In her current role as a Senior UX Researcher at Google, Katie Wainwright ’11 employs many of the research methods she learned at Butler University. She collects feedback from users when they interact with Google technology or products, aiming to see what can be improved. Wainwright first became interested in the user experience field as a Math and Psychology major at Butler.
“I was in Dr. Brian Giesler’s Psychology research lab all four years that I was there, and I learned a lot about the foundations of how to think about people and their behavior,” Wainwright says. “Butler also helped me learn how to set up studies and think through what that research process is, and it was the first real exposure I had to research. I was also a Math major, which allowed me to get a lot of data analytics skills that I use in my role. With that, I can do things like surveys and data analysis and really partner [behavior and statistics], which tends to be a rarer skill among user researchers.”
Wainwright says being a UX researcher is about serving as the voice of the users, ensuring that those who interact with a product are having a good experience.“If you’ve ever been on a website that’s super frustrating or confusing where to go, I’m the person who comes in and helps change that so that it’s a better experience for you,” she explains. “I used to work on ChromeOS, and Chromebooks. Now I work on accessibility. Any Google products you can think of, I partner with them in order to make sure their products are accessible for people with disabilities.” These improvements help build efficiency across the internet and create a more user-friendly web.
Wainwright says her Butler experience helped prepare her for a UX career, both through on-campus research opportunities and through an internship with Google. “I got to do tons of applied research in my time at Butler, looking at behavioral decision making,” she says. “It was very closely related to my internship with Google as a user experience researcher.”
Wainwright also shared insight about the qualities she and Google look for in new hires, and how Butler helps students develop these skills for the workplace.
“I think psychology in general sets you up for a really strong foundation in this role,” she says. “I learned a lot about how you present research to other people, how you look at background material before you do a project, and set up your research question. There are a lot of very practical skills that I learned at Butler: Being inquisitive, the willingness to ask questions, and wanting to solve problems. I very often don’t expect my junior researchers to have all the answers and know how to do everything—but if you can go figure it out, or if you can brainstorm the right types of [research] questions, that’s a really valuable skill to have and you can grow [as a UX researcher].”