“What I need right now [is] someone that is really not judgmental, and patient to help me when I need it. And then I wouldn't feel ... uncomfortable to ask for help."

- Beela User

Beela

Providing Emotional Support to Career Transitioners

Project Details

My Role

UX Designer

Team

5 UX researchers, 4 UX designers, and 1 product strategist.
We worked in an Agile (Google Design Sprint) methodology.

Timeline

6 weeks, comprised of 6 1-week Agile Google Design sprints

My Contributions

I was involved in all aspects of the work.
I owned certain tickets related to:

  • Proto-persona creation
  • Storymapping
  • Assumption prioritization
  • Designing solutions

UX research contributions:

  • Writing interview scripts
  • Interviewing users

Client Overview

Beela is a small, low-staffed non-profit organization, in need of funding to grow their services for their users. Their mission is to help immigrant women and non-binary people enter the Swedish tech industry.

The Problem

User Problem: Beela users have just experienced a grueling immigration process of settling into Sweden. Although spent, they are still very determined to enter Sweden's tech industry as a new beginning for their career in their new home. However, a career transitioner’s journey is never easy. It is a long path fraught with uncertainty, loneliness, and doubt. Beela's users hope they can find emotional support in connecting with others on the same path. 

Client Problem: As a budding non-profit, Beela has many offerings in the works for their users, but they need resources to execute their mission. They need to continue to grow as an organization, which means increasing community engagement and revenue. Beela needs to show potential sponsors that they're capable enough enough at delivering on their mission inorder to receive sponsorship.

"I haven't reached what I wanted. But I'm on the way there."

- Beela User

The Solution

I was tasked with finding a solution to provide users with a means of emotional support. Our team connected users together by creating a Slack channel based off of research recommendations. The Slack group connects users with mentors, and provides a safe space for them to share their vulnerable experiences. This solution will increase the engagement in the community. It will also increase the amount of users that make it into their first tech role, which gives credit to Beela for future sponsorships.

Design Process

Our design process revolves around the stages below, and although it is depicted linearly, we cycled through the stages multiple times and revisited certain steps as necessary.

Research

  • Industry Research
  • Competitive Analysis
  • User Interviews
  • Affinity Mapping
  • Opportunity Solution Tree (OST)

Define

  • Proto-personas
  • HMW Exercises
  • Storymapping
  • Storyboarding
  • 2x2 Matrix Assumption Prioritization Exercises

Design

  • Channel brief content design
  • Wireframes
  • Hi-fi prototype

Verify

  • User Testing
  • Assumption Testing

Research

To build a better Beela, we need to help their users

To gain an understanding of non-profits and educational organizations, our team members conducted some industry research to better understand sponsorship models and how others competitors generated revenue.

To help Beela increase revenue, we needed to solve issues their users were facing. This would demonstrate Beela's capacity as an organization capable enough to earn sponsorship.

Assembling previous research into the Opportunity Solution Tree (OST)

We adopted Teresa Torres's OST model to map out research collected from a previous phase of user interviews into opportunities (user needs, wants, pain points) we could potentially tackle.

This helped us clearly see what the biggest opportunities were, including the desire for emotional support.

Define

Narrowing our focus to a specific problem

Our team decided to tackle a couple branches of our OST to potentially produce more solutions for Beela within our short amount of time.

Half of our team, including myself focused on the issue of:
"I want someone supporting me through this transition emotionally."

Without someone to support career transitioners on their challenging journey, it would be much more difficult.

Of all the opportunities, why did we address the problem of emotional support?

🏁🏃🏻💨

1. Increase users who make it

Having a friend who understands what a person is going through can ease the brunt of the challenges that come their way. This could lead to an increase in career transitioners who successfully reach their goal, thus elevating Beela’s success.

👩🏽🤝👩🏼

2. Grow Beela's Community

Connecting users is also a way to grow Beela’s small community. Beela’s community can be one of their greatest assets in not only sharing knowledge, but also developing their much-needed volunteer and mentor network, thus growing the organization as a whole.

Creating a space for Beela's users to connect

With our goal and user in mind, we worked through several research methods to generate a solution and related assumptions to test.

1

Anchor around a HMW statement

A HMW exercise led to the guiding question that captured the problem:

"How might we create a safe and engaging space for users to share their stories and experiences?"

2

Ideate through collaborative sketching

A collaborative sketching session led to the idea of shaping and marketing existing Beela events as a way to connect users together and foster community. This also made a lot of sense for the client considering this solution would leverage the fact that they were running some events already.

