Though trained as a computer scientist, Jamika Burge admits she does not have the heart of a programmer; rather, she’s interested in surfacing and connecting with the humanity of the technology we create. Jamika has taken that approach in her past work, including a stint at DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), where she studied the impact of games on learning. Jamika now leads AI Design Insights at CapitalOne, and is also one of the Advancing Research 2021 Conference curators. Here she shares the story of her career path, and the work she is doing with blackcomputeHER.org (pronounced ‘black computer’), an organization she co-founded that is dedicated to supporting computation and design workforce development for black women and girls.
Gendershades.org, a project by Joy Buolamwini, Lead Author and Timnit Gebru, PhD, Co-Author
Dr. Jamika D. Burge leads AI Design Insights at Capital One. Her team uncovers learning & research insights across multiple platform experiences, including conversational AI, which supports Eno, Capital One’s customer-facing intelligent assistant. She’s an authority on intersectionality of Black women in computing and co-founder of blackcomputeHER.org (pronounced ‘black computer’), an organization dedicated to supporting computation & design workforce development for black women and girls.
Prior to joining Capital One, she served as a research and tech consultant to DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in the Information Innovation Office. While there, she provided technical and management consult for innovative DARPA programs which were funded at over $70M. Jamika is also Founder and Principal of Design & Technology Concepts, LLC, a tech consultancy that focuses on computer science education, tech research, and intersectional design. She has consulted for Google, the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT), and the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). Jamika holds a PhD in CS from VA Tech.
‘Tis the season for companies to write year-end retrospectives. It’s a fraught sub-genre these days, given the shitshow that 2020 has been. But retrospectives offer a great opportunity to look back, learn, and plan. Here goes for Rosenfeld Media: A quarterly review
Our 2020 started and ends on high notes, with a deep, dark, dank valley in between:
Q1: Who’s invention’s mom again?
We launched our third conference, Advancing Research, in late March/early April. Five weeks prior, we’d sold it out. Three weeks prior, we scrambled to convert it to a hybrid event — both in-person and virtual. Two weeks prior, we realized that we’d have to go fully remote. Rube Goldberg would have been proud of how we contorted ourselves to virtualize the conference (livestream goes here, Zoom there, Slack there), but what choice did we have?
Really, it was a huge success thanks to our team, our speakers, and our sponsors. And the conference received very positive attendee reviews, giving us the confidence that we were on the right track with our virtualization efforts.
But there was no time to catch our breaths, because…
We live—and work—in difficult, punishing times, and designers need more support than ever before. That’s why resilience is our theme for DesignOps 2020; we’ll explore design operations’ role in helping individual designers, design teams, and entire organizations adapt, survive, and thrive.
The DesignOps Summit 2020 program takes place over three days, and each will focus on a critical constituency that DesignOps people are helping to sustain:
- Day 1: The Resilient DesignOps Team of One
- Day 2: The Resilient DesignOps Team
- Day 3: The Resilient DesignOps Organization
We’re confident that you won’t find a better-designed virtual conference experience; here’s why.
During our “Ask Me Anything” with Amy Bucher, author of Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change, we touched on subjects ranging from career advice to climate change, social justice, and the intersection of science and UX. Read on for a recap of the session, and please join our Slack here to stay informed about when our next #rm-chat author AMA will be!
Q: How have you applied your own behavior change design principles in your personal life? Give us an example! -DJ H.
A: Good question! Probably my most successful personal behavior change is becoming a runner. I didn’t run at all until I was almost 30, then one day I went on a jog on a whim and got really pissed by how bad I was at it. So I put together a training plan and somehow stuck with it, and now running is a major part of my life and identity. I would say writing Engaged is also an example. I used a lot of milestones, goal setting, and accountability tactics to get it written.
