Lucy Jiang ‘19, UX Researcher

This week, we are so happy to highlight Lucy Jiang ‘19 from Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Lucy majored in Economics and minored in Psychological Science at Pomona College. After overcoming a series of injuries in her first three years, she did not drop a single set on her way to winning Flight B of the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) Division III West Women’s Regional Championship in her senior year. During the 2018-19 season, Lucy served as an important, encouraging leader and primarily competed at No. 5 singles in the starting lineup. At the 2019 ITA Division III Women’s Indoor National Championship, she defeated No. 46-ranked Beata Liberchuk 6-1, 6-3, contributing a critical point to the Sagehens’ 5-4 quarterfinal win over Carnegie Mellon. Lucy also toppled opponents from Middlebury, Williams, Gustavus Adolphus, and four SCIAC (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) teams. Playing at all three doubles positions with four different partners (Arianna Chen ‘19, Grace Hruska ‘19, Jacinta Chen ‘21, and Melisha Dogra ‘22), she tallied nine wins over Babson, Gustavus Adolphus, Sewanee (University of the South), Tufts, Williams, and four SCIAC opponents. 

Outside of tennis, Lucy served as an AAMP (Asian American Mentor Program) mentor, tutored preschoolers through the Jumpstart program, participated in the 5C (Claremont Colleges) Tech for Good club, supported local Tongan students through STEP (Saturday Tongan Education Program) at the AARC (Asian American Resource Center), and volunteered for the Draper Center’s HHI (Hunger and Homelessness Initiative) as well as Refresh Bolivia. She studied abroad at the University of Melbourne in the fall of her junior year. For her academic achievement, Lucy was also honored as a three-time SCIAC All-Academic Student-Athlete and a one-time ITA All-Academic Scholar-Athlete (2019). 

Upon graduation from Pomona, Lucy pursued an MS (Master of Science) in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) from UMSI (University of Michigan – School of Information). During her master’s, Lucy not only participated in the UMSI Leadership Series and provided UX (User Experience) consulting at the Business + Impact Studio at the Ross School of Business but also worked as a Graduate Student Instructor, a Graduate Research Assistant, an Instructional Aide, a Grader, and a Tennis Instructor at various points. After graduating from UMSI in 2021, she spent three months as a UX Research Assistant for Google Classroom. She now works as a UX Researcher for Amazon’s Echo Frames, which are smart glasses with built-in Alexa functionality.

Lucy Jiang ‘19 playing doubles with Arianna Chen ‘19 at the Pauley Tennis Complex in Claremont, California.

We enjoyed catching up with Lucy and learning about her enriching experiences at Pomona, UMSI, and Amazon. She has also provided some career advice to young Sagehens!

How did you decide to pursue a Master of Science in HCI? 

Lucy: My decision to pursue HCI started with me realizing that I wanted to make a career change. I really enjoyed my economics classes and I thought they were interesting. But a lot of my peers were doing finance or consulting, and I wasn’t really interested in either of those. I didn’t really want to work in a traditional corporate setting in that I didn’t want to be wearing a suit and tie every day or have to be super formal with clients or in my workplace. 

The summer after my junior year, I was looking for an internship. I literally searched for an “economics internship” in Google and stumbled upon a position as an applied research intern. I had taken some psychology classes, so I had done a little bit of research. I thought it was going to be quantitative research, but it ended up being qualitative research — doing a lot of interviews and focus groups. 

I was really lucky as my manager was really supportive. She let me be a part of a lot of things, but also if I didn’t know how to do something, she would tell me how to do it. My manager brought up to me that there are programs to do HCD (Human-Centered Design), which is a specific process of ideating products or services that don’t currently exist. She had studied anthropology. And I remember, at that moment, I wished that I was studying anthropology because all of the anthropology majors I’d met are very good with people and that’s very helpful as people who do UX research need to interact with many people on a regular basis. 

She told me that it’s a relatively new field, but there are degrees in HCI. As anthropology and psychology were the closest disciplines available at Pomona, I decided to add a Psychology minor that leans a little bit more towards HCI. When I was a senior, I ended up taking an HCD class at Mudd and I really liked it. That’s when I decided to try and start applying for these programs. And then I got into the UMich (University of Michigan) program. I actually really wanted to get into CMU (Carnegie Mellon University), but looking back, it was probably not the best idea because it was more for people who already had experience and wanted to add a couple of things and get promoted. Since I was doing a career shift, two years helped me have a smoother transition. 