3

Storymapping for solution flow and assumptions

Storymapping the events solution gave us the flow and the assumptions that had to be true in order for this solution to work.

4

Prioritizing assumptions in a 2x2 matrix

Prioritization revealed important assumptions with weak evidence that we needed to validate to ensure that we had selected the best solution to move forward with.

How do users feel about online events?

In order to move forward carefully, we tested our assumptions with users through 3 user interviews. I helped the research group in turning assumptions into research interview questions, and I also researched one of the participants. Here are the most notable key findings that shaped our next steps.

RESEARCH INSIGHT

😩

1. Online events are tiring.

After 2 years of pandemic remote meetings, the thought of another one was just not something participants were interested in. At this point, participants are only interested in attending certain events targeted to their own specific interests.

RESEARCH INSIGHT

🤔

2. Only some people are worth the time meeting.

Participants are only interested in meeting specific types of people, but event demographics are typically too general. They selectively want to connect with those they are already seeking or those from a similar background.

RESEARCH INSIGHT

🤩

3. The Slack group was a hit!

Reasons all participants liked Slack:

  • Passive way to understand the community before committing.
  • Familiarity with the platform.
  • Provides direct and easy networking with specific people.

TAKEAWAY

Since events did not seem like the community-building solution users wanted, we began to shift our focus toward a Slack-based solution.

Making the pivot to a Slack solution

We were excited to see that Slack could be a powerful solution that not only addressed all the feedback from the users, but also provided a platform for Beela to truly grow their community. The next question was:

"How can we build a Slack group to meet the needs of our users?"

Sifting through previous research, we pulled out 3 themes to use as our definition of emotional support. We needed to incorporate these 3 themes into our solution.

3 themes to guide us through our Slack solution

GUIDING THEME

🤗

Safe Space

Users will feel at ease to express themselves in a judgment free space. This fosters an environment where people feel enough trust to get whatever they may have on their mind.

GUIDING THEME

🧏🧏🏾

Create Connections

Connecting them with others on the same career transition path goes back to the core desires our users expressed.

GUIDING THEME

🤹

Instill Confidence

We can help a user become more confident in their journey by building up their skills.

Thinking through our Slack solution for our user

1

Updating our proto-personas

Early on, I led part of our team in creating 5 different proto-personas based off of previous research. As the project progressed, we updated our proto-personas to summarize previous research and to anchor our decisions back to.

2

Storyboarding the career transitioner’s path through Beela’s Slack group

While we had a general understanding of what themes we needed to include into our solution, we still needed to flesh out how exactly a Slack solution would work. We referred back to our proto-persona, Judy, and created a storyboard. This storyboard incorporates our 3 themes in depicting how she would come across the Slack group and become invested in the community. From our storyboard, we pulled out our assumptions and prioritized them against our 2x2 matrix.

3

Prioritizing assumptions into channel descriptions for another round of interviews

We noticed that our assumptions were intertwined with whether or not users would be interested in certain channel ideas. We wrote out some channel descriptions, which depicted the content that would appear in each channel. I referenced this content during our next validation step with interview participants.

Findings from validating our Slack channels

This time, we conducted 3 more user interviews to gain feedback on our Slack channel ideas. I also interviewed one of the participants during this round. Here are our findings:

RESEARCH INSIGHT

📚

Resources

Users would find a resources channel to be useful, but it depends on what resources are actually posted.

RESEARCH INSIGHT

🎓

Mentorship

Users reaffirmed that mentor feedback to be very useful throughout all stages of the career transition journey.

RESEARCH INSIGHT

Skills

Users need help polishing their skillset to be job-ready.

RESEARCH INSIGHT

😤

#Vent

A #vent channel where users can freely express their frustrations piqued some interest in users.

TAKEAWAY

Our findings indicated that we were on the right track. All the participants were excited about some channels, while providing feedback that would modify other channel ideas  into something that connected with them better.

Design

Gaining feedback from lo-fi ideas to hi-fi prototyping

We prototyped our ideas into a test Slack server. The Slack server had a variety of channels with pre-populated conversations. We wanted to understand user feedback when presented with conversations that could happen in Beela’s Slack group.

Testing our final solution in a working prototype resulted in a set of recommendations that Beela could immediately put into practice with their actual Slack group.

Recommendations

We prototyped our ideas into a test Slack server. The Slack server had a variety of channels with pre-populated conversations. We wanted to understand user feedback when presented with conversations that could happen in Beela’s Slack group. By the end of our final round of user testing, we had enough insights to present a set of recommendations to Beela's team. Here are our recommendations.

