The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Brigette Metzler 'Research Ops: What it is, and why it's so important'

John Carter
April 5, 2022
Join our CIRCLE Community to discuss this episode

Connect with other ethically driven change makers from all over the world.

Learn more

Brigette Metzler 'Research Ops: What it is, and why it's so important'

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pretium est ipsum dictum lectus mauris netus. Diam sed sit quisque facilisi luctus feugiat.

Episode shownotes

Hello and welcome to Bringing Design Closer, the podcast focussed on discussing Designs role in tackling  complex societal issues. Our goal is to have conversations that inspire and to help move the dial forward for organisations to become more human-centred in their approach to solving complex business and societal problems.

My name is Gerry Scullion, I’m the Founder of the Human Centered Design Network and CEO of This is Doing - home to many of the worlds best design and change maker courses online.

Today on the show we have Brigette Metzler, Research Ops Lead at Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. Brigette is Co-Chair of the ResearchOps community and is based in one of my favourite places on earth, Tasmania.

We cover off some of the 8-pillars of Research Operations in this episode, and talk openly about the challenges that Brigette faced when setting up the architecture for Research to blossom inside the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. We speak about measurements of success, and also the challenges that are faced when presenting it to the organisation - although in Brigettes case, the maturity and desire already existing.

We speak about Brigette’s recent neurodiverse diagnosis, and her journey to get to that point. I was curious to tap more into this and we cover off some interesting areas of symmetry whilst doing it.

Before we jump in. Brigette wanted to mention the Research Ops conference that is happening on Jun 8 in New York and also remote. I will throw a link for this into the show notes, but it’s definitely something to get behind if you interested in the whole area of Research Ops.

Let’s get into it..

Episode Transcript

This transcript was created using the awesome, Descript. It may contain minor errors.
Note: This is an affiliate link, where This is HCD make a small commission if you sign up a Descript account.

This is an auto-generated transcript. Minor text errors may be present. If you find an error, help us improve by letting us know?


S1: Hello and welcome to another episode of Bringing Design Closer to the podcast focused on discussing Design's role in tackling complex societal issues. Our goal is to have conversations here that inspire and help move the dial forward for organizations to become more human centered in their approach to solving complex business and societal problems. My name is Gerry Scullion and I'm the founder of the Human Centered Design Network and the CEO of this is doing AECOM, home to many of the world's best design and change making courses online. Today in the show we present Metzler Research Aiops lead at Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. And Bridget is co-chair of the Research Ops Community and is based in one of my favourite places on Earth, Tasmania, and we cover off some of the eight pillars of research operations in this episode and talk openly about the challenges that project faced when setting up the architecture for research ops to blossom inside the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environments, we speak about the measurements of success for research ops. Most of the challenges that are faced when presenting is first to the organisation. Although in projects case, the maturity and the desire was already existing in their current role. We speak about the recent diagnosis that present however by being Neurodiverse and her journey to get to that point. And I was really curious to talk more into this we cover off some interesting areas of symmetry was doing it. Now before we jump in, Bridget wanted to mention the research ops conference that is happening on June the eighth in New York. That's also available if you're remote. I'll throw a link to this in the show notes, but it's definitely something to get behind. If you're interested in the whole area of research ops, let's get into the episode. It's a brilliant one. Bridges. It gives me the biggest satisfaction to find you welcome you into this HD. I'm a huge fan and a very warm welcome to bringing design closer. I'm delighted to have you in the show so precise. Tell us a little bit about so where are you coming from today?


S2: It's a good question and thank you so much. Just equally such a fan. So I'm really honored to be here with you and having a chat. So I thank you for that. I am right now in Tasmania, Australia, so it's a little teeny tiny island at the bottom of the world.


S1: Though.


S2: In the peace of mind.


S1: Yes, we were a back and forth. I was like Tasmania was the place that when I visited I was like, Oh, this feels like home. And it's just, it's, it's so like Ireland in many ways, especially where I grew up, right when I visited, there is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.


S2: It's lucky I am. Yes. Yeah.


S1: And great food and great wine.


S2: I know we've got truffles and wine and olives and, you know, you name it, we've we've got here.


S1: If you're to design a country or a little island, you'll probably be Tasmania has all there, obviously.


S2: Yes, yes it does. We've got amazing beaches and you know, we've got the East Coast which is a little bit like Greece in the summer when it's really warm, sort of turquoise aqua water and white sands. And and then you go over to the other side of Tasmania and it's these huge mountains and these deep rivers that, you know, are just so untouched and beautiful. I just can't believe it very much.


