An exclusive interview with Elizabeth Zelle – User Research Manager at Amazon Games. We discussed transitioning from QA into games user research, and top skills for researchers.
Elizabeth Zelle – User Research Manager at Amazon Games
What was your journey into Games User Research?
In 2008 I applied to work in the QA department of Volition. At the time I had a number of friends from high school already working in QA there, and they encouraged me to apply. It was the middle of the recession and jobs in marine biology (what my actual degree was in) were few and far between, so there was nothing to lose. I got hired fairly easily, but I will admit that networking and name dropping my mom (who had worked at Volition years before) totally played a role there.
I was laid off a year later, but was in one of the first rounds of rehiring in 2010 when they started staffing up again. I was so high up the rehire list because I’d proven my skills, both in doing QA and in being a good team member, and people in the department specifically wanted me back, which felt good.
I transitioned to User Research a little while later when I discovered it was a great fit for my skillsets and matched well with my interests. The only problem was that we didn’t have a researcher opening. So I approached the solo researcher at the company and told him that it looked like he had enough work that he needed an assistant. Luckily for me, he agreed!
My takeaway: Getting that first job was easy but also a lot of luck; getting rehired after the layoff was based on skill. Being detail-oriented, having strong note-taking skills, and being highly observant all were traits that helped me excel in QA and then transition over to UR (not surprising, since those are all skills that research work in college had hammered into me).
My advice: Self-assess and identify which skills are your strengths, and then own them. Seek out the opportunities that you want and shoot your shot; don’t count yourself out before trying. Make friends; being someone that people value and want on their team will always benefit you.