Q: Molly Stevens recently gave the closing keynote at the UXR conference and pointed to a series of next steps for the research community. One of them is “First, be seen as the scientists that we are. The work we do is grounded in years of study and scientific principles. We should emphasize and celebrate this, instead of diminishing or ignoring our foundation.” Molly is speaking about research specifically, but my question for you is more general, around the dynamic that you’ve found between science and UX—what have you seen? How have you navigated? What would you like to see? -Steve P.
A: This is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking question. I have found there is some tension between science and UX, but it’s inconsistent. I personally experienced the tension entering the design workforce with a PhD—when I first applied for roles I got quite a bit of pushback and remember being told in one interview that they knew I wasn’t seriously interested in the job (well, not after that response I wasn’t!). I’ve discovered I thrive working for companies that explicitly embrace science and value that part of my background. Where most of my work is in health, I think we still struggle to create products that are based on strong science and also have beautiful, elegant design. Health IT is typically a UX wasteland, and a lot of consumer health tech is not based on strong science. I try to think of this as an exciting opportunity and not a horrifying miss. I would like to see more collaboration and less ego. One person who I think is doing this effectively is Sherry Pagoto at UConn—she’s really into putting academic testing frameworks around consumer health tech so that it can gain the type of evidence base it needs to be accepted in healthcare settings.
Q: How is behavior change design (BHD) different from user experience design (UXD)? Are they both different labels for the same thing? -Nitya R.
A: I do think they are different. The main differences in my view are the use of established scientific frameworks in BCD, and the focus on behavior as the target of design. I see BCD as a subset of UXD.
Q: Let’s say someone falls in this BCD subset. A psych background and a significant amount of HCI knowledge and research experience, but not formally trained in the design-specific elements of UI/UX. How many companies make the distinction between these two roles in their organizations? (It seems nearly all jobs in behavior change tech require UI/UX design skills. But in doing this, companies are missing an opportunity: what the psych-heavy side has to offer.) -Mary M.
A: Great point, and I do not know the answer, but that reminds me of a fabulous resource! Ingrid Paulin of Rally Health made this great spreadsheet of companies around the world that hire people with behavior science expertise.
Q: Aside from your home turf of healthcare, what are the areas you’re seeing as having the most potential for designing for behavior change? Maybe better to ask: where are designers working now, and where might the be working in five years? -Lou R.
A: Climate change! There is SO MUCH opportunity there for behavior change work. So far the main obstacles I’ve seen to doing the work is that the money isn’t there, but the projects definitely are.
Q: Any other areas that stand out?
A: I attended an event at the World Wildlife Foundation about 2 years ago with the theme of behavior change and was blown away by some of the incredible work being done around the world on things like sustainable fishing practices and clean cooking fuels. Right now that’s all NGO-driven. As the economics around climate change shift I hope we’ll see more companies wanting to fund this type of work.
I also think politics is ripe for shaking up. There were a couple of behavior change type interventions around the 2016 election that I thought were interesting (Jane McGonigal worked on an app for example that encouraged people to get their friends to vote). The Environmental Voter Project is an organization using behavior change principles to get people to vote. There’s so much reform needed that I hope we see more focus there.
Q: Like you said above, with climate change, the projects are there but the funding isn’t. Is there a space where design for behavior change can move money toward these projects? -Katya H.
A: Easier said than done. I think the economics will shift around climate change as more organizations either realize the existing way of doing things is not sustainable, or they see that their consumers are interested in better alternatives. As I think about it, maybe the focus should be on helping to create buzz and desirability around more sustainable products or ways of doing things.
Q: There’s a revolutionary (and counter-revolutionary) spirit in the U.S. today, similar but different to what I saw in the 1960s. What role can government institutions and businesses play in encouraging behavior change when it comes to diversity and inclusion? And by this, I mean more than simply sending us daily emails about how much they care about BLM. -Bob T.
