Hey, and welcome to theqalead.com. Today, I have a Henna from CashPlus. She’s the head of testing. She got some great experience in finance and she’s also been doing some really great acts of kindness during the Coronavirus, helping other people to actually prep for their interviews and also take the ISTQB Foundation exam.
Henna Ashraf walks through the switch from software development to testing, how to grow your software QA team, conduct tester interviews, and support their career development.
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Other articles and podcasts:
- About The QA Lead podcast
- Unit Testing: Advantages & Disadvantages
- 4 QA Job Descriptions: Tester, Engineer, Manager & Technician
- How I Prepare And Test For My Releases
- Top 5 Quality Assurance Certifications
- The 10 Toughest Software Testing Interview Questions
- 12 Key Quality Assurance Skills & Competencies
- 4 Software Quality Planning Tips & Simple Checklist
- Automation Testing Pros & Cons (+ Why Manual Still Matters)
- What Is Quality Assurance? The Essential Guide To QA
Read The Transcript:
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Intro In the digital reality, evolution over revolution prevails. The QA approaches and techniques that worked yesterday will feel you tomorrow. So free your mind. The automation cyborg has been sent back in time. Ted Speaker Jonathon Wright's Mission is to help you save the future from bad software. This podcast is brought to you by eggplant. Eggplant helps businesses to test, monitor, and analyze their end to end customer experience and continuously improve their business outcomes.
Jonathon Wright So without any further ado let's go straight in. And tell us all about what your career and we're really looking for. great and glad to have you on the show.
Henna Ashraf Since December 2018. And if I take you through my journey. So I started working as a developer. Because when I started my journey, my professional career, I didn't know anything about testing, because, at that time, everyone who graduated as a computer science says they had only two choices either become a developer or go into a networking site. So these were like two splits. When I graduated, so I started as a developer, I did some coding back-end mostly on the server-side programming.
And then after a few years, then we saw that, okay, we or we as developers are also supported to do testing off the point as well. And that actually became more interested in testing. So I was more interested in testing them and the development. And then a site that the company I was working in the field did a separate spot for testing. And then I requested if I can move to that department.
Jonathon Wright Oh, wonderful. So for your kind of universities, obviously, you kind of did a computer science degree. And, you know, I guess we've had a couple of people on the show who is talking about that. You know, that there's obviously a logical path going straight to become a developer. But, you know, they fall in love with QA. That's right. You know, what I find fascinating about your story is that you know, you've also kind of combined that if you're to a ton of roles, you're QA management and leadership roles, but also with relief management. You know, I think that's something that not many people talk about in the sense of, you know, the importance of getting out releases. And, you know, how important to Q A gates are in that process. If that's a defect you've kind of seen in your career, or is that just kind of the companies that you've worked for?
Henna Ashraf So so far, I have worked in different kinds of domains, e-commerce, identity management, gaming as well. And then for the last few years, I'm in the finance sector. So, yeah. So I think every domain is different. All and all individuals, all companies are also different because they have a separate signed off sector. So yeah. So it was a good transition from developer to test. And then the work as a release manager as well. So, you know, I think it was a good experience.
Jonathon Wright I don't know, obviously your kind of your reason. We talked about your recent blog, which you put out there around the kind of helping support the community. And, you know, I guess you've gone through that process of kind of see the ISTQB exam. You've kind of also had the challenges with, you know, that you're offering to help people and support people through kind of interviewing and, you know, especially people who've lost their jobs, you know. Do you find that actually quite hard for people to actually go through that process as far as kind of interviewing and that kind of key skills that they need, like a ISTQB to prove that they've got the experience that allows and say the role is, you know, do you know you obviously feel quite passionate about that? Is that something that you've had experience with?
