Meet the QA/Support Team!

It’s a scenario that can give any researcher the cold sweats: an eleventh-hour crash of a program just minutes before a paper deadline. Luckily, thanks to the efforts of our Quality Assurance and Support team, Mendeley strives hard to ensure this never happens. While our developers put their all into designing a great product, Quality Assurance are there to ensure we’ve written tests to cover all the edge cases, and that we don’t let those pesky bugs into the wild.

And what if things do go wrong? Support is there to iron out any wrinkles, whether it be from a new user still trying to learn the ropes, an expert submitting a bug report, or fielding requests from users to hand off to our developers.

Callum Anderson

Callum Anderson

Team Lead

Callum’s worked in technology for a few years now, both as a Business Analyst, and in QA. He grew up in St. Albans (just outside London) and holds degrees in English and Computer Science.

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

I’m lucky enough to be involved in a lot of different projects, so it’s unlikely I’ll be doing the same thing from one day to the next. I could be in meetings planning features and implementation for a new product or service, or at my desk all day writing ruby— I love that variety.

What’s your favourite part of working at Mendeley?

We get to work with the latest technologies and some of the best brains in the industry.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am into running and triathlons – I’m actually competing in the UK Ironman triathlon later this year, so training for that is taking up quite a bit of my spare time. I also try spend a few hours each week reading about or playing with new technologies.

Michał Buś

Senior QA Engineer

Michal BusMichał was born and grew up in Kraków, Poland. where he studied sociology at Jagiellonian University, before moving to Edinburgh, and then London.
Following a string of varied roles, he found his interest for testing software after joining Last.fm, a music startup, in a diverse ‘resident Polish person’ role that involved anything from translation and copy-editing to liaising with music labels and festival organisers. He joined Mendeley nearly 5 years ago and has enjoyed helping it grow into what it is today, being kept busy/interested ever since. Follow him @michalboo

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

Test all the things, as early as possible. I’m particularly interested in doing as much as I can to help Mendeley build software that people will actually use. Also: investigating, finding, documenting and helping to fix bugs (Reported bug count at the time of writing: 1,092)

What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

Some of the people are nice enough, I guess. (Editor’s note: Michał’s deadpan humor…we hope!) I also enjoy being able to get involved in a wide variety of projects, testing different products in different ways. Consistently learning new things and being kept on my toes.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Going to a lot of gigs – before joining Mendeley, I worked on promoting live music in Kraków and Warsaw with my brother and some friends, and now use living in London as an opportunity to help them out and ‘talent scout’ by seeing and hearing as many new acts as my ears can take. My other interests include: playing basketball, flâneuring around London, reading books, lahmacun and setting up ephemeral ‘projects’ on tumblr.

Josh Cole

Technical Support Representative

Josh Cole

Josh studied mathematics at the University of York, but decided that 3 years of maths was more than enough, so he moved into Technical Support. He said he came to Mendeley for a new challenge and to make my mark in an up and coming startup.

 

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

I deal with customer questions and issues with the various Mendeley products (Mendeley Desktop, Web, the app, etc), as well as escalating recurring problems/features with our various Development Teams.

What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

I love working in a constantly evolving work environment that supports learning and development.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy playing video games on my Xbox 360, as well as Starcraft and watching good films or really, really bad films. I’ve also recently discovered badminton, which I’m awful at, but I love anyway.

 

 

Veronica Mejias Meneses

QA Engineer

VERONICAVeronica studied Computer Science at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile. She moved to the UK 5 years ago and landed in Mendeley, where her career took a turn in the right direction.

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

I test the software. Over and over. My main job is to write automated tests to make sure new features don’t break old ones. I also been working on our testing infrastructure lately, to help us moving onto a more reliable, faster platform.

What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

At Mendeley there is constant challenge, constant learning. I work with a very nice and talented team, and the rest of my colleagues are really nice to work with too.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my spare time I enjoy talking to my family, baking, crochet, reading, travelling, cycling, swimming, watching Qi, among many other things.

