Tomer Sharon

Tomer Sharon — Goldman Sachs

Head of User Research & Metrics, Ex-Google, Ex-WeWork, UX author, husband, and father of three. Originally from Tel Aviv, lives in Cresskill, New Jersey, works in New York City.

What led you into design?

When I was young and beautiful, I served in the army in active duty for 7 years and 12 more in reserve. Looking back, it is the army that opened my eyes to design, both industrial and digital, yet I didn’t realize it at the time. Took me a few years after leaving the army during which I almost went to visual design school, completed certification in copywriting, started painting, and so on.

I found myself working as an Internet Copywriter only to find that I’m more attracted to design, research, and product management. I was interviewed for a designer position without knowing much about design. During the interview, the CEO turned his monitor to me showing me the company’s homepage and asked me to start talking. After 15 minutes he called in the HR person and asked them to hire me. I did a lot of usability testing in that role and eventually decided I’m more into research than design.

I completed my master’s in Human Factors in Information Design at Bentley University in Massachusetts then joined Google in New York City. While at Google, I became confident that user research is what I want to do when I grow up.

What does a typical day look like?

Every weekday I wake up at 5 am to do powerlifting at the gym from 5:30 to 7 am. I then wake up the gang (Segev 15yo, Sella 11yo, and Alma 5yo), and we all have breakfast. My commute includes driving my Beetle while listening to podcasts and Medium articles, riding a light train in New Jersey, taking a short ferry ride from Jersey City to NYC (love that part), and walking.

At the office I spend most of my time on hiring (defining roles, writing job descriptions, sourcing candidates, interviewing, reviewing candidates), vision (thinking about the long-term, developing plans, identifying team needs, working towards them), and communication (in writing, in-person, up, down, and to the sides).

I leave work at about 5:30 pm and have dinner with my family every day. Rarely do I miss it. This is a chance for all of us to spend time together and share our daily highs and lows. Storytime, bath, and tucking in the little one. I then spend time with my wife, watching TV shows (American and Israeli), baseball, football, or basketball, and then fall asleep at 10:30 if you ask me, or 8:30 if you ask my wife.

What’s your setup?

Dock explanation: most of what I do is write, wave my hands, and talk, which means I don’t really need any special software...

Where do you go to get inspired?

Usually, it’s home. Kitchen, kids, backyard. I get a ton of inspiration from great food presentation, which I love to first imitate, then create my own. Also, and I know it sounds odd, but visually appealing combinations of color inspire me to think, come up with ideas and solutions, and just feel good. I bump into these online, outside, while traveling, and in restaurants.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

Rachio is a really nicely designed device I recently purchased. It controls my sprinkler system and turns it on and off based on weather reports it receives from nearby weather stations (there are several individuals in my town who have those. What?) Seamless installation, smart visual status indications, great app, and awesome results. Really well done.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of being a primary contributor in the creation of my three beautiful kids and the two books I have authored.

I’m extremely proud of Polaris, a system my team at WeWork created to help the company becoming a better listening organization. With Polaris we freed user research insights from their traditional limited containers such as reports and slide decks, and changed the atomic unit of insight to something that is accessible to anyone, engaging (30-second videos of customers talking about their experience), and easy to manage.

Another piece of work I’m really proud of is the Google search results for sports on mobile. Just to give you a sense of what that work involved, I’d mention research we did such as home visits during which we observed people watching live sports, attending sports bars in New York City to observe English soccer fans watch live matches (hey, Arsenal fans!), attending arenas and stadiums to observe what fans talk about and do with their phones before, during, and immediately after matches, and launching UserTesting studies on NBA opening day.

The key questions we were looking to answer were what information people wanted to know so our product managers prioritize and our designers include in their work. We learned more than we ever dreamed to know about soccer, football, baseball, ice hockey, cricket, Olympic events, and more. Amazing team, astonishing designs, and billions of users enjoying all of that worldwide.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

Finding great people fast enough is a big one. Another is educating and evangelizing people on healthy research practices. While there’s a lot of hunger for it, when it comes to daily practices and changing behavior, it becomes more challenging. I’m always pushing for small steps with tangible results. Slowly but surely.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

It’s an employee market these days. Put yourself out there. Don’t be shy. Reach out, spread out, make yourself known, do great work you are proud of. People will notice. I love it when people reach out to me to share their work and get advice. If they are talented and skilled, I remember them when it’s time for me to hire.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

My Medium article titled, “16 Key Experience Indicators: Your UX needle” that I humbly think provides practical and critical advice to product managers and designers that want to measure the user experience.

My books:

Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User research - I interviewed 200 startup founders, enterprise product managers, and VCs and asked them what they asked themselves about their users. I collected 400 questions, organized them into eight groups, summarized each group in one question, which turned into a book chapter that walks readers through a step-by-step process for answering the question with DIY, plain language, quick and dirty user research methods.

It’s Our Research: Getting stakeholder buy-in for user experience research projects - A book for user researchers who want to deal with their biggest challenges.

I started working on a third book although I swore to everyone I know that I would never ever do that again. My working title for this one is Measuring UX Metrics. Stay tuned.

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