In this episode of the Anthro to UX podcast, Amy Santee speaks with Matt Artz about her UX journey. Amy earned a MA in Applied Anthropology from the University of Memphis. After school, she worked in UX for a decade at companies like eBay and is now a UX career coach.
About Amy Santee
Amy Santee is a loud and proud career coach for current and aspiring user experience and technology professionals. From professional branding and confidence building, to job search strategy and interviewing, she works with clients to create a strategy to achieve career goals through an iterative process of exploring, learning, testing, and refining.
Please note this transcript is an automated transcription and may have some errors.
Matt Artz: [00:00:00] Today, I’m with Amy Santee, a former UXR or transitioning out of UX, but with lots of UX experience now turning into a UX career coach. And so we’re going to have a great conversation about, not only Amy’s experience working in UX, but also all of her recommendations of how you might be able to transition into UX.
[00:00:20] And you’ve worked in companies such as eBay. You have run your own business. Now you’re really starting up. Sort of second version of your business, if you will. So you have a lot of broad experience. You want to maybe talk a little bit about that, what first brought you to anthropology?
[00:00:36] How did you maybe find your way to UX? Give us a little overview.
[00:00:39] Amy Santee: [00:00:39] Yeah, absolutely. And thank you so much for having me on your show. I’m really excited to be here. So yeah, again, my name’s Amy Santee and I use she, her pronouns. And I live in Portland, Oregon. How I got into anthropology. It has a really long history.
[00:00:53]I knew it as early as age 14 or 15 that I wanted to be an anthropologist and that’s because of a computer game I played where in the game I met Dennis. Ethnobotanist on the Amazon trail. That was the name of the game actually. And I just got really curious about ethnobotany and then I, found that was a subdiscipline of anthropology and I got broader and broader The first book I picked up at borders.
[00:01:17]I don’t know if you remember that store, but it was Napoleon Shannon’s book about being in the Amazon rainforest with different tribes. And I know that’s actually a controversial book now. But I didn’t know that back then, I was just kinda like exploring what was anthropology all about. And I did end up going to get my bachelor’s in anthropology, as well as my master’s and.
[00:01:41] Initially I had that kind of basic simplified understanding of anthropology as studying other cultures and like going off and traveling the world. And, as we know, that’s not a, that’s really only a slice of what doing anthropology could look like. And so throughout my education especially into my master’s degree, which I got at the university of Memphis in 2011.
[00:02:04]My, my world expanded, or my view of anthropology expanded to encompass basically answering questions and solving problems that relate to human beings in any place on any topic. And yeah. My program at Memphis was an applied anthropology program. And so we took I took a lot of courses on applied anthropology and the realms of let’s say education, healthcare urban development Basically the main topics that you might find in an anthropology program?
[00:02:34] I did take a consumer research course when I was there as well, which I think planted the seed of possibly working inside of businesses and non products. And I, but my program was still very academic. Even for an applied program. And so there was just this continued growth and expansion of my understanding of what anthropology is over time and throughout my career.
[00:02:58] And I really didn’t fully know that until I left school, which is counter counterintuitive. If you think about it, like you want to know that. Before you leave. But there was a lot of had to fig figure out a lot of new definitions and shaping and defining my identity as an anthropologist in different ways.
[00:03:16] And eventually not even referring to myself as an anthropologist and keeping that as a, a bonus or something in the background to bring up in the context of being a user experience researcher.
[00:03:31] Matt Artz: [00:03:31] Great. Thanks for that. And so a few things in there. So I guess first, where did you actually hear really about UX?
[00:03:38] So if you didn’t learn about business, the way we apply it, anthropology and business to afterschool, like where, what did you do to find out about UX? Who turned you on to that and when exactly did that happen?
[00:03:49] Amy Santee: [00:03:49] Yeah. In 2011, that was at the tail end of the 2008 recession which was a really bad time for jobs.
[00:03:58] The economy and all of that stuff, but especially for new graduates, that it’s already hard for new graduates to get jobs during a recession, there are even fewer opportunities. And I applied to as many jobs as I could find, regardless of where they were, who they were for as long as they were about qualitative research, because that’s really my favorite thing that I like to do.
[00:04:21] My favorite thing that I have practice, I get to continue practicing it as a coach in a way, which we can talk about later. But I applied to all kinds of organizations and companies, and I really just wanted to get a job as a researcher. And I ended up getting my first job as a consumer researcher at state farm insurance.
[00:04:39] It’s essentially like market research. And when I joined the team, I. Happened to start working with people who were focusing more on product development and the business side of things. And really that’s the difference. Consumer and market research tends not to be focused on products, right?
[00:04:57] It’s answering questions about people in relation to products and services and brands, but not necessarily taking that information to infuse that into the development of a product and the interface and how people interact with it. So as soon as I got exposure to user experience, human computer interaction, user centered design, all of these terms that are related to this I just realized that sounds super cool.
[00:05:21] And that’s what I’m going to go ahead and pursue. And, I came out of school with a lot of really good skills when it comes to research research methods, designing studies. But again, there was a lot I had to learn to fill in the gaps of knowledge. Experience to fully transition over to working in the field of product design and product development.
[00:05:44] And so that was just a matter of, understanding. This is a totally different context of work from school. Everything about it, the workplace culture process it’s all very different. And a lot of I had to do a lot of. Self-learning and learning on the job by working more closely, as much as possible with UX researchers, with designers.
[00:06:05]And as I went on in my career, I got more and more experience with that. So again, my definition of anthropology and role as someone practicing anthropology changed along with that. But it did take some time and proactive learning in order to get from a to B.