S1: It's I mean Australia really is, it's, it's got, it's got so many different terrains and so many different aspects to it, which is what makes it such a special, special place like, you know, a special place in my heart obviously from living there for 13 and a half years. What we're going to I want to talk to you a little bit more. There's there's so many things we can we can speak about in this episode that I we've just been catching up and talking about. You work in the Department of Agriculture in Australia. Yes, but maybe I'm going to start right back at the start and I'm going to ask you a question about whenever you're out and about, how do you describe or how do you answer the question when people say what do you do.


S2: Mhm. Well I mean my job title is Research Operations Lead at Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. Most people don't know what that is. And so if I'm talking to just a random person on the street, my doctor, my physio or something, I'll say, Well, my job is to take care of researches lots and lots and lots of them, all doing lots and lots of things. Make sure that they have everything they need to to do good work. And and then we need to make sure that we can make the most of that work over time. That's pretty much how I.


S1: That's a pretty nice summary. Yeah. Nice, nice summary. Yeah. So the work that you're doing with Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment's Record Door. Yeah.


S2: Yeah.


S1: It's, it's a, it's a great acronym.


S2: It it was.


S1: You mentioned there about like looking after many researchers how many researchers are currently and or.


S2: It's a good question and actually we yeah so the interesting thing about door because it's so scientific is that one in seven people in that department are actually a researcher. Right. But they're not user researchers, they're scientists. And like we have a whole social sciences division, academic kind of research. So there's a is a deep understanding of what research is for, which is great. But, you know, when I when I got there, we, we had we had three teams who had been doing research that I knew of for a little while, just little teams of, you know, two or three. And then and then we had this emerging large program, which, you know, it's designed there to to to to deliver on the department's trade reform agenda. And so we had one we had one researcher and and now, you know, give it I think I counted yesterday, I saw on our guild we got 52 researchers and designers. And so that was last March and and now it's February. And here we are. So I think it's 34 delivery teams maybe, and several more on top of that. So we're just sitting on about 40 teams, I think overall across departments that I need to take a chance. Yeah, yeah.


S1: That's that's a lot of difference. Diamonds. And a lot of people working at probably different levels of maturity as regards research. In your role for Georgia, how do you how do you work across all of those? Obviously, we can speak in a bit more about research operations because a lot of the the benefits of being co-chair of the research operations can probably offer you some advantages in this. So how does that work in terms of managing those?


S2: Yes, good question. I mean, we just became a team of three, so that's yeah, that's good. But so you're quite right. I mean, so I have been lucky enough to be taking care of the research operations community since the beginning of 2019, more or less after Kate Tassie, who founded the Community Left and is a cheese board, and Holly and myself, a co-chairs, and all of the projects that we've done have really defined the profession of research operations. And so it's probably the first time in my life I've ever actually done a job, and people sort of say to me, Are you the right person to ask this question? And and I have all of these frameworks. I have one printed right beside me on my like my wall, which tells me exactly what my job is. And so I primarily work across the eight pillars of user research. Yeah. So that's an article that Emma Bolton wrote up, which actually it's a beautiful thing because it's, you know, we're all coming from research, so we love our raw data. And so we did in the research community, we did a project called What is Research Operations? So when Kate founded the community, we got together and went, Oh, we probably need to figure this thing out. So we did a project across 17 countries, we did 33 workshops, and then I was lucky enough to do the global analysis and put that all together and all of that raw data is still actually available online. You can have a look at it and go through it and make sense of it. Yeah. And when we did that, we put together the what is research operations sort of diagram and that tells you the lot of ups. So those are all the tasks and those are the questions people ask me all the time to a lot of us. And then the eight pillars is how does the how does research connect with operations? Where does that fit? And so let me talk.


S1: A little bit more around.


S2: That.


S1: Was Emma Bolton wrote that that yes.


S2: She did. So yeah. So just to you know, give to give you credit and all of that where it's due. So Emma Bolton to Mimi Sasaki, Holly Cole and I got together to just have a look at the original, you know, the flower diagram that we have of what research operations is to try to see if we could make sense of the data in a different way to help communicate the story. And Emma ultimately came up with the A-Pillars, but it's actually it's very robust because I think and I don't think we did that on purpose, but there's actually like in business management there, there are things called pestle models and a PESTLE model is actually a business strategy model. And so that looks at the what is it, the people, the environment. I can't remember the rest of pestle. So you're probably going. Yeah. Yes. And then there's legal and. Yeah. Anyway.