RECOMMENDATION

👩🏻👱👩🏽🧒👩🏿

1. Create a safe space as a means of increasing engagement within the community.

Insight: The Beela Slack group needs to be a judgment-free zone if users are going to feel free enough to share their thoughts and frustrations with others.

Recommendation:

Create a Code of Conduct.

  • Sets the tone of the Slack group as a place where people can share their experiences freely.
  • Defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
  • The process of creating this can be a collaborative effort with the community.

Create a Welcome channel as a place to start.

  • Creates a dedicated space for users easily break the ice with an intro to start a conversation with the community.

Create a Vent channel.

  • This will be a judgment-free zone to share experiences and frustrations.
  • Allows for anonymous posting, which makes it easier for people to share their most vulnerable thoughts.
  • Users will feel a sense of togetherness through seeing other user's struggles.

RECOMMENDATION

🔗

2. Provide ways for users to connect together.

Painpoint: One major pain point that has come up in interviews is that users feel a sense of loneliness on their journey.
Want: Users also have a desire to connect with others on the same journey who also have similar backgrounds.

Recommendation:

Create a Co-working channel as a way for peers to help each other.

  • This space is dedicated for users to meet virtually and work on whatever they want. They don’t need to be working on the same thing.
  • This also creates engagement and a sense of community as users meet each other  over time.

Encourage users to create background specific channels

  • Having channels that reflect people’s identity (Ex. #business-to-tech, #latinas-in-tech) will offer a place for users to reach those with similar backgrounds.

RECOMMENDATION

🎓

3. Connect users with mentors.

Need: Users want personalized guidance in 3 different areas:

  • Domain-specific experience sharing.
  • Technical feedback.
  • How to approach a problem.

Recommendation:

Create one or multiple Ask-a-mentor channels for Beela mentors to address questions in these areas.
This channel would also scale mentor resources from Beela's mentorship program because the advice would be public to the community rather than held within Beela's existing one-on-one mentoring structure. That way, users experiencing similar issues can benefit from seeing those pieces of advice too.

RECOMMENDATION

📚

4. Offer a resources channel.

Insight: Oftentimes participants wanted to gain access to a list of vetted resources on a diverse range of subjects to help them along their career journey path.

Recommendation:

Compile a list of helpful resources from past Beela users who have gone through the program.
In addition to mentorship, Beela users can build up their knowledge and skillset by learning about these resources on their own

Results and Impact

Previously...

Beela users were faced with a long and arduous career transition journey. Without having a friend to support them along the way, some may not be able to make it to the end.

Now...

Our solution is a helping hand to pull career transitioners out of ruts they may have fallen into. With our recommendations, Beela can immediately implement a solution into practice. Their users will now have a platform where they can support each other on their journeys. It is a safe space where they can freely share their stories and learn from others on how they can overcome all kinds of challenges. This persistent platform also empowers Beela by giving them a tool from which they can experiment with new ways of engagement and grow sustainably with. When we presented our recommendations, Beela’s developer was excited to put our concepts into practice, especially since she was working on an adjacent product that would benefit from a cohesive and engaging community.

What do the stakeholders say?

Here are a a couple thoughts that were shared after our team presented our solution and recommendations.

"And now I just see, okay, this is the channel to start, so I can share here my thoughts then. Yeah! It says why I choose tech-- probably a channel that also has information what I'm looking for. Yeah. Perfect."

- Beela User

"The choices are awesome. I feel like [...] it's so great because it's something I feel like we can implement tomorrow."

- Beela's Developer

Lessons Learned

LESSON

🕵️

Assumption testing saves valuable time and effort.

Assumption testing is a great way to evaluate an idea before becoming too invested into it. During the latter half of the project, because we tested our assumption at the end of every week, we had a lot of useful feedback to shift our designs the following week.

LESSON

🐙

Solutions can come in many forms.

Originally, we set out to create an event module within the home page as a solution. Due to the user feedback, we shifted to a Slack-based solution. This is a bit different from designing web and mobile interfaces, but still used design thinking to shape what the experience would look like for the user. It also made sense for the client considering they had a lack of resources to put toward the development of a more technically complex solution.

LESSON

🤝🏻

Together, a team can achieve many things.

Because we were on a large team working with within Google Design Sprint framework, we were able to split up and deliver more value from two branches of the OST at the same time. There were many moments when the effort of one team helped out the other. For example, during interview sessions, we split our interview script. Interestingly enough, sometimes questions written by the other team led to the participant sharing information that helped our team. There were many moments were I learned some very useful pieces of knowledge from my other team members. Ultimately, with everyone's efforts combined, we created a lot of value for Beela and their users.