A: You hit on a great point here, which is that words without actions are (almost) meaningless, and people perceive words without actions as inauthentic at some point. One big role they can play is demonstrating through action what the change looks like. Organizations that actually have diverse leadership, for example, have a lot of credibility in talking about what it takes to hire a diverse work force and leverage the talents and perspectives of their people. What sucks right now is realizing how few companies are in a position to model anything. One thing I was very inspired by in writing my book was talking to Sheryl Cababa and hearing about the Tarot Cards of Tech she co-developed at Artefact. I think those kinds of design methods are a process-based way that orgs can start bringing more diverse perspectives into their work. I thought it was great this year seeing so many organizations acknowledge Juneteenth. We had to delay finishing a project because our client org made Juneteenth a paid day off on short notice—best reason ever to be late.
Q: When choosing a solution type, do you have a preference for a particular method/framework for prioritization of interventions to solve ability blockers? -Jeff G.
A: Yes! I tend to reach for motivation-based tools first because I truly believe that behavior change happens when the actions align with people’s motivation. That said, I work in a consultancy so my projects are for clients, and often I need to adjust my toolkit to fit the client’s parameters.
One example: I did a construction worker safety project, and we uncovered a lot of environmental adjustments that could be made at worksites to limit people taking unnecessary risks. But the client wanted to develop a training—so our output was a training. We presented on the environmental adjustments but I have no idea if anything became of that.
Q: Do you have any advice for those just jumping in the BCD pool? -Jode K.
A: I have been recommending recently that people start with a few more accessible activities that are part of the BCD toolkit. The three I’ve pulled out are doing a lit review of peer reviewed papers related to your project, creating an outcomes logic map that articulates the behaviors you’re trying to influence, and using a BC framework for a lensed brainstorm. The lensed brainstorm in particular is extremely accessible. I do versions of it with clients often.Fill out my online form.
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Without words, apps would be an unusable jumble of shapes and icons, while voice interfaces and chatbots wouldn’t even exist. Words make software human-centered, and require just as much thought as the branding and code. Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience by Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle will show you how to give your users clarity, test your words, and collaborate with your team. You’ll see that writing is designing.
What Others Are Saying
“This book doesn’t just formalize the discipline of writing for the user experience; it empowers all digital product writers to stand up for their craft and take a permanent seat at the design table.”
— Kristina Halvorson, CEO, Brain Traffic and author, Content Strategy for the Web
“At last! A book that treats writing for products as a design practice that has tangible, lasting impact on the user experience. Andy and Michael don’t just help you write better—they help you design better products.”
— Jonathon Colman, Senior Design Manager, Intercom
Speaker decks, presentation videos, Natalie Hansen’s tripnotes, and MJ Broadbent’s sketchnotes are now available via the conference’s program page; enjoy! You can also see all the photos from the conference here.
We hope to see you again next year—or even sooner at Advancing Research 2020 (March 30-April 1 in New York City)
—Lou Rosenfeld and the DesignOps Summit team
Tickets are now available! Register now.
What makes the Advancing Research 2020 conference unique?
- A research-driven conference: Practicing what we preach, we’ve designed the conference and its program based on two robust phases of user research, involving nearly 1,000 responses and analysis from over a dozen highly-experienced researchers.
- A diverse, compelling speaker line-up: We’re carefully selecting speakers for their ideas and for the diverse perspectives and experiences they represent. 40% of our conference proposals come from members of under-represented groups; 17% come from new speakers.
- Presentations that set the standard for quality: Once we select our speakers, we work with them iteratively over months to prepare and rehearse their presentations.
- Our attendees shape and lead the industry: You’ll meet more research leaders, high-level research managers, and experienced research practitioners than you’ll find at perhaps any other conference.
Who should attend the Advancing Research 2020 conference?
- Experienced researchers: People who conduct research projects, select methods and develop methodologies, design studies, and evaluate products and services.
- Research team leaders and managers: People who select research tools and platforms, hire and onboard researchers, manage research operations, develop methodologies for their teams, and represent research in the C-suite.
- Senior leaders, innovators, and strategists: People who have invested heavily into building cutting-edge research organizations.
Thank you so much to everyone who submitted their proposal to speak at the very first Advancing Research conference!