S1: So there's things in there.


S2: Yeah. This, this thing's just going to just go Google it. And when you look at the, the eight pillars of user research, it's it, it equates quite well and it has not failed me in, you know, for years. I still use it every day. I write my weeknights according to the structure. All of my, you know, DevOps poets and my tickets are all it's just a governance question. Is it a data and knowledge management question? Is it a research recruitment question? Is it a tool in question? What do we need to do here? And and that just helps to so framed as a day.


S1: It's only there's an awful lot going on here.


S2: Yeah.


S1: What was a typical day look like for you then as regards your work?


S2: Most people come in because you've got a lot of meetings, your calendar is very full. Yeah. So you go, yes. And you know, as I say, will online and the teams distributed. And so of course it's all yeah. All on teams. So I have a research operation stand up and, and actually we have a digital trade handbook so you can actually have a look at what else, how do we how do we gather. You can go and actually have a look at that that's online and feasible. So have a stand ups. I have a capability to stand up, which is all of the disciplines getting together, the leads from each disciplines, the design, content, research, research ops and legal and security, getting together to discuss the disciplines and how we work that stuff together. Yeah, so we do that and then usually we'll head into some kind of a meeting with someone who has a question from anywhere in the department. And you know, people will be messaging, of course, to say, I need access to this tool or do I need consent for this or what? What does consent look like when I'm doing this type of research method? And so, you know, at first it was having to manually answer all of those things. And now, of course, I can refer people to Have you gone and had a handbook? Have you, you know, found the template that all the guide his the he's the how to you know if you want a tooling request then you send that through to the research operations in box and that'll get picked up by my team.


S1: Sure.


S2: Yeah.


S1: So in a life before research ops, I know there's people out there who are probably like, can I go on research ops? Like if I might have had a day as DevOps and stuff for what does life. Look like. Can you remember what life looked like as the researcher without research helps. Can we talk a little bit more now? Because I think it might paint a picture of familiarity to some people.


S2: Yeah, I think it does. And you know, when we do a talk about what research offices are they pillars of user research. You just see all of the researchers in a room and you see the shows are all tight. And then and then you tell them about it and this is deep sigh. And if you're a guy, someone understands. So I think that a lot of the work so operations work, a lot of it is something I'm quite passionate about because I'm passionate about making explicit hidden work. And, and so, you know, if you're a researcher without research operations, you're doing it anyway. I guarantee you you cannot not be doing it. What you're doing, though, is is probably feeling really nervous and stressed and flying by the seat of your pants and hoping for the best and crossing your fingers a lot of the time, to be really honest, because all of that, the doing of research is, is almost this tiny thing and there's the planning is creating the environment for research to happen. You know, you've got to get by and you've got to have people understand, what's that? What, what? Why am I doing this piece of research and why should I be on board with you going and investigating this thing and having a look at it and pulling apart this thing that really feels like mine? You know, if you're if you're not necessarily if you're in a research team that is separate to the thing that that's quite a bit of the work. You've got to, you know, find what the right process and method is. You've got to write your consent form. And I've zero doubt that every single person is writing a consent form and then going, Oh surely. So it's a better way getting that checked out by legals and you know it just goes on repeating.


S1: The same processes over again.


S2: Yeah. And then having people call you which is certainly, you know, when I started research operations, I was sort of brought in by a team to look at data. But quickly you could say that actually what they had was a data and knowledge management issue. Not that they didn't want me to do their analysis. They wanted me to help them find the data, make sense of the data, feel safe with the data, know how to share it, give them a mechanism for sharing. Like, you know, as a researcher, I'm sure everyone will have experienced someone calling them and saying, Have you done any research on X, Y, Z? And you're like, Oh, I'm sure I did. Or first of all, can I find it? And then second of all, should I be sharing this with them? Yeah. If you're in a big organisation should I and then I. That's a silo. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.


S1: It's just from there that can incriminate people. Is their personal data as dilemmas.


S2: Yeah. I was going to say we haven't even talked about participant safety. You know, it's just it just goes on. There's a lot absolutely. I don't know how researchers have the mental space to make like, you know, I'm doing a PhD and my supervisors are really big on the idea of doing nothing for a while in order to actually have proper thought about the data. You know, go for a walk.