 

Tiago Lourenço Nobre

QA Automation Engineer

TiagoTiago went to Uni near his hometown in Leiria, Portugal at Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão de Leiria, where he studied computer engineering. He worked at PT Inovação a telecommunication group in Aveiro as a automation tester in a continuous integration environment before he came to Mendeley.

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

At the moment, I am working on automation tests and building, along with my team, a continuous integration & delivery. Also, importantly, I am learning new things everyday.

What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

Every day is a learning day and I have the opportunity to work with new technologies.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Cycling, not riding the tube, cooking, play tennis

 

Charlotte Organ

Customer support representative

Charlotte OrganCharlotte’s another member of the south London massive together with Paul and Mudi. She went to university in Durham (the English one, not the one in NC) where she studied Modern Foreign Languages (mostly French and Arabic). A former resident of Damascus and Cairo, she trailed her spouse down to London in search of work. Mendeley was her first interview four days after she moved, and she started four days after that.

 

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

I help people who have problems with Mendeley, have found issues or bugs that need fixing, or are finding it all a bit too much. Together with Josh, we are the last line of defence against angry users everywhere (it doesn’t always work, sadly).

What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

Helping people who are working on loads of different projects all over the world, from surgeons to people studying fish to medieval historians.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Cooking, eating, reading anything that comes near me, finding and observing strange local wildlife (terrapins in the Regent’s canal is the most recent)

 

Ben A’Lee

System Administrator

bmaBen did a degree in computing and software development at the University of Plymouth. Then when he finished, he wanted to move to London (“Plymouth’s a nice place but not exactly conveniently located,” he said.) Ben applied for a position as a PHP developer but within a couple of months he was increasingly spending his time on sysadmin projects. Follow him @bma

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

I’m working on things that cross over between QA and operations, primarily the monitoring infrastructure but also things related to infrastructure automation, like automatic rollbacks.

What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

I like the flexibility to work on different things: first PHP, then system administration, and now increasingly Ruby development.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Reading, walking, cooking, plotting the downfall of the capitalist system.

Meet the Mendeley Web Team

Continuing our series of introducing each of the Mendeley teams, it’s time to meet the Mendeley Web team.

At it’s most simplest description, the web team is responsible for the Mendeley website–making sure it functions correctly and allows for the networking and groups collaborations that happen online.

But, just as Mendeley is about working collaboratively, the Web team works closely with almost every team at Mendeley, ensuring that important features like the Web Importer, Sync, and Mendeley Discover work correctly. Their overall vision is to use cutting-edge technology to help ease the researcher workflow.

Paul Willoughby

Web Team Lead

bio_photo.jpg

Paul was born and raised in South London, and started developing websites about 15 years ago. Having had various jobs and freelance projects across the whole web development stack, he now focuses mainly on the front-end stuff.

Follow him on Github at  github.com/paulwib

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

As web team lead and senior front-end developer I’m normally up to my neck in meetings, JavaScript or meetings about JavaScript.

Favorite part about working at Mendeley?

Working on the next generation of tools for researchers. If I can contribute a little to the vision of the web as an open platform for sharing the worlds knowledge I’ll be very happy. If not, well there’s always the free beer. 🙂

What do you like doing in your free time?

Cooking, reading, rummaging around in junk shops, wondering where I’ve put my keys.

Chris Barr

Senior Web Developer

Chris joined Mendeley in 2012. He graduated with a BSc in Media Technology from Oxford Brookes in 2007. His degree involved a lot of TV programme production, but the exciting challenges were with web development.

Follow him on Twitter @chriswbarr

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

Work on the web team developing the main Mendeley web codebase. Also responsible for web code deployments.

Favorite part about working at Mendeley?

I get to work with incredibly intelligent people who are passionate about what they do.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Where to start… I’m an Explorer Scout Leader, so I get to enjoy lots of outdoor activities and camping trips. I love motorsport, photography, cycling, hiking, travelling, hovercraft racing, to name a few!

Mátyás Buczkó

Front End Developer

profile (1).jpg

Mátyás describes himself as “a passionate developer with the main focus on asynchronous javascript and how to tame it.” Mátyás moved to London in February to be part of the Mendeley team. Previously he worked in Budapest, Berlin and Santa Clara, “but London is by far the best!” he said.

