Tanja Hohenstatt

Hi Tanja, thanks for taking the time! You joined as UX Designer in November 2022 with almost 6 years of experience in UX ranging from a project and task management software called PAM to a 3D model optimization software called NeoSpace.

What made you decide to join Checkmk?

Joining a company as the first UX professional is always a risk, so I was cautious about whether I could make a difference at Checkmk or whether I would be doomed to failure due to office politics. But what convinced me was another call with my boss, who was at a customer to observe the roll-out of Checkmk and identify issues in the process. This showed me the company's user-centric mindset, so I took a leap of faith and signed up. To this day, I am so glad I did because user-centricity is built into the very DNA of Checkmk.

How did you come to Checkmk?

Having dipped my toes into the Metaverse in 2022, I decided it was time for a job where I could have a real impact on the daily lives of users. That's when I found the job advertisement for Checkmk on the career portal of the GUPA (German Usability Professional Association) and I was immediately intrigued! Open source software for IT admins? Sign me up! So I applied, was invited to an interview, did a UX homework assignment and got the job offer.

What does your working day look like?

My typical working day depends on whether I am working from home, which is most of the time, or in the office, which is about 5 times a month.

When I work from home, I start quite early, around 7am. Most of the other colleagues are still slumbering, so it is the perfect time to catch up on emails, Slack messages, Jira issue updates, Checkmk forum posts and new feature requests. After grabbing a snack or, depending on my sleep schedule, a cup of black tea, I start working on ongoing projects. Most of the time it's preparing some kind of user research (e.g. surveys, interviews, usability tests), conducting research, analyzing research, working on Jira issues, communicating with developers or making some wireframes.

I have two dailies at 10.10am and 10.20am due to my cross-developer team role. After that: More project work!

Around 11.30am I go to the gym for some movement and strength training. Roughly 2 hours later I start working on the project again. Depending on meetings, which fortunately are few and far between, I can call it a day between 16:00 and 17:30!

Office days are pretty much the same. I live in Ulm, so the commute to the office takes about 2 hours (depending on the train), but I can use the time on the train to work.
One of the differences to working in the office is, of course, the opportunity to work directly with my colleagues and have lunch together. Sometimes we go for a drink after work and we have even started playing D&D together!

As you can imagine, the office days are quite long, so I might not start at 7am the next morning ;)

What does a typical work week look like for you?

Monday is a typical work from home day. Tuesday is the meeting day, where we have our weekly product management meeting. New sprints start every other week, so I attend the Team Rubicon Sprint Review, Planning and Retro in the morning and the big Developer Retro after lunch. Wednesday is my designated office day. Thursday is the perfect day to do work that requires a lot of concentration, as it is mostly a meeting free day. On Friday I try to get out of the office earlier than usual and finish my to-do's so I can leave with a win!

What fascinates you most about your job at Checkmk and what are your tasks?

How open and willing to participate our users are. We have a really active Checkmk community and they are all so engaged that I have no problem recruiting them for interviews, surveys or usability tests. It is really rewarding!

My role at Checkmk is very varied and basically anything to do with UX. As I am currently the only UX professional at Checkmk, I act as a generalist with a strong focus on user research.

For the sake of simplicity, Ill list some of my tasks:

  • Data-informed UX decisions
  • Tracking and evaluating UX opportunities
  • Providing the user perspective for roadmap planning
  • Reviewing features and improvements from a UX perspective
  • Running a monthly survey series
  • User research: Interviews, surveys, usability tests
  • UX writing: improving copy and micro copy
  • User communication: I am the contact for any UX issues in the forum, feature portal, or direct mail.
  • Wireframing and prototyping
  • Workshop preparation
  • Establishing UX processes

What tools/technologies do you work with in your team?

  • Figma: For wireframing, hand-offs to development and very rarely for hi-fi mockups
  • Figjam: For workshops, reviews, smaller projects that don't require wireframes, brainstorming, research analysis... I think I use Figjam the most, second only to Slack.
  • Axure: For complex prototypes
  • Useberry: Surveys and unmoderated usability tests
  • Slack: Daily communication
  • Zoom & Google Meets: Calls, remote moderated researches
  • Jira: Project management
  • Google Cloud: Mails, calendar, file storing, and even very rudimentary research repository 
  • Checkmk! Of course we also use Checkmk to monitor the setup of our home network and for research purposes. 

What is most important to you in your work life?

We spend most of the day at work, so the most important thing for me is that it is actually fun and that I can make a difference. There is nothing worse than a hostile environment and shouting into the void.

What do you think makes Checkmk or your team in particular special?

Definitely the user-centricity! To be honest, although I am the first/only UX designer at Checkmk at the moment, I am not alone. Working with users to solve problems and improve features is a core value and it really shows. There is no fear of feedback, it is always seen as an opportunity to improve and open up communication.

Do you remember a particularly interesting, exciting or beautiful experience you had at Checkmk? If so, can you tell us about it?

One of the things that comes to mind is the Checkmk Conference #9. It was the first one I attended and it was so great to meet all the colleagues in person, catch up and meet our users. It was particularly exciting for me to give a talk at the conference - the first time I had ever spoken in front of so many people!

How do you go about identifying and prioritizing UX opportunities?

I collect a lot of quantitative and qualitative feedback and also use input channels such as our forum, feature portal or G2 reviews. This helps me to get a better overview of current issues and their severity. I collect all the issues raised in a handy table and apply the RICE Score to each one. Most of the time the RICE-Score is not 100% accurate, but it gives a better overview of quick wins and important issues. We try to include as many quick wins as possible. For example, in the last release we changed a button on one page from black to green to make it more visible - a very small development effort.

And our users loved it! They were really happy with the change because a lot of them were regularly clicking on the wrong button and getting quite frustrated.

What role do customer feedback and market research play in your work?

A HUGE role. It is my bread and butter. We make data-informed decisions, so we need a lot of insight into our users and our competitors to be able to make the right decisions. That's why I spend a lot of time conducting interviews, surveys or usability tests.

How do you collaborate with other teams such as development and consulting to successfully bring products to market?

In my line of work, it is crucial to work closely with development to ensure that my proposals are feasible. They can also offer a unique perspective and have great ideas! It is always worth asking them for feedback. I also attend the dailies of two development teams to keep up to date and provide UX support when needed.

I am very happy that we have so many great consultants at Checkmk, who not only have a very deep knowledge of Checkmk and IT infrastructure, but some of them were even Checkmk users before joining us! As you can imagine, they are a great source of information and can provide valuable context. Also: They are always happy to help. Collaboration is very important, and fortunately everyone at Checkmk sees it that way. As the cheesy saying goes: "Teamwork makes the dream work".

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