Case study: Research Chat series

As UX lead on a fully remote program of 100 cross-functional consultants, including Product, Engineering, and UX, I led and managed a team of 15 senior UX designers, with 7 reporting directly to me. Our collaboration with The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) focused on a range of health care and Medicare-related initiatives under the .gov domain.

These thoughts are mine alone, I do not speak on behalf of any organization.

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I was recruited for this role because of my background in UX research and one of my main goals when I joined was to evaluate and mature our HCD thinking across the program. Though our team did not have direct access to conduct user research, we worked closely with a stakeholder research team to obtain valuable user insights. With the limited exposure our designers had to the research process, we recognized the impact this had on our design thinking, ability to utilize research to drive decision-making, and maturity in the application of human-centered design (HCD) throughout the program. I took on the role of not only leading our program’s collaboration with the stakeholder research team, but also fostering our growth in design thinking as a UX practice and as a program as a whole.

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A program of over 100 consultants, including experts in Accessibility, UX, Product, Engineering, and Program Management.

My role:

UX Lead/Manager + chat Moderator


~ 6 months


  • Initiative plan
  • Budget
  • Speaker outline/schedule
  • Communication plan
  • Accessibility plan
  • Retro survey
  • Results report


As part of our efforts to align on an industry-standard ‘blue sky’ for best research practices and grow our HCD thinking, I aimed to foster more opportunities for natural discussions and increased competence in research thinking, participant care, and application of both ‘desk’ (secondary) and primary user research program-wide.

To support our Open Enrollment (OE) user research observation efforts (See: Case study: ResearchOps for Open Enrollment (OE)), I organized a series of six research chats with research experts from across the organization. These chats covered various topics related to research methodology, participatory service design, and the researcher experience.

With goals to:

  • Grow and mature HCD research thinking and strengthen our research chops and design discussion candor.
  • Glean key findings and insights, documenting gaps to drive design decision-making.
  • Identify possible future work and contract expansion.
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If we, as a team, can mature our research thinking and awareness, we will be better prepared to collaboratively implement user insights into our design and strategy, working towards greater HCD maturity and growing as practitioners.

The series

I worked closely with the research expert “hosts” to align our program’s needs with their areas of expertise. Together, we determined the topic and structure of each session in the chat series. The chat sessions, designed in a podcast-style format, were scheduled once a week throughout the Open Enrollment (OE) period. We extended invitations to all practitioners on the program, encouraging their active participation in both the live and backchannel discussions.  I served as the moderator for each session and facilitated the debrief discussions.


  • Observing & Note taking: What to look for and how to capture it.
  • Inclusive design and tools for documenting gaps in recruitment.
  • The researcher experience- share out of research conducted with Veterans who have a traumatic brain injury and Veterans who utilize assistive tech.
  • Incorporating a broad range of data into designs.
  • Viewing our products through an accessible tech lens (screenreader demo).
  • Storytelling: Considering the stakeholder experience.
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  • Increased frequency and openness of research discussions throughout the program; providing practitioners with a better understanding of industry best practices and tools to evaluate design strategy through the lens of relevant thought topics.
  • Improved research observer awareness and adoption of more effective notetaking practices.
  • Enhanced practitioner comfort in utilizing mixed methodology research to drive product decisions.
  • Expanded networking and knowledge-sharing within the organization.
Maturity model chart with up arrows above Business and Craft maturity. Craft maturity rose more than business maturity.


These results led to tangible improvements in design deliverables and collaboration, both within the team and with stakeholders. The feedback from the retro of this initiative validated the initial hypothesis of this series and highlighted individual takeaways. We have begun to see increased community-led initiative in bettering research practices and increasing incorporation of user insights into product roadmap strategy and design decisions.  Additionally, the insights gathered throughout this initiative provided team leads with valuable information to guide the development of additional practice initiatives to further enhance our craft and foster ongoing individual growth.

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