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

I’m involved with all the quirks and wonders of front end development. So if you are using an old version of IE, I will hunt you down!

Favorite part about working at Mendeley?

The great team, cutting-edge technologies, challenge and the occasional beer on Fridays of course.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Travelling and dancing salsa make a perfect combination for my free time. There’s also a lot of hanging out with friends, good movies and some accidental programming on the weekends.

Radu Helstern

Back End Developer

Radu.jpg

Radu joined Mendeley in March 2014, moving from Sweden in search of a challenge.

He was born and raised in Romania and holds an MSc in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

I have an exciting and challenging role to deliver technical solutions that will help realise Mendeley’s vision for transforming research.

Favorite part about working at Mendeley?

Mendeley’s office in London is packed full with very talented, smart, dedicated people. [editor’s note: blush] They create an amazing positive atmosphere which is the perfect ingredient for innovation. Having joined recently, I am really excited to be a part of such an environment and to contribute to the development of a great product.

What do you like doing in your free time?

In my free time, I like to escape reality with the help of a good book (mostly sci-fi or alternative history) or improve my general knowledge about life, universe and everything.

Raúl Jiménez

Back End Developer

After finishing his MSc in Computer Engineering and wandering around Spain in different companies and roles, he decided that was time to see the world abroad, landing surprisingly close to Spain: the occasionally sunny London.

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

As a Backend Engineer, I help develop and improve Mendeley’s web products, but I’m always keen and happy to collaborate with other departments.

Favorite part about working at Mendeley?

The people! Either working side-by-side with enthusiastic, motivated and highly-skilled colleagues, or having a beer with them.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Unmentionable geek stuff, British humour, playing sports, cooking, learning useless but interesting things, laying under the sun.

Daniel Kendell

Web Technical Lead

Daniel Kendell

I’m a self-taught developer who has worked on a number of different types of projects at various companies all with very different styles of working. I’ve worked in silos, in large teams and small teams. I’ve built frameworks, web services, internal applications and public facing sites. I think this varied experience has given me a pretty well balanced outlook on the art of software development.

Follow me on twitter at @mduk

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

As the technical lead, my primary responsibilities are to look after the overall architecture of the website, and help to hire the best people we can into the team. I also take an active role in helping to design the new generation of web service APIs that will powering Mendeley as we continue to grow and expand.

Favorite part about working at Mendeley?

Working on an interesting project, as part of a hugely multicultural and talented team, right in the heart of London.

What do you like doing in your free time?

In my free time you’ll often find me tinkering with various electronic projects or playing with music hardware. I am a keen Thereminist and this year I’ve also taken up the AXiS harmonic table. Still can’t keep time to save my life, but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment. What am I, a metronome? I think not!

Mudi Ugbowanko

Senior Web Developer
Mudi.36 copy.jpeg

Mudi’s full name is Mudiagahn Ugbowanko. Mudiagahn means “Stand Firm” and it’s Nigerian (which he is). Mudi looks at everything from a holistic, logical and empathetic perspective, which he says makes his job easier to manage (pushing keys to solve abstract problems!). When he’s not geeking out, he’s eating and having fun living life: “#WTH seriously, I love food and getting involved with anything the involves social interaction with other people! #getYourMindOutTheGutter!” he said.

Follow me on Twitter @renegare

How do you describe your role at Mendeley?

No-nonsense get the job done, comedic Pro #contradiction?

Favorite part about working at Mendeley?

People are open minded. Projects are ambitious. Opportunities are plenty.

What do you like doing in your free time?

… eating

 

Meet the Mendeley Community Team

We thought it was high time we put a face to the name by introducing you to the Mendeley Team one team at a time. First up: The Community Team.

The Mendeley Community team is here to support, connect, and engage with our users. Our goal is to make the Mendeley user experience as useful and valuable as possible through tools and resources and real human interactions.  We also strive to develop meaningful relationships with our 1900+ Advisors as they are the heartbeat of our user community.

We are always eager to meet our users to better understand your researcher journey and how Mendeley can better serve you, so if you are ever in the London area, the team would love to meet you! Email shruti.desai@mendeley.com for more details.

