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Here I am again, bringing you a new template! This time we’re talking about a competency assessment matrix for UX Researchers.

Defining a clear path for career growth can be challenging. Unlike design, comprehensive competency matrices specifically for UX researchers are scarce. This gap inspired me to create a tool that not only helps UX researchers self-assess their skills but also facilitates meaningful career development conversations with their managers.

The goal was to develop a competency matrix that supports researchers in identifying growth opportunities and reflecting on their progress.

Project Initiation

The project began as a personal initiative, motivated by the desire to provide UX researchers with a structured tool for career growth. My previous manager had hinted at the potential benefits of such a tool, and this inspired me to take the lead. The initial goals were clear: create a user-friendly competency matrix that allows for personal style and variability, ensuring it could be effectively used by both researchers and managers to assess and guide career development.

Collaboration and Research

Creating the competency matrix was a collaborative effort. Key stakeholders included UX researchers of varying levels, product managers, UX designers, and UX managers. To gather insights, I conducted interviews with these stakeholders to understand their perspectives on the roles and competencies of UX researchers. Additionally, I reviewed numerous LinkedIn posts from industry thought leaders to enrich the matrix with diverse viewpoints.

One of the main challenges was balancing clarity with the necessary vagueness that allows researchers to chart their unique growth paths. Ensuring the matrix was usable and flexible required careful consideration and continuous refinement.

Defining Competencies

The competency topics were defined based on a model created by Fabio Carneiro, ex-head of design at, which categorised competencies into three main areas: craft (renamed to research expertise in my matrix), collaboration, and commercial awareness. This structure was chosen to encompass essential skills such as communication, stakeholder management, and business acumen.

To ensure relevance across different levels, I spoke to researchers at various career stages and reviewed job ads. The matrix was then tested with junior, senior, and principal researchers to ensure it aligned with their responsibilities and experiences.

Structuring the Matrix

The final structure of the matrix was influenced by my background in education and experience in creating assessment matrices. The key was to develop a tool that both educators and students (or in this case, managers and researchers) could use to assess and facilitate growth. This dual-assessment capability was crucial for fostering autonomy and productive coaching conversations.

Iteration and Feedback

Feedback was an integral part of the development process. Starting with the senior role, I built out the matrix and then expanded to junior and principal roles to establish a comprehensive range. Feedback from various stakeholders led to significant adjustments, particularly in language and role-specific competencies. For instance, some competencies initially attributed to senior roles were more appropriately categorised under lead roles.

Finalising the Matrix

The final steps involved rigorous testing with researchers at different levels to ensure the matrix’s effectiveness in coaching scenarios. Success was defined by achieving an 80% overlap between the researcher’s and manager’s assessments and facilitating productive growth-oriented conversations.

Future Updates and Conclusion

Now that the matrix is being shared publicly, I am eager to receive further feedback. This feedback will be invaluable for clarifying the matrix and understanding how it is used and adapted in different workplaces. Continuous improvement is key to ensuring the matrix remains relevant and effective.

The response to the competency matrix has been overwhelmingly positive. Both UX researchers and managers have found it to be a valuable tool for enhancing career development conversations. By focusing on growth rather than solely on areas for improvement, the matrix has helped shift discussions toward constructive outcomes, ultimately fostering a more supportive and productive environment for UX researchers.

If you’re interested in receiving the competency matrix, shoot me a message and ill share the file with you. You can then make a copy to your own Google Drive and start using it. As per usual, I love a good cup of coffee and your support will help me to continue to create free content for the UX(R) community.

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