Henna Ashraf Yeah, absolutely. So I came to you to keep putting this before. I came from a developing country, Pakistan. My education was there and I started my early career in Pakistan as well. And I knew that when I was working in testing, I heard about this security certification. There was only one exam center. And to be honest, when you convert the fee exam fee into Pakistani rupees, it was very expensive beyond my reach. And I was just used to think that, okay.
I couldn't even think about any. Of course, there was not any course available, but I was used to thinking that, yeah, one day I will do the certification. Then I got the opportunity to come here and continue my career investing. And then after a year, I got the chance, the opportunity to take the exam. And that's also I did without any force. So at that time then I did realize that I have.
It was difficult for me then. I'm sure it would be difficult for other people as well, and especially even after that as well. Of course, I been working as a test manager and now head of testing. So I do see all the people I am managing the deuced struggled with it there. I know there are a few companies who do send out their employees for the cause, the training, and then they also pay for the exam fee as well. But I don't think everyone is doing that.
So since then, I have been training like one to one BC is whether they are in my company or whether they are outside the network. If I just come to know someone because I do know the journey is not easy. And the same is for the course of people who have lost their jobs. So I can definitely relate to them that. So how is it if there is, let's say that you are the key owner of the family, you have a family to support and you lost your job? And if you get any kind of support from anywhere, of course, that's really helpful as totally about the interview techniques.
Yes, this is my personal experience because I have done a lot of interviews, of course, for my teams. And I have noticed that sometimes CV is great. The person has all the technical skills, but yes, they do lack the ability to communicate those skills and sometimes sitting opposite to them.
I can see this person can do well, but yes, they are not able to communicate the best way. And I think this is not new for someone who is coming especially from a technical I.T. background, because we are from testers, developers, we are mostly introverted people. We are the people who want to hide behind the scenes and we don't want to face the customers. And that's why most of us have chosen this career as developer testers.
And this is like a story of most of the people. And I think once you start going into a management position, leadership position, then slowly, gradually. You come out of that fear zone.
Jonathon Wright Yeah. No, I think I think it's a really good point when it comes to the difficulty of going through that process. I know, actually, I think also what's interesting from what you said was around the cost as well. And, you know, I know Debbie, who's the MDA of ISQA limited which is a training company that provides the F the ISF to and, you know, part of having that kind of transition to other countries. And the race, you know, we used to always have something called the big king index.
So they use the price of Burger King in different countries to make sure it was similarly priced. I think that's quite important because, you know, the exam is typically quite expensive. And, you know, it's important for people to get to go through that process. So I think as far as kind of the interviews, side effects, you know, what's your kind of you know, what's your kind of structure when you're trying to interview somebody.
Henna Ashraf First? As for every will and the first screening is to do a series when you shortlist the people. But of course, once the person is over there, then usually I do want to talk a lot about the skills they have mentioned or what kind of experience to behave because I want to pay more attention to the ability of that person. That was the capability rather than what kind of experience they have in place. I'm more interested that what this person can do in the future or what's the potential. And then and then I think that's the basic thing I look for. That's the drive or the thrill to do something with passion.
Jonathon Wright I think passions are really good, but actually, you know, I love live interviews, you've got my face, I think both attended them. And also, you know, be part of them. And it is quite interesting because, you know, whenever people gave me feedback earlier on in my kind of career back, l kind of all the way back to the 90s, they always say, you know, the difference between yourself and other candidates was just you, your passion for, you know, what you do and how excited and enthusiastic you are.
And that's quite hard, especially when people are kind of nervous. And as you said, cut it, that introvert versus extrovert kind of mentality. How do you, you know, put yourself over and get the right kind of contacts? And it is really difficult because there are obviously lots of different types of interviews now. You know, there is the far extremes of the days that Microsoft, which I have been through that process where literally you kind of got you screening, you might, you know, have a number of phone calls.
Then you come in and they'll get you to do a practical kind of piece of work. Or, you know, in my case, when I went in, they literally got me to do a hypothetical, you know, a project proposal for a particular customer. So I actually had a whiteboard out and give them the idea of how I would transition this course of this customer and the potential opportunities based on, you know, an opportunity back or something. And, you know, I think that's, you know, there's one extreme to the other.
