It works best when things get a bit blurry (EP.11)

In this episode I am in conversation with Jo O’Keefe, Lead User Researcher with the Care Quality Commission in England.

We had the opportunity to catch up at the end of summer 2019 to talk about Jo came to the user research field, what it’s like to be the start of a movement in a large organisation and the opportunities we have ahead with the school leavers of 2020.

Transcript

Andy Parker
Welcome to season two of the UX coach podcast. This time around, we are expanding on our exploration into careers in digital design and user research, to look into the challenges encountered by hiring managers and those new to the industry, wanting to make good progress.

In this episode, I’m in conversation with Joe Keef, who’s lead user researcher with the Care Quality Commission in England.

We had the opportunity to catch up at the end of summer 2019, to talk about how Jo came into the user research field, what it’s like to be at the start of a movement in a larger organisation and the opportunities that we think we have ahead with the school leavers of 2020. So let’s jump in.

Jo, thank you very much for joining us today on the UX coach podcast.

Jo O’Keefe
Very nice to be here. Thank you.

Andy Parker
Let’s get going with talking about what you’re doing right now. Because you’re so you’re at the Care Quality Commission. Which I think quite a few people in the UK will probably be familiar with, because it has a habit of cropping up a lot in the news when something’s gone really wrong.

Jo O’Keefe
Yes, yeah.

Andy Parker
Let’s start off with just explaining a little bit about what CQC does.

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, so CQC is the regulator of health and social care in England. So that means we are responsible for overseeing doctors, dentists, hospitals, care homes, care in the community mental health units, anybody use undertaken sort of a regulated care activity. And it’s our responsibility to make sure that they’re, you know, up to scratch that they’re giving care to a good standard, that they’re striving to improve that people are safe. No one’s at risk, and that things are delivered in, you know, the best way possible for the patient or the user of those services. So you’re right. People don’t tend to hear about us when we’re just quietly working away in the background, checking everything can and looking after, the organisations that are doing a good or an okay job, it’s usually when something quite awful has happened, that we tend to hit the headlines, which and yeah, it’s difficult for people who who work here because you know, we, you know, 99.9% of the time the works brilliant, everything’s going well, people are putting their heart and soul into it. And when that very small percentage of things that were involved in hit the news that that’s quite hard for people to take,

Andy Parker
and what is it that is your role there?

Unknown Speaker
So I head up user research and performance analytics. So user research was quite new for CQC. When I joined, I joined about 16 months ago now and I was the first user research that they ever employed. So I came in to sort of set it up as a profession, within the organisation. And as part of that sort of took on the analytic side of that piece as well, which does sort of model how GDS government digital services have set up their professions more recently but it was a little bit more fluky than than intentional. um for us. So I look after the user research that is going on across the organisation. So we’ve got a real mix of quite, you know, familiar digital agile projects that are, you know, working through those phases and you know, user researchers, you would quite easily recognise, we’ve also got things that are a little bit different than more in the sort of policy and strategy space that user researchers are working on. And we’ve also got a couple of quite big it transformational things that are happening, and that we’ve got a user research presence on there. So that’s fusing, I guess, the sort of Agile user centred world with the more sort of waterfall style of project delivery, which is an experimental

Jo O’Keefe
so we’re trying that out.

Andy Parker
So being a relatively new team. I’m guessing that quite a lot of the work that you’ve been doing is defining what the remit is. So where where do you actually sit within the organisation?

Jo O’Keefe
so not where you’d expect us to, to be honest. So we, we don’t sit in the bit of the organisation that’s called digital, we actually sit in the part that’s called strategy and intelligence, which sounds much grander than, than what I feel we deserve. So we share a Directorate with an engagement team. So they were a real mix of people. So there’s quite a lot of quite traditional comms professionals in there. You know, there’s people who do a lot of work with ministers and parliament and that side of this of relationship and communication side of things. And then we have people who are a little bit more aligned with those as user researchers who do all the types of research what I would call more sort of social research or evaluation type research. So yeah, we’re a bit of a mixed bag. Really, I mean, that

Andy Parker
in terms of a title that actually sounds like a pretty good department to be in A lot of us end up in positions where we’re in within it. So do you find that is actually supporting you a little bit better?

