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BBL Speaker Series: Navigating the New Normal: An Exploration of Face-to -Face Design Meetings in the Era of Remote Work

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Speaker: Karen Holtzblatt Location: HBK 2105 and Zoom Watch Here!

Abstract: Advancements in technology, the globalization of companies, and a growing awareness of environmental issues have catalyzed a shift in work cultures, transforming traditional face-to-face meetings into online ones. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this transition, establishing videoconferencing as the prevailing mode of professional interaction. But now companies are asking workers to come back to the office at least some of the time. They cite better collaboration, information sharing, and coaching for early career folks. But is that true and what does it really mean? To find out, we 11 conducted deep dive interviews primarily with HCI professionals to understand their experience of working in person vs remotely or hybrid. HCI professionals often find themselves organizing, leading, facilitating, and participating in complex interactive meetings of various kinds: data synthesis, ideation, brainstorming, design review with whiteboarding, roadmapping, and project kickoffs. Our work complements recent research on Return-to-Work that has been conducted by surveys and gives a deeper understanding of what is going on. We sought to gain insights into these types of meetings and interactions to understand participants’ experiences and what works and what doesn’t. We hope these findings will helpguide both HCI professionals and companies as they choose when to be in-person and how to best run hybrid and remote meetings. We spoke with both senior people and early career professionals. Our insights are also against the backdrop of last year’s research into the experience of remote working during the pandemic and related literature. The presentation will tell stories of our experiences and explicate what drives people to bring people together for these complex meetings and what impacts the success of these meetings in any context. We will also describe the impact of the social dimension of working together. We discuss the need for a shared understanding, ensuring engagement, managing the meeting, and the powerful role of nonverbal communication as well as the need and desire for connection both for its own sake and for the sake of the work and career.

Bio: Karen Holtzblatt is a thought leader, industry speaker, and author. A recognized innovator in requirements and design, Karen has developed transformative design approaches throughout her career. She introduced Contextual Inquire and Contextual Design, the industry standard for understanding the customer and organizing that data to drive innovative product and service concepts. Her newest book Contextual Design 2nd Edition Design for Life is used by companies and universities worldwide. Karen co-founded InContext Design in 1992 with Hugh Beyer to use Contextual Design techniques to coach product teams and deliver market data and design solutions to businesses across scores of industries in many countries. As CEO of InContext, Karen has worked with product, application, and design teams for over 30 years. Karen is also the driving force behind the Women in Tech Retention Project housed at WITops research explores why women in technology professions leave the field and creates tested interventions to help women thrive and succeed. Her new book with Nicola Marsden, Retaining Women in Tech: Shifting the Paradigm shares the work. Karen consults with companies to help them understand their diverse teams and improve retention, team cohesion, and equal participation by all. As a member of ACM SIGCHI (The Association of Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction) Karen was awarded membership to the CHI Academy a gathering of significant contributors and received the first Lifetime Award for Practice for her impact on the field. Karen has also been an Adjunct Research Scientist at the University of Maryland’s iSchool (College of Information Studies). Karen has worked with many universities to help design curriculum for training user experience professionals. Karen has more than 30 years of teaching experience professionally, at conferences and university settings. She holds a doctorate in applied psychology from the University of Toronto.