 

Jessica Reeves, Head of User Engagement

Jessica Reeves - Head of User EngagementJessica joined Mendeley in 2012. She holds a MSc in Organisational Analysis from King’s College in London, but her previous degrees are a bit more varied: Her B.A. from Communications and Business is from Tulane University, followed by a MPS Preservation of Historic Architecture.

You can follow her on Twitter @jessreeves1.

How do you describe your role on the Community team?

To start, it’s my dream job! I have the opportunity to work with almost every team within Mendeley for the sole benefit of providing a valuable tool for our users so you can change the world of science. Whether we are focusing on enhancing the product workflow, discussing how best to communicate with our users or creating resources to use Mendeley, the users are always at the heart of the matter. In addition to working with brilliant colleagues, the Community team has the good fortune of working with our 1900+ global Advisors. The Advisors are the heartbeat of the user community, the Mendeley enthusiasts. As the leader of the Community team it is my mission to ensure our user community is engaged, educated and excited about what Mendeley is doing to change the way we do research.

What is your favorite part about working for Mendeley?

The people and the opportunity to make a true difference in the outcome of and collaborations within scientific research. The street food market outside our office is not too bad either 🙂

What do you do in your free time?

I realise that two of my hobbies, surfing and sailing, are inspired by my love of the sea. I have been lucky enough to see many  countries of the world from the seashore. Brazil still tops my list for best surf spots and the Croatian coast is by far my favourite sailing spot. Because I spend so much time on or in the sea I have a huge respect for our oceans and the creatures who allow us to be part of their world which led to my thrid passion, conservation.  Specifically shark conservation is a special interest because of the key role they play in this delicate ecosystem.

 

João Bernardino, Insights Marketing Manager

Joao Bernardino - Insights Marketing Manager

Joao joined Mendeley in 2013, after studying Management in Lisbon and Paris. He started his working life working for an insurance company, but after diving deep into financial products and insurance policies, he discovered it wasn’t for him. So he headed to London, where he discovered Mendeley during his Master’s thesis in Marketing, which he did in London and Germany. He previously worked at Adidas doing product marketing (and collecting shoes).

You can follow him on twitter @joaorbernardino

How do you describe your role on the Community team?

My role on the Community Team is a series of fun and challenging tasks that makes me understand our Mendeley community and how we can better support them. It is an exciting role that keeps me in contact with our enthusiastic Advisors and all of our Mendeley internal teams. It is a pleasure to work surrounded by such smart and interesting people.

What is your favorite part about working for Mendeley?

My favourite part about working at Mendeley is the fact that we can actually change the way research is done and improve researchers’ lives, contributing to bigger discoveries.

When I saw the opportunity to join the Mendeley team, I didn’t think twice. This was a company that I wanted to work for. It breathes innovation and success, and as I once noticed quoted on the website, “It’s the most fun you can have with your pants on.”

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time I like cycling, playing volleyball and surfing when I’m back home or whenever I get the chance to meet the sea. I also enjoy to learn new skills such as tech (new software, new products, etc) or artistic (photography, drawing, music, etc).

Claire van den Broek, Education Program Manager

claire2Meet our newest team member! Claire joined our team February 2014, moving from the United States where she completed a dual degree PhD in comparative literature and German Studies. She was born and raised in the Netherlands, and worked as a researcher, university lecturer and academic translator before joining Mendeley.

You can follow her on Twitter @CYvdB

How do you describe your role on the Community team?

As Education Program Manager, I am responsible for Mendeley’s online resources, including video tutorials and guides. I also create and manage educational materials that help others spread the word about Mendeley.

What is your favorite part about working for Mendeley?

Mendeley’s London office is a great place to work; my colleagues are young, enthusiastic, exceptionally talented and you can tell how much they enjoy working here. I only recently joined Mendeley and I am really impressed with the positive office atmosphere created by the founders. The endless free fruit, breakfasts, pizza, cake, snacks and foosball table help of course 😉

What do you do in your free time?