You know, I personally, you know, I try to balance in the middle. I am always kind of throw in a question that I used to establish the type of role that they are. And it's a reality if not, it's not to do with QA and it's quite interesting. So I always ask them, you know, if you've got infinite money, infinite time, you know, what is the best way that you would go about speaking to dolphins? And it's really interesting because, you know, obviously I'm not that bothered about actually speaking to dolphins, but, you know, it's the process and the thought process that people go through. So,
You know, straight away, it's kind of two sides of people this Friday, which is kind of the I'm not gonna say leaders or managers, but the fewer hands-on people who would be going to go, well, you know, the higher, you know, the best dolphin linguistics specialist and, you know, an army of people to do experiments. And then you'll have the other people who are kind of more Hands-On who go, well, actually, no, I want to do the experiments or what I introduce change. So, you know, give to dolphins Next future and see what the difference in the communication is.
You know, put dolphins away from each other, give them food, see, you know, and introduce Shave's to it so that I can that over time understand the basic kind of language and, you know, go into more of the depth, the linguistics of how they would then establish that kind of form of communication. So, you know, there are people who and then right away I kind of know, yeah, that's the person who kind of wanted to get hands-on and, you know, is very kind of process-oriented, which just got to where you were saying kind of with the I FTP if they're using their methodologies, they're looking at, you know, they're Paxton's that they've got to actually, you know, solve the problem.
But I think as important is the leadership side of things as well as those people who kind of say, well, actually, you know, I'd manage a situation like this. This is how I would deliver it. If Howard Relief said, you know, this is how I'd manage that. These are the kind of skills that I would need in my team to actually accomplish the task. And if it triffid, obviously, as we're kind of talking about to leadership in this kind of podcast's that you can feed to both of those, you've got the leadership expertise, but you've also got the practical QA background where you've come from. You know, do you find that being a leader now and, you know, BDD ahead of the testing role is incredibly challenging because you've got to manage all those different types of skill types.
Henna Ashraf Yes, it's definitely challenging because when we talk about a team, a team is consists of diversified people. Everyone comes for their own strengths and weaknesses. And throughout my management career, whenever I work with someone, there is one thing which I see a lot of focus on, and that is building their own profile.
So whenever I set any objective in any of my key members I have ever, ever worked with. I always insist on them that, yes, you are here to do a particular job. Yes. These are your professional objectives. But I am also very keen on your personal development. And sometimes it's very hard because some of the people, especially junior testers and QA people, they come here and then they dedicate themselves to the company doing everything the way they are.
I think they are not aware of that. Or are they doing something for themselves as well, apart from their role in the testing industry, in the industry or how they are growing themselves, how they are developing their own profile? So this is something I always pay attention to and I literally force them to do something like that whenever we have our one. Two ones are objective meetings. I do ask them. Okay, great. You have done this job you were supposed to do.
Apart from that, what else are you doing? Have you heard any new baby names? Have you attended any forums lately? Have you read any blog or. What are your future plans? Okay. How can I help you with that? So yeah, I do make sure that they are working on the first development as well.
Jonathon Wright And that can be really hard. You know, I personally know you know, I remember having a boss and his kind of said to me, you know, as a personal objective, he said, oh, you know, get into public speaking. You know, that was the last thing that I could possibly do. And then, you know, I ended up doing my first speaking gig. And I'm probably one hundred six public speakers agreed to it now. And I'm kind of going, yeah, that was a personal objective. It was out of my comfort zone. But the reason why he wants me to do that, if he wanted me to be able to, you know, express what I'm thinking in a more understandable manner.
