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A Day in the Life of a Senior User Researcher - Stacey Gee, DWP Digital

Ever wondered what it's like to work at one of Greater Manchester's leading tech employers or what specific job roles get up to each day?

Stacey Gee is a Senior User Researcher at DWP Digital.

We spoke to her to find out more about this role, her experience at DWP Digital, and what an average day looks like.

Name: Stacey Gee        

Time in role: 3 years as a Senior User Researcher, I’ve been at DWP Digital for 5 years after joining as a User Researcher.

How did you get into your current role?

I’ve done many jobs which naturally led me to the User Researcher role. I previously worked in digital recruitment, I interviewed someone for a User Researcher role, and I remember thinking “This is what I want to do”. I recruited the full UX team and spent as much time with the UX team as possible to learn as much as I could. When a vacancy came up, I already knew I was interested. 

I found the user researcher job really appealing as I’m nosy by nature, which is important for this job as it involves constantly asking why and questioning everything.  

After a few years, I felt I needed a change, so when I saw a User Researcher role vacancy at DWP Digital I applied. I initially took another job in the private sector as I thought working in government would be stereotypical boring white men in suits and not agile, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

I joined DWP Digital as a User Researcher working on the Habitual Residence Test, then a promotion opportunity came up and I went for it, so I’m now a Senior User Researcher working on Universal Credit.

What do you enjoy most about working at DWP Digital?

I work with the most emotionally mature, supportive, funny, and passionate people.  There is such a diverse mix which means we work well together as we all have different ideas and experiences to share.

DWP Digital is an amazing place to work, I’m constantly learning and the opportunities to grow are massive.

It’s such a supportive place to work too. I’ve never worked anywhere that is so understanding and empathic. I feel like the organisation and the people want you to do well and be the best version of yourself. We’re really encouraged to be our authentic self.

I love managing a team and I love developing people.  For example, we have internal trainee schemes where colleagues can move from front line roles such as Work Coach into a User Researcher role, I love spending the time mentoring these colleagues and sharing my knowledge.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It varies so much, there isn’t a typical day as no two days are the same. 

Basically, a user researcher looks at problems from a user’s point of view. Anyone can be a user of a service, I work on Universal Credit, so our users are the different kinds of people who interact with our service, such as, claimants, agents, work coaches, jobcentre managers and decision makers.

A User Researcher’s job is to look at the problem and then present it in a compelling way, balancing the business need and the user needs to ensure we are designing services that are fit for purpose. 

It is important we make sure that we're meeting the needs of all our users as well, so we take into consideration accessibility, such as any neurodiversity needs. Our role is to ensure that everybody can access our services and all information is available. This is especially important in DWP Digital as almost everyone at some point in their life will experience our services, so we don’t have a typical user. 

A typical day can consist of research days or non-research days. Research days involve conducting research. At the start of the day, I’ll make sure we have discussion guides ready and everyone’s been briefed, and that everyone is aware of the main aims and what we want to get out of the day. If our aims need to change course, then I’ll be flexible to review progress during the day.

At the end of a research day, we’ll reflect on what we’ve found and do some analysis. I always like to sit down and discuss the main findings with whoever else has been doing the research to talk through our different views and opinions, this makes sure we look at the research from a neutral standpoint. 

As a senior user researcher, a non-research day consists of meetings, planning future research sessions and looking at the forward strategy. 

What excites you the most about the work a DWP Digital?

What excites me most about the work at DWP Digital is that we are trying to make citizens lives easier. Some of our end users are the most vulnerable in society. If we are able to make their lives easier then I want to help do that, I want to make sure our services are user led. 

I think being a user researcher gives you empathy, and a greater understanding of the reason for our work. The opportunity of working in DWP Digital is getting to make a real difference to people’s lives.

I love the people I work with; everyone is passionate about helping citizens. There is a phrase I’ve heard used, “user research is a team sport”. It basically just sums up our role and that we work collaboratively with people in so many different roles like product managers and developers. 

The best part of the job is speaking to people, I love finding out how to make our services better. I enjoy bringing my ideas up with the team and having healthy debates with product managers. It’s exciting exploring options with my colleagues and challenging each other in a positive way.

Have you learned anything new since you started?

I’ve grown in confidence a lot since I started. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues because we are such a diverse team and have such a range of experience. I learn from other people’s viewpoints, not everyone is the same and it’s good to have these differences. 

Everybody on my team loves feedback and we all want to help each other, we keep in mind that our end goal is always to make our services better for the user.

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