In my spare time I love traveling to unusual places and geocaching. I also look forward to visiting my parents in The Netherlands on weekends again, after many years of living far away in America.

 

Shruti M. Desai, Community Relations Executive

Shruti M. Desai - Community Relations Executive

Shruti joined Mendeley in late 2013. She worked for nearly a decade as a journalist, at various U.S. newspapers and magazines as a reporter in: local government, food and fashion, and education, to name a few.

She transitioned into science outreach at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, in Dresden, Germany, where she was the Science and Society Program Coordinator.

 

You can follow her on Twitter @inothernews

How do you describe your role on the Community team?

My role is to help develop community outreach programs. Part of that role is to share stories of user experiences with the Mendeley team, while raising awareness of Mendeley incentives amongst our users and Advisors.

I work closely with the Advisor community, looking to build relationships and collaborations with researchers, and plan events, training sessions, and other outreach initiatives to raise awareness of Mendeley in research communities.

Spud

What is your favorite part about working for Mendeley?

I really love working with the Advisor Community. It sounds cheesy and overly-earnest, but they honestly blow me away with their enthusiasm, skills, and support. I hope I can support them equally. Also the Mendeley London offices are really fun, filled with talented people who also know how to have a good time. (It doesn’t hurt that occasional office dog Spud is currently snoozing on my lap.)

What do you do in your free time?

I love Roller Derby and used to play for the Dresden Pioneers, but am now am “just” a  fan. I enjoy sharing food with friends, reading YA Literature, and exploring new cultures through travel. I am also happy to be married to science researcher, though sometimes I wish the lab gave him more free time.

 

Ricardo Vidal, Outreach Liaison

Ricardo Vidal - Outreach Liaison

Ricardo attended the University of Algarve (UALG) in Southern Portugal where he received his academic training in the field of biological engineering. Ricardo holds a Masters of Engineering diploma which he obtained at UALG, and as a visiting graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His Masters thesis was focused on the subject of Synthetic Biology and assisted simulation of biobrick construction via bioinformatic tools.

With a strong interest in studying biological systems from a standardized and analytical perspective, Ricardo jumped into his PhD work at Queen’s University (Canada) in the field of bioinformatics and health data analytics in cancer research.

You can follow him on Twitter @rvidal.

How do you describe your role on the Community team?

I’ve has been using Mendeley since the summer of 2008 (early beta-tester) and have been a part of the team ever since. My role as part of the Mendeley team has been quite diverse. Always within the scope of our community team efforts, I’ve played a role of outreach and education about Mendeley. My network and communication skills have allowed me to establish strong and long-lasting connections with a large number of users. My technical skills have enabled me to help produce and project materials and programs that further enabled our educational efforts.

What is your favorite part about working for Mendeley?

I’d say my favorite part is working and interacting with so many great people. Both internally at Mendeley and externally via the community at large. I’ve made some long-lasting connections that have turned into great friendships. As a research scientists and engineer that continuously uses Mendeley Desktop, I get to speak to, and participate with, the users and developers on a pretty close level.

What do you do in your free time?

Uhm, free time? What’s that? Haha! All spare time from work and research is spent playing with my kids.

 

William Gunn, Head of Academic Outreach

William Gunn - Head of Academic Outreach

Dr. Gunn attended Tulane University as a Louisiana Board of Regents Fellow, receiving his Ph.D in Biomedical Science from the Center for Gene Therapy at Tulane University in 2008. His research involved dissecting the molecular mechanism of bone metastasis in multiple myeloma and resulted in a novel treatment approach employing mesenchymal stem cells, the body’s own reparative forces. Frustrated with the inefficiencies of the modern research process, he left academia and established the biology program at Genalyte, a novel diagnostics startup. At Mendeley, he works to make research more impactful and reproducible and is an expert on altmetrics, reproducibility, and open access.

You can follow him on Twitter @mrgunn.

How do you describe your role on the Community team?

As Head of Academic Outreach for Mendeley, I blend deep technical knowledge and industry insight with clear and effective communication skills. I spend a good deal of time writing blog posts, essays, technical papers, presentations,and in general contributing to interesting conversations happening across academia and the tech community, but I also do things that don’t fall under the traditional communication categories.