So he obviously got an objective which you saw that he could, you know, give me as far as a personal one, which was outside my comfort zone. And then obviously, I've kind of flourished going through those over SEO got lots of thanks for Darrel's for his help there. But, you know, it's interesting how managers could shape, you know, people's careers and the direction of their path. So they go down. You know, do you find that? I know it's a very small world as far as the QA community. Do you see that you end up bumping into people that you've kind of set on the path years later and you always kind of keep an eye on them and see how they go?
Henna Ashraf Yes, of course. Now. I've been in the industry for more than 22 years. See? So, yes, there are a lot of people I am still in touch with. And thanks to LinkedIn and other social platforms as well, that it's very easy to be in touch right now.
And especially like there are so many platforms like this in forums, blogs. Yes, I do come across people, and especially when I come across any person who I have managed and I see them growing. I think that's a very proud moment for me, because, of course, it's their own ability and their hard work. But even if I have them tributed even a little bit, then yes, it's a very public feeling that I could be of any help or any kind of assistance while they were working with me. So, yes, now I have seen many people who have worked pretty hard.
And they are managers themselves in different domains, different sectors. And I also really feel nice when they themselves contact me and share the happiness that I have thought this through at this company. And. And I really feel nice that they wanted to share that with me. So, yeah, this is really nice.
Jonathon Wright And it's interesting you talked about when you said about screening, you know, there is a lot of people going for jobs these days. And, you know, it's very difficult to kind of look at a piece of paper and makes any kind of realistic assumptions about it. I guess the same as a book. But, you know, I remember earlier on in my career, I spend a disproportionate amount of time on my CV, you know, and it felt today is so incredibly over polished that, you know, it's you know, if get into one version of that like twelve pages to love, I know it should be two pages, maybe three months. And, you know, but so what I kind of myself I know there's a good, good friend of my magic FTP who, you know, is kind of where I first met him and sort of his testing career.
I helped him as a mentor. And now he's you know, he's working a blockchain and some really interesting stuff. But, you know, we both are doing one-page brochures, which I know sounds incredibly stupid, but it was a single, you know, single page which had some, you know, every bit of fight that you needed to know. But with, you know, supporting information was somewhere else. So he has was a baby and a bit more gamification. He had like, you know, tools that he's used in a little pie chart. He'd have, you know, industries that he's worked up BI segment. He'd have, you know, some facts about technology that he'd done or he'd contributed to.
So he'd written a Jamie a play, a game which had, you know, 100k downloads on it. So he added that odd two. And, you know, it was quite playful, but at the same time it represented what was going on behind any stand that stood out, you know. Do you have any kind of tips for when you're looking through? Is that what really makes it stand out for you?
Henna Ashraf Well, it's a case a year for me. I think if we see any specific journal CV, these people have mentioned the skills and tools since they usually have like a section that always uses this technology, etc.. But from my past experiences, like earlier when I was used to interviewing, I thought that I knew it, just that. Yes. When you ask them more about in the interview, then they say, Oh yeah, actually I have studied about it, but I don't have any practical experience with this too. And later on then. I said I thought that, oh, no, then this is no good because it's just like wastage of water five times.
So I need to change the way I'm screening the CVs. And after that, I would spend more attention to people who have mentioned the tools, but also how they have used it. I'm more interested to know. Yes. OK. You have used a pest management tool. Fine. But how and where? Because that actually shows the depth. That person knows about that specific technology. And secondly, as you mentioned, yes. Nowadays I think there are so many opportunities to do where we are. And you can make mention maybe briefly and maybe on the back of that, there can be some links to some blog posts, too, to any online source.
Maybe some people have contributed to automation, Feinberg's, and they have a good tab, the link somewhere. So I think that that's something really nice because that actually shows what that person has worked on. So these kinds of CVs are definitely one I shortlist because then it's easy to just continue the talk during interviews so I can just continue about what I have actually read in there.
