My life in pie charts
This is the story of the battle between social Jana and geeky Jana and how the two came together into the perfect combination. Like the yin and yang – or like a Reese Peanut Butter cup.
As a teenager and young adult, I discovered that people were actually pretty interesting. I explored acting because I enjoyed imagining what it was like to be someone else. I started studying marketing because I found it interesting to get inside peoples’ heads.
I had an existential crisis around marketing being evil and went in completely the opposite direction. I wanted to be a particle physicist so that I could uncover the secrets of the universe. In the process, I discovered that I liked programming better than I liked physics – so I did both – completing a combined degree in Physics and Computer Science. As far as I know only 1 person every 2 years or so tries to do this at my Alma Mater – with good reason. It is HARD!
I enjoyed programming a lot, but got very interested in the way that people interacted with technology. I did a Masters of Human Computer Interaction at the University of London. My early career was a mix of programming, and user research. I worked at Xerox PARC as a researcher building technology that would change the way people interacted with networks of devices – sort of a precursor to the Internet of Things. We called it “recombinant network computing”. During my time at PARC, we had to shift from a more “pure” research model to one where we had to find a business that was willing to license, invest in, or buy the technology. This is where I discovered that I preferred working with real-world constraints, to just “blue sky” research. I thrived in the new reality. I had found my sweet spot.
Today, I help technology companies take the guesswork out of product decisions. I help them figure out what information they need to help them make business decisions and come up with the best, most efficient way to get the information they need. I am equally comfortable with qualitative and quantitative approaches. Unlike most market researchers, I am ambidextrous that way.
I bring my technical and science-y skills to bear in designing the right research protocol for the question at hand. I have a good BS detector when engineers say something “cannot be done” and I have a good understanding of what is a hard vs. easy technical problem. I also understand a lot about people, how they interact with technology, how they behave, and how to ask questions that will pull out the information you need to make actionable decisions.