Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Building User Research: Careers, Teams, and Leadership



Systematic study of people as users of services and products has a long history, but the practice in the industry, commonly known as user research, is as vague as it is ubiquitous. User research draws from many fields—social sciences, behavioral sciences, computer science, design, business, media studies, and others—with diverse epistemological beliefs and methodological palettes. Yet, we rarely discuss what is meant by user research and what specific skills are required from a researcher. This makes it hard to align on what good user research looks like, for companies to set precise expectations for the user research team, for leaders to hire the right composition of talent for their research teams, and for researchers to be deliberate about their career paths.

In this talk, Sara discusses different researcher archetypes and the dilemma of investing in breadth vs. depth of research skills. She talks through how she thinks about matching the right skills to a problem, how she’s approached creating a diverse research team of both specialists and generalists, and how she coaches researchers in designing their career journey.


Sara Belt is a Director of Creator Product Insights at Spotify, where she leads a team of user researchers and data scientists that powers Spotify’s product development for the artist and music industry community. Prior to her work among the Creator community, Sara led Spotify’s user research team in North America and held research positions at Microsoft, HERE Technologies, and Nokia.

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