This time UXtweak got the chance to interview amazing Nikki Pollina, UX Researcher at Google Classroom and a TikTok content creator with thousands of followers.
Read along to find out how Nikki got into Google, what her typical working day looks like, what are her best advices for women looking to start a career in tech and how she is contributing to the UX Research community of TikTok.
Hi Nikki, tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am 28 years old, was born in Detroit, MI and currently live in NYC! I am a UX Researcher for Google Classroom – my mission is to represent the user and ensure that Google Classroom is effective for all students, teachers, and educational administrators around the world!
When I am not working at Google, I love sharing my knowledge on all things career, technology, and NYC lifestyle via TikTok. I have over 115K followers and have helped 100s of women find their passion and get a job in tech. Personally, I love traveling, doing yoga and pilates, reading (I am currently reading a book called Principles for Dealing with The Changing World Order – so good!) and exploring the New York City restaurant and bar scene with my friends and boyfriend. 🙂
How did you get into UX?
I took a very long route to get to UX – and specifically UX Research. I started out majoring in Information Systems and Analytics. I thought that I would be a developer or a product owner. When I graduated, I got to do a rotational program where I tried 4 jobs in tech for 6 months at a time.
It was there that I realized I liked front end development because I liked to work with the design of the screen and that I actually loved UX design and research!
You started in Google as a Mobile UX Specialist, why did you specifically choose mobile and what made you transit to UX research?
What attracted me to this job was actually less about the Mobile aspect (although I learned so much about mobile design). I really wanted to work for Google and get into UX.
This job was really cool because I got to work customer-facing with Google’s clients (which is really any company that buys ads). I got to run UX research on my clients’ websites and design mobile screen mock-ups based on my suggestions. I worked with really huge customers on their mobile UX strategies like Sephora, PetCo, and Home Depot – I learned so much from all of their UX design teams.
What is your favorite thing about working at Google?
I know everyone says this – but the people! The people I work with are interesting, kind, and hardworking.
As a UX researcher for Google Classroom, can you share what your typical work day looks like?
The main part of the UX researcher’s job is being the voice of the user. At Google Classroom, this would be teachers, students, and principals. A big piece of my job involves creating/running interviews, focus groups, and surveys with these groups of users. I try to answer the questions that the product team is having and I provide them with feedback and recommendations.
A typical day includes email management, a lot of meetings with the product team, running research, and analyzing results.
You’ve occupied so many different positions in the industry throughout your career: a developer, a product owner, data analyst, ux consultant, ux researcher… What would you say are the pros and cons of each? And which one was the most challenging for you personally?
I feel that one of my favorite parts of my career is the opportunity I have had to explore different roles in the tech industry. A lot of people assume all tech jobs are the same, but really there are so many different roles.
All jobs have their different set of challenges. To me, the challenges are what make the job fun. I would say my developer role was my most challenging. This was because it was my first job and I really didn’t enjoy the lack of communication I had with others on a day to day basis. That said, the developers I work with now in my current role/company have a lot of interaction with others. Company culture is huge when it comes to job satisfaction.
I would encourage people to try other jobs in tech if they get the opportunity because you might just find your new passion.
TikTok & Life
What would you say was your biggest motivation for talking about your career on TikTok?
Honestly, I was on TikTok for fun originally. I started to gain traction by talking about my career. In retrospect, this really made sense for me. I was already passionate about helping my friends and family find jobs. I also had already volunteered at a lot of organizations that support getting underserved students’ training and jobs in the tech industry.
Providing career tips wasn’t planned, but it really aligned with my goals at the time so I just ran with it and never looked back. I get so much joy out of helping people (mainly women) get into the tech field.
Is there a big community of UX Researchers there?
Not really! Haha – maybe I’m missing them, but it doesn’t really seem like there are UX researchers out on TikTok talking about their career and their best practices. @heymiadotco is the only other UXR TikToker I have come across and she’s great! I would love to meet more though!
You mention that you love reading, is there a book that impacted your life or career so much, you could recommend it to our readers?
Wow – this is a great question. About 5 years ago, I remember reading How Google Works by Eric Schmidt (who was the former CEO of Google). The company fascinated me. I remember reading about their ideal candidate in the book and thinking “I want to be that”. The following year I got the job – manifestation works! 🙂
Recently, I read LifePass by Payal Kadakia (the founder of ClassPass). She is such an inspiration to me and a female entrepreneur that I try to emulate. The book talks about figuring out who you are and what you want to do. It has great tips on goal setting. I highly recommend it.
Women in Tech
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the UX/tech industry?
I think there are so many great parts of being a woman in the tech industry. It’s definitely hard work and leading the way in a male-dominated industry can be difficult.
You have to remember that these tech industries are building our future and are really impacting the culture. If we don’t have women involved in tech, then we’re not getting the female perspective in our future or in our culture. It’s really a big responsibility, but I think that’s what makes it fun!
That’s why I’m so passionate about getting women excited about the tech field and supporting them on their journey to landing a job in the industry.
Is there any advice you could give to women who are considering/ want to advance their career in tech?
I think the best way to advance your career is knowing yourself. If you know yourself, you pick better opportunities that YOU will enjoy and excel at. Ultimately, this type of conscious and mindful career advancement will allow you to go much further. Many times we are trying to fit a mold that others have chosen for us or what we think our family and friends would approve of.
I encourage any woman looking to do a career change or advance their career to consider the following questions:
- What do you like about your current job? If you can’t think of anything – it could be something as small as organizing your emails.
- What are you good at that makes you stand out from others? This doesn’t need to be work related, and you can ask others in your life what they think you’re good at!
- What are must haves in your next job? What are the non-negotiable things? This can be pay, work life balance, or job title.
Collect data about yourself and see what makes sense for your next career step. I think as women, we try to make decisions based on what other people think or want us to do.
Once you know yourself better, then you can make the correct career moves for you and you’ll feel more comfortable advocating for yourself.
Why do you think there are still so few females in the technology industry?
Representation. I remember my senior year of college I wrote a thesis on how the media lacks representation when it comes to the tech field. I was going into the tech industry and when I watched tech movies, read tech books, or saw tech industry news I hardly ever saw women. I knew that my peers thought it was a little weird that I was going into tech.
Society makes the tech field out to be a bunch of hyper-nerdy men. It really deters women who might actually be interested in joining the industry. It’s represented as a place where women can’t be themselves.
I do think social media is changing that. Many people are being more vocal, talking about their experiences and showing that historically underrepresented groups (including women, people of color, etc.) can thrive in the tech industry.
What is your message to other people in the UX industry?
Liked the interview? Read our another Women in UX talk with Miriam Isaac about designing for complex SaaS products.