[00:06:23] Matt Artz: [00:06:23] Yeah. Yeah. As we often do here, when talking to other people, who’ve made the similar journey, we even in our programs, as you already pointed out about your Memphis program, and I, I went to UNT, both applied programs, we’re learning things like design anthropology, but not necessarily like you hearing the term UX and figuring out exactly how to make the connection and certainly not learning other things about.
[00:06:46] Yeah, agile development are many things that happen within sort of the space that we operate in. So what what skills specifically did you find that you needed to upskill on? And was there any place that you went about learning those, any particular like certificates or, online training of any sort?
[00:07:05] Amy Santee: [00:07:05] Yeah. Like I mentioned, anthropologists or people who study any kind of. Humanities or social science have a really good foundation of. Doing research and thinking theoretically and conceptually about our research and about our work. And that’s so crucial. I think that gives you some good advantage compared to other folks coming from other areas who don’t have that solid foundation for research.
[00:07:30] I find that to be very important. What I needed to learn was how to. Do and speak about these methodologies just in a different context, in the context of design. And so there’s different terminology for certain things. Anthropologists talk about ethnography and. People say it’s all graphy in the design world.
[00:07:50]Th that’s a whole other question as to how they’re defining that versus how it’s traditionally defined. We don’t have to go into that. But my point is that you can say things like field work or contextual research, and those essentially mean the same things more or less. So speaking in the language of design Usability testing is something I needed to learn how to do, but it builds off of doing qualitative interviews.
[00:08:14]So there are things where I just needed to like, figure out how to talk about it and do it in the context of design. And then I, there was so much to learn though about, what even is user experience. What is human centered design? What does the product development process look like from starting?
[00:08:31]With a big question about what’s going on out in the world of these people who we want to. Build a product for, to conceptualizing and making initial designs and getting feedback on ideas and prototypes, and then putting a product out in the world for people to use. And there’s this whole process that research can fit into.
[00:08:49] So learning more broadly about that, learning about and understanding the people that I work with, what do designers actually do? There are lots of different types of designers. There are visual designers, there are interaction designers. And again, there’s a whole discussion about these roles and job titles and terminologies out there because user experience is an ever evolving field.
[00:09:12]So yeah, learning about that kind of thing. Understanding more about the technology side of things. If you’re a researcher and you want to do some usability on an app, Say the eBay app. You can get the eBay app on a website, like on your web browser, on your phone or computer, you can get it on iOS, so Apple and you can get it on Android.
[00:09:34] And if you don’t understand how those platforms work, generally speaking, and the differences between them and say how you navigate on an Android phone or versus how you navigate on iOS software, Safari, whatever it might be. So I had to. Get bad or better at knowing the things that I was actually researching.
[00:09:54]So I could ask better questions. So I think the last part of that too, is the business side of things. And a lot of us get into research of any kind, but especially as their experience, because we want things to be better. We want to improve things and make them more valuable for people. Whatever product or service it might be.
[00:10:12]And, but we are there because the business has a business need for us to be there. And so the work we do to improve stuff is in service of business, which is another discussion that we could talk about and something I’m very interested in. But yeah, so you have the whole thing is what’s the context that you’re working in and getting a clear understanding of who you’re working with, the purpose of your work, what it can look like.
[00:10:36] Getting creative. So again, it was a matter of, reading a ton of books, going to conferences, going to webinars, networking with people just to consume as much information as I could. And you can do that in other ways you can do training programs. There’s a lot of different offerings out there where you can learn and even practice this type of work to build your skills and experience.
[00:10:59]And then learning on the job. My first role was at state farm. And I worked with researchers, but the model at state farm at the time for the team was a centralized thing. And researchers acted as consultants with different teams, but at eBay, for example, and in other places I’ve worked.
[00:11:17] Researchers and designers and other people are embedded onto a product team. So working directly with a team rather than consulting to them and going away and doing a study and coming back and telling them what you learned. And I prefer the latter model. I think it’s way more effective.
[00:11:32]But again, like each place I worked at, I experienced indu type of work working with different types of people. Growing in your role and gaining experience, you get to do like more strategic type work eventually. It’s just, you follow this path and trying to take advantage of as many opportunities for learning and growing as I could.
[00:11:54] Matt Artz: [00:11:54] Yeah. Great feedback. And so you said a few things in there that I found interesting. One is, knowledging the fact that it’s a very, it’s an ever evolving field and really it’s. In terms of maturity, it’s relatively, still, it’s relatively young industry that has a lot of, maturation to go, especially in certain firms and particularly oftentimes in a lot of smaller firms, there’s a lot more. That, still, you see sort of design, oftentimes leading things and research is being tacked on as a, as a second thought, almost in many ways. And given your experience across the various companies you’ve worked for in the fact that you’ve owned your own business, do you want to maybe just.
[00:12:37] Elaborate on, why you think anthropology is particularly good at or reaffirm maybe why we are particularly well-suited to do everything you just said, learn the context. You have all these sort of rituals practices right. In all of these various places. Maybe just to help everybody realize that UX is a really great place for them.
[00:12:55]Any thoughts on
[00:12:56] Amy Santee: [00:12:56] that? Yeah. Totally anthropologists have been working in business and design since 50 years ago and it’s just grown and grown. And it’s always this perennial discussion of we need more anthropologists in this field. It’s been happening for so long and yes we could use more of us in there because we do provide a really good, not just set of skills, but perspective.
[00:13:20]As you mentioned, as I was talking about earlier, being able to go into a new context and get an understanding of what’s going on and who does what, and the, organizational culture and how you fit into the bigger picture, how to work with your team, how to, educate people about user experience.
[00:13:37] All of that. I think anthropologists are well-suited at the same time. We have really strong identities for who we are and what we do and how we do it. So there is a tension between being that person coming out of academia and sh and transitioning over. And that was my biggest challenge, I think, was like trying to stick to what I was trained in and how I was trained.
