This past summer, I was given the unique opportunity to intern at Fidelity Investments, a financial company, in Boston, Massachusetts. I wanted to make a series of blog posts that discussed every aspect of my internship experience—from what I actually did, the pros/cons of working in a financial company, and living in a completely new city on your own. This is the first installment detailing my day-to-day work experience.
I joined a team that worked on internal products as a user experience intern. User experience has been something I’ve been extremely passionate about and interested in since I was a junior in high school. I loved that it required me to use my journalism skills, understand people’s brains, and have a tech background.
Half of my team was located in a different state, so I worked directly with two other people. This gave me a good amount of responsibility and I enjoyed the closeness of our team. We were coworkers, but also friends. Both of the people I worked with were women and pretty much the entire area I sat in was filled with women. My manager’s manager was also female and it just made me a lot more comfortable, especially since I was already nervous as a first-time intern. We would all joke about how we had solved the women in tech problem.
What I loved about work was that each day was different. I didn’t have just one project the entire project, but several. Some days, I would be at my cubicle preparing and setting up usability sessions. Other days, we would be down at the usability labs—which, by the way, is LIKE THE COOLEST PLACE EVER. Usability labs are structured similar to the way interrogation rooms are in detective shows. There is a room set up to emulate a cozy office space—the natural habitat for typical workers. The adjoining room is set up with controls and monitors that show what is going on the screen and different angles of the participant. There is a transparent screen in the control room, but from the participant’s view, it is a mirror. In other words, we can see the participant, but the participant can’t see us.
I spent a majority of my internship in these rooms, either guiding the participant through a series of tasks or sitting in the control room and observing. After all usability tests were over, we would go over our notes, rewatch the participant videos, and create a powerpoint of suggestions that we would pitch to the other members involved with the product.
Apart from my main work, my coworker and I created our own research project. in a UXPA talk, Steve Krug, a famous user researcher, questioned the necessity of PIP (picture-in-picture) when recording usability sessions. He believes that PIP compromises the privacy of the user and can lead to bias from the user researcher that is analyzing the study. We decided to test this idea. We recorded a video of me attempting to book a flight to Istanbul through Google Flights. We showed a video with the PIP (my face as I went through the task) to half our participants and a video without the PIP to the other half. We asked them to pretend to be user researchers and write down any usability errors the person in the video (me) experienced. Essentially, we conducted user research on user research (so meta). While more testing should be done, we learned that there was no difference between those who had PIP and those that did not.
The work I did was fun and allowed me to interact with all sorts of people in the company. Boston is a big hub for user experience and I got to meet a lot of brilliant people within the industry. Overall, I learned a TON, which is the most important thing in every internship.
My next blog post will talk about the pros/cons of working at a financial company! Stay tuned.