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Balancing the Grind with Brianna Cooper, Head of UX Research & Design at Jhola

Brianna Cooper is the Head of UX Research & Design at Jhola, a personal management app which helps users organise and manage their life through a personalized, single view.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

When I graduated at UTS in 2015 I had no UX experience. So I got my foot in the door at a digital agency as a Content Marketing Specialist with the goal of moving into a UX role.

The agency didn’t offer UX as a service but it was a gap they wanted to fill. By being completely transparent with my manager that I wanted to get into UX, he offered me the opportunity to study UX Research & Design at Tractor Design School.

After graduating the UX course, the agency started offering UX as a service and I finally got my UX title that I had always dreamt of. I conducted UX Research for some big name clients which built up my portfolio.

From the agency I went client-side to a tech start-up called Oneflare where I was a UX Specialist working across UX research as well as design. From Oneflare I moved to an e-commerce start-up called Showpo.

After 3 years of start-up world I was selected to work at InfoTrack where I headed up the UX research.

My current role is the Head of UX Research & Design at Jhola which I’m super excited about! Ash, the founder of Jhola approached me about 3 months ago and pitched the idea.

We spent the next three weeks researching, talking to people and validating. We interviewed a large amount of people, completed an intensive competitor analysis, conducted journey mapping sessions, analysed the interviews identifying pain points and opportunities, identified who our power user was, designed a prototype and conducted user testing!

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

This is what today looked like:

6 – 7am – Gym class with my friends.

7 – 8am – Coffee and walk along the Cronulla esplanade with my Mum.

8 – 8:30am – Reading and organising emails, prioritising tasks based on urgency, timeboxing those tasks in my calendar, scrolled through LinkedIn and Tech Crunch.

9 – 9:15am – Slack messages and check in with Ash for today’s interviews.

9:15 – 10am – Review notes from yesterday’s user interview and pull out key pain points, insights and opportunities.

10 – 11am – User interview via Google Meet.

11am – 11:15am – Debrief with Ash & collaborate on notes/ideas.

11:15am – 12pm – Contact users to schedule user interviews.

12pm – 1pm – Walk to Cronulla mall while listening to Australian Design Radio podcast. Catch up with my friend for lunch. Grab some groceries.

1 – 2pm – Marketing / UX catch-up.

2 – 3pm – User interview via Google Meet.

3 – 3:15pm – Debrief with Ash.

3:15 – 3:30pm – Continue to review notes and pull out key pain points, insights and opportunities.

3:30 – 5pm – Start summary presentation for Friday’s team meeting.

5 – 6:30pm – Freelance work.

6:30pm – Off to my boyfriend’s place for dinner and to watch the new episode of Yellowstone on Stan – we’re obsessed with this series!

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Before COVID not so much. No one really worked from home at my previous role. Which I didn’t mind as I love the city. I think it’s just that now without having to commute I get 3 hours of my day back which has allowed me to achieve a more balanced and slower paced lifestyle.

I can make anything work for my lifestyle as long as I’m efficient with my time. For example, before COVID I would use my lunch break to do a gym workout and my commute time to do my freelancing work. But because the internet on the train sucks I would usually continue to work on my laptop all night and over the weekend.

This is where I started to notice an imbalance and it definitely put a strain on my relationship, I was always tired and stressed.

Now that I’m working from home, I do a gym workout first thing in the morning and use my lunch break to enjoy a walk on the beach, go for a swim or catch up with friends. I now have time in the afternoon to do some freelancing work before I see my family and boyfriend who I can be fully present with.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me, work-life balance is working towards achieving at least one goal in each aspect of my life; professional, personal & financial. For example this is what the home screen of my phone looks like:

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

The biggest habit I have stopped is being on my phone or laptop when I’m with my boyfriend. I have to come to realise that his love language is quality time so whenever we go out for something to eat or sit down to watch a movie I will leave all my devices out of reach and be fully present with him.

One of my personal goals this year was to read more and with extra time on my hands I’ve been able to achieve that. My group of friends have actually started a book club which has been fun!

I also have a career goal to up-skill, so I’ve been doing lots of online courses.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Books:

That will Never Work – Marc Randolph – Netflix

Emotional Design Why We Love Or Hate Everyday Things – Don Norman

Podcasts:

During work:

Australian Design Radio – Flyn Tracy

Lady Start Up – MamaM!a

When driving:

Better For It – Hosted by Katie Williams

Hamish & Andy (if I want to have a good laugh)

Newsletters:

Medium

Tech Crunch

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Well, I can’t wait for Jhola to launch. I’m just on the beta version but I already can’t without it. I have multiple communication apps as well as calendars for work and my personal life so being able to see it all in one single view is life changing.

Miro is an online whiteboard for visual collaboration. It turns the physical experience of being in a room with your team mates analysing research and creating affinity maps with post-its into a digital experience. It has been a life saver during COVID!

Notion is basically an all-in-one workspace for everyone in the team. It’s where I document all the user research plans, scripts, notes etc. It keeps me organised and I love that anyone from the team can access and read through the research.

Google Meet is a video conferencing tool. I’ve been able to continue to conduct moderated face-to-face user interviews which is important as observing body behaviour is a big part of user research. It has also helped me stay connected with my team mates.

My Apple Watch – keeps me active and reminds me when to stand up and take a break. It also stops me from getting distracted with my phone. Oh and my Kindle!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

I would love to listen to Melanie Perkins, the co-founder of Canva. I think she is awesome and so inspiring.

I also listened to Kevin Hart talk about work-life balance on the Joe Rogan podcast which was really interesting!

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers? 

If there is anything I have learnt during COVID it’s this:

  • Timeboxing is everything! Block out time in your calendar for work and personal tasks at the start of the day. This is key to staying productive and balanced!
  • Be present with your friends and family. The Slack message at 9pm can wait for the morning.
  • Career goals are important but so are personal goals. Use the extra time you have in your day to focus on your personal goals.

Before you go…

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This conversation is brought to you by personal management app Jhola. Manage your life through a personalized, single view. Subscribe now!

About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.