#BecomingTechies is a content series that features professionals working at the cutting edge of technology and the unique career journeys that got them there. The series is hosted by Abednego Samudera, Manager at Michael Page Indonesia, who leads the Technology Practice. 

Today’s featured techie is Dita Utomo, Lead Product Researcher at GudangAda, a Jakarta-based B2B marketplace that brings wholesalers closer to retail stores and other buyers.

The qualitative research analyst has also worked at Google Singapore as a UX researcher for two years before joining the leading B2B e-commerce giant. In this interview, she shares her experience moving from market research to product research, her challenges, and how to thrive in this speciality.

Dita Utomo, Lead Product Researcher at GudangAda shares his insights
with Michael Page Indonesia’s Abednego Samudera.

Q: How would you explain the difference between market research and UX research?

Mainly the nature of products and services that we handle – the subject of the research itself. 

With market research, it’s pretty much conventional products and services. And by that, I mean physical products. So for example, phones and ready-to-drink beverages that you will see on minimarts or supermarkets to financial products like insurance.

So that’s market research. With UX research, the product that you handle and that you research upon are digital products. So, for example, the entirety of an app. Within that app, you would have features, you would have sub-features, and you would have multiple journeys. 

So, for example, if an app is an e-commerce app, the main end to end journey is for you to purchase something. So we could look into that. And the products in UX research are not tangible, obviously, because it is digital.

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Q: Were there any obstacles that you have to face when transiting from a background in market research to product research?

Yeah. So many obstacles. So many challenges, especially when I had just joined HappyFresh. It’s a whole, totally different world. So I came from a conventional corporate world, where basically I was an executor. 

I was an executor. I would be told, “Hey Dita, we have this project, you know, go do it”. That’s what I did. When I joined HappyFresh, I was expected to be the initiator and not the executor. And that freaked me out because I had never had an experience being a leader, an initiator of things. 

So it took me quite a while to change that mindset of being an executor or follower of orders to become one who initiates things and provides instructions to people. That was my biggest challenge.

Related: Humans of AI: the latest innovations and hiring trends in APAC

Q: For those who perhaps are in a similar situation as you, where they’re transitioning, what’s your advice? How do you become an initiator besides perhaps time?

At HappyFresh, in particular, once people knew what I was capable of, conducting a proper research process, something that they never had before I came here. A lot of people from many departments came to me.

So, for example, the country manager of Indonesia came to me, and marketing people came to me. The growth team came to me. Even the ops (operational) team came to me. And basically, if I were to take one common thing of their requests, all of them is that, you know, we’re trying to understand humans behind this issue. 

So, for example, the ops team wants to understand the reason for a high turnover for the drivers, shoppers and drivers in Thailand. The marketing or growth team doesn’t understand why their marketing campaigns didn’t have a better performance. It all comes down to understanding humans, understanding our end users, and why our campaigns, our efforts to retain all of this, we’re not working. 

I had that feeling. You know what? If that is the root cause, the main issue, I can actually understand humans because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past four years.

One of the biggest adjustments that researchers had to make is the ability to meet our users face to face and enjoy the interview the usual old way

So I always told my stakeholders, hey, you know what? I’m new to this thing, right? I’m new to the start-up world. I’m new to this particular industry. HappyFresh is an online groceries delivery service. I’m new to this industry.

I don’t know much about this industry, but I know a thing or two about understanding humans. So that’s what I would do. I would go talk to our users, try to understand where their pain points with us are. And then I would report back to you.

My suggestion is to not be afraid to make mistakes. You don’t have to perfect. You don’t have to do things perfectly the first time. It’s okay if you don’t get it. If you don’t get it 100% the first time, you will get a chance to do it over.

And the next time you do, you do the same thing. Make sure you learn from your mistakes. So that’s one. And two is, again, this is from my personal experience. I am a very solitary person by nature. And so, when I am given a job, I think that it is 100% my responsibility to see this job through. 

And what that translates is, I rarely involve or go to someone else to get help for my work. And that’s a mistake, and that’s a mistake because you will need other people in your life. And that’s also true for your work.

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So don’t be afraid to go to your colleagues, partner and managers, and show vulnerability. Hey, I’m struggling with this. I’ve tried my best to do this task, but I don’t think I got it. Can you give me advice? So do that. Do that. So have faith and rely on other people around you. My role at Google, right. They never had that role before. They never hired an Indonesian UX researcher because Indonesia has never been a prominent market for Google. 

But my team, the team that I was working for, decided we should get a hold of the Southeast Asia region. Indonesia is the biggest country in Southeast Asia. It makes sense if we do studies there, so we would need an Indonesian UX researcher.

So they put the job posting on LinkedIn. And I applied via LinkedIn. Everyone asked me, how did you get a job in Singapore, in Google, in Google, no less. And I was like, via LinkedIn, I applied. I applied on LinkedIn because it was posted there. And to be completely honest with you, but I wasn’t going to apply. 

I wasn’t going to apply because I was afraid. All of the old insecurities, lack of self-confidence, thinking that I’m not good enough for anything. It all came back when I saw that job post. But then, by the grace of god, he kind of put courage within me.

And so I was thinking, come on, Dita, what have you got to lose? What have you got to lose? Nothing. So, if you applied and felt okay, there are still other jobs you can apply to. So, I was like, okay, let’s try this. Let’s try this. So, I applied. And a long-story-short here I am. 

Q: How have researchers adapted to the challenges of 2020?

Personally, one of the biggest adjustments that researchers had to make is the ability to meet our users face to face and enjoy the interview the usual old way. There’s a lot lost in translation. There are many nuances and small body gestures or, like, small facial expressions that you miss when you’re not in the same room as the user.

Related: Humans of Data: the latest innovations and hiring trends in APAC

Q: Do you have any books or websites that you recommend for anything related to UX? 

I would say LinkedIn and Medium.com are very good places to start with. In LinkedIn, you would find communities of UX researchers. For example, I joined a group called UX SEA, UX Southeast Asia. So basically, it’s a community of UX designers and UX researchers, UX writers, UX strategists, all UX jobs or people who have UX jobs.

And they would have, for example, webinars, sharing sessions, and book clubs where you can see the latest books or titles or whatever. So that’s only one example. So, start with LinkedIn and Medium.com, because in Medium.com, it’s like a marketplace, but for many other websites. So, like, for example, like UXR collective, UXR medium or something like that. 

Just find, search on Medium.com and subscribe to websites or articles or writers or UX researchers or UX designers actively writing articles there. For books, it depends on what kind of UX researcher you want to be because there is a kind of specialisation within you, a researcher itself. So you can be, for example, a quantitative UX researcher.

So, suppose you want to be a quantitative UX researcher. In that case, you can read Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research by Jeff Sauro and James R. Lewis. So, there’s that. If you are like a newbie in the world of UX research, and you just want to understand the foundation of UX research, you can always read, for example, The Handbook of Global User Research by Robert Schumacher

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