John Neumann is a UX Researcher with almost 20 years experience. He has researched and designed for projects such as interfaces for drone pilots, VR, AI, and cloud. We sat down recently to talk about the path to research and where he feels his career is going next. In our discussion, John shared his insights on finding a way to balance being the expert and staying humble.
How did you get started in UX and research?
I spent the first half of my career in management and sales in startups. After the dot-com bust and 9/11, funding got scarce. About this time I really had the thought of changing careers. I decided to enroll in grad school at the University of Central Florida. That’s where I would eventually complete my Ph.D. in modeling and simulation.
They hired some phenomenal people there. I had an opportunity to do research all across the world.
What were some of your earliest experiences with research?
For four years I worked as a civilian with the Army Research Institute on a fellowship with the Consortium of Universities. That was where I really learned about behavioral science. The track I was on with modeling and simulation was really human systems integration. This helped me learn an awful lot about how people see and perceive technology.
How did you end up in Austin, TX?
I left and went to work for Dell. That was what any good researcher did at the time. I helped research and build laptops, adapters, and LED arrays. It was kind of a hybrid role. They hired some phenomenal people there. I had an opportunity to do research all across the world. Literally every quarter I was in China, Germany, or London. This gave me the chance to see different cultures and how people responded to different situations. It was just fantastic.
(We) are used to being the smartest person in the room. What happens if you put (us) on teams?
What were some of the challenges working in tech at that time?
They decided to hire “a bunch of Ph.D.’s” who could do valid research. There were a lot of “A” personality, and we were used to being the smartest person in the room. What happens if you put us on the same team? Who would be able to lead them?
Nobody is right all of the time. We know better. Have a little bit of humility.
After about a year and a half, they started to scale back on just hiring Ph.D’s. They realized they could get good applied people with master’s degree or bachelors with experience.
What are your thoughts on staying humble?
Nobody is right all of the time. We know better. Have a little bit of humility. Like the Einstein quote where he says, “I have no particular skill, but I’m passionately curious,”
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