I also co-direct the Reproducibility Initiative with Elizabeth Iorns and co-organizes Science Online Bay Area with colleagues from other tech companies in the area to bring together people who are doing interesting things that influence how science is carried out and communicated online.

What is your favorite part about working for Mendeley?

I’ve been with Mendeley since 2009, and since the very beginning the thing that has really made it a great place to work has been the freedom to contribute broadly across the organization. If you are interested in taking something on and show the capacity to handle it, you can own your own destiny here. The support and individual care the founders have for each person really helps me feel like my unique skills are appreciated.

What do you do in your free time?

I enjoy cooking and making things with my hands, especially with the assistance of my daughter Charlotte.

Mendeley Year in Review 2013

This was a year of great change at Mendeley, with lots of news, exciting developments and, of course, tons of fun at Mendeley HQ. Here are a few of the many highlights:

In January, the Mendeley founders Jan, Paul, and Victor were voted “Best Startup Founders” at the Europas, considered the Oscars of the European Tech scene. This was the second win for Mendeley, which scooped up the prize for “Best Social Innovation Which Benefits Society” in 2009.

In February, we listened to your comments and released Mendeley Desktop v1.8, with expanded offerings and bug fixes.

April brought a lot of attention as Mendeley joined Elsevier. We’re proud to have honoured our promise that the merger would mean very little change for our users, beyond some positive resources…like the doubling of storage space that immediately followed the announcement.

Our Mendeley team participates in monthly hack days. In June, two of our team came up with a cool video that shows Mendeley Desktop Syncs mapped globally. There is something hypnotically beautiful about that video.

Also in June, we opened our doors and invited our Advisors and users to join us at Mendeley HQ . The day had sneak previews and testing of new features and one-on-one chance to talk to the teams at Mendeley and Elsevier…we also managed to squeeze in some fun with Lego playtime, Post-it note fun and loads and loads of food. We hope to do it again in 2014 and see you all there! Check our YouTube video for a quick review of the day.

We continued to meet with the community in July, and hosted an all-day mini-conference on Academic-Industrial Collaborations for Recommender Systems. It was an opportunity to discuss the benefits and challenges of academic-industrial collaborations.

With the start of the academic year in September, we were proud to announce your ability to take Mendeley on the go and introduced our Mendeley for iOS app. (Android users, don’t despair, it is high on our priority list).

We participated in October’s Social Media week in London and hosted an event in conjunction with this year’s theme “Open & Connected.” Missed the presentations? Watch them here.

Mendeley was also involved in a number of partnerships and expanded external apps that we support. To name a few (but certainly not all): F1000 Partnership, ScienceDirect import capabilities, Third-party developer apps (To learn more about creating your own App, visit our Mendeley Developers Portal) and our latest…Mendeley users can now import directly from Scopus.

And this month, we’ve been preparing our product development roadmap. What does that mean? Stay tuned!

Thank you for a wonderful 2013. Happy wishes for the New Year and here’s to making 2014 even better.

 Team Photo

The Mendeley Team

Team Mendeley Races for Life!

Race for Life Mendeley

 

Last Saturday the 22nd June, instead of relaxing in bed like the rest of us, the women from the Mendeley (and Elsevier) team got themselves over to Finsbury Park in London to take part in a charity run for Cancer Research UK.

The weather was not great, but Zuzana, Carole, Rosario, Elena, Charlotte, Veronica and Jessica bravely ran or walked the 5k, with Zuzana and Rosario finishing in under 30 minutes!

Some of the guys from the Mendeley team also showed up to cheer them on, and the rest of the team supported the effort with fundraising initiatives such as baking tasty caffeinated brownies (Andi’s specialty!) which raised a whopping £95. The total raised including gift-aid topped £1000 so we hope that helps to make a difference for this worthy cause!

 

 

Want to get real user feedback? Let them in.

Research-Hub

We all know that user testing and feedback is essential in building intuitive, customer-centric products, and in fulfilling the wants and needs that those users might not realise they had until they come across a solution (hopefully yours). But getting direct input has traditionally been far from straightforward, and often prohibitively expensive for small enterprises.

