MEET THE FOUNDER – DR SAM HOWARD

Get to know more about Userfy co-founder Dr Sam Howard and what he enjoys doing at work and at home.

What were you doing before you launched Userfy?

Just 4 days before we moved into Accelerate Places and launched Userfy, I was flying home from Malaysia after spending a glorious 3 months travelling around South East Asia and New Zealand. I remember frantically trying to book a weekend appointment at the barbers as I hadn’t shaved or had my haircut the entire time I’d been away! I’d decided to go travelling after spending nearly 8 years at the University of Nottingham, completing my degree in Psychology and then my PhD in Human-Computer Interaction.

We actually began developing plans for Userfy in June of 2016, but I’d already booked my holiday and it was a great way to decompress after the intensity of my PhD, and come back refreshed and ready to launch Userfy.

How did you meet your co-founder, Phil Randall?

We first crossed paths in 2014 when I was on an internship at Phil’s previous company before he sold it. My PhD programme required me to spend three months working in industry, so I spent this time working on various projects at North 51 as a user researcher. I actually found transitioning back to the world of academia after the internship to be a real challenge, as I’d enjoyed my time at North 51 so much!  Phil and I kept in touch and started having conversations about Userfy when I was nearing the end of my PhD.

What inspired you to start Userfy?

Userfy enables me to combine my love for technology with my expertise in research, so starting the company was a very easy decision for me. I have always been passionate about technology, so I’m very aware of how underwhelming and frustrating a lot of digital and tech experiences can be; often because they were designed without consulting real users. I love using my skills in research to understand people better and I’m passionate about using this knowledge to create a positive impact in people’s lives.

Userfy has been up and running for 6 months now, what have been the highlights?

The past six months have exceeded all of my expectations. I knew that starting a company would require a lot of hard work and would be both an exciting and terrifying time in pretty equal measure, but I really didn’t anticipate we would have accomplished as much as we have. As Director of Research, the real highlight for me has been the fascinating insights we have uncovered in our user testing sessions and how this has helped clients design better solutions. Without fail, every project we have done has led to users uncovering issues that we never could have expected or predicted prior to testing. Every session reminds me of the power and value of watching users test a product and I’m always excited about sharing our findings with our clients.

What do the next 6 months have in store for the company?

The next six months will see Userfy really build on the strong start we’ve had so far. We are constantly looking for ways to improve what we do and provide added value for our clients, so we’ll be further improving our user testing process and looking to maximise the value of the insights we generate. We are about to start working on some new projects in new sectors, so there’s a lot to be looking forward to.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

At weekends I love to drive up into the Peak District for long walks with my girlfriend, Amy. It’s an amazing way to relax after a week of work. I also love doing ParkRun on a Saturday morning, I’ve been trying to get my time down to 20 minutes for ages, but I’ve started to get a real running routine going through the week recently and I’m determined to do it by the end of this year. I’m also a massive Newcastle United fan, so I spend around 75% of the year convinced we’re going to get relegated, and 25% of the year convinced we’re going to win the league. There’s no middle ground when you support the Toon army.

What have you been watching on TV recently?

Game of Thrones, Rick and Morty, Last Chance U and Mind Hunter have been the highlights of the year for me. I’m very excited for the return of Peaky Blinders as well.

Do you have any podcast recommendations?

I easily listen to 2-3 hours of podcasts a day so it’s hard to even know where to start. Some tech-related ones I love include Reply All, Hello Internet, Cortex, Do By Friday and Note to Self. If you want something completely ridiculous though try The Worst Idea of All Time – two guys who watched and reviewed the film ‘Grown Ups 2’ every week for a year. Yes, really.

Finally, given a choice of anyone in the world, who would be your ultimate dinner guest?

Elon Musk. Space X, Tesla, Neuralink, and Hyperloop are some of the most exciting companies in the world right now and he runs all of them. I’d love to know what else he has planned.

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