Members and alumni of the PPWT (Pomona-Pitzer Women’s Tennis Team) celebrating the 2019 graduates.

How did your experience at Pomona prepare you for the HCI program at UMich?

Lucy: At Pomona, you get a really strong foundation in how to figure things out and be curious. I always felt that going to a liberal arts school made me have a little bit more of a love of learning, be genuinely curious about things, and want to figure stuff out. 

When I went to UMich, I had never had such good grades in my life. That helped a lot with my confidence during my job search afterwards. I had struggled significantly more with academics at Pomona, but Pomona was where I learned how to study, how to be resourceful, how to make friends, and how to connect with people. As a UX researcher, making people feel comfortable is also a big part of my job, so that they can share what they’re really thinking. 

What was one of your favorite parts of the program in HCI? 

Lucy: I did a fellowship at the business school at UMich. That was probably my favorite parts of the program because I not only got some real world experience but also got to interact with people outside of my department, the School of Information for HCI, where everybody was working to become a UX designer or UX researcher. At the business school, I interacted with a lot of different kinds of people with many passions. Basically, I was doing UX consulting for MBA (Master of Business Administration) students who had their own ventures. That experience really pushed me to be on my own because I was the only UX person there.

Melisha Dogra ‘22, Jay Kim ‘20, Jacinta Chen ‘21, and Lucy at a team cupcake competition during spring break.

What’s it like to be a UX Researcher at Amazon? 

Lucy: I don’t want to speak for all of Amazon because each team looks very different at such a large company. For my organization specifically, we’re focused on an emerging product and so we’re functioning much more as a startup right now than as a big tech company. We also have a very small office, as we were very confidential until we launched two years ago. In that way, I get a lot of visibility over a lot of things. But it also means things are a little bit more chaotic than at a more established, long-term area like perhaps Alexa or the shopping team, for example. 

It really depends on the day, though we work in cycles. Basically, the cycles that we work in are as follows: 

  1. A stakeholder comes to me with a question. For example, we’re testing how people turn on the frames and whether it’s intuitive. 
  2. I’ll create a research plan, share it with the stakeholders, which includes the designers, design technologists, PMs (product managers), and engineers. 
  3. I’ll do recruiting, which takes a few days. 
  4. I’ll run the sessions, basically going through the interview protocol, letting them see the glasses, the app, or whatever else I’m testing, and getting their feedback.
  5. After the sessions, I’ll have a few days for analysis. Those days are pretty heads down, where I won’t have that many meetings. 
  6. I have a report out where I include all of the stakeholders and share my findings, usually in the form of a document since Amazon doesn’t really use PowerPoint presentations.

I more or less repeat this process for each research project, with the research methodology changing to what would be most relevant for the question at hand again. Sometimes a project can span a couple of months, but sometimes it’s three days and it’s just chaos. Some days, I’m just in meetings the whole time. And other days, I have nothing. 

When I asked my mom, “What do you think I do?” She said, “Oh, you work in customer service. You talk to people about their issues about the product, and then you solve them.” That title might not match my official one, but that’s kind of my job. UX research is a lot of talking. At the end of the day, I ask people who want to do UX research whether they like talking to people. There’s no way around it. You have to talk to a lot of people, you have to interview people, you have to communicate with your stakeholders, you have to report your findings, and you have to defend those findings. 

Working on an emerging product, we don’t really know what we’re doing, to be honest. We’re just trying to figure it out and do something new. So that part has been exciting.

Grace Hruska ‘19, Lucy, Caroline Casper ‘19, Arianna, Jay, and Maria Lyven ‘22 on Senior Day.

What was one of the most valuable classes that you took at Pomona and why?

Lucy: Personally, the most helpful class was my Asian American Psychology class. Psychology classes, in general, helped me process a lot of things growing up and the way I viewed things in life, from the perspective of my various identities — as a woman, a second generation Chinese American, and an athlete — that I hadn’t really ever really thought about. These classes also affected my view of my relationships with people. A lot of the friends that I made at Pomona had similar experiences of going through Asian American classes, where we would learn about ourselves and our identities. The smaller class sizes at liberal arts colleges like Pomona give you the space to feel more comfortable about sharing and learning from your classmates. 