Whichever way you do it, the Holy Grail is to build a communication channel with your users where they can give you feedback in the most frictionless way possible. Ideally, they should feel like you’re a friend they can chat to over a cup of coffee. So, why not take that idea literally? Instead of escorting someone to their usability testing workstation or putting them with strangers in a focus group, why not invite them into the office and just let them mingle?

Letting your customers see what you do is hardly a new trend. As journalist Lambeth Hochwald wrote, you only need to look at the way bakers have for years created a space for showing off frosting prowess (to which I would add the more recent trend towards open kitchens in restaurants) in order to see how this transparency is appealing to consumers – whatever the product.

People want to feel that they can build a relationship with a product, and this is particularly true when it comes to technology, where that relationship with an app or platform involves long-term interaction, the surrender of personal data, and often – as is the case with Facebook, LinkedIn and our own research collaboration platform Mendeley – the projection of your own personal and professional profile through that product.

The trick is to approach each user as you would an investor, because they are, after all, going to invest time, energy, and a surprising amount of emotion into using your product, and these are precious, monetizable commodities these days. This is why it’s crucial to pitch them the whole package, since getting to know who’s behind the product is getting you a step closer to them trusting the idea.

That’s the concept behind the Research Hub we created in Mendeley’s London office. In and of itself it’s nothing fancy; a collection of 6 desks in a nice airy space, decorated with some pot plants and posters of famous scientists. There is free Wi-Fi and our guests are welcome to help themselves to drinks and snacks in the kitchen or join a game of foosball, chess or Jenga at lunchtime. People use an online system similar to those used to reserve tables at restaurants to book in a time slot at one of the desks, each named after a famous scientist like Einstein, Newton or Marie Curie.

The researchers who pop in can be from out of town or even abroad, and some are local to London and just tired of wrestling with undergraduate students for library desk space. In return for using the facilities we might ask them to give us some feedback and actually test some new features here and there for half an hour at a time, but feedback can also happen around the proverbial water cooler (in our case the coffee machine). This gives them a chance to have direct input in a very natural way, and constantly reminds the team of the real people that use the product every day.

Some companies still have a culture where they hold on tightly to their secrets and are afraid of outsiders taking a peek behind the curtains, but in the world of tech where open APIs and lightning-fast iterations rule, what you can get back from real-time feedback – combined with the goodwill that openness engenders – far outweighs those risks. If you expect your users to love and share your product, then you have to be prepared to show your love and share everything with them too.

Would you like to visit the Mendeley Research Hub? We’d love to see you there, just click here to book!

Mendelife – Meet Branden Faulls

 Branden Faulls

 

Branden is our VP Product, known online by the mysterious alias of “omphe”.  To pronounce it, he explains, imagine being hit in the gut with a sack full of marshmallows.


How long have you been with Mendeley for?
Since May 2012

Where did you work before coming to Mendeley ?
I was a tech contractor so I’ve really worked just about everywhere:  AMEE, Imano, Dennis Publishing, Capita, HomeServe etc, etc. But my first career was as a dancer and I toured the world working with Rambert Dance Company, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet and more.

What made you apply for a job at Mendeley?
Paul Föckler and I met at a Scalability unconference at the Guardian in 2010.  I was talking a lot about delivery and scaling technical team management in some of the sessions and we had a brief talk about the growth that Mendeley was going through. Fast forward to last year, and he approached me about the opening for Product leadership.

Have things changed in Mendeley since you started working here?
I’d like to think that I’ve had a good impact on the transparency of our direction and priorities since I’ve arrived.  I’ve really been pushing for radical transparency around all of our choices of what we’ll develop for users and what everyone is working on at any given week.  We’ve got much greater visibility around the planned work ahead and David Lee and the insight/analytics team have made great progress on showing how we are performing against our commitments. But the big change is how much the team has grown and the recent momentum we’ve been picking up as we start moving in sync. There’s a lot more collaboration going on and this is going to result in some great improvements to the Mendeley user experience.

What’s the best thing about coming to work at Mendeley?
I get to work with some very clever people who are extremely passionate about what they want in the product. And the food on Leather Lane.