Jonathon Wright Now, I think that's really a good step, and one of the things I used to do with I think I still do actually with my CV is I put on the left-hand side of the technologies I use, and that includes things like the stack, which are a few things. So that could be the development site which. And then I talk about what I did there. But I think that's quite useful in the sense of it. It shows you I've got that experience. And, you know, I know there's a lot of people who've kind of gone in and, you know, they might say that they're doing X, Y, and Z. And then when you ask them, they kind of say, well, no, I don't really have that kind of experience to that level. And I think it's it's important to get the balance right.
But I also think, you know, this is to two things which I've kind of learned quite recently was the first one I used to say to people with, if you get past the kind of the CV phase, the screening phase, and you get to an interview phase, you as far as the person is looking at your CV, is concerned you're good enough for the job. Right. The only problem is if you say something that then puts them off. So part of it is you've got to go in with a positive view that actually, you know, they're happy with you or, you know, the skills that you've got and you've just got to present yourself in the best possible light. And the second thing is, you know,
I know there's a lot of people I think you said you said it as well, coming out of university who maybe don't have a wealth of experience or, you know, the number of roles that they've done. So, you know, I do talk to people about putting in reusable skills and these can be things like soft skills. So they could be, you know, your communication capabilities, you know that you do a lot of, you know, social media or whatever it may be or it could be hard skills, say, you know, ads, both of those to your you're your profile.
And, you know, I did I think I still do is I used to highlight in bold work keywords. I want people to draw their attention. So if I kind of put an enthusiastic thought leader, I would highlight thought leader and enthusiastic to kind of draw people to. Well, these are the key things that I represent to myself.
And, you know, as they would have highlighted them on our on a traditional CV. And I think that you know, they would you know, they kind of start asking questions about what will what's that mean and what's the evidence behind it. You know, I know there's a lot of kind of, you know, people now who come through agencies and, you know, a lot of those agencies have a template. So they'll either say, oh, I want in a particular format with, you know, your role, you start the day, your end day and a description, and then you end up porting it into that template. And that kind of can distills your own particular style.
But there is other you know, there are lots of websites out there and there's also things like Fiverr, which is a good Web site for, you know, pretty much anything to ask people to kind of look at your CV and give you advice on, you know, do you have any kind of tips around kind of things that draw you to take off at Apple, you know? Is it that, you know, if do you check out their LinkedIn profile? Do you look at their social media as far as things like Twitter? I know it sounds a bit stalker. But, you know, what is the kind of the standard process that you go through?
Henna Ashraf Yeah, it might sound like stalking, as you said, but yeah, I will admit I do that. I do goes oh, I do see the LinkedIn profile to start with because I do want to is see, because sometimes there are more details in their profile, sometimes their recommendations which are quite useful on their profile and then their educational background, everything. So yeah, I do put through their LinkedIn to start with and then go back to the CV.
And as I said, that is I'm more interested in what they have, how they have used all the other tools since they have mentioned. And also one more section, which I am really, really interested in their hobbies or anything. They are doing their personal development because work of any kind of work, any sense to it, can be stressful at times. So I am really interested to know that. Okay, outside this profession. What else do they like to do and what are their hobbies? Because sometimes their interests also show what kind of strength they have. And at some point, they can be useful to their professional career as well.
Jonathon Wright I think that's really good advice. You know, I did my BI. I still got a copy. If anybody ever wants to look at my mum's CV, which has her hundred-meter swimming badge on it. Which I think maybe don't put on. But, you know, it is very funny to read. But actually, if anybody well, several looks at mine. I've realized I've got an old version for entertainment value on one of my Websites. My first company, Website, which was in 2003. I think it became you know, I first became a consultant and it's automation.org.uk. And if you go to that domain, click on my CBB, you'll get my one-pager, which, yes, is slightly out of date.
But it's quite interesting because I got this I've taken this one-pager approach and I think I you know, I'm happy to share all the templates I've got kind of you to know, I have this kind of quick introduction, you know, about what I'm doing. I have a skills matrix, which I kind of borrowed from the magic show on, which was kinds of my one to five kinds of basic knowledge to GDI skill level five achievements.