[00:13:58] And I had a difficult time really shedding some of that stuff, not getting rid of it, but just talking to you about myself in a different way. And. Again, immersing myself in this new context, but it’s possible. And we’re really good at that sort of thing. The other thing I was going to say is obviously research methodologies, like I was saying, that’s our, our biggest strength I think is anthropology being a research oriented discipline that looks at people and the way I’ve always defined anthropology is it’s the understanding of the human experience.
[00:14:30] That’s it? Whether it’s past, present or future. And you need to understand people if you want to create things that. They want in their lives, that, that are valuable and useful to them. And that’s when you start getting into the user experience, product design stuff, and that’s where you connect those things together.
[00:14:51]So yeah, and I think too, going back to the organizational culture stuff you were talking about the role of research and design and different types of companies. And there are companies out there that are. Design led or they have a high level of design or user experience maturity. I would say Google is one of those companies, and then you take a look at a company like maybe some of the ones that I’ve worked for before and the user experience and design maturity model that you could map to a company like that was really a little maturity or maybe mid maturity in the sense that.
[00:15:28] Design wasn’t at the forefront of decision-making design was a thing that was being done and talked about. It was important because it is important, but maybe the difference was that design didn’t have a quote seat at the table for key business decisions. And then, yeah, you might have super old fashion kind of companies that they have designers, designing their product, but it’s just a check box.
[00:15:53] And so there’s different levels. And. If an anthropologist or let’s say just a person trained in anthropology, rather than an anthropologist, if they go into this company, they’re going to have to suss out what is the maturity level of of vulnerability of the company to be open, to asking important questions, learning that they’re wrong and making changes.
[00:16:15]And so I’ve, I have found that I, and lots of other people have to play that role of being like, Hey, we’re, we need to look at these really important things before we make a decision, or how is this decision going to have an effect? How will it affect us today, tomorrow in five years in 10 years?
[00:16:32]What are the potential outcomes of this? Especially when it comes to ethics. So we’re good at asking questions like those, but we also get we can get a lot of pushback from people depending on how much power we actually have in an organization to impact that sort of thing.
[00:16:51] Matt Artz: [00:16:51] Yeah, certainly influences one of the things I oftentimes am talking about here in New York and with various colleagues.
[00:16:58] But before we jump into some things around influence, I’d like to maybe just go back to what you said on identity. And so in your intro, so you just mentioned identity last few minutes. And in your intro, you said that you actually moved away from identifying as an anthropologist and presumably to UX researcher.
[00:17:18] So what was, that’s something that comes up a lot. A lot of people, want anthropologists in their title. And, we often have to advise people that generally are not going to have anthropologists and your title. And why did you move away from it? Yeah. And what did you maybe learn that help you do that, that others who might want that identity should be thinking about.
[00:17:38] Amy Santee: [00:17:38] Yeah. It comes down to a personal choice and you’re right. It has to do with, where you work. And do people know what an anthropologist does? And I remember at state farm, a guy I worked with he was like, what does that have to do with insurance? And he drew like in some really boring meeting.
[00:17:58] I wish I had it. I was looking around for it. He drew me like a little fake business card that said Amy Santee anthropologists agent, or like a dinosaur next to it. And that. You said eight six, seven five three Oh nine, which if you I’m sure you understand that reference, but that was his like understanding of me and what was I doing there?
[00:18:17] And that was a pretty profound moment for me early on. And I’ve even written about that since then on my blog anthropology, rising.com. And I also co edited a entire journal of practicing anthropology, which is the SFAA. Society for applied anthropology journal all about this question of anthropologists working in business.
[00:18:38] And that was, I think one of my the title of my essay in that journal was like, what are you doing here? So it was a question to reflect for myself. Yeah. What am I doing here? And what does this actually look like? So there were situations like that early on that just made me stop and think is this useful?
[00:18:55] Is it does it make people feel weird around me? How does it come off? And there’s been several times where mentioning anther, I’m an anthropologist or I’m trained in anthropology. It just rubs people the wrong way. Or they feel like she knows, she must know everything about like humans and culture and I don’t have anything to contribute.
[00:19:14] It can make people feel I don’t know Yeah. So I just found it to not be very useful for me doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It just means you have to pay attention to who you’re communicating with. And if you’re with a group of anthropologists, that’s different than if you’re with a group of engineers or people on your team.
[00:19:33]And it comes down to how you communicate that stuff. And if they, if there’s some place to mention that where it. Is it feels like a diplomatic communication of your background that isn’t going to put people on defense then yeah, I think that’s totally fine, but you’re right. Intel has a whole big history of hiring anthropologists and they retain that title.
[00:19:55]Many of them come straight out of academia, they have PhDs. So there’s an even stronger link back to that. And. And through line for that, identity sort of label. So I think it really just depends on where you are. I still don’t really talk about it. I talk about anthropology stuff a lot, I’ll join anthropologists for panels or whatever, but typically it’s just a, someone discovers it and they’re like, Oh, that’s super cool.
[00:20:21] Or I’ll bring it up if it’s highly relevant.
[00:20:25] Matt Artz: [00:20:25] Yeah. So related to that then is unrelated to that com the conversation on maturity. So when you’re working in an office organization, sometimes we have the opportunity to not just discuss her background, but maybe also discuss some things about our methods or theories, whatever it may be.
[00:20:45] And in your experience, And that’s another thing that you need to navigate, and you’d understand the organizational culture or your coworkers, then, the norms, all that stuff you need to take, take sense of all of that and figure out when it’s appropriate rent. It’s not. And so did did you make any mistakes along the way, or did you learn anything about when you should maybe be a little bit more forceful on why, say this is the right method or this is, the way that I’m analyzing this data and why it’s relevant and Hey, any thoughts there?
