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Urska

4 min read

First year at Paper

In January [where have the past few months gone?!] I celebrated the one-year anniversary since I joined Paper and I think it’s about time I share the story about my poor knowledge of English geography with Jon, Mark and Cam.

A year back when I was talking to Paper about an opportunity of joining them the biggest question on the table was the travelling I would have to do because the studio is in Sheffield and I’m based in Manchester. The team was concerned how I would be handling the long commute, which was just one of many indicators of how they put their team’s wellbeing first. For some reason, I mixed up the cities names and thought that Paper was based in Stockport and not Sheffield and because of that hadn’t recognised the concern shown by the Paper team. Even worse I hadn’t realised my mistake until I needed to arrange my travelling to the Paper studio to meet the team and get to know them to see how we would work together…

A year later I can only laugh at myself and be grateful for my lack of English Geography knowledge. Now my commute time, when I’m working on a project based in Sheffield, is my reading time and I’m proud to say it contributed to my stack of 24 books I read last year. I have grown, learned and gained a bigger understanding of user research as well as trust in my own abilities to do user research.

Becoming a User researcher

When I started as a user researcher I wasn’t confident I’d be able to do a proper job. Mostly my insecurity has come from feeling I only had a short amount of training through my studies and fear of letting the team down. When I started working for Paper I never felt like I wasn’t supported or that I couldn’t reach out if I needed help. That helped me to become more confident, trusting my skills and capabilities that have shown through my work.

I recognised that the skills I had gained through my studies naturally appeared when needed through my work and with support from Jon, Mark and Cam I have gained confidence in public speaking, coaching, facilitating, writing and event organising. I had/have had a space to grow, evolve as well as get support when I needed it. The team always supports me to explore, try new methods, and ideas. In a year I had an opportunity to work on projects with charities, government, the 3rd sector as well as Papers R&D projects and legup.social.

The teams well-being comes first

I don’t think I can express in a full extent of how feeling being supported and thought of can affect your experience in the workplace. I knew before that team culture is an important part of a good work environment and have experienced it in short term work environment through my education at Hyper Island. However, having a full time supportive and understanding team is something I’m lucky to have, being a part of Paper.

I know I can always rely on them to help me and give me the support I need, either in methods, managing, facilitation or just being there for me cheering for me. I hope they feel the same.

Is it what I expected it to be?

Not so long ago Cam asked me if working for Paper is what I expected it to be? It was a hard question to answer, not because of work but because I don’t like to imagine how things would be, I prefer to do things, get experience and evaluate if this is what I want to do as well as if it is what I want to do more of.

The experiences I have gained working for Paper have definitely shown me many things that I like to do and can do as part of the Paper team. I like how my schedule is different from week to week, how I can work flexibly and arrange my work time based on projects, clients needs and myself. No two weeks of work have been the same, sometimes I’m working in a clients office, sometimes I’m working from our studio in Sheffield and sometimes I’m working from home or coffee shops. I have learned that any space can become my office.

I have also developed a new found love of facilitation and coaching, going into projects for a day or two and see how I can help or teach, encourage our clients to be more comfortable with design research. Learning peoples language and ways of working has been a fascinating experience that is new to me and I want to explore it more.

Another thing I got the opportunity to do and I always wanted to do is event organising. I had an opportunity to bring legup.social to Manchester and so far we’ve had 2 successful events and hosted 16 people (mentees and mentors).

Overall I feel more confident in what I’m doing and enjoying what I do. I can say I had a successful year of embedding myself into User Research and I have definitely improved my knowledge in English geography, thank you for everything.