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The other side

SVP of Product, Intercom

Paul Adams


Empathy – understanding another person’s condition – is a foundation of research in product development teams. But ironically, in communicating that condition to our colleagues, we often lack empathy for their condition.

When I worked as a UX Researcher at Google and it came time to communicate the things we learned, I found it hard to get time on the calendars of the people with most influence. I believed they didn’t care enough. And I believed it was my job to make them care more. I was likely wrong on both counts.

When I joined Facebook, the first thing I worked on was a user research study on their ad units. I was working on persuading the product manager (the person of most influence) that there were four critical things that needed to change.

In a funny twist of fate, that PM left and I stepped into their shoes. I was now persuading myself. And I didn’t prioritize any of the four. I was on the other side, and things looked a lot different.

At Intercom, I run a team of over 20, including PMs, designers and researchers. We’re growing so fast, my calendar is nuts, and I’ve no time to read research reports, never mind watch studies. I care deeply, but I’m on the other side.

The irony facing many UX designers and researchers (my past self included) is that in fighting the good fight, they lose empathy for their peers. Empathy – the one thing they specialize in.

So next time, make sure you take a temporary trip to the other side.