[00:21:13] Amy Santee: [00:21:13] Yeah. So you mean generally speaking as like a user experience practitioner, researcher, person. Yeah. Oh yeah. There’s so much to learn with that and it really is about communicating it in a way that doesn’t come off as I know everything and you don’t know how to do anything. And it can come off in that way.
[00:21:30] And so yeah, what I have learned is people don’t always understand what qualitative research is. They don’t know what it’s for. They have a Numbers focused ideology that they make decisions based on. And so how can talking to 10 people about something, give us any useful information. So there’s, there is education to be done in that in that area that said, more qualitative research happens over time at companies and people are getting more exposure to it.
[00:22:00] So I think for some depends on the team in the company, but some people have access experienced that and they know what it is and they will automatically value it when you go to work with them. And he may still have to educate them on some things. Now something I wish I had thought of before is saying, Hey, qualitative research actually comes from the social sciences, like anthropology, sociology.
[00:22:24]There’s a big history and foundation of. Of this type of work. So tying it, telling the story of what qualitative research is for and what it does, and tying it back to things that will communicate to someone like, Oh, this isn’t just like bullshit that people are making up. Being able to talk about the validity of studies. And validity doesn’t just come from your the way you analyze data. Your validity in your study is, comes from the entire way that you set up a project. Are you answering, are you asking the right questions at the right time? Are you recruiting the right people to be participants in your study?
[00:23:01] And do they have the right kind of experience and perspective to speak from that adds a later layer of validity? Are you talking to the right. Amount of people that adds a layer of validity. Did you select the right methods? So there is a ton of validity baked into studies that. Are because they’re systematically designed.
[00:23:20] They’re not just a Willy nilly let’s interview people and summarize what they said. So there’s a method to this whole design. And so I think if we can keep that kind of stuff in mind, it gives us confidence in the work that we do. And when we need someone if we’re able to talk to them and explain to them and refer to companies that have huge research teams, 50 qualitative researchers at Google or Airbnb or, whatever the number might be.
[00:23:47] That is a sure sign and some street cred for why research can be important in the entire product development process or in business strategy. I had the religious learn that stuff by trial and error over time and see how other people did it and integrate whatever it is that helped me into that that process for not just convincing people to do this type of work, but throughout the process get, keeping them on board, getting buy-in throughout the process engaging them so that they were part of a research project as.
[00:24:22] Note takers helping design, like all the questions we were going to ask and making sure that they had. That they had decision-making power throughout the process, instead of me doing whatever I wanted and then telling them information and at the end. So there’s all these different things that we can do to help make our work more successful.
[00:24:41]And therefore the company more successful. And that’s the last thing I want to mention with that is speaking to the business goals that people have in mind, because whether we like it or not business goals are again why we exist in companies. They have business goals in mind and people in different roles are part of the team that makes those goals happen.
[00:25:04] And if you think about it, business goals are tied to an individual person’s income their bonus at the end of the year. And so if we can, Hey, we have these things we want to do. If we can do all these things with the product this year, we’re going to get our bonus. And so how can research help.
[00:25:21] Move the team towards achieving goals. So that individual people who are looking out for themselves are happy. But then also the possibility that research can question and derail things that people want to do that get in the way of their. Their money. So like you have to think even bigger about all of the implications of your work.
[00:25:44] And again, I think anthropologists have this kind of perspective, but they need to be willing to also go work in companies and feel okay with that. And that is totally an okay thing. Again, we were identifying these like bigger conversations that, we can talk about for hours and hours about, is it okay to go work in companies and my sell out and all that stuff?
[00:26:03] The answer is no. But anyway, that kind of wraps up. Hopefully that answered your question.
[00:26:08] Matt Artz: [00:26:08] Yeah. Yeah. One thing maybe just to comment on there is when you’re talking about the validity of the study, I think it’s also worth mentioning, reflectivity and, some various other obviously anthropological concepts and us really making, our influence known.
[00:26:22]Which is in many ways, very different than what you’re oftentimes coming. Seeing coming out of like the quant portion of the house. Not everywhere of course, but in many places where, the data is assumed to be on an altar, the quantitative right. Assumed to be on an altar.
[00:26:37] And so I think it’s also worth pointing out that, I think that’s actually a value add that we are transparent in that way.
[00:26:42] Amy Santee: [00:26:42] Yeah, that’s a great point.
[00:26:45] Matt Artz: [00:26:45] But you’re, what you just brought up about the sort of rub of working for business hasn’t come up on the podcast yet. So maybe we’ll just deviate a bit and just brief.
[00:26:53] I know we could go on for a long time. So it just briefly dip into that, the the point that you mentioned about like PM bonuses and incentives, and really like individual goals is really interesting. I’ve never spoke about that with another person in the UX space, but it’s a great point.
[00:27:09] And there, there’s obviously competing needs there, and in our work influences all of those. And, I agree with you that it’s okay to work in business. I’ve done it my whole life. And I agree with that. I think one of our reasons for being there is to try and.
[00:27:23] Influence the product or service as much as possible to achieve the various goals, but also to influence in a way where, we are trying to also make sure that it’s say as ethical as possible, as if it’s a product, whatever it can be. And I’ve often said to people that, even if I improve that by some, whatever percentage, just make up a number that I feel better having been there than if none of us were there.
[00:27:51]So imagine a world where we didn’t participate, where we just said this is evil. This, I don’t want to be part of this. It’s what would some of these products look like? Is I think something that’s worth pointing out because we even have, at times there’s there’s moments that we’re frustrated and I know you left and started your own business.
[00:28:07] And maybe that played a role, but No, even if those moments exist, there is still value to us being there. And, I think a lot of our products would be a lot less human humane if we were not.
