Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Rebecca Boardman: I’m the head of quality assurance at Reading Room – a digital agency working with Kentico, Umbraco, Drupal, Magento and Sitecore based in Liverpool and London. It’s my job to manage testing throughout the agency in both Liverpool and London to ensure the highest standards of quality are met and prevent bugs from slipping through the net.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
RB: I’m one of the operations managers and sit within the delivery team. As part of the delivery team I’m involved with quoting for testing effort for new work, testing sprints for projects and retainers, and reporting back to the project or account manager about my findings. I also communicate with clients when investigating issues and also request their sign-off on tasks which I have passed.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
RB: To be an effective tester, it’s important to have a keen eye for detail and excellent communication skills. It’s all well and good finding an issue, but you need to be able to explain that to people in different roles involved on the project – such as the developer, the designer, the project manager and potentially to the client as well.
It’s also really important to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to testing. Sure, most of us on the project know how the piece of software is meant to work and what the logical user journeys are, but will the general public using this software know that? What happens if they press a button at the wrong time? Will they be able to submit a form without completing all the fields? Can I make this website fall over and, if so, does it fall over gracefully?
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
RB: A typical working day begins with checking emails and allocation for myself and my team. Emails let me know if any critical issues require investigation ahead of other priorities, and allocation keeps us all on track.
I’ll then attend a number of daily stand ups with either the team in our London office or a face-to-face stand up in the office – this helps me to plan ahead for work which is likely to be available for me to test the next day. After this I’ll get stuck into some testing! This is usually one, more or all of the following:
- Testing task tickets in our project management system
- Testing that new work hasn’t had any adverse effects on other parts of the site
- Execution of test scripts against the project
- Exploratory testing
- Cross-browser & cross-device testing
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
RB: The part of my job that I love the most is the investigation side of it. I love playing detective to try and get to the bottom of an issue and working out what specific conditions are needed to cause an issue to happen – the satisfaction I get when I can replicate an issue over and over again really makes me happy!
I think the part of the job which sucks is when development overruns or something new is required for go-live – but the go-live date doesn’t change. This means that the amount of time we have for QA gets shortened and we might not be able to spend as much time as I’d like completing tasks such as exploratory testing. It’s just one of those things unfortunately, it’s not unique to agencies or even software development!
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
RB: The main goal is to make sure that we deliver products of the highest quality. The most useful (and probably the most satisfying) metric we use are the tickets in our project management system. When the number of tickets which are resolved outweighs the number of open tickets, you know you’re getting there. When the number of open tickets is set to zero it’s a truly great feeling.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
RB: I’m a huge fan of the Atlassian suite, we make use of JIRA and Confluence which is really useful for tracking defects and communication between the team, given that we’re in offices at different ends of England!
JIRA also allows us to integrate with Zephyr which is a test case tool which has been really useful for generating outputs of the actual testing we have done. If there aren’t any new bugs it can be hard to explain to a client, why we’re charging them for testing when there’s no evidence – using Zephyr test cases we have that evidence to give to them.
E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?
RB: I got into software testing completely by accident! I was studying computing at uni and wanted a job so I had some money for shopping and so on, so I got a temporary job as a First Party Quality Assurance tester for Playstation at Sony. This is where my love of testing grew from. I realised it completely suited my soft skills as well as my technical skills.
After graduating from university, I was a graduate test analyst with Auto Trader and then I moved to the company I’m at now where I grew from being a Tester to the Head of QA. My aim is to keep growing in my skills and expand my team so that we are delivering projects which are more and more robust as time goes on.
E: Aside from your own, what are your favourite campaigns or digital experiences at the moment?
RB: I’m actually really interested in the seemingly sudden love of Battle Royale type video games. Games such as Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have really started to steal the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere, so much so that the next Call of Duty is going to have a Battle Royale mode. I’m so excited to experience a classic like Call of Duty in a new game mode! I’m apprehensive, but so looking forward to it!
E: What advice would you give somebody looking to start a career in agency land?
RB: I would tell them not to stress about it if it’s new. The pace can be quite fast, but if it’s managed properly then you’ll find yourself more than capable to manage yourself.
Be prepared to think on the spot and also be ready to pick up a variety of different projects from different clients. It’s also really important to make sure you log your time properly so that clients can be billed – so keep notes as you go!
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