My Pivot Journal: Iwalola Sobowale’s journey from law to UX research

by MMC
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My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one sector to another, particularly into technology.

Iwalola’s journey shows the power of embracing change, exploring diverse opportunities, and finding your strengths to solve real-world problems.

How it started

My goal was to become a doctor. It was my dream job and I was inspired by medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy. However, destiny had other plans and a conversation with my parents steered me towards law as a safer bet. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy the course, I discovered a sense of research and critical thinking, which became the positive side of my academic journey.

I studied law at the University of Nottingham and went to law school. Despite my initial reservations, I excelled and received a 2.1. During my service at the NYSC, I worked in a law firm and interned at the court, gaining first-hand experience of the practical aspects of law. However, the advocacy side of the legal profession did not appeal to me. The frustration of waiting hours in court only to discover that the hearing was not in progress made me question the impact of my work.

Determined to explore other opportunities, I entered the corporate world. My first job after having my first son was at an insurance company known as Sunu Assurances. Later, I joined Fidelity Bank, where I worked with the customer experience and product team on their digital banking initiatives. It was during this time that I realized the importance of understanding and solving customer problems to create valuable solutions.

The turning point came with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. I faced uncertainty and fear of contracting the virus as we were asked to return to work in the office. This made me think about my future job choices, wanting one that matched my skills and provided a safer place to work.

I found a UX design course through UTIVA. I enrolled in the course and found myself immersed in user research and product development. The course exposed me to the entire design thinking process, from research to creating wireframes and high-fidelity designs. It became clear that my strength lay in translating user needs into design requirements, a crucial aspect of product development.

With this new skill, I secured a position at Transsion, working in the mobile technology team on a project for their high-end smartphones – Tecno Camon, Phantom X and Infinix. This required a lot of market research and helped the company understand how Nigerians and Africans prefer certain things.

Epiphany

The pivotal moment that drew me to technology and user research occurred while I was at Fidelity Bank. The difficulties users face with mobile banking have highlighted the need for better customer understanding. For example, I encountered many customers who couldn’t even log into the mobile app, they didn’t understand that they had to enter a complex password and not just a PIN.

It became clear that my skills could bridge the gap between businesses and their customers, helping them meet needs, solve problems, and ultimately drive success. Working with product analytics tools like Mixpanel and Hotjar has been a game changer, allowing me to make more informed decisions based on user interactions.

Transition

It all started with some introspection and conversations with people from the technology sector and tutors at UTIVA. These discussions, coupled with extensive research, led me to identify a set of skills from my legal training that could be seamlessly applied in the technology field – skills such as researching, analyzing and solving problems. problems. To test the waters, I dove into UX design and took a product management course with Udacity. I also took UX research courses on Interaction Design Foundation, one of those courses being UX Research Methodologies and Best Practices.

There is a community known as UX Research Corner that has helped me a lot during my transition. They organize sessions where UX researchers and product managers discuss different topics related to product and user research.

However, it was through mentoring and a critical review of my past experiences that I identified my strengths: research and analysis. The joy of solving problems, creating and improving people’s lives became my driving force.

How’s it going

The transition to the world of technology has not been without its challenges. Imposter syndrome haunted my thoughts, wondering if I was truly competent in this new specialty. The tech industry made me wonder if someone like me (without technical “coding” skills) could really find their place. It wasn’t until I discovered voices like Marty Cagan and Teresa Torres that I realized the breadth of roles in the tech space. Coding was just one aspect; problem solving and user understanding were equally crucial.

As I have grown in my role and experience, I have dedicated my resources to developing my business analysis skills through an intensive executive training program in business strategy and financial performance through INSEAD. I am also currently pursuing a master’s degree in international business management.

Today, as Head of Product and User Research at Interswitch, my role is a dynamic mix of collaboration and problem solving. By working closely with product managers, strategists and various other teams, we aim to design solutions that not only meet customer needs but also contribute to business growth and success. From unlocking my team to running profitable research studies, every day presents new challenges and opportunities. User interviews and conversations provide valuable insights, and my role is to fill knowledge gaps between teams to ensure informed decision-making.

Career tip

Always be curious and open to constructive feedback. I have a podcast called The Spotlight Podcast. We delve into the lives of innovators and movers and shakers in the tech industry. From my interactions with them, I realized that the majority of them had a curious mindset. They always wanted to know more.

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