S1: Have some of to research, just do nothing, she told me. Yeah, you're referring to. Yeah, I'm a big believer in that as well. Just letting it set. Yeah. And just do that in your brain processes, especially in the online world where it becomes amplified and concentrated in that experience of when you're listening and depressing. Yeah, it's interesting to see that in their theory, how long do they have any theories and how long are they?


S2: I don't know. I don't know. I'm doing my PHC part time and I hope that they think it's very long.


S1: Yeah, three years away seem between three years to synthesize that data.


S2: Well, you know, I did have I did have some new insights about it only recently and some of the data I started collecting in. I don't know. When did I say collecting 20. Yeah, maybe it was 2017 even, right? Yeah. You know, I've been going sort of long digitally, so it's been going for a while, but yeah, kind of, yeah.


S1: You're picking up lots of data as you go along.


S2: Yeah, of course. And also you you're becoming a different person. And I I'm not saying that, you know, design researchers or user researchers should have years of space. Yeah. Their research, it's probably a bit. There's a tension there because you're always working within a capitalist society. And I think, yeah, it's just there and needs to be wrestled with. But I think if I could create time and space for researchers, I would feel that I had done a good job for them.


S1: And their safety as well. That's obviously a huge part of us. Yeah, well, when we were speaking earlier on, we were talking a bit more around the the architecture and instantly I was like, okay, this is this is a fascinating topic. And I know listeners will be, you know, the ears will pick up a little bit more when we start talking about this. But you joined the door nine months ago and you mentioned about setting up the arc, the architecture for the organisation.


S2: Can you talk to me? Set. Yeah.


S1: For you as a researcher, can you walk me through the the stages right at that moment where you were walking into the organisation?


S2: Mm hmm.


S1: What did that look like? What were you faced with and what were the challenges that you were faced with at the start?


S2: Okay. So after I wanted to do this in two stages because I really want to talk to you about the philosophy of how you create architecture, but we'll talk about that. So, yes, so when I you know, when I when I got to door user research had been around for about four years, just in little pockets. Okay, I think about four. And and so it was generally not done by people who were already working within the hub and it was done by people who came in to do a piece of work. And so there was nothing in relation to, okay, I've got this piece of personally identifiable information, where should I store it? You know.


S1: What is this where they were storing it then? What was it like in terms of data storage at that point?


S2: So. So generally what's happening is, is just absolute rigid rigidity, which is fantastic because, you know, if you're not sure what to do, you should always identify. So yeah, de-identified data, nothing else kept. So yeah, so we've, we've worked with the legal team for, you know, for the past nine, ten months and with the teams who were already there to say, what does it look like when we're doing that better? Or What does it look like if we wanting to do this in a systemic organised way where we're bringing everything together kind of thing? What you know is in government you have a thing called the Archives Act, which is a, you know, piece of legislation that defines how you should store a piece of information. And what does that look like when you are doing service design delivery, which is incredibly moveable? You know, at what point has a decision been made? And therefore it needs to be recorded, as, you know, as a record? And and how do you how do you create that in a space that is constantly moving? So, you know, we've really had to sort of work together to understand knowledge management, but then also how that knowledge changes over time. And that's I think it's a thing I really like. I'm very interested in that. So I think we can work. I'm looking forward to working on that a lot more. Yeah.


S1: Well, over the next well. So at that point you said there was a minute through there was research, user research that had been going on for a number of years. Mm hmm. When you walked into the organisation, there was probably lots of other challenges. I play playbook. What do you do to move the dial forward in terms of implementation of research ops at a mindset level? Yeah, sure. Yet, you know, to sell this thing into stakeholders.


S2: Well, I think I was just really very lucky. So that sales pitch had already been done by senior leaders in the organisation. They brought me in on purpose because they believed in research operations. They knew it was what they needed. They knew that they wanted to bring in this way of working and you know, to sort of deliver on a future vision for the department, they would need to embrace human centered design. They would need to then grapple with how do we operationalize that for the entire department. So my lovely boss, Magda had and one of the senior researchers there, Helen, had had said, this is what we need. We need to go to find our research. We need to know if it's good. We need to be able to. Actually keep the data somehow and understand if we should use it again or not. These are all of our pain points we need to and we're going to need to grapple these because we are about to go through a period of massive change in AG 23 in a trade reform agenda. And then we're looking at, you know, biosecurity reform and inputs reform as well. So we knew all of this stuff had to happen in the next couple of years. So they couldn't put me in ahead of time, which was nice. Hmm. And what does it look like? I mean.