Can you tell us about some of the volunteer programs that you participated in while at Pomona?

Lucy: I learned about myself and cultural history in a non-academic setting through AAMP. By the end of my year as an AAMP mentor, I had a lot of personal growth and felt more established in my positionality at Pomona. There were a lot of stressful times, it did take time and work, and it required a lot of mental and emotional capacity, but I learned a lot from it and also found some of my best friends through the program, including the people in my senior suite. I would recommend the program to future students. 

Through Jumpstart, I tutored preschoolers from some of the low-income neighborhoods nearby. It was a pretty large time commitment, but I really enjoyed the work. One thing I really appreciated about Jumpstart was the kids’ love of life and learning. It was nice to leave campus twice a week and hang out with these little kids who were so excited to see us. That was very grounding. Since it was my first formal teaching role, it also helped me get a teaching position at UMich. My contract position for Google Classroom also fit nicely as I had previous teaching experience. 

I participated in HHI through the Draper Center for Community Partnerships. Growing up, I had always volunteered at my local community kitchen. I wanted to do something related to that. While I had joined a little bit late, I did serve as the initiative’s liaison for the 5C Tech for Good club. We worked on creating a website that would connect people who needed resources to where they could go to get food or shelter. 

I also worked with Tongan students, ranging from elementary school to high school, in San Bernardino County. They would come in with schoolwork on Saturday mornings. We would help them go through their homework, especially if they had any questions about math or writing. We would also read to some of the little kids. We tried to center the program around fostering a love of learning and community support, as a lot of people in that program were from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The goal was to show them a path that they could potentially take. We would eat together, organize Pacific Islander cultural events, and have sharing circles. 

The PPWT Team celebrating an amazing comeback against CMU at the ITA Indoor Nationals in 2019.

What was one of the most memorable college matches that you played and why? 

Lucy: Probably the match versus CMU at Indoor Nationals in my senior year. Although we were down 0-3 after doubles, we went into singles and everybody just started screaming. I remember Maria Lyven ‘22 saved five match points to clinch the quarterfinal match, and we were all so excited. I even lost my voice that day. It probably had the highest energy of any match that I had been a part of, and I felt what a privilege it was to be an athlete. I don’t even know how to describe it; I felt so close to my teammates. That match had a happy ending, and was especially memorable because of our big comeback.

What have you learned from being a Pomona-Pitzer student-athlete? 

Lucy: My biggest takeaway was the prioritization of academic, athletic, and social things. While I participated in a lot of extracurriculars that most athletes rarely have time to try, I thought a lot about the activities — and the people — that I spent my energy on in my senior year. I had to make cuts in what I wanted to do, which was hard. But this ultimately let me be more present and have a greater impact in each thing that I was involved in. 

As an athlete, I also learned time management, grit, and discipline. 

What advice would you give to incoming Sagehens? 

Lucy: Be very social early on because it’ll be harder to meet new people later on. During the orientation activities, try to meet a lot of people, follow up, and find the people that you like. In addition to the PPWT Team, I was fortunate to have a very social sponsor group and AAMP mentors, who were student-athletes themselves, in my first year.

Start thinking about what you want to do early. I know that upperclassmen are well-intentioned when they say, “You don’t need to know what you want to do yet.” Yes, you will eventually figure it out, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do until junior year and it made life a lot more stressful later on. The stress hit me really hard when all the responsibilities came in my senior year–not just deciding what I wanted to do but also graduating and learning about what I needed to do as an adult. It’s never too early to think about your future career. If you start sooner, everything will be a bit smoother, you won’t feel as stressed, and you’ll be in a better position. That being said, even if you don’t end up figuring it out early, it will still be okay. Even just starting to think about your future earlier can make life much less stressful.

Explore different classes! And, the good thing is that Pomona encourages you to take a certain breadth of classes. 

Try to do an internship in the summer after your first year. I thought I wouldn’t need an internship until my junior year and I wish I had applied for one earlier. My first internship helped me decide what I wanted to do. And, for other people, their internships help them realize what they don’t want to do, which can be just as useful.

Caroline, Lucy, Arianna, and other Sagehens having fun on picture day in 2017.

(Images courtesy of Lucy Jiang)

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