Welcome to Q&A, a series in which we discuss testing and quality with guests from the world of technology and software development.
Some guests you may know well, and others might be less familiar. You should learn something new about each of them, and something new from each of them. Each brings 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
In this Q&A we are joined by Andreea-Zenovia Popescu. In Andreea’s own words:
“I started my career in 2013 as a tester, but since 2015 I have been working as a UX designer. I had a short transition period as I moved from testing into this domain, where I carried out the roles in parallel. Throughout this time, even as a tester, I’ve organized Usability Testing sessions with users because I think that behind a quality product stands user empathy.
As UX designer, I worked with different kinds of projects, from presentation and e-commerce apps/websites to medical apps. When I find something interesting to share with others, I often post it on my Twitter account, @andreea_popescu
In my free time, I am also a speaker and trainer, amateur nature photographer and traveller (especially in mountain areas).”
Welcome to Q&A, Andreea. 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?
All my day-to-day activity means creativity and each day brings me something new which helps me to evolve. Maybe the most interesting activities I have are those which involve users, from following and analysing them during usability sessions, to validate or not with them my assumptions. Involving users in my activity is helping me to broaden my horizons, to evolve as professional and to better understand how people actually are. The conclusion I’ve found: people are so different, but still so similar.
For example, recently I had a workshop and when I posed the question ”what is usability?” all the participants had a different view about what it is, what that concept means to them, and that’s extraordinary because all their answers, at the end of the session, were translated in a single word: simplicity.
This word/concept for design means that you need to have user’s main objectives/needs in mind, but this definition (even it is pretty much said definition, maybe a convention) is not related just to design, but for testing, too and other areas in producing software.
As a former tester, I followed that concept as a creed in what I’ve done and it helped me a lot in my career evolution because I’ve put a lot of questions during my processes. I was very curious about how a user will actually use the product, I was very curious about what is happening when even I as a tester I can’t understand the product and so on.
Coming back, my day-to-day work revolves around simplicity and empathy (because without empathy designing a product will be just a robotic process, nothing related to understanding people), which means that every day is different and interesting.
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?
In the beginning of my career I was very focused on doing everything perfectly (I know, perfection is impossible, especially an absolute perfection), but it was my first job and I wanted to be good at it. That perfection that I wanted to reach was nothing more than staying more at work and trying to work from home after I worked 8 or more hours at the office. In all that time I tested and re-tested and so on, maybe, sometimes, too many times a thing that was pretty obvious, but I wanted to be sure that I was right and I was good at what I was doing.
That approach to my work was good because I had positive results, I’ve learned a lot and I progressed in my career, but right now I will say that is very important to find an equilibrium between personal life and professional life.
When you look back at your career so far, what do you consider to be the highlight(s)?
I guess the most powerful highlights of my career are related to two of my features, curiosity, and ambition; and what follows after them are just stories of what I’ve become.
But, I can say, also, that are some points in my career that helped to decide to follow this career path, in the first time, as a tester and now as a UX designer, and all those points are related to Mozilla.
I was involved as a volunteer for almost 2 and a half years, and that time made me very curious about understanding people (I’ve worked with people from different countries, from different continents) and cultures. I was involved as a tester for Firefox OS apps, I’ve organized events and… surprise, I needed to speak at some events. I was very shy and not so confident about myself and speaking in public, but it was a start and now, after so many years, I’ve become a speaker and a trainer, even when before I was very scared and I wanted to quit and run away.
But, maybe the main highlight from my volunteering experience is related to my activity in support. One day, someone asked me “how do I close the browser?”, and my whole world stopped. I thought that was a joke or something, but it was for real. At that moment I realized that users were different, that we are all different, that even if we are following the same patterns, we can have a different history behind us, that we can have or not have the same knowledge etc. Despite those differences, we can be in similar positions with other products.
So, I encourage everyone, especially those who are starting out, to have the curiosity to discover more about themselves, because discovering you will want to know more, and in that way, you will be able to become better and better, but that better is never enough, so, be modest, even if someday you reach a senior position.
When you think back to these highlights, what were the most important lessons you learned?
First of all, I consider as the main lesson, accepting that you can’t be right in all your assumptions. Accept feedback as the base part of your professional and personal evolution.
Second, every time you don’t know how to answer, don’t be ashamed to say that you don’t know because no one in this world can have the answer for everything. Not knowing makes us human – it helps us to become better.
Third, everyone is different and each culture has a different perspective about values, ordinary things, day-to-day life etc., but everyone has the same base: the brain. This lesson came from interaction with people from different cultures and opened a new door for me, neuroscience.
When you consider the many organisations around the world involved in developing software and technology, is there an example of one which stands out for you as having a focus on quality?
From my UX designer perspective, I can say the NNGroup (Nielsen Norman Group) which is not actually into developing software, but they provide services, like training, workshops and, at the same time, information about usability, accessibility, user experience and research which are very valuable for people who work in software and technology domains. Their information is well-structured, documented by research with users and examples are not missing from their work, too. So, even though they are not from the software and technology area, they provide quality to professionals from those areas.
What do you think is the most common misconception about testing?
That testing activity is responsible for quality. No, testing is not responsible for quality. All of the employees are responsible for quality. A quality product came from all of us; how the UX designer put the questions and analyzed the answers, made the product research, created the personas, user stories, information architecture, created wireframes and tested them with users, how the programmer wrote the code, how the tester tested the product etc. Each of us is behind a product, not just a few of us.
And now, the Jeopardy section. I’ll provide you with some answers and ask you to suggest the questions…
What is that attribute that everyone involved in a project it is responsible for?
In medicine, we have ”examination”, in gastronomy, we have ”tasting”, in the judicial field we have ”proving” and in software we have… ?
Lastly, the ‘Pass it on’ section. The question posed last time out, by Jean Ann Harrison was:
“What do you feel is the most important non-technical testing skill to have/obtain/apply to your testing activities?”
It is not really a skill, but maybe we could consider it as one: curiosity. If you are curious about something you will research, you will dig deeper. If you met a ”voodoo” bug or strange action of the system, you will want to learn more about technologies and tools etc. A tester with this skill/quality will be an asset in a company.
And finally, what question would you like to pose for next month’s participant?
Which challenges do the evolution of technology bring in testing, and what changes will digital transformation bring to the testing domain?
Many thanks to Andreea for taking the time to participate in Q&A… see you next time!