S1: I'm sure. I'm sure. And I just want to preface, like, you know, you mentioned about planning this role. You know, people have seen a video that you've done in your previous role. Mm hmm. Does that led to this role opening up for you? And I think that's a really interesting segway about encouraging designers to talk about their work and to share and to be more transparent. And at its core, my understanding of the research ops team is that's one of the the underpinning mindsets, isn't it? Am I right in saying that being able to share and be hyper transparent about what you're doing and why you're doing it?


S2: Mm hmm. Yeah. So, yes, several things that spring to mind. One is that if you are going to be a research operations person right now, in particular, what you're doing is a change role. So your your job is to break down silos and to make people feel safe when you do it. So that's a it's a really hard job. So it's definitely not for the not for the faint of heart. But, you know, ultimately when you go to work, you generally have a sense of purpose and meaning in your work. Right? And so no one no one puts a barrier in place necessarily on purpose. They do it as a as a protective mechanism, I think, in general, or because, you know, when you've got a large organization, how on earth do you manage all of that knowledge and information and people in the business of it? So it's not an intentional thing. And so one of the beautiful things about governance, I, I personally say that governance sets you free. It's really, really tacky.


S1: Liberates you.


S2: It's very liberating because that's the right way to say it. But yeah, if you can make implicit stuff explicit, then it sets a foundation for people to feel like they know exactly what they are and not allowed to do. And they also have a sense of agency in the decisions that are being made about how those silos get broken down when with whom and how. So yeah, I think that's the key thing that we do throughout the whole research lifecycle is if you look at how do we gather, how do we get consent, it's not just the participant, although they're really important. Obviously they have their own sense of agency and ownership of their story. The researcher has a sense of agency and ownership of the context, context of the story that kind of, you know, that they're the the midwife that's taking a whole bunch of stories and kind of making sense of them and funneling them out in a way that makes sense to someone else. And that contextual translation is super important to researchers. So you have to you've got to hold on to that. Then the people who actually kind of are responsible for delivering the thing, they have to have a sense of ownership and purpose and and safety about how that stuff gets shared with whom and when and how. Yeah, yeah. Say yeah.


S1: It's I'm sure you at that time when you were in the early stages of your role, um, measuring success for the, the research office, hopefully this is a contentious area, but how do you measure success through implementation of research ups?


S2: Oh, that's a really. Yeah, I think it's, it's a good question to ask. I think I'm I don't know that I've got it right. And so I guess I would prefix it with this is this is my way.


S1: Yeah. Yeah. So says the Metzler method. Yeah.


S2: That's right. So this is my second time. And, and what I've noticed about research operations is that you are doing hidden work. So as I said before, so you're doing hidden work. So if it's good, it should be unnoticeable. And so that makes it really hard to show that it's good. So and you know, I see that I see that everywhere. You know, when people have the right tools for the job, they don't stop. I think someone got me the right tool for the job. Someone went through the procurement process in this, you know, privacy in the cyber and all of that stuff to make sure it was right. It just happens. So that is about talking frequently and often about this is what we got done. So in my previous role, I learnt to do that because because people would say, who are you and what is it that you're doing? Because research operations wasn't even attempt and say, Yeah, we really did have to explain ourselves here. I do that in a number of ways. One is, you know, across so many teams, you can I imagine as a researcher, I would be sending Bridget a message and saying, can you answer my question? And then she's not responding to me and I don't know why. And it's because you probably don't realise that, you know, maybe 30 people have asked me a question at the same time or something like that. Yeah. So we have an internal a research ops roundup and it started out as an email to just various people saying, hey, this is kind of what we covered up this week so that you can see what we're doing and then has become like a digital newsletter that people can subscribe to. And so they can see these are the things that we're doing. Yeah. And then just recently we, we started at an open Kanban, so literally anyone in the department can put in a ticket now, which is a bit scary. But at the same time it also means that anyone in the department can see exactly what we're working on at any moment if they want to. And then finally, because I work with leaders who are really into working in the open and transparently, I'm expected to write about that in public as well, say. So I have weeknights and I ramble on at length because I usually write them really late at night. Yeah you can see that on medium. So they the week.


S1: Notes thing is really interesting. I've seen lots of people over the last 18 months, maybe two years. It's become a thing this you know Saturday morning you know I get 30 seconds in between feeding the kids. Yeah. And I look on my LinkedIn and I see people tweet notes what where did it come from? Is that part of the research ops community?