Jo O’Keefe
Um. I think there’s definitely pros and cons. And I think, you know, throughout my user research sort of career I’ve been in digital teams, I’ve been in policy teams, I’ve been in more sort of comms focus teams, I think they all work and don’t work in different ways. I think the pro for me is definitely the the people around me understand research. They understand that sort of basic methodology, you know, the considerations we have around recruiting participants, ethical stuff, cost, you know, incentives, those kind of things they really understand and get, I think, the challenges really understanding how we maybe do things a little bit differently and how quite often the timescales that we will be working to so in a sprint cycle, we need things to happen quite quickly. Whereas some of the people we work with who are more used to sort of commissioning research or working with your IPSOs ipsos’s or you know, those kind of organisations and things are bigger projects and on a bit of a slower track than then sometimes the way that we do things. So it’s generally great. But you know, there’s always a con to every situation

Andy Parker
is that affording you the ability to be able to take more time and go deeper in things as well, though,

Jo O’Keefe
I think it’s probably affording an opportunity to bring all the people and expertise and insight into that user research space. So the rest of the people in our engagement team are a great source of information for me, but also, you know, a starting point on things, you know, work that they’ve done in the past. They’re very good at understanding the current sentiment around things that we do, whether that’s with the public, or whether it’s with providers or whether it’s with you know, internal people as well. So they really they really got their finger on the pulse I guess about how people are feeling about stuff. So it’s really helpful for us to play into the work that we’re doing. I think the demands of what’s going on in our organisation more broadly and the transformation timetable and you know, the sign off in terms of budget associated that probably isn’t allowing us to slow down, but it’s certainly complimenting our work and helping us to maybe get where we need to be a little bit more efficiently if that makes sense.

Andy Parker
Let’s just take a step back a little bit then how did you get to where you are now so I, I know of you from reading quite a lot. When you DWP. And so you’ve you’ve done work within central UK Government and tell us a little bit more about that and what happened in between and around that.

Jo O’Keefe
so I worked at DWP for Well, probably more years than I want to admit to, to be honest. I started there when I was at naive little, early 20s somebody and I started off managing job centres. And so I worked frontline operations in DWP for probably about eight or 10 years. And you burn out in that very quickly. It’s a young person’s game. It’s hard, very hard. And from there, I sort of got into the kind of performance improvement arena, I would guess. So we’re still working very closely with operational teams, helping them you know, make efficiencies which is what central governments about a lot of the time and, and that sort of morphed as the years went are more into that sort of, I guess, lean slash customer insight sort of space. This sort of shift happened probably, I don’t know, seven or eight years ago in DWP, where it became that realisation that people had actually, if we looked at this from a customer point of view, as we would have said there and we can probably make things better. For the business, so there was that sort of gradual shift and I started working in that area. And I was working on a universe credit project. And just out of the blue is probably six or seven years ago now somebody said to me, oh, we’re, we’re doing this thing in a lab in London was like, What thinking aloud what you’re talking about? All we’re going to get some people to apply for Universal Credit on their phones and see how it goes. And I was like, okay, that’s really relevant to the bit of work I’m doing, I’ll go along and have a look.

Jo O’Keefe
And it sounds quite dramatic, and I am quite dramatic person. So but it was just this moment of realisation that this is the job that I should have always been doing this. This was me. This was everything that I felt was important. It was a great match for my skill set. And I wanted to do that job. And so the user research profession in DWP was just sort of getting started at that point and a lot of their expertise was coming from outside and I managed to, well plead beg, coerce my way in and get them to give me a shot sort of thing and they put me on a six month trial to see if I was any good. And thankfully, it all worked out and it really felt from day one like that the job that was the right job for me so I got started doing you are in DWP and sort of worked my way up through a couple of levels there and got to see new user research there and then made the made the jump over to more that that sort of small senior role again here at CQC

Andy Parker
that is fascinating just the the idea of stumbling into something. going woah! I want to do what they’re doing.

