Ben Carterette: Senior Research Manager
Ben is a Senior Research Manager at Spotify in New York – now working from home in Wilmington, Delaware, and managing a busy team of research scientists…
I’m up early these days – my 10-month-old baby sees to that! So my first job is to give her a bottle, then I head downstairs to fix breakfast, pack lunches and start getting my two older children ready for school. Before the pandemic, I used to spend three or four days a week in the office, which meant a two-hour train ride in and out of New York. To be honest, I miss that commute in some ways. But I’ve now adapted to working from home and developed a few new strategies in order to get things done.
At 8am, the house empties, my mother-in-law takes charge of the baby and I start the first of my day’s meetings. I manage a team of five research scientists here in the US – coaching them on their research, helping them make connections to product teams and to researchers in other labs, and making sure their work is having impact, both in Spotify and in the wider scientific community.
Together with a few of my team-mates, I’ve been working on a project where we’re figuring out how we can improve a user’s experience by building a more mutually valuable relationship throughout their journey with Spotify.
We’ve also been thinking a lot about interactive sessions – about how long users spend in a radio session in Spotify, how they react to tracks during that time and how we can interpret their reactions. If they’re skipping tracks or giving them the thumbs up, how can we use this to improve the rest of their session? It’s a lot more complex than you might think, but we’re starting to get some really cool results on this.
I don’t stop long for lunch – I tend to plough on through the day to get as much done as possible in the time I have. But I do make time for a quick play with my baby – due to Covid, I spent months looking after her while I was working, jiggling her on my knee during meetings and even giving her an old, broken keyboard to type away on! But now she’s at the stage where she’s crawling and climbing stairs and getting into everything – it’s a relief to have my mother-in-law here and get myself some proper focus time.
Communication is a big part of my job – it’s really important for us to reach out to the rest of Spotify through blog posts and presentations, share our insights and keep everyone up-to-date on all the brilliant things we’re working on. I also chair an organization called the Special Interest Group for Information Retrieval, which puts on regular conferences and events and helps me stay connected to the research community outside Spotify.
When I came back from parental leave, I decided to structure my day differently, with no meetings after 3pm. That’s when my older kids get home and everything becomes a bit crazy, so I stick to doing emails, documents and other kinds of asynchronous communication while they’re around. I normally finish up around 5pm and start on dinner – we often eat outside now that summer’s here and we’ve set up a big pool in the backyard. On warm, sunny evenings – when everyone’s splashing around and having fun – I don’t miss my old commute one bit…