[00:28:18] Amy Santee: [00:28:18] Yeah. And I want to add to that, like we all live in capitalism. We’re not going to get rid of capitalism, but we can try to chip away at it if that’s what you care about.
[00:28:26] And I say that because anthropology is it’s a leftist. Discipline, it’s a critical discipline. And that’s how I think most anthropologists see things and that’s great, but we can, we, and this is what was helpful for me was to shift my perspective and go, okay. I can’t like turn around this entire company.
[00:28:47] I can’t like. Change these big issues going on, but I can focus on the area that I’m working in. Let me just try to help my team think differently. Let me try to, again, chip away at stuff that I disagree with morally or whatever it might be. But you’re right. I did leave E-bay and had the same frustration at a lot of places and it, it was.
[00:29:08] Too frustrating for me ultimately, and I want to thrive in my job and be able to have impact. And so that is a huge reason for why I left. But yeah I think reframing how we think about things we want to have impact on. The company and the product and whatever it is we’re working on in the moment.
[00:29:26] And as we work there, but sometimes that doesn’t happen until a year or two later. I see stuff come out on the eBay app where I’m like, I worked on that. My research had something to do with that. And it’s okay, cool. And, or again, like how can we impact the people that we’re working with? How can we make them feel safer to speak up about stuff, and the other thing too, is we don’t, it’s okay to work in a company and make money and have a good lifestyle and not to feel guilty about that sort of thing. Not to feel guilty that we’re not working in directly with a disadvantaged community and trying to improve their lives.
[00:30:01] It’s okay. If you’re not doing that. Plus if you work in a business, if you work in a very wealthy industry like tech you will make good money that you could put into use for those purposes. So there are all kinds of different ways to think about it and hopefully feel good about the work you’re doing.
[00:30:21]And then, yeah you will probably have a threshold at which you will decide if you want to stay in a company or leave it and go do something else.
[00:30:30] Matt Artz: [00:30:30] And the last thing I would add there about the pay, as you said, the pay is good. And for anybody who’s thinking of going to your ex that’s something that’s always worth.
[00:30:40] Mentioning because many students today have student debt. And so even if it is just a stop on your way to doing something else like you’re doing now, which we’ll get into. But even if it’s just a stop along the way to to pay down some of your debt, it’s, it can be a great means to an end, working somewhere else.
[00:30:58] And so maybe to use that as a transitioning point, what did. And, you don’t have to give specifics or specific companies, but like specific examples that specific companies, but what made you want to maybe switch and what are you trying to do differently? Or I should say, when you started your business, what did you really want to do differently?
[00:31:20] Like what did you want to get out of that experience that made you make the leap?
[00:31:25] Amy Santee: [00:31:25] Yeah. Yeah. Just to recap, I have worked at two major corporations. I worked at a startup sort of thing that was housed inside of a not-for-profit, but also healthcare, health insurance kind of thing. I have worked, I worked with a design consulting firm, so I was an employee there.
[00:31:47] And then my other jobs at different points have been as a freelancer or as a business owner. And I differentiate freelancers like somewhat a team will hire you to come on and do a project real quick. Or maybe you work through a design consulting firm that has their own client. Self-employed person has, for me, it’s having direct clients, myself.
[00:32:09] My clients are these companies, rather than like working through an agency or a more traditional kind of contract thing. So I’ve done that. And at different times between jobs before I got to eBay, I’ve loved it. I was been successful at it. But I did decide to go back to self-employment because the most important thing for me is my life and my wellbeing and living a lifestyle that I That I enjoy that.
[00:32:36]I, I’m not feeling constantly stressed out with I Twitch. So I, I have learned to really understand what I value and impact I value impact highly, and again, different people have different thresholds for what. Kind of impact they want to have and how much is good enough or whatever. But for me, it’s extremely strong.
[00:32:58] It’s one of my main drivers, just in everything that I do in my life. And I decided if I can be self-employed a, I get to pick my clients. I get to choose whoever I work with. I decided I don’t want to work with people who don’t value my work. So when I have worked in companies before I spent so much time and energy working on stuff that didn’t go anywhere that people didn’t seem to care about, even if they asked for it and, not having the impact that I wanted to.
[00:33:28] And I just, I couldn’t do that anymore, but working with my clients if I had a potential client that clearly did not. Understand or value the type of work that I do. I just simply wouldn’t work with them because I’m frankly tired of trying to convince people and waste my life doing that. So obviously I feel very strongly about that.
[00:33:50] So I had that in my control. I had the type of clients and type of work and products and stuff within my control. And I love collaborating with people with my clients, with teams. Bringing them along for the ride for, with research engaging them, having fun. And so I was able to practice research and practice being a consultant in the exact way that I wanted to.
[00:34:14]So that was really the big change for me. And it, it does make a huge difference for me. And then even further into my shift into career coaching now. I ha I can have even more impact because I’m working one-on-one with a person to help them figure out big career questions, make progress in their career.
[00:34:33]And it’s guaranteed that I will have impact on that person. So then they can go off and do some of their own stuff and, achieve their goals and have the kind of impact that they want to. So I, I feel like I’ve achieved, I’ve transcended to the. The deepest level of impact that it can possibly have, which is feels really wonderful.
[00:34:54] Matt Artz: [00:34:54] Yeah. That’s great. Granulations and so let’s dive into that. So tell us a little bit, give us the overview, the elevator pitch of your career
[00:35:02] Amy Santee: [00:35:02] coaching. Yeah. My, I, I switched to career coaching almost a year ago, coincidentally, in March of 2020, when the pandemic. Hit the United States. And I have been phasing out my consulting, so I am finishing up my last project right now which is a super cool project with the city of Portland working on our local elections process.
