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My name is Kyoko. I am a user researcher for kaizenOps.io. The nature of my job is to learn, understand and sympathize with others – specifically, users.  I often meet very interesting people as ‘users,’ from general consumer to people in very specific technical field. In this blog, I’d like to share some of my journey figuring out and understanding the people whose pain I need to understand.

I am trying to understand SREs (Site Reliability Engineers).  I have to say this is a little difficult!  After interviewing multiple peopleSRE is somewhat a new term and each organization has different usage of it.  Some people are not even aware of this term even though they take on the same responsibilities.

This can cause a lot of challenges for me as a researcher who is trying to really understand the users but, actually, the fun part lies in this challenge. This happens a lot with innovation and IT where we are always trying to go ahead of the industry; trying to solve a problem from different angles. When I face this, basically what I need to do is to ask many questions to potential users, analyze their answers and find patterns in human factors as well as in the industry. It is like I am trying to make a spaceship to take SREs to new planets. But I don’t know what that is, so I have to disassemble the terrestrial cars that SREs currently drive, find the parts that are commonly used as well as discovering what parts can be accelerated to light speed.  Oh, and don’t forget that the result must still “feel” like the something SREs would drive and be useful!

Therefore, extracting information through interview becomes very important. So far, my experience of trying to get to know SREs is like meeting aliens living on different planets from each other. I don’t know what kind of parts of the body they have. I don’t know what kind of condition they live in. Therefore, discovering the common characteristics among them becomes very important and making sure I keep close eye on how they are different from each other.

Understanding this alien species is hard! Every time I interview someone new, I have to figure out which answers are common to the species and which answers are specific to the individual.  Are there subspecies? Do all SREs care about the end user? It seems like it. Only some SREs pay attention to all their alerts, though. Why is that? This is one of the toughest part of the user interviews, I’d say. Because of this, I try to defeat the assumptions that we created from previous interviews. This attitude keeps me in the right mindset and helps prevent bias when I listen to users.

Any suggestions to understand SREs? Please feel free to shout at me.

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