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, completely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It was such a moment. It really was. I remember Yeah, I remember that day. So clearly, because I was you know, everybody else who was in the observation room was maybe, you know, like observers do sometimes thinking this is like a bit of a day out, oh it’s interesting and there’s some magnums in the fridge and oh having a nice sandwich. And isn’t this lovely? And I practically had my nose pressed against that screen, like just absolutely riveted by what was going on. So yeah, it was some dramatic was it was quite life changing. It was like yeah, this is me, this is what I want to be doing with my life only took 20 years to get there but you know, worked out eventually

Andy Parker
Well, you’re here now that’s the important thing. And let’s let’s talk about that skills side of things a little bit deeper because i think that’s that’s a pretty fortunate situation to be in and you you’ve obviously got hustle and you can you can get yourself into the to the right places. Do you feel that? In terms of trying to find the right people for these kinds of jobs, there’s a risk that we’re overlooking people because of what they’ve got on their CV.

Jo O’Keefe
Um I think there is and I think this is something I’ve thought about quite deeply Over the last few months with trying to recruit, you know, I’m recruiting into public sector jobs, the salaries are not what SkyBet or Amazon are going to be paying for you are or UX people. So, you know, you, you, you are really scrutinising people’s background looking for that sort of hint of potential or something transferable that we could work with, and, you know, make them into a user researcher. So it is definitely something I’ve thought about more, I think, you know, if, certainly if I’m when I’m recruiting for senior user researchers, you know, I would love to find my ideal candidate who’s been doing user research and government for maybe four or five years, been through the assessment process quite a few times, you know, got quite a broad range of research experience with different types of users, different project phases, but you know, that there’s not many of us who have had that opportunity yet. You know, it’s still very much a growing profession. So I’m really keen to look at where people are doing related things or you know, researching a different sector, maybe not called user research called, something else, but I’m really looking for that sort of core skill of, you know, organising carrying out and analysing research, you know that that focus on the user, you know, in whatever context it is. and and you know, that that willingness to make the leap into the unknown, I guess so. Yeah, I think I think you’re absolutely right. It’s easy to overlook people who’ve, who’ve got great transferable skills and are just looking for that opportunity to break it.

Andy Parker
Yeah. It’s interesting that you say about it being a growing profession, because I wonder whether that is part of the challenge for finding good talent as well because I don’t think that it is, but then that’s because I’ve had UX design. In some guys in my job titles for the last decade or so, and I know that it was around for a decade before that, do you think that there’s there is perhaps a bit of a splintering going on now with with being more specialist is sort of feels a little bit like the the high street challenge that we always come across, right is that I feel like UX designers are your, your supermarkets, your Sainsbury’s and whatnot. And then sometimes people actually want a grocer and a, you know, and a butcher. And that’s where user researchers and interaction designers are coming out of.

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, yeah, I think, you know, I think there’s user research. When I think about myself, when I think about my team, I feel like we’re all on a spectrum, almost this sort of continuum. You know, we’ve all got that sort of research, interest in skills, but as well as that we’ve got all the things that we bring to the table, and some people might lean more in that sort of design space, and I definitely We don’t, whereas other people might lean more in the sort of more business analysis, performance analysis space, I definitely don’t. But then I think you’ve got people who are more maybe in that sort of content product space, which is probably where my all the Leaning is. So yeah, I think it’s, you know, certainly very much in that that sort of public sector arena, you know, that demand for that sort of more sort of pure research skill. And that’s got quite clear definition of roles is definitely there, too. I agree. It’s the right thing. No, no, we’re all more than the sum of our job description. And we we’ve all got a history and different things that we bring and different things that we can offer to the project. I think there’s a benefit in, in having a clear definition of roles in the sense that we’ve all got our responsibilities and accountabilities and we respect each other’s professions. But that doesn’t mean to say that we can’t, in reality, offer more than just that one slide. That we were recruited to do.

