Beyond UX: 5 skills I learned from my Customer Experience Internship @ Juniper Networks
I didn’t believe people when they said that as a Designer, they have to do a lot more than just design. But now that I’m almost at the end of my summer CX internship I cannot agree more to that statement. The past three months have been challenging, stressful, exciting, and empowering all at the same time. I am so thankful that I had an opportunity to work with Juniper Networks, that too in the middle of a pandemic!! I am even more thankful for my manager and team for the best learning experience I could have.
As a designer & researcher, I knew collaboration is key, and taking into account business and technology is crucial. However, it’s not just limited to that. In this article, I want to share a few of my learnings and responsibilities that I had to take as a customer experience researcher.
I have tried to make this list applicable to any designer or researcher regardless of what project they are working with.
1. There’s no such thing as too many questions
When you first join any company, it is inevitably overwhelming. You get so much information thrown at you all at once and it is impossible to understand all of it. You lack context behind so many things and it’s 100% ok! My first few weeks were full of self-doubt. I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know how I will get through my project without knowing more than half the things. Coming from a non-technical background into a networking giant made it all the more nerve-wracking! However, as weeks went by, everything started falling in place. The best thing I could do was to ask as many questions as possible. Ask anything and everything that comes to your mind. Your peers may not know what you are struggling with and if you ask, they will be more than happy to answer your questions! Plus, it is the best way to get all the context you need!
One of the advice that I got from my friend long ago- “No ask, No get” It is a small and grammatically incorrect sentence but it is basic advice that goes a long way in every walk of life.
2. The art of Persuasion (yes you got to do sales!)
Like it or not, one of the roles you need to take as a designer is a salesperson. And as a part of sales, communication is one of the core skills you need to develop, especially since you will be talking to customers, business teams, engineering teams, marketing teams & even higher management for budgeting!
One thing that I learned for being a better communicator is to be confident. If you don’t believe in yourself, your audience will definitely not! Trust yourself and be confident when sharing your ideas with your team. Even the best ideas won’t sell well if you do not believe in them.
And while we are on pitching ideas, another tip I got from my manager is to make allies. Get team members who work with you and understand your ideas on your side! Discuss your ideas with them, ask for their opinions, and keep them in the loop! Your allies will be there to support you in your team meetings when you pitch your ideas (yay!).
3. Work on your speaking skills (with or without slide decks)
Giving presentations whether it is with slides or without, is an important part of your role as we designer. You must work on your speaking skills. A few things I learned to be a better speaker & presenter are:
Know your audience
This is the first step for any presentation you make. You must know who you are presenting to. A simple tip here is to think about (shoutout to my manager again!) is what’s in it for them? You will only be able to grab your audience’s attention when they know how you can help them or benefit them.
For example: While presenting to my director for funding of my project, my manager advised me to think about what he, as a director, would want to know to approve the budget. He wouldn’t want to know specific features of the tool but other things like security, pricing, adoption, and most importantly, how it’ll be of benefit, how much time it’ll save for the team.
Keep it short & engaging
The second important tip is to keep your presentation short. 90% of the people (including myself) tend to lose interest if the presentation goes on for more than 5–7 minutes. My manager told me about the rule of three, wherein you put forward 3 key points to convey your message. This combination of pattern and brevity results in more memorable and engaging content.
“If you want something stuck in someone’s head, put it in a sequence of three.” — my manager, Deaneen Newell
Here’s a template that you can follow:
- What’s the problem?
- How are you going to solve it?
- What’s in it for them?
Another thing to keep in mind for engagement is to pause in between and ask questions to your audience. This can be as simple as asking them “is this making sense to you?”, “do you agree?” or “can you relate?” Even asking these simple questions can help spark a conversation rather than being a one-sided speech!
4. Take the initiative & don’t be shy!!
I am a shy person in general and take a while to open up. I got lucky that I had such a welcoming team that I was comfortable from day one! In general, keep in mind that you have to push yourself and get over your shyness.
As an intern, my manager always told me that I had a superpower! I could approach anyone in the whole company, and they would go leaps to help me and talk to me. In short, play your intern card and meet people, they can offer you a wealth of knowledge which can go a long way in your life. Meet them with an intention to learn, not to network. Prepare a few questions to ask and pick their brain! To be honest, I wish I had done much more of this in my internship!
Moreover, just be inquisitive! Offer help, feedback, and propose new ideas! Your newness is what makes you stand out. Your team wants to hear from you and who knows you might even end up solving a problem that your team has been stuck on for ages!
5. Power of feedback & iteration (ok this is an obvious one but super important!!)
Whether you are working at a startup or a big company, most of the time you will experience a dynamic environment where things change quickly, projects run at a lightning speed and you have no option but to catch up! Getting feedback on each step and making iterations swiftly becomes fundamental.
In conjunction with getting feedback, one thing I wish I had done more of, was to schedule weekly 1:1 with my manager. Don’t get me wrong, we were constantly in touch and synced up almost every single day on calls and I didn’t want to schedule another meeting on top of 100 meetings she already had. But I think discussing progress, asking for feedback, and talking about things apart from work can be beneficial both for work and having a good bonding!
Looking back, this summer I have grown so much both professionally and personally. I am so grateful for this opportunity, especially because I saw so many companies canceling their internships this summer. 5 months ago, I was extremely stressed out, questioning my capabilities and getting 100s of rejections (more on this in a different article!). Today, I am so thankful that Juniper took a chance on me and gave me the best summer I could possibly have!
I hope you liked this article or learned something new! If you want to know more about my experiences or chat about UX/CX, please feel free to reach out on my LinkedIn!