This post is based on a video from my YouTube channel.
If you’re an archaeologist considering pursuing a career/role/position in UX (user experience), this post details the top 7 skills archaeologists easily bring to UX research. In this post, you will find the YouTube video discussing this topic and a full transcript of the video.
YouTube Video Transcript
Here you will find the complete transcript of the video in the previous section. There are time stamps for every minute if you want to navigate to a certain part.
Hi everyone. So in today’s video, we’re going to be discussing seven skills that archaeologists easily bring to UX research. Now, if you don’t know me, my name is Smiti and I’m an archaeologist, but I’ve also been a UX researcher.
Now UX research or user experience research is drawing the attention of PhDs, postdocs, and even established faculty members, because it provides a lucrative and interesting option to still do research, but in an industry setting.
Now companies and organizations do recruit broadly for UX researchers however, archaeologists are not always at the top of their list but we have skills that easily translate to UX research. So that’s what today’s video is all about.
Skill 1: Curious About People
So skill number one, we’re curious about people. Now many of us study people in the past and past societies and were curious about how they lived, what they use and a whole host of other questions. That intellectual curiosity can easily be translated into studying people who are living now and using [00:01:00] certain products, services, or experiences that an organization or a company might have to offer.
In fact, cultural anthropologists are highly sought after in the UX field and many archaeologists are also anthropologically trained. So if that’s you definitely lean into that skill set, as well as you’re talking to people about potential UX research jobs. Now, depending on how you did archaeology or how you do archaeology, you might not have the methodological knowledge or experience of certain cultural anthropologists, especially when it comes to desired methods like field interviews or ethnography, but that’s okay. And that leads us into skill number two.
Skill 2: Quickly Learning New Skills
archaeologists are great at quickly learning new methods and adapting them. You probably have stories about learning a whole new method and adapting that for your research and two key skills that are super important in UX when it comes to methods is rigor and scrappiness. Now, when it comes to rigor, that just means you have to be thorough and as accurate as possible [00:02:00] and this is basically a baseline requirement for most graduate research. Now, when it comes to scrappiness, that’s a term I heard a lot when I was in UX research and that just means doing the best you can with what you have often projects have limited budgets. So they might not be able to buy the fanciest new software or pay a large sample of users. So you definitely have to be scrappy, which many graduate students can empathize with.
So in terms of graduate students and people who have gone through the graduate school process, that lends itself really well to skill number three,
Skill 3: Driving End-to-End Research Projects
which is driving research projects from end to end.
So when it comes to doing UX research and driving a project from start to finish it’s really important to be able to take initiative, manage your stakeholders, manage yourself and other projects, and make sure you’re goal oriented or outcome oriented.
Now archaeologists are definitely used to managing different stakeholders and it’s usually quite integral to the projects we do. For example, if you’re running an [00:03:00] excavation abroad, you would need to make sure you’re coordinating with your home university with any funding agencies, local governments, local communities, any students or workers that you might be bringing out and a whole host of other people. Now, all these parties might be directly or indirectly related to the project, but you have to be able to communicate with them in order to manage your project and move it along.
This happens in UX research all the time. You often collaborate with maybe engineering teams, product teams, content design teams, as well as UI design teams. And if you’re driving that project, you have to be able to make sure that you’re communicating with everyone. And that most importantly, you’re aligning on what needs to get done.
Now another thing archaeologists are really good at doing is prioritization. If you’ve ever done field work as an archaeologist, you often have a limited time and budget. So you might have a lot of things that you want to get done, but you feasibly don’t have the time or money to do all of them.
So you [00:04:00] ruthlessly prioritize as the season goes on, or even before the season happens. This skill is also crucial in UX research and we’re often prioritizing and re-prioritizing what we can do in a given timeframe and with the budget we have.