Andy Parker
So where do you see the the hard or soft edges? If you like of user research? I mean, at what point do you stop doing what you’re doing is is it just that you’re responsible for, for gathering information? I’m reporting it back. Are you supposed to be accepting it in some way? What What about for for your teams there? What where do you see as being kind of the handoff points?

Jo O’Keefe
It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because although like you say we, you know, we have been quite defined now in these roles. In my experience, it works best when things get a bit blurry. So you know, that where I think I’ve had, you know, my best pieces of work and the best outcome from the user is where probably you know, that that triangle of me, interaction and content and all the experience that we bring, worked really closely together and probably tread on toes, quite there and probably you know, do get into, I probably shower or you know, few interaction ideas or UX ideas and think their way button should be or how it should look, and I’ll have an opinion on words, but I would always respect those roles, ability and right to overrule me on those things. But it definitely, I think works best when that that triangle is very collaborative. And I think similarly, with user research and business analysis, she get a different sort of overlay there, you know, they’ve got deeply analytical minds that I really have not got, but the value that we get in working together especially with internal users, when you’re looking at processes and system you said you know, they they have ability to capture that really detail on what exactly is happening with the hands and you know, the mouse and the keyboard is fantastic, but I would like to think that you know, where the value is the you know, the sinking feeling, you know, what, what is this actually meaning for that you So, I think, yeah, I guess for me, it does work best when when the edges are soft, I guess. And I think it’s different on every project and every team for me as well. I think, you know, we all bring our whole selves to work and what we’ve done before. And what we’ve seen before will will make us different to any other business analyst or interaction designer.

Andy Parker
does that create a bit of a challenge for you in terms of what you’re looking for in people then, like we mentioned previously about if you were looking for a senior person, you’re looking for someone with five plus years. what’s the what’s what’s going on, in your mind there of why why does senior equal X number of years and why particularly that number?

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, I think. I mean, it’s definitely not a hard and fast number for me. Absolutely. I think I’m just trying to indicate quite broadly, you know, that the the level of expertise that I would be looking For that level, and you know, just trying to equate that with the amount of time it’s probably take of the swan to build that up, but there is not a, you know, somebody could have done two excellent years and you know, had exposure to all the things I would like to have that exposure to and done a great job at it and that would be great. I think the thing for me with what makes that senior need that sort of level experience and expertise is really the autonomy that I need them to have. You know, and I don’t think I’m any different to any other sort of, you know, head of in in government in the was super busy and juggling a lot of things and certainly with our senior researchers, we need them to be quite self sufficient most of the time and quite able to, you know, a do the day job in terms of getting the research done, but you know, that that all the side that we always have to manage about the stakeholder relationships, the the cajoling and convincing and the resilience that somebody needs to be able to do that, I think is is is where it needs that that prior expertise of a similar environment for me.

Andy Parker
Okay, so it sounds like in terms of senior team members, what we’re talking about is it’s a given that you can do the task based activities, the individual contributor sort of role parts. Yeah. But that you have developed. Well, I guess, we still kind of call them soft skills ready, don’t we?

But it’s about being

Jo O’Keefe
and they’re not they’re the hardest

Andy Parker
they are. So how do you how do you start to develop those? Is it is it something that just kind of happens? Are there things that people can do to be able to build on them?

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, I think there is probably.

