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Coaching a researcher — a sneak peek

Coaching a researcher — a sneak peek


In 2023, we started a coaching program in Design. I fundamentally believe that one should take responsibility for their learning; no class, course, or mentor can make them a master. So the first criteria is to show that you are coachable; hence the consecutive 4 stars rating from oversight is critical.

I got to coach the super-talented Shalini Mookerjee, Senior Researcher at Urban Company last year as a part of this program.

As you can see here, the theme of coaching was to work together to build the muscle on presenting sharp, articulate, and opinionated research. The structure of this program designed by breaking down the objective into specific activities required to hone the skill, and implement in a real project.

Part 1: Honing the skills

  1. Usability testing: To create substance.
    She was already good at Usability Testing, so we skipped this and did a refreshing UI exercise instead. Since researchers typically don't do UI design, I wanted her to have a 360° exposure to designing. Asked her to Recreate a mobile UI from Dribbble on Figma. She had to create all screens in the shot without using any images. All elements needed to be created from scratch and all help she could get was from Google/ YouTube, not from any team member.

  2. Sketch-notes: To present things simplified.
    Ayurveda massages are one of the most complex massages to explain. The task was to explain in an 1-pager infographic. It should have everything one needs to know about this kind of massage, and everything around it (e.g. benefits, considerations, inception, typical customer, popular age groups, popular cultures, and more...)

  3. Culture: To build comfort in larger groups.
    Check point 6 on Networking.

  4. Reporting: To practice synthesising.
    The task was to convert learnings from the documentary movie — The Social Dilemma into a researcher's one-pager handbook. This would require watching it from a purist researcher's lens, capturing data points shown in the movie, how they were collected, how recommendation models were built, and how emotion and action pairings were coded.

  5. Visioning: To create opinions.
    The task was to create a vision board of customer experience for Ayurveda Spa service at home. What would a 5-star, 6-star….10-star experience look like? Doing this would require her to absorb knowledge from multiple sources, separate good from bad ideas, and present the same to business teams that run this category at UC.

  6. Networking: To keep learning from different sources.
    The task was to organise a researchers meetup with at least 10-12 researchers. There were some conditions given around what kind of researches should be there. This was to ensure that reaching out to new people is slightly challenging. Talking to other researchers, learning how it works in other organisations, organising the event of meetup itself — all would teach culture building in a short period of time and much more.

Part 2: Implementing all of the above into a real life project

We'd launch UC's first physical product for consumers in October and it was really important for us to know if we were doing the right thing w.r.t. our messaging, landing pain points, CGI videos and such.


  • First, she did amazingly well! I was immensely proud on the final day of coaching completion.

  • If you're taking the responsibility to coach someone, put in the effort to really break it down to things that will yield a better outcome.

  • Document your approach and make it so it helps that one person completely.

  • Don't think of scaling the coaching program for all. Everyone needs different coaching.

  • Get your hands dirty along with them. You'll learn amazing things. I'm way better educated on Ayurveda, concepts breakdown of The Social Dilemma movie, and future of Ayurveda services than I was before this activity!

  • Lastly, it's amazing to coach people who are coachable.

I hope Shalini will blog about this activity from her point of view soon.

© Copyright 2023, I guess.

© Copyright 2024, I guess.