60 minutes | May 4, 2020

34. Amber Lindholm of Duo Security

This episode of Dollars to Donuts features my interview with Amber Lindholm, the Head of User Research at Duo Security. That’s the sign of a really good researcher – it can never be just about research for research’s sake, like this is a cool project, this is a neat thing, I really wanna go in-depth and understand perceptions of XYZ with these people, if you don’t have that ability to understand the organizational and business contexts and the types of decisions that are having to be made every day by the rest of the folks in your organization, your research isn’t going to have an impact. – Amber Lindholm Show Links John Mulaney Has Become the Muse of TikTok’s Makeup Artists Amber on LinkedIn Amber on Twitter Duo Security University of Illinois Graphic Design Bauhaus education Institute of Design frog projekt202 Atlassian Stride Sally Carson, Head of Product Design Mark Thompson-Kolar, Design Researcher Annie Diu, Research Coordinator Liz Donovan, Design Research Manager Dug Song, Founder Jon Oberheide, Founder Chester Kustarz, Head of Engineering Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter and help other people find the podcast by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Transcript Steve Portigal: Welcome to Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk with the people who lead user research in their organization. I read recently about a new genre of TikTok videos that featured people applying makeup, while lip syncing to standup comedy routines by John Mulaney. I believe that TikTok has it roots as a platform for lip-sync performances, and of course makeup tutorials and demonstrations are their own thing on the Internet. But how do we end up with the combination, and not just one but a whole series? How did this come about, why are people doing it, and are there other niche sub-genres or patterns that this relates to? Even if we are tempted to dismiss these behaviors as just a bunch of people being weird, we need to be doing the research to understand how, and why this is happening. Sure, people at TikTok should know how people are using their service. But insight about this also is valuable to other platforms like YouTube and Twitter and Instagram. How could this information give you a new perspective on user behaviors if you work at Dropbox? Or if you work for Michelin, either their travel department or their tire division? How could Nationwide Insurance make use of this? Our culture swerves and leaps and when these emergent behaviors poke their head up through into the mainstream, it’s an invitation to take note, and to be curious. This is what clients hire me to do, whether it’s to be the one that leads the investigation, to unlock the motivations and desires of current and prospective customers, or to be someone who helps their team as they themselves dig into the hidden behaviors and objectives of users. I help companies look at their own organization, their culture, and their processes to help set the stage for this kind of discovery work to flourish and have impact. If you’re a fan of this podcast, then remember you can support the podcast by supporting me and my practice. Please reach out to me at Portigal dot com and let’s find a way to work together. Okay it’s time for my interview with Amber Lindholm, she’s the head of Design Research at Duo Security. Steve: Well Amber, thank you for being on dollars to donuts. It’s really great to get to speak with you. Amber Lindholm: Hey, Steve, it’s great to be here. Steve: Hey, I guess I should have said, hey, hey, Amber. So I’m gonna ask you to introduce yourself. Amber: So I’m Amber Lindholm. I’m currently the head of design research at Duo Security, which is part of Cisco. And my background is in design, both kind of traditional print design, moving into interaction design, and then design research, which I practiced before, you know, moving into more leadership positions. Steve: What does do a security to Amber: do security, we provide various security products that help protect our customers basically access to data. So our core product is a multi factor authentication product. So when you’re going to, let’s say log into, you know, a tool that you use at work, you know, after you do your password, you get some sort of maybe a push notification or something that verifies that To you, so we help protect organizations and their data as well as individuals. Steve: So if I am a consumer and I go to my bank and they said, oh, we’re going to send you a text message to prove that you’re you before we can let you access your account, is that the kind of tools that you’re providing? Amber: Yeah, that’s, that’s a great example a lot of folks are familiar with, with us through like financial institutions. And we basically have created a product that’s super easy for organizations to roll out and get folks enrolled in. But it does that where it’s it’s verifying through a second method that you are actually who you say you are, Steve: eventually, let’s get to talk more about the work that you are doing to a security but since you said a little bit about some of what your background was it be great to just hear more about like you mentioned, print design. So what’s kind of the arc or the history for you from when you got into figuring out your profession to you know, how you move to where you are now. Amber: So I started out as I was mentioning in graphic design, so I was trying I went to University of Illinois we did really kind of what I would call more classical, like Bauhaus, you know, educational style, learning all about formal typography and form and color. And so after school, I followed that path, I found a work with a PR agency at first and then in house at a nonprofit called Rotary International. And this was up in Chicago. And I spent my time you know, designing brochures, you know, reports, invitations, billboards, all kinds of print materials. And during that time, I just remember there was this particular project I was working on where we translated most of our materials into nine languages. So it was going out around the world. And I was creating these, they were kind of these little packets that had a CD that had files for the different rotary clubs to produce their own kind of marketing materials. And I worked with the translators to you know, translate the copy in the on the files and the file names, but after that, I Didn’t know when those things were sent out in the world if they were going to be used properly if they were going to meet their needs or expectations, and at that time, I started searching around and trying to think, you know, I feel like something’s missing. And I came across, you know, the terminology then was Human Centered Design. And it was just a revelation. For me, it seems like, you know, you can create these things, but if you don’t understand how people are going to use them and what they need, you’re really gonna miss the mark. So that was a catalyst for me to continue like my education. So I found a grad program at Institute of Design in Chicago where I went and I learned, you know, how to do research. They taught all about human factors, all kinds of approaches pulled from social sciences, very qualitative in nature, learned about design strategy, I learned more about interaction design, and that was really I really felt like I found my sweet spot. I loved the research side of it. I loved going out and talking to people. And trying to understand you know who they are and how they behave and why. So when I graduated actually, right before I graduated, I did a couple of things. So one of the things was I wanted to do a little bit of living abroad. So I went for a year to New Zealand and I worked inside the government there so did a project looking, it was more like a service design customer experience project, which was really great, because it neat to get that government experience came back and my husband and I moved to Austin, just sight unseen moved down here. And I’ve had a couple of different jobs here in Austin. I started out at frog and I was still mostly focused on design. I was doing interaction design, like mobile, tablet type design, but then I started adding in the research projects, and that again, really flourished there and love doing that work. Got to do some research in China and other places. And this was more contextual work like going in people’s homes, spending a lot of time with them to understand their world and A couple other things I did after that I went and worked in healthcare for a year trying to do similar kind of research understanding. For instance, I did a project about the new parent experience. And then I went back to consulting to a consultancy called Project 202. So spent, you know, quite a few years actually being more of a consultant role working across many industries, which was fun and started leading a team that project to research and Insights Team. So we would work on, you know, tons of projects, looking at really large customer journeys. And then after consulting for so long, I decided that I wanted to really understand the other side, so to go more in house to work at a product company. So I worked at Atlassian and led a design and research team for a product called stripe, which is a video and chat tool. And then I moved to do where I’m at now. And again, I lead the research team there love helping our team grow love the side of research that really has an impact and provides value. So that’s kind of my story Steve: to talk about today. There’s two sort of vectors that I hear one is in house and consulting as different perspectives. But you’ve also talked about research and design. And it sounds like over the course of your career, your title at least has. Well, I guess you also said some of t
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