[00:35:24]And so that’s been really amazing. But yeah I’m my goal is to not do consulting anymore, to do just coaching for people specifically in the field that I’ve worked in. So I’ve worked in this field of user experience, product development. For about 10 years. And I know the field really well.
[00:35:43] I love the people who work in the field and not just knowing a lot about being a researcher and what that entails, but having gone through the job job search process. So many times, interviewing have a lot of experience with that working with and understanding what other people do.
[00:35:59] So what do you user experience designers do? What does their work entail? Helping them go through the interview process too. And there’s lots of different roles in business product and technology that I became familiar with. So that’s why I’ve chosen this particular niche to focus on.
[00:36:15]And I work with people. There’s a couple of different areas that I work in. It’s all based though, in understanding your values, understanding your strengths, what you really love to do and doing a lot of that self exploration to set a foundation for making good decisions making decisions with less risks.
[00:36:33]Building confidence in making decisions, confidence in your work and the interview process. So there’s like a foundation to it. That’s part of that process. Some people I work with are S are trying to ask and the answer, big questions about what do I even want to do in this field? What is going to provide me with meaning in my role?
[00:36:55]How do I craft a professional identity? That matches with my values. So there’s some big questions around that big questions around, like, how do I build more confidence in everything that I do? And talking about ways for building that through taking action, right? And taking action and practicing something is the only way that you’re going to build confidence in doing it, whether it’s presenting a portfolio in an interview or Interviewing in and of itself, having these conversations with people or doing new things at work.
[00:37:27]So that’s a theme that comes up a lot with people and then within all of that stuff, and it depends on the person I’m working with. It’s very customized to this person. It’s very specific things of getting your professional assets in shape. So in my mind, like the F the four pillars, the four most important things for your professional assets.
[00:37:48] In design and in tech are your resume, your cover letter, your LinkedIn and your portfolio. And if you have a website, that’s cool too. But. Helping people identify and understand what is my professional story? What differentiates me from others? What is my professional brand? How, like reflecting back on your path, your educational professional path to look through the, to look for the through line or the threads through the entire story.
[00:38:16] Because that not only helps you get clear in your own mind for telling people your story and being, and feeling confident in doing that, but then infusing that information into your professional assets. If you’re looking to make some kind of transition. So I liken it to doing exploratory or foundational research on yourself.
[00:38:36] And so I see these conversations I have as. Parallel to doing interviews for user experience research projects. And, but this time I am helping guide people to come to their own insights and then be there to, coach them and give them domain expertise and experience from UX when it’s relevant.
[00:38:56]And then the other side of that is to do the evaluative research of let’s. Let’s get your assets in order and then test those, put them into the world and see what kind of results we get. Are you getting more interviews, testing your hypothesis essentially. So I treat it like I treated the same way as a research project or a user centered design process where you’re iterating on this over time in order to achieve what it is you’re working with.
[00:39:25] Matt Artz: [00:39:25] It makes a lot of sense. Now, in, in the way you described that, although it almost sounds did people that you’re working with, maybe you’re already at the point of applying and they S they need to get those assets in place, but are there, are you working with anybody who’s maybe a student and they also have the time to plan to have those assets.
[00:39:44] You a properly aligned with their end goal.
[00:39:47] Amy Santee: [00:39:47] Yeah. I work with people at all phases of their career at all points of the process of, whether they’re still getting trained or getting their education too. Are they trying to get their foot in the door to a highly competitive field, how to do that?
[00:40:01]Or maybe they’re, a senior designer and they want to move to a lead designer role or a VP role, whatever. So I do get a nice variety of people, but. Yeah. Because each person is different. I have to take a step back just as a researcher would and go, okay. Before we move forward with this, there’s some questions we need to answer about, like, how competent are you at this type of work?
[00:40:24] What are any gaps that you have in understanding? It’s not just about knowing research methodologies and being able to conduct qualitative research. It’s how does that fit into product design? Knowing the language, knowing the culture and the way organizations and teams work. So the more of that, going back to that self-education and on the job learning that I did a long time ago, it’s the same thing.
[00:40:48] Like you, you are going to be most successful if you’re prepared with a more holistic understanding of this world. And yeah, it was some people it’s identifying if there’s anything that they need to learn. Or I meet people who have gone to bootcamps and bootcamps are a controversial topic right now because they don’t always do what they say they’re gonna do or produce the results they say they’re going to do, or help people in.
[00:41:16] Meaningful ways. And so people will go to bootcamps to learn about stuff only to realize that they can’t get a job. And it’s because they were misled into into an understanding of user experience and design that is incorrect. That is not as deep as it needs to be, not as holistic as it needs to be.
[00:41:35] And so I, I’ll talk with people like that who need to identify like what else they need to do. So yeah it’s really anyone at any phase of their career at any point in the process, it’s, very different for each person. So a big part of that is. Is deciding like at what, where am I at?
[00:41:52] And is, am I in the right place to move forward? Or are there some things I need to do before I begin my job search? For example?
[00:42:00] Matt Artz: [00:42:00] Yeah. Great. And just one to build on the bootcamp thing. I’ve said on the podcast already, but I’ll say it again, that a lot of bootcamps are really focused on design and not so much research.
[00:42:09] And a lot of anthropologists are obviously interested in research. So for a lot of reasons, bootcamps often aren’t the best bet. For an anthropologist.
[00:42:17] Amy Santee: [00:42:17] Yeah. And that, that might not be clear to people. I, I meet people who want to be a researcher, but they think they need to take a design bootcamp and no, you don’t need to do design.
[00:42:27] You just need to understand what it’s all about and the tenants of the field and what user experience is all about. But you don’t need to do design unless you want to be a designer. And that’s something I want to say too, is. There are so many types of roles in user experience. You can be a researcher, a designer, you can be a content strategists were coming up with content for products which, fits into creating a good user experience.
