Behind The Scenes: Rachel

Babbel’s UX Research Lead gives us an in-depth look into how her team contributes to the understanding of language learners.

At Babbel, our endgame is getting people to have conversations with other people, in a new language. There are fantastic folks here making that possible. In our “Behind The Scenes” series, we sit down with them to provide a glimpse into who makes it all work, what they do, and where their heads are at. 

This round we’re talking to Rachel Lynch, Babbel’s Team Lead for UX Research.

What’s your role at Babbel? What do you do on a typical day?

I am the UX Research Lead at Babbel. Our goal as a team is to bring our learners’ voices to the table when making decisions about our products. We aim to enable all of Product and Engineering to get close to our learners so we can all build connections with the people we are building products for. My team includes UX Researchers and UX Writers. We sit in the Product Design team, and together as a department we work directly with our product development teams to understand who we are designing for, what our learners struggle with, and how to deliver the best solutions. 

As the UX Research Lead I am responsible for supporting my team’s day to day work and also ensuring UX Research at Babbel delivers the right actionable insights so we can maintain a learner centric culture and support data driven decision making. The way that I achieve this is by focusing on 3 things

  1. Identifying foundational research needs that help us understand the big picture of what it’s like to learn a language
  2. Working with individual agile teams to iteratively test and improve their solutions
  3. Sharing with the company about how UX Research works, how it fits into the product development cycle, how to use it to make decisions, and even how teams can do some research themselves

Where are you from and which languages do you speak?

I come from the US. I have lived in a few states, including Florida and Missouri, but I mostly grew up in Texas. I also spent almost 4 years living in NYC, where I started working with Babbel. I, like many of my fellow Americans, only speak 1 language. I learned French for 6 years, but remember almost nothing. I’m now learning German since I’ve moved to Berlin. There’s a story going around in the US that learning German is easy for people who already speak English. I’m almost certain none of the people saying this have ever actually tried to learn German. It’s safe to say I can strongly empathize with any of our learners struggling to pick up a second language.

This is a pretty international workplace. How does that influence your work?

My favorite thing is sharing cultural traditions, learning to joke in each others’ languages, teaching each other our idioms. Mostly, it makes things more interesting and fun.

What challenges are you most animated by?

I love the challenge of making sure my team is contributing the best way we can to Babbel’s understanding of our language learners. Being an effective research team goes beyond delivering only the research that is requested. We need to have a deep understanding of how and when our teams make critical decisions about the product, and plan ahead so we can provide the right information at the right time to continue to make products our learners love. 

Why is UX research important as a whole and specifically for Babbel? 

UX Research serves as a way for teams to build empathy for the people they are designing for. Product teams need to juggle many requirements. There are deadlines, stakeholders, metrics, business goals, market trends and many more factors to consider when delivering a product. UX Research allows teams to understand the people actually using the product, and align business strategy with their users’ goals. Ultimately, we want to deliver something people will actually use and enjoy. 

For Babbel, we want to help people learn languages. You can measure our success by how often people are using Babbel, which is an important piece of information. But to come up with new and innovative ideas, we also need to understand the deeper motivation for learning a language. UX Research can help uncover these motivations. Knowing what drives language learners in a deeper way improves our ability to deliver the best solutions for them.

What inspired you to work in this field and what are some best practices of UX research?

I love that through UX Research I get to drop into other people’s lives, observe how they solve problems and hear their stories about how they approach life. With Babbel I’m able to talk to people from all over the world. I get a peek into the different experiences that have shaped them, and ultimately what drives them to achieve their goal of learning a new language. The magic happens when we can bring those stories back to the teams, and inspire ideas to help our learners succeed.

Is there something that the Babbel UX research team does differently compared to other companies in the industry?

Our UX Research team works in an almost fully remote research environment. Babbel serves such a global base that it’s incredibly important for us to interview an audience that is representative of that diverse geography. Interviewing remotely allows us to learn from people from many different countries and timezones all while not having to leave our office in Berlin.

Since we are now all working from home, how have you adjusted to this situation? Do you have any tips to share for WFH productivity?

The way the UX Research team works allowed us to easily adjust to a remote set up. What we struggle with is our relationships, both with each other, and with the teams who need our services. We made sure to set up weekly social meetings where we would just play games or share a virtual beer. To keep our work accessible in a remote working environment we have increased our presence on Slack by creating channels specifically for our research presentations where the audience can chat and brainstorm together.

Want to work with Rachel? The UX team is currently looking for a Senior Product Designer UX (Engagement)!

Ewa Cabaj

Ewa works in the Internal Communications team in Berlin and heads up Babbel's Employer Branding. She likes to think of herself as a trilingual Polish-German-American nomad and is a big fan of all things noodle, travel, and dog-related content.

Ewa works in the Internal Communications team in Berlin and heads up Babbel's Employer Branding. She likes to think of herself as a trilingual Polish-German-American nomad and is a big fan of all things noodle, travel, and dog-related content.