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The Research Thing Meetup

An exclusive interview with Anja Maerz and Swetha Sethu-Jones, organisers of The Research Thing Meetup group…

We have recently partnered up with User Research Meetup group ‘The Research Thing’, led by Anja Maerz and Swetha Sethu-Jones. The Meetup group host events all year round, discussing a variety of topics based on human-centred research through activities, talks and workshops. The events are a great opportunity for guests to learn, share and network with like-minded individuals!

As digital recruiters, we believe in working together with groups such as The Research Thing to help add value to the industry we work in. We have therefore teamed up with Anja and Swetha this year and thought it would be good to dig a little deeper and find out how it all started with The Research Thing and their plans for the future.

Why did you decide to set up The Research Thing?

Somebody else actually set up the The Research Thing but we got involved early on and are now the two remaining organisers in London. We both got involved because we wanted to give back to the community and also have the opportunity to curate a topic that we both are passionate about user research.

How long have the events been running for and how often do you hold them?

The Research Thing started with two events in 2011, had a break in 2012 and we took over in 2013. We are trying to host 3-4 events a year, depending on our time. We are doing this outside of our working hours so we don’t have a particular rhythm and are organising on an ad-hoc basis. Since 2013 we have run 22 events.

What are some of your stand-out topics that have previously been covered?

It’s tricky to say which of the topics stood out, because we got a lot of good feedback for all of them. We are trying to have a mixture between case studies, for example research in certain industries or with certain users and topics that are more strategic like leadership and impact of research.

We have run “User research and VR” twice because the technology became much more common and moved from gaming into other industries, so it was worth picking that up twice.

It’s also worth pointing out our last event in 2019 – for the first time we ran a panel session about leading research. This event was quite popular because instead of presentations we had six women discussion the topic with the opportunity for the audience to ask questions as well. We will probably use this format again for our events this year.

What kind of topics would you look to cover at future events?

There are lots of topics we would love to tackle, but as we will probably only do four events this year, some topics might fall through the cracks. The one we are looking into this year so far are looking into wellbeing for researchers and how to do analysis (titles and focus still to be defined). But we are also potentially looking into research for global products, JTBD and user research and an event for students to allow them to showcase their final research projects.

What are the main aims and outcomes of each event?

We want to help people learn more about research, give them different viewpoints and inspire them. The networking is also an important aspect of the event, as it is good for getting advice from peers, finding your next job and catching up with other researchers.

What kind of challenges do you face when organising these types of events?

There are just the two of us organising it and sometimes life and work gets in the way and we can’t organise an event as often as possible.

What are your plans for the year ahead in terms of events?

We are hoping to do four events this years, but are also thinking about organising a Research Thing Un-Conference. That needs some further thought though and a venue that would sponsor and open for us on a weekend – get in touch if you want to be that sponsor!

Is there a specific target audience for the meet up group? Is it only for researchers?

It is mainly aimed at researchers, but we get a lot of designers and product people attending as well. We welcome everyone as we think user research is an important discipline to know, no matter what your job title is.

What is the most interesting piece of advice or knowledge you’ve learnt from one of your previous events?

Our community has a lot of ideas for other topics that we can do and we always try to incorporate that, so it’s always a good idea to talk to people during the breaks.

For those interested in joining the group and keeping up to date with future events, visit: https://www.meetup.com/researchthing/

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