[00:42:52]A UX writer, like there are lots of different roles in this world that could potentially work for people who come out of anthropology. Let’s say they’re like really skilled at writing for mass audiences, which. I don’t know, maybe we’re trained more for academic writing, but, I, I wager there are people out there who are good at, writing for bigger audiences.
[00:43:14] So I encourage people to explore like what are these different roles that I might fit into? And which one is most appealing to me if I know that I want to work in this field and that’s the thing, like we do diligence. That’s like the most highly used phrase that comes out of my mouth these days is we need to do due diligence in understanding what UX is, what design is all about.
[00:43:38] Do I really want to pursue a career in this field? And how do I know? Have I answered all the important questions? And yeah. So that’s why it’s so important to learn all of this and not take a leap into something unless you fully understand it because you’ll set yourself up for, sabotaging yourself or delayed progress because you haven’t fully understood something before you’ve acted on it.
[00:44:06] Matt Artz: [00:44:06] Yeah. And just to add to that too, the we recently gave a talk on a triple a webinar where it was about breaking into tech. And so a few of the slides were around really finding the right fit. You set it there. One of them is the right role, right? The right organizational culture kind of, even that related to maturity, are you going to be.
[00:44:28] Okay. And maybe a low maturity organization where you have to do many things, wear many hats, don’t have much oversight and we needed figure things out yourself. Where do you think you want to maybe try and get into a larger organization with more process where, you have somebody who’s mentoring you, right?
[00:44:42] Those are all really critical decisions that go into breaking into UX that are far beyond just our research skills.
[00:44:49] Amy Santee: [00:44:49] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. PR project management. If you love the logistics and Oregon, as, highly organized making processes, work for a team and getting everyone to move forward.
[00:45:01] Just the, like the infrastructure of that’s an option. There’s so many different options out there and it doesn’t have to just be about research. We can do lots of stuff and bring that perspective of human understanding and critical thinking to any role.
[00:45:16] Matt Artz: [00:45:16] So maybe yeah, you want to be respectful of time, but maybe as we’re wrapping up here, we could just dive into the four pillars as you described them, or even the fifth, you mentioned the website.
[00:45:26] So do you have recommendations for everybody that for those four or five that, that you think everybody should consider?
[00:45:34] Amy Santee: [00:45:34] Yeah. And do you want me to talk about people coming out of anthropology, education and training or anyone? It doesn’t matter.
[00:45:43] Matt Artz: [00:45:43] So of course, from my perspective it’s different for a student versus early to mid career and especially, if you have experienced research experience or not, in business or in the field.
[00:45:53]So I appreciate we can go in both directions. I’ll give you the floor. If you feel that there’s specific things that you want to call out for both.
[00:46:00] Amy Santee: [00:46:00] Yeah. Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Before I do that, you’ve mentioned one key thing that I think we should call out, which is experience like get as much experience as you can, even if it’s class projects, those count academic experience, applying anthropology to answering questions and solving problems is experience.
[00:46:20] It’s a matter of communicating the experience in a non-academic. Way to people in a potential job situation. So I like if there’s anything people can do before they go to a school that is the most important thing going to these these professional assets. Yeah. So I think of it one way to think of it is like having an online presence that helps people find you.
[00:46:45] Evaluate you, know you like you trust you. That’s like a common concept for this and then contact you. You’re answering their questions proactively there. You’re giving them information that they already want or that they didn’t know they wanted. And that’s like interesting about you, telling them stuff, but you want to set it up so that you don’t have to do as much of the work.
[00:47:05] You want to set it up so that you’re not just relying on, I’m applying to jobs, going through a company websites and, job sites and that kind of thing you want to take advantage of the internet and your ability to be, found on the internet and imagine someone I’ll use myself, right?
[00:47:21] So I’ve been on LinkedIn for a long time. I love it as a platform. It’s been crucial at every point in my career when I, whether I was like applying for jobs or being a consultant to get clients or doing coaching now. And I get pretty much all of my clients for coaching through LinkedIn. And the reason is because I am find-able on LinkedIn.
[00:47:43] I put information out there that people. Find valuable. I engage in the community, so I’m you will find me in lots of different places on LinkedIn. I have a website. I make it easy for people to go, Oh, Amy looks interesting as a person she has a background in UX she’s career coach.
[00:48:04]That all that put together makes me interested in her. Let me check out her info. Okay. Then I will get in contact if I’m interested in chatting further. It’s the same thing for anyone else. So if you’re in the more traditional role of like actually applying for a job inside of a company, you can think of it in the same way you submit your application.
[00:48:22] You have a top-notch resume that. That covers your jobs and what you’ve done, but most importantly, the accomplishments that you’ve made and the impact that you’ve had at a job and your skills your cover letter, which I highly recommend. There, there are lots of perspectives on cover letters.
[00:48:39] Some people want them, some people don’t, some people look at them, some people don’t. So because of that, I say always do it just in case, unless it’s not asked for, then maybe you don’t need to do it, but that’s a persuasive essay. So you’re creating a multidimensional self out of and not just handing them like a piece of paper with like flat info about you like a list of what you’ve done.
[00:49:02] So you’re writing a persuasive essay to catch their eye and convince them that you’re a highly that you’re highly qualified for this role, that you’re a good fit and that they should talk to you and take the next step. So have your resume, your cover letter. Your LinkedIn, if you Google your name and you don’t have a website, then the first thing that’s going to come up is your LinkedIn profile.
[00:49:23] And you will get Googled. There’s no doubt. I don’t know why any recruiter or hiring manager, wouldn’t Google you to see what they can find out about you. So you want to have that in a really good place. You want to have it filled out. You want to use it as a platform for storytelling. So not rehashing your resume.