I mean, there’s probably some element of natural aptitude, I think, you know, when I think about my team and other people, I’ve respecting the sort of user research industry that you people do have maybe some sort of natural confidence and charisma, which might not have always been natural, it might be something that they’ve really worked out over the course of their career, I think, you know, some people are a bit more in tune to that some people do really have to work at it, and I’m probably somewhere in the middle. And I’m not always the most confident. So I do work hard at pretending to be sometimes. And, and I think it’s, for me, it’s that exposure to different scenarios. So I think, you know, when I’ve got new researchers who, you know, they’re getting along really well with like you’re saying like day to day task based approach, but I need them sort of home those more influence in negotiating skills. I think it’s really just a case of me of supporting them to get involved in some of those conversations. Maybe do a little bit of observation to start with and see how other people approach it. And you know, Just trying to transfer some of those skills around, you know, to influence somebody, you need to understand them a little bit first and getting them to, you know, work on the relationships that they’ve got with stakeholders and people around them, and making sure that they just get some good practice having a go at that, you know, and they probably will fail. You know, that’s completely natural. We’ve all come away from a discussion where we’ve been trying to influence or get somebody on board with something and we’ve licked my wounds, and we’ve had to reflect and come back again and try something else. So you know, there’s definitely a little bit of a going away with your tail between your legs involved in that learning process. But I think it’s just you know, and I think that’s where the resilience comes in really recognising that, you know, you’re probably going to have to have more than one crack at the notes. And, you know, rethink your approach and go again. So I think for me, it’s just supporting people on that journey, giving them the confidence and and the knowledge experience that, you know, they’ve got different things in their tool so that they can try. They play to their own strengths. You know, I’m a big believer in being you and going with your being yourself and using that, and in situations like that, but also knowing where being somebody slightly different can, can help with certain types of people as well. So I think it should sort of building that skill set of knowing yourself getting to know other people and having that toolkit, I suppose of techniques that you can try and that you can draw on it

Andy Parker
sounds to me like you’re very much a manager, leader, however you want to describe it that is more focused on people rather than the business or the job at hand. Would that be fair to say?

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, yeah. 100% You know, I’ve had teams you know, in one form of another for 20 years. God, I don’t like to add these things up. And it is 100% the bit of the job that I enjoy the most and get the most from, you know, I think seeing somebody, you know, seen somebody develop what, however you want to define that whether it’s putting themselves in a situation that they might not have before, you know, trying something out that they didn’t have the confidence before getting a new job, even you know, although it’s always good to lose people. You know, when they’ve got to that point and they’ve shot a name for something that they really wanted and got there is 100% the most satisfying thing for me my job, and I do truly believe, you know, and I’ve learned this for a lot of years experience that I am not going to succeed with my objectives and the things that I need to achieve. If my team aren’t happy, happy and functioning. They are my enablers in that way. So, you know, my number one priority every day is where is everybody how we People day, what have they got on today? What do they need for me? And if they just need me to go away and shut off, then that’s great. But if they need something more practical, that’s 100%. My priority.

Andy Parker
Do you think that there is a validity in the types of managers that I kind of see as being sort of the opposite? It’s not that they’re the, the, the anti version, but you there are very clearly types of people that go into management roles, where their focus isn’t on people. It’s not the thing that energises it actually it terrifies them. What they what they really liked doing is logistics. I guess that’s the best way of describing it. Do we do we need those types of people in these positions would like where you’re at?

Jo O’Keefe
That’s a really, really good question. My gut is saying no, and I think that’s probably just a personal bias that I am so far away from that and I think I’d like to think that I’ve proven over the years In a lot of job roles that, you know, by investing in your people devoting time and energy and you get the best out of them, and that delivers the business objectives, you know, the the ticks in the boxes, all the things that were supposed to be counted and, and do I don’t want I really want to say no, I think they may be are just some people who for either however brilliant their mind is there is absolutely a role for them under senior role, no doubt in an organisation, but maybe they need to leave the people side of things to people who you know, to all those who have got that that skill set.

Andy Parker
Do you think that there is potentially a role within within user research? That that fits is is it more a lead researcher perhaps?