You know, it's just that I've done and I mentioned before, you know, it has a graph around industries and proficiencies and also personal. And they're interested because I have in the because of Steering's enthusiasm, which I've got I've given myself 5 stars for. And then I've got myself I give myself three stars for being a team player. So now maybe I don't play as well with others that I thought I did.
But, you know, part of it is, you know, I think, you know, it is a good representation of yourself. You know, you've got to keep an eye on your social media stuff as well. It isn't difficult for someone just to type your name into Google and find stuff that maybe you don't want to see as the professional side of you. So, you know, I think there's a lot of good tips there around, you know, people who are going through this interview process, getting your CV up today, a little better interview tips about how you put yourself across and, you know, showing that level of enthusiasm and also kind of being able to talk through every aspect of your CV.
So when someone says, well, you've got IBM Greenhow on here, what tell me a little bit more about that. You can talk about it in a bit more detail, but clearly and concisely. And then, you know, partly you've kind of said about their personal development kind of thing. As far as, you know, I get in the ISTQB exams, you know, going and going above and beyond to, you know, read blogs, take webinars, you know, listen to podcasts. Listen to this podcast, hit subscribe. You know, part of that on the side of it is, you know, these are all fantastic tips.
And, you know, to how do you put you know, the main part of this was around you offering to help people out there who might be going through some difficult times. They may have, you know, lost their jobs, who will have to go through this process and, you know, they reach out to you and kind of get some tips and help. And we'll obviously at those two, the show knows, you know, what's the best kind of way to get in touch with you and, you know, ask questions and, you know, what's your kind of tips? You any extra tips that you've got for people around, you know, ways that they can, you know, really help themselves put themselves in the best light.
Henna Ashraf Well, as I said, that is I have been training people on and off. Mostly, let's say that people I knew or people who like someone recommended and just forwarded to me. But now, in these circumstances as a force was clear from my post as well that I did want health to just spread out this word as much as possible to the people who are not in my network right now. And I'm really glad that I sent that post yesterday, yesterday. And since then, I did get a lot of replies on LinkedIn. And I also left a message on a few groups on Facebook as well. So I did get a very good response to that.
And now I will be working with them. How to maybe split every once a what they are planning to do, what are their requirements, and then maybe offer some group training set up. So I think anyone who is in that boat and need any kind of assistance, which I can provide, I'm more than happy to assist. They can contact me while LinkedIn or Facebook.
Jonathon Wright Now, that'll be fantastic. And, you know, we're trying as a moment. I did my first pro bono first clinic of the day, which was great. But, you know, I'm for those people who don't know already.
I the president, the Vivint community, which is the biggest independent software community, not for profit, that helps. You know, we got 70000 members globally in 125 countries. What we're doing as part of our social destiny in this kind of initiative at the moment is we're kind of helping to arrange the birth of different clinics. So anyone can come in and ask that. So it might be great to have you in there for the testing and QA clinic so people could jump in there and ask you some questions, you know, get involved.
So I will add you to tease out for it coming, you know, speakers, if you if you're interested. And, you know, I think, you know, maybe we can look at that in a blog out as well with some of the techs said to help people with, you know, going through this on how, you know, steps to kind of help them on that, to succeed with, you know, interviews. And also, you know, getting the CV up today.
Henna Ashraf Definitely. I would love to be part of it. Yes, please. Please do. In both.
Jonathon Wright Well, thanks so much for the fantastic podcast. And, you know, we'll make sure that we keep the viewers and the listeners up to date with your progress on this and any of the events that you do. And thanks again so much for being on the show.
Henna Ashraf Thank you so much, Jonathon, to give me this opportunity. And it was really nice speaking to you. And hopefully, we will stay in touch.
Jonathon Wright Absolutely. All right. Thanks so much.