So archaeologists are often working in a collaborative team environment. So that’s something we’re quite used to, and you’ll see this as a skill that pops up all over the place for what makes a good UX researcher, but we also have a skill when it comes to team environments that the UX field is also grappling with as well,
Skill 4: Figuring out Knowledge Management Processes
which is figuring out knowledge management processes. So knowledge management is an issue that a lot of UX teams are thinking about. So there are key decisions that need to be made around what data to preserve, how to preserve it and how can people access it in the future.
Knowledge management is something that we grapple with all the time as archaeologists. For example, let’s say we find a bunch of things at an archaeological site that could be [00:05:00] ceramics. It could be bones. It could be plant remains. We have to make decisions on what we’re deciding to preserve and analyze. And even when we do, we have to think about how those analyses and how that data will be stored and then who’ll have future access to it. Of course, it’s easier to come up with a knowledge management solution if you’re working by yourself, but most UX researchers are working in a team and often with a team of people who are not just UX researchers. So this challenge of grappling with a knowledge management solution is something that archaeologists definitely have experience with. We’ve definitely dealt with all sorts of data, no matter what type of archaeology we did, which brings us to our next skill,
Skill 5: Making sense of different datasets to provide an insight or recommendation
which is making sense of different datasets to provide an insight or in the case of UX research or recommendation.
So the type of archaeology I do is quite interdisciplinary. We’re coordinating with different specialists. We’re looking into different disciplines, adapting those methods for our own [00:06:00] research program. And the list goes on. Now all those disciplines and adaptations of those methods for our research generate different types of datasets and in order to, let’s say publish an article, we need to make sense of those data sets and interpret them to actually provide an insight or something original to say.
Making sense of different types of datasets happens all the time. In UX research. Often we might do a specific study about a certain question, but then we’re also pulling from previous studies and looking for patterns and seeing what’s happened before.
archaeologists are quite used to looking at different types of data sets, even generating different datasets, and then having something to say about it.
Now, even though we’re dealing with a wide variety of data sets, even for one study we might not know everything, but that lends itself well to the next skill,
Skill 6: Dealing with Uncertainty as You’re Generating an Insight or Recommendation
which is dealing with uncertainty as you’re generating an insight or recommendation. So the archaeological record is inherently fragmentary, which means we don’t know [00:07:00] everything about the past and what happened to it because not everything preserved. So even if we have a method in which to look into the past, like, ceramic analysis. We definitely don’t have all the ceramics that were ever created in the past.
Articulating what we know, what we don’t know and why we’re making a certain interpretation is just a fundamental skill that you learn as you progress in your training as an archaeologist. So when it comes to UX research, I think archaeologists definitely have the foundational skills to then articulate design decisions, even amidst uncertainty.
This leads us very well into the next skill,
Skill 7: Effectively Communicating Results to Different Stakeholders
which is effectively communicating results to different stakeholders.
Now in the past, there was a lot of issues with academics, only writing for academics. Now in the type of archaeology that I do, and many of my friends do as well we’re used to communicating our findings with different stakeholders so this could be local governments and communities, maybe undergraduate [00:08:00] researchers who are coming for a field school on our project. We’re just used to breaking down what we’re doing, in a way that is comprehensible to other people who might not be specialists in that specific field.
So this skill lends itself really well to UX research when you’re managing multiple stakeholders and need to deliver for them. Now effective communication in UX research in this aspect means that you need to be able to give a recommendation to your stakeholders on what to do next, and they should be inspired or persuaded to do so.
Another key part of communication to your stakeholders is creating effective deliverables. This could be, you know, a report, a PowerPoint slide a different type of presentation and most archaeologists, especially if they’ve gone to graduate school , produce field reports, produce, conference presentations. So those skills lend itself really well to communicating with stakeholders in a diversity of ways.
So that is the end of the video. Obviously I think there are more skills that us [00:09:00] archaeologists bring to UX. If I missed anything, or if you have something to add, definitely let me know in the comments below and I’ll see you in the next video.
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