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, yeah. Maybe, maybe Yeah, because I think, you know, I probably at the minute do a bit of lead because I don’t have any and, you know, sort of more, you know, more head of department or whatever you want to call it, I probably do a mixture of the two. And, you know, I do have to turn my logical, analytical focused brain on sometimes with those more logistical problems that we do with, you know, maybe things that are in, you know, the sort of more research op space. So, thinking about how we’re going to store things, you know, how will we, you know, going to pay for things and, and I do it, and I do it quite a bit a but it’s 100% Not, not the sort of things I enjoy. I don’t have an eye for detail. Which is what lets me down in a lot of those scenarios, procurement specifically. Yeah, I get a lot getting a lot of trouble with procurement. So yeah,

Andy Parker
I think that’s good point. Yeah. Is it Bry ops a space that you’re looking at quite a lot at the moment then. And if you’re looking to sort of hire a specific person into facilitate,

Jo O’Keefe
I would love to hire someone or just, you know, from a personal perspective of me not being that great at it. And but I think that’s probably not on the horizon anytime soon. For me, it is something we’re really focused on. I think we spent the first year of being here at CQC just noses down getting through every day. And you know, dealing with things as they caught up, we were so reactive, because, you know, there was nothing established nothing setup for us. And we were just having to deal with time pressures and demands and all that. So we’ve certainly tried to take over the last sort of four or five months, a more proactive approach to sort of research up stuff. So you know, we again, we’re trying to play to our strengths. So we’ve we did a whole load of brainstorming you know, informed by things that we’ve learned From the research research ops community, which most of us are involved in, so we spent a lot of time brainstorming the things that we didn’t think we were very good at in that space, and that we could be better at. And, and you know, like every good user researcher, we have a Trello board. So we all take responsibility for things that that play a bit more into our skill set. And we, you know, in our marginal times, we’ve all got so much of that. We are slowly trying to chip away at those things and try and get a little bit more. I hate to say things like rigour and process because that just doesn’t feel natural to me. But there are some situations where we do we’re, you know, especially around things like procurement, and we do need a little bit more rigour and processing those. So yeah, we’re picking them off. slowly, but surely,

Andy Parker
I think being heavily involved in the space himself. I think, my main my main concern with it is that it’s very much it’s a scaling problem. The way that a lot of us are looking at it. Like, it’s only it’s an issue for everybody, but the way that we’re looking at is only really at an enterprise level. And I think that’s that’s something that potentially needs to change over the next year. We’ll see what comes next.

Jo O’Keefe
Yeah, I agree.

Andy Parker
Okay. So let’s talk about your your challenges as a leader. So you’re, you’re going through the experience of of hiring, what what are the big things that you’re finding difficult in hiring user researchers?

Jo O’Keefe
I think there’s, there’s a mixture of things to me. So I think there’s definitely something about the locations that we’re looking in and the salaries that we can offer. So I’m broadly looking in big cities where you know, there are lots of organisations looking for user research people or something that they call a different name, but it’s broadly similar. And, and you know, I I cannot compete salary wise with, you know, the likes of Sky Bet, or, you know, big organise I like that I can’t even compete with some of the public sector organisation. So that is, you know, a challenge, I think it does feel like a job seekers market quite a lot of the time in the areas that I’m looking at people can really sort of pick and choose where they might want to go. So my focus is really trying to look at, you know, well, I can’t offer you the big box, but I can appeal to your better nature. In many ways, you know, what else can I offer you in terms of, you know, an attractive employment prospect and, you know, I’m one of these annoying do gooders, I could not go and work somewhere that was purely about the profit. I’m not interested in making the Airbnb up and about this. No, it doesn’t make my heart sing. Whereas, you know, doing I every day, I can see where the work that we’re doing is making a difference to people use health and scoail care and I think we could all relate to that completely, whether it’s through ourselves or relatives, or whatever the situation might be. So I think trying to tap into those networks and tap into those people where that that sort of more meaningful element is important to them is something that we’ve been really trying to get into, and, and also sell the opportunity a little bit here. And, you know, the, the, the the ground is bare in many ways, you know, we’re we’re really looking for people who were wanting to pick pieces of work or room with them influence shape, really have an impact quite quickly on an organisation that’s trying to change the way it does so many things all at once. So it’s really to me, for me just being keeping an eye on the market, seeing who else is advertising, seeing how that’s go in listening to the people who are applying for jobs. You know, what’s appealing to them? Why do they want to come here? What makes it an attractive proposition? You know, what Aren’t they so sure about or keen on? And just really trying to make sure that we tailor not only our adverts, but the way that we promote our adverts in that way Really

