This is the eighth in my series of interviews with SAP employees in the area of user experience and design. As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a tangent from interviewing people whose main job consists of traditional design activities like visual design, user research and interaction design, to talk with people who are very important to a successful user experience, but are not in core “design” roles.
Olga Cherepanova is a senior developer and UX advocate in the area of software lifecycle management at SAP. Originally from Novosibirsk, Russia, Olga graduated with honors from the State University of Novosibirsk with a degree in applied computer science. She joined SAP in 2008 and works at our headquarters in Walldorf, Germany.
Please briefly explain what you do at SAP as a UX advocate.
My main job is actually development and that is what I have been doing since I started working at SAP. But after some time working on user interfaces (UIs), I realized that I was missing design skills. At first I wanted to create better UIs, and then it grew into a wish to provide a better user experience (UX) for our software. And so I applied for a fellowship in the UX team and became a UX advocate. So now, in my additional role as UX advocate, I act as a bridge between design and implementation to communicate the importance of the user experience to my team.
During the discover and design phases of a project, I am mostly in the UX role doing user research together with my colleagues, creating prototypes and conducting usability tests. Then I switch back to “developer mode” and work on the implementation.
How were you trained for this special role as UX advocate?
The kick off to this role was my fellowship in the UX team where I practiced user research and prototyping. In parallel I participated in classroom and online trainings, read books, and consulted with UX coaches. And of course, I directly applied my newly acquired knowledge in my projects – learning by doing.
What do you enjoy most about your job as a developer?
I really enjoy bringing prototypes to life. It is a great feeling to turn ideas into a working product and see that being used by customers.
What are the most challenging aspects of being a UX advocate?
One of the hardest tasks for me is to balancing two different mindsets – user-oriented and technical. On the one hand, I know the technical limitations. On the other, I still want to come up with new design ideas that help users.
Does the fact that you are a UX advocate mean that you work differently than other developers?
I cannot judge about other developers, but I personally feel that the way I work now is different than a few years ago. I am more focused on users and their needs. And I am definitely now more motivated to improve our software after I having meet users and watched them use what I built. That really brought meaning to my work.
You have been at SAP for 7 years now. How do you see the changes at SAP with regard to design and user experience since you joined?
The biggest changes I started to notice were about 3 or 4 years ago with the introduction of SAP Fiori. It is interesting so see the differences between Dynpro, Web Dynpro and Fiori UIs. Not only the technologies and designs have changed, but also the UX awareness has increased significantly, and it is now one of the most important topics in the company. There are many initiatives at SAP like the UX advocate program that provide opportunities for developers to learn about design.
What advice would you give to other developers with regard to design?
Meet your end users. Watch them using your application and be open to their feedback.