S2: No, I think it actually originated at TDS in the UK. Okay. That's my my guesstimate.


S1: So maybe that would make sense.


S2: Jordan Hatch. Yeah, he comes from he went to GDS and he weeknights lots of people in one team gov, which is a, you know, a group of public servants from all over the world who in his spare time, unpaid time, get together to talk about government and being a public servant. They do weeknights and yeah, I think it's just about how do you support democracy and a sense of trust in government. You know, we're just people. And what is to best.


S1: Showing transparency in what they're doing, what they're achieving on a week by week basis?


S2: Yeah. Yeah.


S1: And the mind shift.


S2: It is I think it's so important for research operations as well because it's not it's not all sunshine and roses and you don't get that story very often. But my leaders have empowered me to to do this. It's not sunshine and roses. This is kind of this was hard this week.


S1: Yeah. Yeah. I noticed in when I was researching for the episode that as part of the research ops, recruitment is a big thing. And is that one of the pillars? I'm not sure if it's one of the pillars.


S2: Because it is a little bit of. Yeah.


S1: So what does that look like? Recruitment in terms of bringing new people into the team or is it recruitment of participants? How do you frame frame it?


S2: It's recruitment of participants. Yeah. So it's it's a tricky one because you know, yeah, in you're in when you're in a scaling organisation you're also doing lots of recruitment. So we can we had yes. A recruitment of research participants is a definite pain point across that everyone and use research I think it's a very rare researcher who doesn't feel a pain and there's just so much to it. I mean, how do you how do you you can dig right into it. Like, how do you create safety for research participants? How do you actually transform it from, you know, an extractive process of gathering story to a co-design process that I'm sure that there's a movement there that will happen. But of course, you know, user research is kind of embedded in depends on which discipline you come from. But in mine, it sort of comes from anthropology and an ethnography. In this, it can be seen as an extractive process. I mean, there's a lot of deeply uncomfortable stuff about anthropology where you're really looking at that kind of paternalistic approach to understanding people. And so how do you how do you actually create a much more equal, ethical, unbiased research project? You've got to start with ethical, unbiased, you know, research participants, and you've got to be ethical with them and you've got to get lots and lots of different diversity across that.


S1: So I'm sure that as part of your team as well, that's that's one of the prerequisites that you have a diverse and inclusive team. And that's not just with, you know, gender and race and everything else. Yeah. It's in terms of difference, you know, neurodiversity. You were speaking earlier about neurodiversity and you mentioned this. You know, you've been diagnosed a number of years ago as neurodiverse. Are you okay to talk a little bit more? And, um, you know why it's important to have representation for Neurodiverse people as part of the research team? Because for me it feels like something that it probably doesn't get spoken enough about and generally across the board, but specifically for people who are synthesizing complex data and being able to bring that perspective in hugely powerful and just ultimately required.


S2: What are your thoughts on? Well, I think actually, I suspect a lot of the research community is is quite neurodiverse in any case, that's my my guess estimation. But certainly so if you look at so first of all, just to make it really explicit and really clear. Mm hmm. Being neurodiverse is not a mental health issue.


S1: Hmm.


S2: But that's another factor of of that stuff as well. And so, first of all, when you bring in a person who is neurodiverse, they'll come with different skills. So I have ADHD. That means, according to my psychologist, that means I'm really good at going incredibly deep into the data, really fine detail, and then going all the way back to the top and understanding a lot of connections that other people are not going to see. I'm really good at saying stuff that you wouldn't normally say, but also equally comfortable to just dive straight down into fine grained data. So that's really great when you look at. So I used to have a researcher in my previous team who had dyslexia. How do you create how do you do good operations for someone who is dyslexic? So for for a dyslexic person, you might be looking at, well, this researcher is not going to be their best selves if they're stuck writing up reports all the time. Yeah. If you could speech to text that, that's going to be beautiful. And in fact, what we often did was she would tell the story. And just because that happened to be the stage of our scaling, I would sit down and type it out for her. She would just tell me, I'm sorry, it was fabulous. And then, you know, I would do that. Obviously, later on we move to speech, to text and those kinds of things. How do you if you're doing building a piece of research library and you've got a whole bunch of sketch nights, how do you then serve that to a person who is trying to use the research or read and understand the research, who is blind? That's not going to work. So yeah, in a really very better way, research operations is also about designing and running a product team. You're running, designing and building several products. So you need to do user research, go through the design process, make sure that you're building something that is accessible to lots of different, you know, accessibility needs and and make sure that that people can actually use the thing. So, yeah, there's heaps of years of research and research.