Andy Parker
Are you seeing any differences in that mentality around meaningful work with with Gen Z because they’re, they’re coming into the job market now. And I’m of the impression and I’d like to think, you know, not sure when this comes out, but ultimately, last week, all around the world, we’ve we had these protests marches, I was in London on Friday, in Westminster, and it was it was something to see but ultimately is being driven by people far younger than we are and and I genuinely believe a lot smarter. So that kind of attitude and this this socially aware voice that is starting to emerge. I, I have to go on blind faith at the moment that that is going to, you know, find its way into the workplace, do we run the risk of killing that before? before it’s even, like got off the ground, like introduce them into organisations?

Jo O’Keefe
I think it’s a really good point. And I think, you know, the vacancies that we’ve been advertising recently, I’ve been really surprised, you know, how your, some of the applicants have been? And, you know, because I made, you know, this is this is my own bias completely, I think, you know, if I was starting out of this industry, and I was 20, you know, 22,24, whatever, I would, you know, be absolutely wanting to go and work it was going to say Thomas Cook as an example. That’s the worst example I can think of, but, you know, go and work for virgin holidays and, you know, do something sexy and, you know, the perks are amazing, and, you know, so I’ve been really, really surprised I used it, you know, as a Especially what I sort of perceive, rightly or wrongly as that, you know, job seekers market that we’ve had so many of that, that that earlier generation come here and quite genuinely convinced me and I suppose it doesn’t take much to they didn’t come to the interview for the salary, but really gave me a very good storey about why they want to do something meaningful and why it’s important to them to be doing a job that contributes to society and makes life better for some people are a lot of people so it’s, it’s been a show, I thought it was just me, you know, I was brought up to be super political, which is very unusual, that, you know, when you know, I’m honoured to have, you know, go into the job centre and get everyone a job and make everybody makes it more equal. Well, that didn’t quite happen. But you know, that’s what motivated me back in the day. And I was very, very unusual at that time.

Andy Parker
This is changing, I suppose it’s it’s our responsibility to be thinking about how to how to best support that So what, what what do you see as being the the biggest challenges for those people, particularly the younger generation of people, the ones that don’t have experience yet, in getting into this industry? You know, user research, user experience, design, public or private. I guess the challenges are ultimately still the same. What What do you think they’re facing against?

Jo O’Keefe
I think something that sort of struck a chord with me recently, I’ve been thinking, you know, again, because we’ve been recruiting, I’ve been thinking about how we, as a team reflect the user group that we are here to serve, you know, suffer rules. It’s, you know, anybody in England, and making sure that we, you know, we are really representative and I think something that struck me quite recently is that I’ve seen and heard about quite a lot of people start in user research internships, as a way to get into the organisation which which some into the industry I think well, that’s great. But you know, these people are earning practically nothing, you know, so, uh, probably and you know, sweeping generalisation but uh, probably got some money put aside or been still supported by their parents at that sort of young age. And that equality then of opportunity being available to everybody to break in, just doesn’t feel like it’s there. You know, if you’ve finished uni, and you know, you’ve got absolutely no choice, but to get the best paid job that you can do if you’ve got mounting student debts and no other support or how can you possibly take an internship without sticking yourself further into that? So I’ve definitely been thinking about it of that. How do we make sure that we are, you know, offering opportunities equally across, you know, just society because it’s the right thing to do, but also then, how it helps us build inclusive teams that, you know, everybody can be, has a chance of being a part of based on skill and merit and behaviour, rather than Just the people who can maybe work for free to get their foot in the door or whatever it might be.

