Lead Design Researcher (Fellow)

  • Full-time

Company Description

A best-in-class city that attracts best-in-class talent, Philadelphia is an incredible place to build a career. From our thriving arts scene and rich history to our culture of passion and grit, there are countless reasons to love living and working here. With a workforce of over 30,000 people, and more than 1,000 different job categories, the City of Philadelphia offers boundless opportunities to make an impact.

As an employer, the City of Philadelphia values inclusion, integrity, innovation, empowerment, and hard work above all else. We offer a vibrant work environment, comprehensive health care and benefits, and the experience you need to grow and excel. If you’re interested in working with a passionate team of people who care about the future of Philadelphia, start here.

What We Offer:
Impact - The work you do here matters to millions. 
Growth - Philadelphia is growing, why not grow with it? 
Diversity & Inclusion - Find a career in a place where everyone belongs.
Benefits - We care about your well being

The Office of Innovation & Technology (OIT) is the central IT agency for the City of Philadelphia headed by the Chief Information Officer (CIO). OIT oversees all major information and communications technology initiatives for the City of Philadelphia - increasing the effectiveness of the information technology infrastructure, where the services provided are advanced, optimized, and responsive to the needs of the City of Philadelphia’s businesses, residents, and visitors. OIT responsibilities include: identifying the most effective approach for implementing new information technology directions throughout city government; improving the value of the city’s technology assets and the return on the city’s technology investments; ensuring data security continuity; planning for continuing operations in the event of disruption of information technology or communications services; and supporting accountable, efficient and effective government across every city department, board, commission and agency.

About our UX team: The Digital Services Team within the Office of Innovation and Technology consists of Content Strategy, Digital Forms, and User Experience (UX) teams that each contribute to the City’s website and other digital products (applications, forms, etc.) by considering the needs of the residents, businesses, and City staff that use them. As the User Experience (UX) side of the Digital Services Team, we shape the strategy for digital services and how we build them. Our mission is to make these digital services as easy to use, reliable, and useful as we can for our users.

Job Description

More Philadelphians than ever are going online to access City services and information. As we quickly scaled our digital offerings over the past few years with the demand, we have not had the opportunity to evaluate their performance with real users which include residents, businesses, and internal City staff. To ensure the City is meeting their needs and providing a positive experience for the people who rely on our website and applications, we must hear from them directly. 

This project will collect user feedback from people who experience the greatest challenges in using our digital services so we can better serve Philadelphians of all circumstances. Additionally, it will serve as a pilot for how we conduct user research in the City as the insights gained from this work will be captured in a usability testing playbook and carried forward to transform the process for building digital services throughout the City.

This work, funded by the Operational Transformation Fund, will consist of four parts: 

Part 1: Onboarding and Discovery (September¬ – October 2022) The purpose of part 1 is for OIT to gain familiarity with the City’s digital ecosystem, perform initial discovery work to identify areas of opportunity for usability testing, and develop a project plan.

Part 2: Planning (October – December 2022) The purpose of part 2 is to develop a strategy for user testing, recruit participants, and prepare testing materials.

Part 3: Usability testing and Synthesis (January – March 2023) The purpose of part 3 is to conduct usability testing, pull insights from the research data, and present those findings.

Part 4: Operationalize (April - June 2023) The purpose of part 4 is to consolidate learnings from the pilot into a usability testing playbook.


This work will answer the question, “How can we establish a consistent and reliable process for user feedback on our digital services to identify gaps in the user experience and ensure we address the unique needs of our remarkably diverse resident population?”

This position will oversee all aspects of the project including the research, project management, reporting, and deliverables. It will also involve leading and mentoring a junior design researcher who you will be working with closely alongside UX designers from OIT’s Digital Services team.

This nine-month design research fellow position is funded by the Operations Transformation Fund (OTF). The OTF is a $10 million internal City fund which is investing in transformative municipal projects through Fiscal Year 2023. Across different City departments, OTF projects are implementing people-centered and sustainable solutions that focus on efficient and equitable service provision to benefit Philadelphians. OTF project teams receive ongoing support and assistance from the City’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), which manages the OTF, and participate in activities as a cohort.

Please note this position is a full-time, 9-month opportunity from September 2022 to May 2023, and that the City of Philadelphia requires all new hires to be fully vaccinated.  (See the Qualifications and Additional Information sections for other requirements.)

Essential Functions

Leading research
●    Define the demographic of focus for usability testing.
●    Plan the logistics of design research, which will include recruitment, scheduling of sessions, and facilitation.
●    Write thoughtful usability testing research protocols.
●    Facilitate an ethical consent process with research participants.
●    Protect participant data. 
●    Facilitate usability testing sessions.
●    Organize and code session data.
●    Synthesize research into strategic insights that will inform project next steps.

Evidencing and communication
●    Develop compelling narratives that communicate usability testing results, so team members can make clear decisions.
●    Produce a summary of insights that documents processes, learnings, and recommendations.

