Meet Christopher – researcher, expert in Human-Centered Design, and problem-solver! Christopher joined Anthro-Tech in 2022 as a User Experience Researcher. He enjoys taking a data-driven and goal-oriented approach towards understanding how users interact with products and services offered by all kinds of organizations.
Tell us about your background and what led you to work at Anthro-Tech?
Initially, I entered college thinking I was going to come out writing short stories for a living. However, I quickly became intrigued by potential disconnects between author intent, specific word choices, and varying interpretations from end readers.
An overarching theme about the ambiguity of meaning or outcome guided me through my studies of child and adult human (and computer) language, thought, and behavior towards a professional career concerned with operator safety and performance (i.e., my first job placements in federal government research centers for DOT and NASA). These jobs captured my motivations to use what I learned to help avoid and/or mitigate accidents and errors that occur at the intersection of humans and technology.
Subsequently, I sought out and got to conduct research with humans who succeed and fail in interactions with a wide range of “smart” stuff: in self-driving cars (PhD at TU Delft), among consumer electronics at home (Google Hardware UX), and aboard airplane flight decks (Boeing).
Along the way, my first official consulting work felt particularly rewarding while I was contributing to a project for a small startup with a large social-environmental benefit vision.
Learning about Anthro-Tech’s credo to support public sectors with social-impact missions sounded like an appealing way to continue to develop and leverage my skills and experiences in Human-Centered Design and research for the greater good.
What does a workday in the life of Christopher look like?
I start each workday with walking my dog around the neighborhood where I am happy to give my body the chance to kickstart my brain.
Next, I always first sit down with a two-drink minimum: a cup of coffee for invigoration and excitement alongside a glass of water for balance and sustenance. Throughout any given workday, I enjoy a healthy balance of collaborative meetings, dedicated heads-down self-work, and learning from or about users.
In heads-down work, I relish using the simplest of tools like MS paint, notepad, snippet, etc. for quickly capturing and manipulating half-baked and temporary information. Conversely, I loathe having to name, save, and organize files up-front where I know I will be working through many rough draft iterations of content (with open windows layered and spread across as many monitors as I can) before attempting to formalize, minimize, find and/or share them later for others or even myself.
When conducting research with users, I take care to treat them as new friends to learn interesting things about rather than as mice in a laboratory maze or subjects under a spotlight. A lot of self or situationally deprecative humor can go a long way to putting people at ease and opening up in what they share with you!
Lastly, I like to end my workdays with another dog walk and anything else that helps me zone out, refresh, and reset for the next day.
What is your favorite thing about working at Anthro-Tech?
The people! They are among the smartest, friendliest, and creative that I have ever worked with. In addition to that, Suzanne and Scott have instilled a true family-like culture where everyone, staff or client, can be sure to be heard, supported, and motivated towards continual growth.
What are some interesting facts about you? Tell us some thing(s) about yourself that would surprise us.
I got to do flips in Zero gravity aboard the “vomit-comet” plane as part of a NASA experiment led by Dr. Patricia Cowings on the effectiveness of Autogenic-Feedback Training Exercises (AFTER) (e.g., to combat motion sickness and pilot washout in more cost-friendly and holistically efficient ways than pills or potions).
Leading up to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to float like an astronaut, I got to experience being wired up with dozens of sensors to learn to self-track and manage my physiological symptoms while being spun around in a nauseating chair or in other sessions literally yelled at from behind a glass observation window.
Best yet, I got the opportunity to experience all these things simply out of being curious about what was going on around me (i.e., volunteered to guide a group of guests though the various labs of our building).
Another fun fact (and story) about me is that I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, where while being a fervent fan of the San Jose Sharks, the closest point of contact to the game of hockey I had was a sneaker-based version my friends and I played with garbage barrel “goals” and water bottle “pucks”.
When my college days took me to Boston, I endeavored to 1) learn how to ice skate and 2) play hockey “for real.” Fortunately, Northeastern University not only housed the world’s oldest indoor hockey arena still in use but also let its students skate in this amazing place for free - so I was able to check off the first in historic fashion in between my classes. Next, after a semester or so spent saving up for all the gear, and also just trying to get my nerves up, I got my first opportunity to try it out for real – where I got absolutely pummeled by competitive college classmates with little sympathy for my novice abilities.
Initially discouraged by such a steep learning curve, I later heard that recreational “senior” and “learner” leagues existed and might be more suitable for me if I could only find a way to get to them off campus. So, after bumming rides, or slogging my gear across public transport or even on the back of my motorcycle when needed, I eventually got enough games under my belt to confidently seek out and join such leagues in many other places after graduating. Since then, I’ve met countless friendly faces and happy teammates while following through with what I could only dream about as a kid.