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Author's profile photo Saskia Guckenburg

“Growing Bigger Eyes and Bigger Ears”: Fellowships in User Research

SAP offers flexible internal fellowships that allow people to grow by experiencing a different role and team. Didier and Marieke both completed a fellowship with the SAP Design User Research team, which increases end user engagement with user research services and training activities, coaching of product teams, and conducting usability testing at SAP’s main events. Marieke and Didier share their retrospective below. If you feel inspired: our team is hiring!

Why did you decide to do a fellowship, and particularly for user research?

Didier Chaudet (development project expert, SAP S/4HANA Finance): I really like the user-centricity approach. The end user is all that counts! I earlier took part in many usability tests at different customer events for SAP GRC (Governance, Risk, and Compliance) and this is something I loved to continue during the fellowship. Furthermore, I had already gone through different openSAP courses on User Research and Design prototyping topics: Basics of Design Research, Basics of Design Testing, and Be Visual! Sketching Basics for IT Business. And, I was interested in becoming a User Research Advocate, which is a network of SAP’s user researchers, for my department.

Marieke Storm (SAP Fiori design guidelines editor, SAP Design): I had already worked in software before joining SAP, but there was either no sense of necessity for usability testing or testing was done in a biased way to get desired results. With my academic background in Pragmatics and Corpus Linguistics, I was curious how things were done properly. Our fellowships allow for any working schedule, so I spent eight hours a week with the team virtually for three months learning the basics of user research and supporting enablement by providing text support.

Marieke Storm Didier Chaudet 

How was your fellowship experience?

Didier: It was a great experience. I helped development teams to prepare and run many usability test dry runs for customer events. I also joined some meetings for the German Corona-Warn-App between development, designers, and UX researchers to set up an online study comparing 2 different prototypes. The focus of the study was on the certificate and check-in scanning functionalities. The online usability study went live in June, shortly before a main release was delivered.

Marieke: Even though we were all working from home, we could connect quite well by joining syncs, spontaneous meetings, and coffee chats. To continuously upskill the developers, designers, and anybody interested in user research, I wrote two case studies about usability testing for the German Corona-Warn-App and the evolvement of human-centered design. Then, I spent a lot of time learning about methods, case studies, and tools. Discussing current user research projects with the team perfectly connected theory and practice. And I also helped working on writing this interview blog!

Our 5 Key Learnings

  • GDPR must be guaranteed in user research.
  • Ask the right questions! Avoid closed questions. Invite people to explain more.
  • The Five Whys technique: when problems occur, go to the root of the problem by asking five times why. It sounds strange but is extremely helpful.
  • Questions are good, listening is better: listen carefully and be critical, in a positive sense.
  • Awareness is key. Test your awareness with this fantastic video example: Observe the user, the tester, the clicks, and reflect about what you see.

How has the fellowship influenced your career?

Didier: After these 6 months, I can really say that I grew “bigger eyes and bigger ears”. Some might say I became a hobbit… Let us hope that the hair on my feet didn’t grow as well. Doing a fellowship was absolutely the right thing for me. I could learn a lot about new topics which has been very enriching. I got my break from my daily routine, which pushed my motivation immensely. The close ties to the user research team will remain via personal contacts and further workshops in the future.

Marieke: Being relatively new to SAP, I could extend my network and simply learn more about how we run. After the fellowship, I took more training to become a User Research Advocate. I’m happy that I will continue working on the topic and stay in contact with the team. I’ve encountered sophisticated, dedicated, and motivated colleagues.

What has surprised you the most?

Didier: User research includes a lot more than usability tests. For example, I discovered the huge importance of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and data privacy when running tests. For this, I’ve reviewed the SAP internal step-by-step GDPR guide. I went through many trainings and I was impressed by the user research resource library with loads of interesting articles.

Marieke: I love the combination between the academics and hands-on research. Design research isn’t something you can learn from books: Empathy and listening skills are invaluable wherever you are, but when it comes to live usability testing, it makes or breaks the test.

Many thanks to Didier and Marieke for taking the time for this interview and to Marieke for jointly working on this blog.


SAP Design User Research is hiring! Have a look at our open position:
User Research Senior / Expert (f/m/d) at SAP Design

For more information about user research and training, please look here.

Are you interested in internal fellowships at SAP? Find open positions here.

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