Andy Parker
Well, it’s something which I’ve talked to quite a lot of people that work in, in the public sector about that we’ve, we’ve got an emergence of changes to the UK laws around apprenticeships, but the idea of like digital skills apprenticeships still seems to be somewhat lacking is is that something that you’ve considered

Jo O’Keefe
um it’s something I have definitely thought about, it’s on the to do list I guess to it to to investigate a little bit further because I come I come across a lot of people who are on the digital data and technology fast streamt, and lots of them are get in user research and other design placements as well as product and technical placements, which is fantastic, you know, but there are a set of people who have you know, gone through quite a traditional educational view, come out the other side and then how effectively you know on a graduate scheme fantastic. But you know, how do we offer that to offer that same opportunity to people who are slightly more, less academically minded or certainly traditionally academically minded. And I think, you know, the apprenticeship through, you know, something that we used quite heavily when I worked at DWP, and would use that for quite a few years in sort of operational roles. And as I moved away from there, it was something that was just starting to happen in a more digital roles or tech roles and design roles. So it is definitely something that I would want to explore here. And I think one of the things that I’ve still been a little bit frustrated about recently is that through this job sort of recruitment as I now refer to it, I’ve very much been looking for senior people. And that’s for a reason, you know, that that’s where we are the minute I need the experience I need people to crack on and, and, you know, move forward as quickly as possible. But I think for me, I think a lot about Well, where’s that next level? Bringing people in behind that, because I’ve seen some fantastic people who, you know, if I could offer if I had the ability to offer them, you know, a position a, you know, a slightly lower level of responsibility, more room to learn and grow and develop, and also find time to support all that, which is, you know, another issue. I, that’s absolutely what I want to do. So whether we end up doing that through something like apprenticeships, whether it’s, you know, just to a more traditional job offering route, but I also want to offer that internally as well. I think, you know, there’s a lot of people internally in this organisation who, like me, have probably got great skills and great capability and potential to make that transition, whether it’s into research, design, content, whatever it might be, and how we give those people an opportunity as well to to get into what I suppose people label as a newer industry, or we are certainly one that’s more than familiar to people. So Yeah, I definitely want to, you know, next sort of six months for me is definitely going to be exploring those avenues and seeing what we can do to to, to bring in that next generation.

Andy Parker
Well, I hope that we get to keep following and seeing what happens with that

Jo O’Keefe
Oh, God, that gives me pressure Gonna have to do it now.

Andy Parker
Yeah

Jo O’Keefe
I’m gonna actually have to do

Andy Parker
you’re also gonna have to blog about it as well. That’s, that’s, that’s the new deal.

Jo O’Keefe
Oh, yeah.

There’s never any time for bloggers.

Andy Parker
If people want to find out more about what you’re doing it CQC and about you personally and follow you where can they go?

Jo O’Keefe
Yes. So most of my work related activity I do through Twitter so you can follow us there. So I am at JoOK_UR she says with reasonable confidence. So yeah, you can find me there. So we also publish quite a lot of blogs through medium but you know, I retweet There was quite a lot as well. So yeah, good, good way to get in touch with us.

Andy Parker
Fantastic. Jo, thank you so much for taking the time out today to speak.

Jo O’Keefe
Really welcome. It’s very enjoyable. Thanks for having me.

Andy Parker
There we are, we’ve come to the end of another episode. And I’ve really enjoyed listening back to that. I hope you did, too. There’s lots to think about and a question I want to leave open to you is, what can you do to help the next generation of designers succeed in creating meaningful digital businesses. If you’d like to come and join us, maybe you want to share your experiences or talk about something we’ve previously discussed, I truly mean this. Get in touch at theuxcoach.com.

I’ll be back in a few weeks with another guest to talk about design and user research careers, the challenges ahead and advice on personal development. I’ll see you then.


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