This summer, I had the opportunity to work as the UX researcher for the newly launched product LinkedIn Career Advice, which is a system that matches advisors to advisees. This project is spearheaded by the Flagship Identity team, which handles the user profile experience on linkedin.com.
What is the LinkedIn Intern Program Like?
Each summer, a group of about 200 undergraduate and graduate students come together to try our hand at being part of the real world (and also eat all the food in the break rooms). There were 4 different start dates and, therefore, 4 different orientations. Stanford is on the quarter system, so I started on the last date, June 25th. I got to know people who also started on June 25th quite well because of the fun, team-building activities we had on our first day - like taping together balloon towers and playing LinkedIn trivia (Do you know the date that LinkedIn was launched? Hint: Cinco de Mayo). The internship program offers opportunities to work at a number of the different LinkedIn offices, like Chicago and New York City. As the Bay Area lifer I am, I asked to be placed in the Sunnyvale offices, which just so happens to be the headquarters. I did venture up to SF on occasion to see my manager, who has her desk there, and also to participate in research or events happening in the city. But I tried to keep my trips to SF to a minimum, considering my commute from Los Gatos to SF would take about 2 hours each way.
If you want a more step-by-step portrayal of what it's like to be an intern at LinkedIn, check out this fantastic Business Insider article on my friend and classmate Ana Carolina's day-in-the-life at LinkedIn. I can vouch for the accuracy of the article, kombucha included.
Who did I work with?
The User Experience Research (UER) team at LinkedIn - the team I was affiliated with most closely - is embedded into the User Experience Design (UED) team. As a result, I had the fantastic opportunity to work alongside brilliant designers to shape the designs behind LinkedIn. That's not to say designers were the only stakeholders on my projects; I also got to work closely with Product Managers and Product Marketers from the broader Flagship Identity team. There was one other UER intern this summer, Morteza, but in total 7 other UED interns.
My manager encouraged me to meet everyone on the UER team and was very proactive about making sure I got to have as many 1:1s with UER team members as possible. I realized how important this was because each time I had a 1:1, I got great new perspectives on the project I was working on. Not only that, but I also got a better understanding of how my research fit into overarching UER team objectives.
What did I do?
I completed two rounds of research, meaning that I investigated two questions about the LinkedIn Career Advice platform: the first was about the product at the moment and the second question was about future directions for the platform. Day-to-day, I was tasked with recruiting participants, building discussion guides, meeting with stakeholders, leading member interviews, consolidating findings, and sharing major insights. Ultimately, my role was to make recommendations to product teams to ensure they are building the best product possible. This usually came in the form of share-outs with stakeholders where I would present insights to the team and subsequent recommendations in the form of a slide deck.
An important thing for me to keep in mind was that these findings had to be made accessible beyond the duration of my internship to anyone working at LinkedIn. This meant maintaining a comprehensive "Wiki" page on the LinkedIn server for each of my projects that linked to all the documents used during the internship and summarized all the steps in the process.
The findings also had to be discoverable by everyone at the company. That's why each week, every member of the UER team would send in the "status" of our projects that would get blasted out in an email to the whole UED team. And each week, there would be two researchers who wrote "Key Highlights," which gave the detailed findings of a recently completed project that would be read by the whole company, including the executive team. I was able to share my research findings on LinkedIn's Career Advice as one of these Key Highlights during my 8th week on the job.
Another great way I got to increase visibility for my project was through UED Deep Dives where I got to present my research findings to the design leadership team and receive feedback from them. Similarly, the Flagship Identity UER team had weekly Crit 'n Play meetings were a small group of researchers would come to the meeting with questions on everything from how to approach a research question to what questions to include on their discussion guide.
I also got the awesome opportunity to be a part of other research projects: one on Job Search Filters and one on Social Engagement. These were led by other UER team members and done as street intercepts (a recruitment method where you approach people off the street for a quick interview). This allowed me to meet members of other teams in fields outside UER and work with them to interview people we lured in from the streets of SF or Sunnyvale. And for my final week at LinkedIn, as things began to slow down, I was able to take on and facilitate a quick and dirty research project for the LinkedIn Desktop App for Windows.
All I can say is: "Thank you, LinkedIn! Thank you for instilling confidence in me as a User Experience Researcher. And thank you for introducing me to a wonderful community of creative, enthusiastic, friendly individuals."