Q&A with Cassandra H. Leung

Welcome to Q&A! Each month we catch up with someone (from the testing community or beyond) with an interest in quality in software development production and technology.

Some guests you may know well, and others might be less familiar. I hope you will learn something new about each of them, and something new from each of them. Each will bring their own perspectives and insights on quality and testing.

The format will be the same each time:

  • a little information about this month’s guest and what they are currently up to
  • some questions for them to answer
  • some answers for them to question (the ‘Jeopardy’ section where I will provide the answer and ask the interviewee to give me the question)
  • finally, the ‘Pass it on’ section with a question from last month’s participant and the opportunity to pose a question for next month’s guest

Our guest this month is Cassandra H. Leung, who is shortly starting a new role as a Test Engineer with MaibornWolff.

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @Tweet_Cassandra and writes about testing, UX, and software production at http://www.cassandrahl.com/


First of all Cassandra, would you like to tell us about anything interesting you’ve been involved in recently, any exciting upcoming ventures, or just what you are working on at the moment?

I’m really excited to be starting a new role with MaibornWolff in May.  They’re based in Germany, so this also involves a move from the UK!  I’ll be working remotely at first, so this will add to the new challenge, but I’m really looking forward to working with other testers (as opposed to being a lone tester) and developing my skills.

If you encountered a version of yourself from earlier in your career, and talked about how you approach your work, what would you disagree on?

One of the first testing blogs I wrote was Keep High Standards High. It tells the story of how I disappointed myself one day by letting my standards slip.  I’ve always had very high standards in my work and personal life and, while I still think this is a good thing, I probably wouldn’t beat myself up so much anymore for a momentary lapse in judgement.  “To err is human,” as they say.  I think I’d be more comfortable now in shaking up the planned schedule in the name of quality, and discuss options with the team to make sure everyone’s comfortable and we’re taking the right action.

I’d tell my “past self” not to feel so much pressure to get lots of things done in a short space of time, just because I’m asked to.  I don’t always have to say “yes” but I don’t have to say “no” either; there’s also the option to say, “that’s not realistic in the time you’ve proposed, but what I can offer is…”  That means I don’t always have to be so “up” – working at super speeds while also trying to be vigilant and detailed and accurate.  People who are good at powering through their work at top standards are often referred to as “machines”, and even though this is meant as a compliment in most cases, it can be harmful if we start treating them like machines, instead of people.  People don’t say “yes” all the time.

When you look back at your career so far, what do you consider to be the highlight(s)?

The most important would have to be changing career.  Before becoming a tester, I spent almost ten years in various sales and recruitment roles.  In 2015, I decided to pursue a career in technology, and I’ve never looked back.  I’m so happy to have found my passion in testing, and I’m proud of myself for taking a big risk and making it work.

Another highlight is the many ways in which I’ve been embraced by the testing community.  From other testers engaging with me on Twitter, to comments on my blog, to being accepted to speak at conferences, and also being asked to do this Q&A!  It’s all happened in such a short space of time, and I’m really grateful to be part of such a wonderful community.

When you think back to these highlights, what were the most important lessons you learned?

From changing careers, I’ve learnt that it’s possible to be truly passionate about your work.  In the past, I thought I was passionate about what I did, but I’ve come to realise that it was just a passion for success in general, and those high standards pushing me to put 100% into any work I was doing.  But it wasn’t the work itself.  It makes me smile when people say it’s obvious how passionate I am about testing, because I really am.  That’s a very special thing to me.

From my involvement in the testing community, I’ve learnt how important it is to keep putting yourself out there, making yourself uncomfortable.  When I started tweeting, blogging, speaking, I thought no one would care about what I had to say, or they would instantly spot and look down upon how unseasoned I was – my imposter syndrome talking – but that hasn’t happened at all.  Every time I put myself out there, I’ve benefited by learning new things, making new connections, allowing myself to become a better tester.  I genuinely don’t think I’d have learnt as much in the last 18 months if I didn’t keep putting myself out there, and so I greatly encourage others to do the same!

When you consider technology and software development around the world, can you pick out an example of an organisation who really focus and deliver on quality?

I have two main thoughts on this.  The first is that good quality is hard to spot and remember.  Low quality annoys and inconveniences people, and they remember that.  High or good quality doesn’t necessary delight anyone, or give them any other emotion to be aware of, or remember.

My second thought is around “… an organisation who really focus and deliver on quality?”  When I think about organisations’ focus, I don’t imagine that quality comes up very often, if at all, on an organisational level.  I imagine it’s more left to a specific department to deal with, but that the people at the top don’t have “software quality” anywhere on the agenda for important meetings.  There are some companies that have good onboarding experiences or support teams (“customer experience” seems to be fashionable lately), but they’re no substitute for a good quality product, in my opinion, and I think users will still avoid low quality products no matter how good the customer service is.  If the food sucks but the waiter is lovely, the food still sucks.

So… I guess my answer is “no”!

What do you think is the most common misconception about testing?

I’m not sure if this is the most common, but it’s certainly one I seem to be facing a lot, and really annoys me.  The idea that testing is an easy, unskilled job; something entry-level to be done until something better comes along – or because you couldn’t manage anything better.  Probably a developer job, because why wouldn’t you rather be a developer?

It reminds me of the way I’ve seen people (wrongly) suggest that nurses are just people who couldn’t become doctors.  It’s so insulting.  Could you imagine if all the nurses in the world just disappeared and became doctors instead?  If all the testers just disappeared and became developers?  Some say this is / should be happening already, but that’s a whole other discussion…

And now, the Jeopardy section. I’ll provide you with some answers and ask you to give me the questions…

Quality

What is better than quantity?

Testing

What is one of the most difficult things to talk about in software production?

Lastly, the ‘Pass it on’ section. The question posed last time out, by Anne-Marie Charrett was:

“How important is humour in the work we do and is this an underestimated element of our work?”

James Thomas (aka: QA Hiccups) wrote about something similar in Your Testing is a Joke.  He makes some really interesting connections that make an odd kind of sense to me – but I have an odd sense of humour and also think I’m hilarious.

From a broader perspective and thinking about my own experiences, I think humour is very important to our work.  If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry – and that’s the truth at times!  I think humour is important to get us through tough times in the day, but also to help us build relationships with others.  Software can seem like such a serious thing when people disagree, and humour is a great way to lighten the mood and show that, after it all, there are no hard feelings.  It probably is underestimated, as most don’t think of it as a tool, but I’ve personally used it as an incentive for people to read weekly communications – it’s no longer just a serious work email, it’s also a chance for a chuckle, and I know people are reading when I hear them laugh.

And finally, what question would you like to pose for next month’s participant?

Do you think it’s possible to teach critical thinking; why, and if so, how?


I’d like to thank Cassandra for taking the time to answer participate in Q&A… see you next time!


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