[00:49:44] It’s cut. LinkedIn is like a combination of a resume and a cover letter and a portfolio put together because you can add your own kind of featured content on there. So yeah, it’s these, let’s see LinkedIn resume cover letter portfolio. Yes. For people who want to get into design a portfolio is absolutely essential.
[00:50:04] And this includes researchers. And the reason is because we need to be able to talk to people about projects we’ve done and what our experiences and indicate to them that we’re competent in not only practicing as a researcher, but in storytelling. And in visually communicating to people what we have done.
[00:50:26] And when I say that, it doesn’t mean you need to be like, have stellar design skills. There are lots of portfolio templates out there. You can Google for that kind of stuff. I have resources for that, that I share with people. But the reason is because they’re going to have to communicate your research, oftentimes in that same way.
[00:50:43]Either verbally or through, some kind of visual storytelling about your process and your findings and all of that stuff. So yeah. Those are essential. And website is also great too, the more cohesive and robust of an online presence, you have the better and, your website is whatever you want it to be.
[00:51:01]You can put whatever you want on there. And whether it’s the same stuff as your other. As the other four pillars or some different things. Just one more thing to show that you’re really being considerate about this and that you have a concept and a strong purse concept of your professional identity that you want to communicate to people.
[00:51:23] Matt Artz: [00:51:23] Great. And, one thing on the portfolio that I think you touched on it when you said that the design is not super important. And for those who maybe already have some kind of. Visual designs that they can include at the emphasis is not on those, right? Those are maybe there to articulate other points, but we are not designers.
[00:51:45]So that’s not really showcasing our work per se. It’s much more about the way we. Think right. The way we maybe got to the recommendations that led to that visual design, of course, the outcomes of that, it’s not meant to show off the the visual interaction or interaction design of somebody else.
[00:52:02]Amy Santee: [00:52:02] And you can, yeah. You can do, you can show examples of, a prototype that you’re testing or if you’re doing something in school, whatever it is that you’re working on for a project to tell a story, but you’re right. It’s about showing people like. Here’s what I’ve done to indicate the kind of value that I can bring to this job.
[00:52:19]Again, storytelling, can you walk people through something in an articulate way, talking about your process. Decision-making how you involved people as collab in collaboration with your project outcomes. And on that note, if you, if your project didn’t have any outcomes, that’s okay. Because that’s not always the case, and we have to think of outcomes, not just in terms of we got this many more users or, whatever it can be that had an impact on the design of some marketing materials for this nonprofit that you worked with, whatever it may be.
[00:52:52] So thinking, yeah. Thinking broadly about what it is that you did. And again, communicating. How that’s relevant to the job that you’re applying for.
[00:53:03] Matt Artz: [00:53:03] Yeah. Great. All right. Wonderful. Amy do you want to maybe tell everybody where they can find you as a career coach and maybe mention anything else that you wish to plug.
[00:53:12] Amy Santee: [00:53:12] Yeah. You can go to Amy santee.com. You can go on my LinkedIn and I love connecting with people on LinkedIn. Like I said, I’m on there a lot because a it’s a really helpful for running my business, but B because I love engaging in not just the design and user experience community, the anthropology community Social justice community on LinkedIn.
[00:53:34] So there’s a lot of cool people that, you can connect with on there and learn from. So I love that part of it. So definitely LinkedIn and yeah, I think that’s pretty much it. I would also mention my blog. It’s the 10 year anniversary of my blog this year. Anthropology.com. Yeah. And I, I started that blog right after I graduated with my master’s to think out loud about w what it means to practice anthropology in the world.
[00:53:58] And not only did it help me talk about it out loud, but it helped me actually figure it out and process that. As I went on. And there’s a lot of documentation of, things that I’ve done and encountered and thought about on there. And I recommend it for anyone who is interested in, general applied anthropology, but also working as an anthropologist or practicing anthropology in user experience.
[00:54:21] Matt Artz: [00:54:21] Yeah. Great. Yeah, that’s a great blog. I definitely would. Second that to recommend it to everybody else. I know. Are you going to do anything to celebrate the 10th anniversary, any kind of series or anything planned?
[00:54:31] Amy Santee: [00:54:31] No I did a guest post on a blog that a friend of mine has called leaders.
[00:54:38]And it was just more of a reflection on. The things I was just talking with you about. So I don’t know, that’s a nice little way of documenting it. But I, my goal is just to continue posting more stuff on my blog. That’s pretty much it. Cool.
[00:54:53] Matt Artz: [00:54:53] Hi Greg. Amy, thanks again, really enjoyed talking with you.
[00:54:56]I know that the work you’re doing in career coaching is great and Hey, we’ll help everybody. So if anybody needs help, please reach out to Debbie.
[00:55:04] Amy Santee: [00:55:04] Yes. And you as well. I know you do some similar work you should don’t be afraid to mention that. Or if you don’t want to, then I will recommend that people reach out to you, especially because you focus just on anthropologists.
[00:55:15]Which is really awesome.
[00:55:18] Matt Artz: [00:55:18] Yeah, thanks. I think both of us don’t love the sales process. As much as
[00:55:22] Amy Santee: [00:55:22] that, I like to be salesy. Yeah. It’s not my style, but that’s the whole point. It’s let your work speak for itself. And that bringing that back to the people, listening to this podcast today, let your work speak for itself, put it out there.
[00:55:35] And eventually you’re not going to have to put a ton of effort into gaining new opportunities for yourself and your career.
[00:55:42] Matt Artz: [00:55:42] Yeah, said. All right thanks again. Appreciate it.
[00:55:45] Amy Santee: [00:55:45] Thanks.
Please note this transcript is an automated transcription and may have some errors.