Thinking Human with Meena Kothandaraman

With over twenty-five years of consulting experience, Meena Kothandaraman has an extensive understanding of human behavior as it fits into an experience. Whether it’s a product, service, interface, or space, Kothandaraman conducts qualitative research to determine what consumers require in the products they use on a regular basis. Her company twig + fish research practice is focused on elevating human-centered needs within the customer experience.

“I look to learn as much as possible from human stories and anecdotes,” says Kothandaraman. “To understand their world from their perspective. How do they define value? What are their natural behaviors? How do these [everyday] things fit into their lives?”

The research that Kothandaraman has done has allowed her to further discuss human-centered strategies that are core to organizational processes. She founded twig + fish with Zarla Ludin when both women realized that they were interested in promoting credible ways for companies to keep people central to product design. Together, as a team, Kothandaraman and Ludin provide custom study designs to further understand what we, as humans, require to make our everyday actions easier.

“I’m like a kid in Candyland when I think about the projects I’ve worked on,” she says with a laugh. “There’s so much fun in trying to unpack how people think and behave.”

Kothandaraman explained that it can often be a little challenging to study people who are constantly on the move—people change so much over the course of ten to twenty years. She must be ahead of trends to fully understand and anticipate what people want.

“As a researcher, I have to be able to help [clients] open up, to observe deeper aspects of the people they serve,” she says.

In addition to her role as a qualitative researcher and experience strategist, Kothandaraman also teaches at Bentley University’s Human Factors and Information Design graduate program. Teaching at Bentley has strengthened her ability to learn about people.

“I love, love teaching there,” she says excitedly. “I learn more from them than I can teach them. [Teaching at Bentley] has helped me vocalize how I communicate research value to organizations.”

For Kothandaraman, success is being truly happy in what you’re doing. She urges others not to conform to the traditional ideas of success, but rather to define your own version of it.