffeinated engineers and designers!
Then I’m usually at my desk for most of the day, either designing in Sketch and planning or analyzing research, unless I have field visits planned, in which case I might be in an underground coal mine, on a locomotive, in a surgical suite or dialysis unit, or—most recently—in a storage warehouse and an abandoned movie theater.
… and how has this changed with WFH (Working From Home)?
All of my field research has all been put on hold for the time being, which is disappointing, as it’s my favorite part of the job. We’ve conducted some virtual voice-of-the-customer research since the lock-down went into effect, which was valuable, but not quite the same. For UX research, nothing can replace being in the same room as your users—watching their expressions and body language; listening to them talk about their work; observing what they do. But when a pandemic strikes, you do what you can to keep moving ahead.
Other than that, my day-to-day hasn’t changed all that much. I miss the face-to-face interaction with my team. It’s harder to bounce design ideas off of each other remotely, but we are staying connected through video and text chats. And since working from home began, we haven’t encountered a truly sticky design problem that would have normally sent us to the white boards to sketch out and talk through ideas and concepts.
Where is your home office?
I didn’t have a home office already set up, so I am currently taking over the dining room. It’s nice because the largest window in the house is just to my right, so I can look out over the backyard, where the deer, squirrels, and birds compete at the bird feeder and my woodland hyacinths and lilacs are starting to bloom.
What is your favorite part about your WFH setup?
On nice days, I take a break in the early afternoon to join my teenage daughter for her Wellness Class “homework”, which is usually to get outside and walk for a couple of miles. So, we either walk around the neighborhood or head over to the local park, which is close by. We often see friends and neighbors, so we can check in and see how everyone is holding up (from 6 feet away, of course).
My cats are definitely enjoying having me home—that’s Shah joining an online meeting.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
One of them has been making sure that I have everything I need to keep moving forward, or finding a workaround when I don’t, like the virtual VOC research. But solid communication with clients and my team has kept me on a steady pace.
The other challenge has been forcing myself to stop constantly checking the news and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracker; not just so that I can focus on work, but also for my own mental wellbeing.
Any helpful WFH tips?
Communicate! Not just to keep projects moving forward, but to stay connected to friends and family and to help maintain some semblance of normalcy in these very unusual times. And when the weather is nice, get outside for all of the mental and physical benefits! Remember: you can still go for walks in the park or your neighborhood, just be sure to maintain a safe distance.