S1: Yeah, absolutely. And like when you were speaking there earlier about, you know, being able to drill down into the so the sort of macro or the minutia and then zooming all the way back. That's a huge thing within service design as well to be able to look right down to the interface level and then come all the way back out and understand the context of, you know, various levels of Zoom and whatever it is. You're working on. And it's probably something that's, you know, that all kind of ADHD is probably an attribute across lots of disciplines within design. Yeah. Can I ask? And I hope it's not too personal. How did you go about getting diagnosed? What's the steps going up? Because a lot of people probably sitting there driving their car, listening to you on that sounds very familiar to me. And like, you know, I'd like to know what the steps are around that. If you're okay to talk about it.


S2: Yeah, sure. Well, and I think it is important to talk about it. I wasn't diagnosed until I was. What was I, 45?


S1: Something. Something don't tell your age or something.


S2: Something that was I was definitely and I'm not going to be ashamed of my age. I'm definitely an adult. And as a as a as a, you know, as a female, very female person. ADHD is just not something like I had to go and find someone who was who would see me. So I tried when I was 40. And yeah. And so, you know, I went to see someone and she said, well, you know, you seem like you're doing really well in career. I mean, why would you be doing this? And and I said, well, you know, regardless of the outcome, I feel as though I'm missing some tools in my toolbox. And it would be really great to have some more tools to manage some stuff. And I can see there are barriers emerging in my career. And it's I know it's because I'm new and diverse. Yeah. And yeah. And unfortunately, that definitely turned out to be true. And and I just happened to, you know, I've got two children and one of them I suspected was Neurodiverse. And so in the end, it was a process of I had found an ADHD clinic here on the island and they specialized in families. We knew the families and yeah, and so we decided to start with me so that everyone else could get used to the idea of neurodiversity, which is very uncomfortable while I went through my little process. And then we've been going on that process for me, for my son as well.


S1: So is that person a psychologist or is this an occupational therapist? What kind of person is that?


S2: Yeah, it's a complex system in Australia. So I saw a psychologist who went through a process of diagnosis but can't actually make the diagnosis. So then you have to go and see a psychiatrist who formally makes the diagnosis and then, you know, you can decide if you're, you know, the psychologist is about giving you tools and you toolbox and then the psychiatrist is this is your formal diagnosis and you know, would you like medication and that kind of stuff? Yeah, that's the process. And. There is. One psychiatrist on my island who will see an adult female and and and make a diagnosis.


S1: Yeah, it is. It's. It's such a, um. Hopefully not saying this wrong, but it's a new thing, really. But it is for me. Anyway, in my mindset, um, it seems to be a lot more prevalent over the last decade anyway. But we were talking earlier about me growing up in Ireland in early eighties, mid eighties, whatever it was. I'm sure, I'm sure there was loads of people in my school that, you know, weren't diagnosed with this and, you know, potentially are, you know, have gone through life with, with some sort of level of difficulty because of this. Mhm. Lack of understanding of how to actually work with them. Yeah. So I think it's, it's, it's an important topic to, to speak about because as people, my generation that are probably experienced in some of the things that you are going through and.


S2: I think it's been, I'm just so grateful to finally have a diagnosis and there are so many reasons why I finally start feeling guilty for being myself. You know how I was thinking, I'm not trying hard enough or, you know, maybe I'm just not a nice person. Maybe I'm, you know, no good, all of that kind of thing. You know, you beat yourself up over and over and over again and it and that's really damaging. But to actually just finally kind of. I, I am on medication for ADHD and, and, and, you know, the day that I took it, you know, I was really scared about it. And my husband said, look, you know, if you don't have ADHD, you're going to clean the house really well. You know, run around the house and clean it really, really well. It's like that's the worst thing that's going to happen here. So it's fine. I'm here with you and we can just do this together. And, you know, I was terrified, really. I don't, you know, but I took it. And and suddenly I just you know, I noticed that that time changed for me. So, you know, time blindness is a thing with ADHD. And I thought it was just because I was a bad person that I was always late. But actually, time is actually just different for people who are not depressed and don't have ADHD. And I instantly knew that that was the first thing I noticed. Wow. Amazing.


S1: That is. That is. That's actually quite trippy. Like, as, you know, we're we're it's kind of ingrained. Ingrained in me. Like, you know, to time is always something I'm looking at and aware of. And it's something that I'm, you know, it's there. It's and for that to to not be a thing is is huge. So what kind of change happens.


