As I continue this journey toward a career in the UX world, what I hear talked about the most is the importance of good, thorough user research. Not only is research the foundation for your design, but it can also speed up product development process (by knowing what your users want and incorporation design requirements from the start), which in turn will limit the amount of time and money spent redesigning the product, and also increase overall user satisfaction with the end result. Conducting (good) user research from the very beginning will eliminate wasted time, money, and headache. An all-around win-win situation in my book.
I was listening to an episode of the What is Wrong with UX podcast, hosted by brilliant UX-ers Kate Rutter and Laura Klein, that discussed UX research. One of the hosts made a great comment that has stuck with me to this day. During the process of interviewing candidates to join their team, one of the ways they evaluate a potential new hire is by asking how they would start a project. If the candidate mentions, or physcially goes, straight to the drawing board, they consider that a red flag, because no feasible project can start or end well without a solid foundation: user research.