Do you have any pets?
I’ve got a lovely old border collie named Ruby who’s been my pal for 11 years now. She’s stuck with me through some pretty big life changes and always kept me moving on some pretty ambitious outdoor pursuits.  She’s getting a little slower in the mountains, but we’ll be out for an adventure as long as we can still get out there.

What is the one website you can’t live without?
I’ve never been particularly attached to specific websites, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive without the app Pocket.  I have such a steady stream of links and posts flooding my attention every day and I love being able to import them to Pocket and catch up without distraction when I’m travelling.  We’d do well, to make our mobile app fill the same role in researchers lives and I think Steve Dennis has been doing an amazing job of taming the flood of research articles for researchers on the go.

When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
I dreamt of being an astronomer for a long while and I spent many a cold winter evening steaming up my backyard telescope while staring down the jittery craters of the moon. My enthusiasm died a bit when I discovered the central role of maths in modern astronomy and the realisation that telescope time was a rare and scarce commodity. Then I fancied being a doctor until a field trip to a pathology lab full of oversized livers and sliced cadavers put me off too.  And mountaineering had a big draw to me, despite growing up in a relatively flat part of the States. But I had been in a ballet studio from the age of six, so by my teens it was becoming pretty clear to me that I had a future and calling to be onstage and I grabbed that opportunity.  Dancers really need to be in a company as an apprentice by the time they’re 17-18, so I left home at 17 to follow my dream.

If you could acquire one extra skill or talent, what would that be?
Patience.  Life is short and I’m on the third act of my second career.  But if you always rush, you miss the richness of what you have right now.

What book are you reading at the moment and why?
I’m terrible about starting many books at once and always have several things on the go:

– The Art of the Start & Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki : I love Kawasaki’s distilled and lucid approach to startup business
– Data Visualisation : I’ve been learning Processing.org to keep my programming chops up and to scratch some visualisation itches I’ve had
– Think Stats : I work with some incredibly smart people at Mendeley and its disrespectful not to understand and wield some more rigorous statistical skills
– Bandit Algorithms for website optimisation : I want to start pushing our behavioural testing here and there are some great algorithms in this text
– Insanely Simple : The Apple approach to product and development is focussed and successful. An awesome look at their approach.
–  Welsh 3000 Ft challenges: I’m under the impression that I’ll get fit enough to compete this gruelling 29 miler in Snowdonia this year.  We’ll see
– Goedel, Escher, Bach : I’m stuck a bit on this, but its a fascinating blend of art, science and philosophy

What would you change about the world if you could change one thing?
We’d stop destroying this incredible planet we live on in the pursuit of passing desire.  I spend a good deal of time on glaciers at high altitude and have seen first-hand how quickly our climate is warming.  I just can’t fathom why we’d allow this to happen, just to preserve our privilege of driving our lazy butts to go shopping.

Favourite hobby?
I code and make things whenever I get the chance and having kids is giving me great excuses to do that in spades.  My daughter and I are building robots with Lego and Arduino these days.  Go #dadops.

Favourite food/drink?
I am a bit of a sucker for Pizza.  And with Maletti so close up the road, its hard to resist.

Favourite film?
Blade Runner remains my enduring favourite.  Since becoming a father, I see less film in the cinema than I used to, but I’m getting to rediscover all the great kids films.  My daughter Bella and I love the “Old Bamboo” number from Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang.  Plus Pixar can do no wrong. (Except Cars, which was nothing but wrong.  Let’s never speak of it again.)

Three things you would put in Room 101
Plastic waste
Sticking plasters in swimming pools
People who don’t make eye contact or return a friendly “Hello” when you pass and greet them.

Now for a serious one worthy of the Mendeley vision: If you could give
unlimited funding and resources to one area of research, what would it
be and why?

I’d get everyone to stop messing about with genetic modification.  I mean, c’mon, we’re just thinking small!  Glow in the dark mice?  Pest resistant grain!  Give me a flat-chested, eight legged chicken and I’ll show you more Sunday roast than you could shake a drumstick at.

Oh, and cancer of course.