S2: After, like.


S1: Did you buy a watch?


S2: I don't know. And, you know, I still struggle and still like a lot of the time for things. But, you know, I noticed that I my brain wasn't constantly yeah. Low on dopamine, so I wasn't constantly looking at my phone and checking messages. And, you know, I could actually I could actually just settle and finish a thing. And, you know, so that day, I just sat down and and finished something I'd been working on for three months. Wow. Okay, I can finish things.


S1: Incredible. That's so cool. Like, you know, in many ways.


S2: Yeah. You know, so. Yeah. And, you know, ultimately as well, you know, someone had asked me to do something and said, with any HD, you get this thing called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, which is, you know, you know, you're a bit weird and so and you're always seeking that kind of approval, so you get that dopamine input. And and that's, you know, one of the ways, you know, I'm a real helper. Hmm. People who say that you're so kind and you just always say yes and and, you know, you should probably stop doing that because you run yourself to the ground. And and, you know, shortly after I had started that, someone asked me to do something that was a little bit unreasonable. And I said, look, you know, a close friend. And I said, Look, I love you, but I love me more. And I'm just going to say no, thank you. And I could never have done that before.


S1: That's it's very powerful. And in terms of going through that whole kind of diagnosis process to it's almost like the governance piece that you mentioned earlier. It's it's liberated.


S2: Me in.


S1: Many ways. Yeah. So I can see why, you know, the I feel like the research ops, it kind of feels like it's it's part of you. Does that make sense?


S2: Yeah, I think it's.


S1: Part of your fabric.


S2: Yeah. I had no idea that, you know, there's all these different ways, like, you know, I've done so many different jobs. I've been a trainer of I've done data analysis, I did metadata management, I've done knowledge management, you've done business management. You know, all of those things that are necessary for research operations. And I've done research and put them all together. And you actually just get research operations. Absolutely. It's like it's like the whole thing was made for me.


S1: Absolutely. And it's you know, it's who you are. And a lot of the work that you've done kind of point back to the, you know, the strength of your neurodiversity. I mean, that's that's a lot of the benefits. Yeah. You've created a lot of these systems that a lot of people are reaping the rewards for so that the research community, obviously, there's lots of people as part of the research community.


S2: It's not me and team effort.


S1: Absolutely. But it's it's a seems like it's it's an extension of yourself when you when you relay back to your, your diagnosis and the journey that you've been on. Mm. So like kudos to you for, for going through that whole process and thinking, you know, it's fantastic. You're able to talk about it and hopefully people out there listening will have a little bit more of an understanding of what it means. And, you know, I've learned a few things today from from speaking with you, which is which is really good, you know.


S2: Which I don't.


S1: Have to do. But look, we could honestly speak about lots of different areas. And, you know, I'd love to have you back in the show at some points to catch up about how things are going with you. So if people wanted to reach out to you or connect with you, what's the best way for people to do that?


S2: Mm. Okay. Well, first of all, I would say if you don't want to connect with me, but you want to connect with research operations, I would probably go to the website which is reset jobs dot community and easy. Yeah. As a little join the community button at the bottom. Join the slack page. Yes, we'll join the Slack group. And then who? I'm always on Twitter. You know the interface quite like Twitter. It's very quick and immediate. So we kind of thing there. I'm on LinkedIn. What else? I don't I can think.


S1: I'll put links to those in the show notes and people can reach out to you there and you can tweet to you whenever they want. Bridge is absolutely brilliant. Speak with you. Have a great one. And thanks very much for giving us all your energy today.


S2: Yeah, thank you. Likewise. Nice to speak to you. From another island.


S1: Another island to another island. Yeah. Take care.


S2: Thanks.


S1: So there you have it. That's all for this episode of Bringing Design Closer. If you like this episode, feel free to visit this excited e-comm where you can access our back catalogue of over 100 episodes with episodes related to service design, product management, design, research, and much, much more. If you're interested in design and innovation training, feel free to check out our business. This is doing dotcom where you can join online classrooms and learn from the world's best design and innovation leaders. Join the This is eight city newsletter where you receive updates from the network and also if you're interested, apply to join the Slack community. And this is AECOM. Stay safe. And until next time, take care.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ipsum blandit at sed a, vulputate eget. Integer in egestas rutrum risus tortor. Augue sed ac magna semper vitae, orci morbi auctor. Diam dui ut ut purus aenean volutpat.