This week I interviewed Srikant “Cheenu” Chari on getting started in UX research. He and I met at Big Design Dallas where we connected on creativity and culture. For the full transcript of the interview, click here. For more videos and interviews, check out our YouTube channel.
How did you get started in UX Research?
So I have an interesting story. So you’re right. UX wasn’t on my radar when I first started. So when I was in undergrad, I studied at UT Dallas. Anoftudied cognitive science. And cognitive science is a very interdisciplinary field about understanding how the brain works.
My original plan was actually to go towards more of an academic route. I was working under a professor named Dr. Kosik, and his research specializes in the same areas I was interested in: working memory, decision-making, and reasoning. And the project I was part of was called The Fluid Intelligence Project. In a nutshell, (it) is basically about how people reason from the get-go without any prior knowledge. It was a great experience. I managed to get published on a research paper.
Just because (UX) is in demand doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be competitive
But near my senior year, I was kind of getting burned out, and I was trying to figure out what else I could do outside academia.
During a career fair, I handed out my resumes, and suddenly one of the recruiters actually saw my resume and said, “Oh, you’re cognitive science, you should look into user experience.” And I was thinking, “User experience?”
What did you do to find out more about UX?
But it wasn’t until I went to our UT Dallas’s UX club, which is basically a student version of the Dallas UXPA. I heard a talk from Brian Sullivan about breaking into UX. I was really curious about where to start because I didn’t know where to start. And at that event, I was that one person that asked a lot of questions.
How did you find internships?
The last month before my graduation, I basically went on an internship application spree. One of the companies called MEplusYOU up in Dallas, a digital marketing firm, had a UX architect internship. I applied, and then I forgot about them. Two weeks later I actually ended up getting a call and an email from one of the recruiters. She said, “Hey, the senior UX architect wants to speak to you about this opportunity!”
Why do you think they wanted to hire you?
He was really impressed with my work in the lab and as an organizer with TEDx UT Dallas.
What are your takeaways from this internship?
It was a great experience for four months. I got my hands dirty in building wireframes and sitemaps. From there I got more curious about the field, because I wanted to understand where the behavioral aspects meet the design aspects too.
What is a big recommendation for aspiring UX Researchers?
One thing I will say is that just because something is in demand doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be competitive. I mean, look at medicine. Everybody wants to be a doctor. Everybody says there’s a doctor shortage. Yet it’s really, really hard to get into.