People covering face & mouth of woman
People covering face & mouth of woman
Photo by Alycia Fung from Pexels

“Gaslighting” is defined as a reference “to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.” (NBC News)

As an Asian American woman working in tech, I’ve experienced gaslighting of my reality, emotions, & trauma. Here are a few examples from my professional career.

Salary negotiation

Having been a career-switcher, I was incredibly thrilled when I had received an offer for my first role as a UX Researcher. …

Black Lives Matter protest sign saying, “With privilege comes responsibility”
Black Lives Matter protest sign saying, “With privilege comes responsibility”
Photo by Lan Nguyen from Pexels

This past summer in 2020, America was shaken by the murder of George Floyd, and protests across the country shouted “Black Lives Matter.” In response, companies from multiple industries issued statements condemning the murder and acknowledging that they were dedicated to diversity, inclusion, & belonging in the workplace.

That summer, a vast majority of people scrambled to read books on anti-racism, watch Netflix specials, educate themselves on systemic racism, and created committees & plans to make their teams more diverse and therefore the world a better place. …

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

I started my career doing academic research in a child development research lab and was convinced that I would be pursuing academia. However, since then I’ve transitioned and applied my research skills from my academic training to more applied fields like museum evaluation and UX Research.

Though I definitely did not start off my career intending to become a UX Researcher, I’ve learned that my academic training offered a unique perspective to research in general — something self-taught UXers may not have developed.

1. Literature reviews taught me the importance of building on previous knowledge and never starting from scratch

One of the first tasks I had as an undergraduate and graduate research assistant in a university…

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In the UX world, we often hear terms like “user-centered,” “human-centered,” and “customer-centered.” We believe that in order to be innovative, we need to center experiences that are authentic, intuitive, and practical.

But what does being “human-centered” really mean?

To me, as an academic-turned-UX Researcher, it truly means to be an advocate for humans.

Below are some ways that researchers in particular — but also other UXers and Product-focused roles — can become advocates.

1. Stay ethical.

One of the first things you do when you start out in academia is go through a CITI Human Subjects Research training. It’s an extensive training…

Three women sitting in an office in disbelief
Three women sitting in an office in disbelief
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, I can’t help but wrestle with 2 main things:

1) knowing that this is the time and space for Black voices to tell their stories

2) angrily wanting to shout that all these corporate statements about investments in Diversity & Inclusion programs are not good enough.

So here is the latter in a short story format where I describe how D&I conversations have felt as a woman of color. I hope this article provides insight and prompts discussions about what it means to approach these conversations.

I have been in the…

Illustration by Maria Velskaya on Dribbble

I always felt a little othered. I’ve always been in the minority for most of my academic and career-related experiences — let it be my age, my gender, my race, etc.

I knew things were going to be different when I left my predominantly-female nonprofit to enter the predominantly-male & White world of tech. I knew that it would be an adjustment and that I had to deal with my Imposter Syndrome of not having a tech background, as well as being the only woman of color on the team. …

I was always interested in design, but had only done research. Two-ish years ago, I decided to make the leap and do a career switch!

Two years ago, I was working as a Museum Evaluator with a background in child development, education, psychology, and most importantly, was focused on the academic research track for some time. After having made this transition, I realize now how incredibly important my previous experiences were — and how this unique approach helped me land a real UX Research role.

Here are some starting points on how to begin that transition whether you’re in the…

Michelle Nguyen

Academic Researcher turned UX Researcher. Experience in museum education, child development research, & SAAS product design

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