What is your name and what do you do at 383?
My name is Abbie and I'm the Quality Assurance Manager at 383.
What is QA? What does the QA manager do?
QA stands for quality assurance. It's probably one of the most important areas that a business should have. Quality assurance is exactly what the title suggests; you're assuring quality is delivered by testing the products that you build against the business requirements, industry standards, and the user experience.
As QA Manager, my role is to facilitate my team to do the best job they can possibly do by supporting them where they need it. I try my best to help eliminate any blockers that they might have. I help to resource new product teams, making sure that the QA that I provide has the right skill set for that product team. I get involved in new business conversations with clients. I also help to set out the whole QA process. It's constantly evolving and improving over time, so it’s my responsibility to make sure that that's clear for my team. I also recruit new 383ers, doing interviews and finding the right people for the team.
It’s a great job, basically!
What do you like most about your job?
I think it's the variety of tasks that you get given. It can vary from supporting my team to helping solve problems within product teams. I get to talk to lots of different people in the company as well, which I really enjoy.
How did you get into QA?
I'd never heard of software testing, to be honest. I was in an amateur dramatics group when I was younger, and one of the gentleman in the group was involved with development and QA at his company. He noticed that I was quite good at being proactive, noticing things and problem solving and things like that. He said that they had a training position open at their company, so I went for the interviews and they gave me the opportunity to kickstart my career in that area.
I think it's why I'm so passionate about giving other people the opportunity to be able to delve into the QA world.
What would a typical week look like for you?
There's no such thing! A typical week, for me, changes all the time, especially working for a digital studio. The problem solving that you have within different product teams is different every week. You've got new projects coming in all the time, which you've got to resource.
I think the only thing that's continuous is making sure that you support that team. That's something that you need to do every week.
What is the most common misconception about QA?
A lot of people think that QA should just be left until the last minute, right at the end of the development phase. Actually, QA should be involved right from the start of the process, Even when you first start having those conversations with stakeholders.
We need to develop that deep understanding of what the users' needs are going to be and how a user will journey through that product. We can't do our job properly if we don't understand that. We have to be able to look at the good and the bad journeys that might potentially happen whilst using that product. For us, retaining that knowledge and making sure we understand that fully is really important.
What does a good QA team or function look like?
Definitely enthusiasm for QA and a great sense of humour, I think, makes a good QA team. Developing those relationships with other people in the company, particularly developers, is really important. A lot of the time people think QAs and developers are like enemies. We're actually not! We actually get on really well and we have a good relationship and work together as a team. That's kind of the point - we need to develop that candour with different people and be able to communicate with them effectively. That's not just for developers, as well, that's for anybody that you're working with as part of the company or as part of the team. I think that makes a really good QA team.
What do you wish people knew about QA?
This is a good question, actually! I wish that people would understand that it's actually a lot of fun. If you've got the right process in place that allows you to essentially break stuff, which is what QA is all about, if you give QA that freedom, they will enjoy their job.
What makes a good QA? What kind of things do you look for when you're interviewing talent?
From my perspective, I'm not necessarily after experience or qualifications, but an enthusiasm for QA, an understanding of what it is and how important it is.
The ability to be autonomous is key, because I'll normally train you up and then let you out into the big wild world. We do have a process for you to follow, but will let you go and do your own thing.
Providing honest feedback is really important, as well. I like to be challenged as a manager. If you've got a suggestion or an improvement, bring it to me. Let's talk about it. Let's see if it’s something that we can implement that could change things for the better.
Similarly, good candour in meetings. Having the ability to be open and express how you're feeling and any concerns. Knowing how to approach certain situations is vital because we interact with so many different areas of the company - being able to talk to different people with respect and understanding, because different things annoy different people.
You have to have a certain level of confidence about you, to stand your ground and not be steamrolled by other, sometimes more senior, opinions. That's definitely something I can help with. I've been there, in the past where I didn’t feel I had a voice, almost, and just had to go with the flow. Being at 383 has helped me develop that voice, so I understand where that comes from and I can help you to build up that confidence and find your voice to project what you want to say and get it across in the right way.
I look for a general inquisitive and proactive attitude, as well. And definitely a good sense of humour. I like to think that my team and I just have a bit of a laugh most of the time, which is really important to me because it's got to be a nice, comfortable, friendly, working environment.
What do you wish that clients or stakeholders knew about working with QA?
I wish they understood how important it was. I feel like a lot of the time, QA is seen as just something to tick a box and, actually, it's not. We are the goalkeepers. We are your protection from delivering bad products to your end users. That's what we're trying to help stakeholders understand; that we're there to find those issues and put ourselves in the end user's position. I like to say that we are impersonating the end user, essentially.
And if we push back against what they're suggesting, we're doing it because we understand the mind frame of the end user and how they're going to use the product. We're not trying to cause problems. We're not trying to block things. We're trying to make sure that, at the end of the day, the product that you're putting out into the big wide world is going to be utilised and people are going to enjoy using it and they're going to want to keep coming back.
Because if they don't enjoy the product that you are presenting to them, they won't come back.
How can product teams make life easier for QA?
Make sure we're involved in all the conversations! Get us involved from the word go, and communicate with us at all points.
One of the challenges we face is when things change and we're not told about it. We'll continue with our job and all of a sudden we'll run into a bug, we'll raise it, and then it will get pushed back - maybe the stakeholder has told us that they want something a little bit different or they've decided to do something another way. If something changes, don't leave it until the last minute to tell us. Make sure that it's all communicated to us properly so we can continue doing our job to the best of our ability.
What is QA-as-a-Service and how is it different from traditional QA?
QA-as-a-Service means different things at the moment to different companies. For us, at 383, we are interpreting it as a branch off of QA, where we proactively audit sites ahead of any work starting. This differs from traditional QA as it’s normally reactive to products being built and passed along. QA-as-a-Service is a proactive way of looking at current sites and platforms and finding ways we can help improve and make it better for end users.
We have plans in place to expand our QA-as-a-Service offering at 383 too. Whether it's going into a company in a consultative role to help them build a QA team, or help them change processes that aren't working for them, or even developing different areas of QA such as cybersecurity or automation.
What does the future of QA look like? How will things like AI and automation affect what QA looks like?
This is a tricky question because I'm quite a traditionalist when it comes to QA. I very much believe in manual QA. It's where I've developed my career. But I do see automation coming into the picture more strongly as we progress. I favour a hybrid mode;. I think you need manual QA, but you also need automation. When it works properly, they can actually sit really nicely together. Then you've got a human checking things over, but you've also got the machine making sure that any quick changes are checked efficiently. It shouldn't just be one or the other. You should be able to have both sat side-by-side.
I think I'm hoping that in the future more companies are going to see manual and automation sitting together, rather than just focusing on automation. What I’ve found when interviewing new QA candidates, a lot of them think that they need to progress into automation, and actually that's not true. You can have a successful career as a QA being just manual as well. I'm just hoping that that's something that can be available in the future and companies understand that a hybrid model of both works really nicely.