●    Manage resident and community partner compensation for research participation.
●    Facilitate collaboration with department partners throughout city government
●    Communicate concepts and work in plain language — without jargon or pretense.
●    Ensure design research processes include the right people, at the right points in time.
●    Offer and take constructive feedback.
●    Respect team members’ and stakeholders’ time.
●    Keep stakeholders informed throughout the project.
●    Communicate with clarity and honesty around the status of work.
●    Cultivate and maintain respectful relationships with community partners, project team members, and project stakeholders.

Management and mentorship
●    Break down project into reasonable plan with clear deliverables, milestones, and deadlines.
●    Lead project partners and team members through the design research process.
●    Clearly communicate project plans and their status to leadership and team members.
●    Mentor team members—helping them expand skillsets and develop user research capacities.
●    Document key decisions and process notes in a consistent and defined structure.
●    Effectively navigate through ambiguity and project challenges.
●    Maintain the flexibility to adapt to changes in the budget allocation, timeline, or priorities.

Competencies, Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

●    Equity-centered: Ability to respect, honor, and center the experiences of residents and staff who have been marginalized by government actions in all that you do.  
●    Excellent written communicator:  Ability to write in plain language and explain complex subjects in simple terms.   
●    Relationship-builder: Ability to work with a variety of people and personalities, listen and ask questions, and cultivate relationships that promote collaboration.
●    Curious: Ability to practice active listening, ask questions to get at the root of a problem, be open to receiving/giving constructive feedback, and have a sincere interest in learning new skills or growing old ones.
●    Humble: Ability to operate beyond ego and self-interest.  
●    Compassionate: Ability to empathize with people’s experiences, and based on that understanding, take appropriate action.  
●    Rigorous: Driven by thoughtful, quality, and detail-oriented processes, project output, and client/team interactions.
●    Organized: Demonstrated ability to manage multiple projects, estimate timelines, rework a project approach based on unforeseen challenges, work well under pressure, and set/meet reasonable deadlines.
●    Proactive: Ability to see opportunities, navigate barriers, be self-directed, and problem solve solutions.
●    Resilient: Ability to have a sense of humor, learn from mistakes, and/or return to work after experiencing a setback.

Knowledge, skills, and abilities
●    Experience developing a demographic of focus.
●    Experience with designing, leading, and analyzing usability testing sessions.
●    Experience coding usability testing data to ensure valid insights.
●    Experience planning usability testing sessions from beginning to end.
●    Knowledgeable about User Experience best practices.

Nice-to-have skills
●    Bilingual (especially Spanish and Mandarin).
●    Strong visual design aesthetic
●    Experience designing research that centers the experiences of people living with disabilities.
●    Experience working with communities to design solutions.
●    Experience managing a research process across multiple languages.
●    Experience with quantitative design research
●    Experience producing documentation of best practices in the form of playbooks, toolkits, toolboxes, etc.


Candidates should have:
●    A design research-related degree or relevant industry experience.
●    At least four years of professional experience in design research or a graduate degree plus two years of professional experience.
●    At least four years managing project relationships with colleagues, clients, and project stakeholders.

Additional Information

We’re interested in hiring the best possible candidate for this role. We recognize that experience, education, and qualifications can be attained in a variety of ways and that many skillsets are transferable. If you feel you’re a good fit, please don’t hesitate to apply. 

Please include:
·       A one-page cover letter explaining why you’re interested in the design research fellowship.
·       Your resume or curriculum vitae.
·       At least three work samples that demonstrate your expertise in designing and facilitating research that informs human-centered design decisions. Samples could include design research protocol, workshop playbooks, and findings and recommendations reports.

Please note: Application materials are due by August 31st, midnight eastern time. Only complete applications will be considered for review, so read the above application requirements carefully

Salary not to exceed: $75,000 for nine-month fellowship

Hybrid work schedule
Currently, the team works on a hybrid schedule — including at least one day in the office every two weeks. This may change depending on the status of COVID-19.

Did you know?

  • We are a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program qualified employer
  • 25% tuition discount program for City employees (and sometimes spouses and dependents as well) in partnership with area colleges and universities
  • We offer Comprehensive health coverage for employees and their eligible dependents
  • Our wellness program offers eligibility into the discounted medical plan
  • Employees receive paid vacation, sick leave, and holidays
  • Generous retirement savings options are available

*The successful candidate must be a city of Philadelphia resident within six months of hire

Because the design research fellowship role is very hands-on with community members, we’re looking for candidates who are or can be local to Philadelphia.

Please note that effective September 1, 2021 the City of Philadelphia is requiring all new employees to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19. 

The City of Philadelphia is an Equal Opportunity employer and does not permit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, source of income, familial status, genetic information or domestic or sexual violence victim status. If you believe you were discriminated against, call the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations at 215-686-4670 or send an email to [email protected]. For more information, go to: Human Relations Website: http://www.phila.gov/humanrelations/Pages/default.aspx