Since July of 2016, I’ve worked as a UX Designer at Emsi in Moscow, Idaho. The three principles that are central to our company culture are:
- Bless the Customer
- Bless the Employee
- Bless the Shareholder
In the product and engineering departments, we keep these tenements in mind at all times, which leads to a wonderful department-wide emphasis on the user experience. Emsi’s Analyst is industry standard software for visualizing Labor Market data in higher ed, and I have been thrilled to be the dedicated UX Designer for the Higher Ed vertical. Additionally, I help code front-end UIs for our Rapid Prototyping Group to quickly test product concepts with our customers.
One of my first tasks at Emsi was to investigate how our users handle the data we provide them with after exporting from Analyst. The core offering of Analyst are reports. A user queries the tool for insights on the labor market: How many nurses work in Las Vegas, and how much do they make? or How many graduates did degrees for Agriculture have in Texas from 2000-2015? From there, users can export PDF reports, excel data, and other options to help inform stakeholders at their higher ed institutions.
But what next?
While Analyst did a great job exporting raw tables and charts, there wasn’t a lot of nuance involved in exporting beyond that. This can be problematic when institutional research in higher ed is, by nature, nuanced.
The first step I took was to get on the phone with clients early and often. In fact, for my first one or two months at Emsi, I would say it was rare to ever see me not tucked away in a meeting room on the phone with a client.
I highlighted key pieces of feedback through roughly 50+ hours on the phone with clients. In summary, clients were looking for an easier way to streamline their process of sharing information with internal stakeholders. Too often, it’s easy to get caught up in an email chain or making the rounds repeatedly from desk to desk to keep everyone on the same page. I had a thought.
At Emsi, our data is at the center of everything we do. When a new data set comes along, part of my responsibility is to determine how best to distribute that information throughout the Anaylst interface. In the case of Alumni Insight, we were fortunate to be working with a wealth of data on professional profiles. With this information, our higher ed clients could visualize the outcomes of their program decision making at the human level.
With the Alumni Insight project, I leaned heavily on the expertise of my manager, our VP of Higher Education, Luke. Luke has ten years plus of experience in working with higher ed institutions and has a phenomenal track record of customer relationships and product vision in the higher ed space. Side by side with him, we logged many hours of client exploration and feedback tailored around an Alumni Insight prototype that I built with our Rapid Prototyping Group.
Once our phenomenal data and backend engineers had infrastructure for an Alumni Insight prototype built, I constructed a user interface for it with direction from Luke. This interface was crafted with the available API endpoints in mind, and how best to leverage them with our target audience. It was a great opportunity to code out a front-end to quickly validate the concept with customers.
The Prototype, or, "The artist formerly known as Project: Human Capital Analytics (previous working name)"
In January 2017, Emsi launched Alumni Insight to production. It already is in the hands of higher ed institutions who are making better informed decisions. With the power of Emsi data, clients are now able to see exactly where their alumni end up working, and what skills they have in the context of employment. This gives them a clearer picture on what opportunities are to be had and which programs are perhaps ready to be sunsetted.
Screenshot of Alumni Insight in production
As the biggest employer I've had the privilege to work with yet, Emsi has offered an array of unique experiences. With the smaller companies I had worked for in the past, I was designing full products at a much faster rate as we'd try to compete or gather new marketshare. As Emsi has a very large and established client base in a professional services area, consistent and reliable production with process is of the utmost importance. Instead of this being a hinderance to creativity, at Emsi, we keep production at a healthy moderated clip while quickly experimenting with prototypes on the side. As a designer, it has been great to be able to complete production level work on Analyst while doing lots of speculative and prototype work on the side.