Evelina Tapia, PhD
Senior User Experience Researcher at ChaiOne
This month’s ChaiOne Employee Spotlight is on Evelina Tapia, PhD, a Senior User Experience Researcher at ChaiOne. As a Senior User Experience Researcher, Evelina helps companies define requirements for any technology that they are thinking of building from the perspective of the actual user that is interacting with the technology.
Here are some of Evelina’s thoughts on being a ChaiOne Senior User Experience Researcher:
Can you describe a typical workday?
A typical workday always begins with a cup of coffee. Then, I catch up on emails – recaps from Basecamp and notifications on projects, even those that I’m minimally involved in. I look at presentations and designs that we’re working on to see what’s happening in the different departments at the company. I read through newsletters that talk about user experience, check Twitter and blog posts, and also read articles to keep myself up-to-date on all the hot trends in tech and things that are happening in the industry as well as in my field. It helps me keep up with my inspiration. Once all that is done, I can start working on my current project tasks.
Did you always want to be a researcher? How did you end up in this role?
I was always asking a lot of questions. In high school, when they were putting the yearbook together, I was voted as someone who would continue to ask the most questions. I’m curious about things. When I was in college, I became interested in psychology because I think people are a puzzle. They have conflicting views and opinions and their behavior can be contradictory at times: that intrigues me and it’s the main reason I studied psychology. It’s all a big puzzle. At some point the question arises, “How can we learn about human behavior, emotions, attitudes, etc.?” As an undergrad I was introduced to the psychology research process and got to work on multiple projects. I loved the various ways to find answers to questions that others haven’t answered yet. I knew that I wanted research to be a big part of my job.
So, I went to graduate school and worked as a postdoctoral researcher (basically, it’s like an internship for doctors before they can practice independently). At first I thought that I’d become a professor and continue doing research, but funding in academia has been shrinking for years. There’s fierce competition for positions and resources between extremely qualified and hard-working people, so I looked at alternatives for employment and ended up in the UX world. Here, I still get to ask a lot of questions!
At ChaiOne, we go out into the field to study workers in their environment. Can you describe that experience?
This is an interesting part of the job. It’s not typical. Every project gives opportunities to meet a variety of people in different environments. It makes me realize that there are so many things I don’t know.
The first trip I had was going out to an oil and gas field in central Texas. We had to observe how guys operated wells and we were required to wear fire resistant clothing, jeans, a tan shirt, steel-toe boots, and a hard hat — not our standard work clothes. We arrived in a bright red rental car, donned on the gear and obviously looked out of place in the country. The guys who work in the fields were having a good laugh at us, but they were kind and did a great job explaining what they do out there.
When the people we’re interviewing or observing see that we really want to learn about them and their work, they are more willing to open up. This allows us to understand not only the work that they are executing, but their attitudes, motivations, and emotions regarding work and life in general. Everyone has a personal story and getting to the emotional element, I think, allows us to craft better tools for these people to use.
I’ve found that every project is different, but really interesting because we learn something that we had not known before.
How would you describe the ChaiOne Team?
Fantastic – I really like working at ChaiOne! I didn’t think I would like it so much. I love the energy, youthful attitude, and teamwork atmosphere. I feel very supported across the board by all departments. When I need something, someone always steps in and answers any questions that I have. I really enjoy working with different people and in teams because everyone has great ideas and when we put them all together, we make some awesome stuff!
What things have you learned so far at ChaiOne that you would tell a new employee?
You have to be team-oriented at ChaiOne. Anyone with a big ego won’t fit into the culture. Also, you need to be flexible because you will be working on a team. You’ll need to be able to adjust and deal with issues that come up unexpectedly and need to be resolved quickly. You have to be able to reprioritize your time and deal with what calls your attention the most because priorities change from day to day.
Specifically in research and design, it’s important for new employees to stay informed about design philosophies, practices, interface design, technology developments, and recommendations from peers in the industry. Clients come to us with various challenges and we can’t just say that we can make them a mobile app. Mobile apps aren’t always the appropriate solution. We strive to be leaders, to think forward and for that we look at new technology that we could potentially bring to address our clients’ needs. Staying abreast of technology that’s available on the market as well as technology that’s still in prototype stages can help us create unique solutions to clients’ problems. This gives us an edge over the competitors who are restricting themselves to mobile apps.
What are some of your favorite apps?
- Google Maps
- Google Calendar
- Google Mail – specifically for the tablet
- YNAB – stands for “You need a budget” – helps me manage money and finances
- LastPass – password manager, allows me to sync passwords across all my devices
- Toggl – time tracker
- Miranda – a world clock, tells you current time and allows you to easily set up meetings (tells you what time it is for the other person)
Fun Facts About Evelina:
- Born and raised in Lithuania
- Has lived in the U.S. for almost 14 years
- Won a scholarship to attend school in the U.S. and was placed in a private all-girls school in Connecticut for one year
- Dances the Argentine tango, went to Buenos Aires just to dance and took a workshop with world famous tango teachers
- Does a lot of crafts at home to relax: embroidery, cross-stitch, jewelry
- Loves period movies – British movies, PBS Masterpiece series, BBC historical dramas
- Loves Shakespeare’s comedies and theater in general
- Likes going to Houston Symphony events
- As a postdoc, she learned a neuroscience technique, transcranial magnetic stimulation, to stimulate the human brain without doing any damage to the neurons. The technique, when applied correctly, can make people temporarily see or fail to see small objects in their environment
- Speaks Lithuanian, a bit of Spanish and can cuss fluently in Russian