It’s now the end of my six months as an Optimisation Intern at PRWD.
Besides my awesome colleagues at PRWD one thing I’m going to miss when I go back to Germany are Meetups (they are unfortunately not as popular in Germany). When I first came to know what Meetups are, I instantly became a huge fan. Not just because of the free pizza and drinks that are available (though that might have contributed to it) but more that they are a brilliant way to meet new people with similar interests, exchange ideas and learn new things. Throughout my six months in Manchester, I went to a variety of different Meetups. Meetups about sports activities, Meetups about user experience and Meetups about agile methodology. Those Meetups were experiences outside work, but what did I actually learn at PRWD?
Moderated User Research
Okay, so now I’m in a dilemma. I’m sitting in front of my computer with the task of writing this blog post and I don’t know where to start. Summarising the learnings of six months spent at PRWD is a tough challenge!
During the time of my internship, I had the great opportunity to take part in 36 moderated user research sessions. As you can imagine, through this experience I learned a lot about doing user research the right way (not an easy thing when there are a million ways to do it wrong).
The special thing about moderated user research is you can ask the participant questions. This is unfortunately not possible by remote user research or website recordings.
It is also possible to ‘lead’ them to reveal issues. By leading in this context, you set the participant the right tasks but let them accomplish it by themselves (without help). The setting therefore should be thoughtfully set up since absolutely everything, from the device that is being used to the sample data for the task, can bias the participant.
In this picture, you can see the user research lab at Media City taken from inside the observation room. You can’t look into the observation room from the research room because it appears as a mirror. Cameras are also set up to capture the reactions of the participants, how they interact with the device and of course the screen itself.
Besides sitting in this exciting dark room, highly focused on the participant, imagine how astonished I was when I saw this amazing view!
It is something quite different, learning about data science at University and actually working with tools like Google Analytics or Hotjar. In theory, the sample date is unambiguous and there is no information about the business behind the sample data. However, dealing with data, in reality, means being careful about the period they are from, considering possible inaccuracies within the data and finding workarounds in order to track certain actions. To deal with all those difficulties and find solutions is something you only learn from practicing.
Train your eyes
Like a photographer must train their eyes to capture the perfect picture, an optimisation strategist must train their eyes to obtain an analytical view on websites. The strategist must be more conscious about the elements and especially, what effect those elements have on user behaviour. Conducting 17 heuristic evaluations during my internship helped me a lot to gain this kind of view. Thus, I would say I’m seeing the web in a different view now than before which helps me to find the pages/elements that have potential (nonetheless, to include user research is and will still be crucial!).
If you like me are a student looking for an internship, here are three tips which I found particularly helpful when finding PRWD:
Stand out from the competition
Try to stand out from your competition who also apply for the same job. For example, to get my internship I flew over from Frankfurt to Birmingham to attend the Internet Retailing Expo and met PRWD (FYI: you can meet PRWD on the 5-6th April 2017 at the event again this year).
Acquire skills important to the company
Something which I think is obvious but still worth mentioning is trying to achieve the skills that will be beneficial to the place you want to work for. Learn those skills perfectly and you make yourself indispensable. A good strategy is hereby similar to the one an optimisation strategist has. Like the strategists puts himself in the shoes of a customer, the applicant should put himself in the shoes of the person hiring. A good start can be the career page of a company.
Ask what your typical working day would look like
Ask what your normal working day would be like. This was one of my very first questions during my first interview because it gives you a good idea whether the job you are applying for is right for you. You can also extract from the answer whether the company really want to teach and invest in you.
I really want to thank my whole team who made my internship great. Thank you for: helping me, for always including me, for treating me like an equal peer, not just an intern and for helping me learn so much.