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Transitioning Into QualityOps (with Parveen Khan from Square Marble Technology)

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Announcer:

In the digital reality, evolution over revolution prevails. The QA approaches and techniques that worked yesterday will fail 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.

Jonathon Wright:          

Welcome to the show. I’ve got Parveen who’s a great speaker, who I’m actually going to be speaking with at a number of conferences this month. I’m really excited to have you on the show. Tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.

Parveen:             

Yeah, thank you for having me. So as you know, I’m Parveen, and I’m a tester. I really like sharing my ideas, by speaking and writing different blogs at different places. So I’m willing to speak along with Jonathan at a few conferences this month. Really looking forward for that. And also I’m very passionate about testing, so I really different things, I really like learning new things, which will allow me to implement those into my testing while improving my quality.

Jonathon Wright:            

That sounds fascinating, and you’ve got such an inspirational journey. And what I love about it is, you’ve just had a raw kind of, I’m going to share my story with everybody and I love that. I mean you’ve found the hearts of your people like Angie, [inaudible 00:01:20], all the guys who are making a big impact today. I can see that you want to leave your kind of footprint as well. I’d love to hear about how you started because obviously doing your masters in computer applications. Was there much focus on quality and testing when you went from an academic perspective, or is this something… What got you started? What got the bug?

Parveen:             

Yeah, that’s a good question. So as you said, I have done my masters in computer applications, right? So since I completed my schooling since then, I was very related to what I was very proud of learning about computers. I was very fascinated about that. So even when I used to get my school holidays or my college holidays, I would take up a course to learn something about. Many courses like learning about HTML, learning about Javascript. I used to do that. After completing my masters, I wanted to get into, I didn’t know where I should start from, what I should go into. So I was trying to take some positions here and there, and there were some people who were trying to guide me and give me suggestions.

Oh don’t go for developing side, this is not something for you as a woman, it’s very stressful, don’t go for it. And that’s where I kind of took up that as a challenge and ended up teaching about computers in a university, which was completely a male-dominated university. When I say male-dominated, it was just for mostly teaching masters. So I ended up teaching back then it was easy classes, so I ended up teaching that. After that, yeah I came back to UK in 2009. I was on a break, basically, I was on my career break for four years. I ended up just being the university lecturer at that point. I took a break for three, four years. I had my neighbor who I didn’t know in my academy that there is something called testing.

Apart from having one small chapter, something related to testing. Apart from that, I didn’t know anything about this thing. And as I said I had my neighbor who was into testing. When I had some conversation, it really fascinated me. I really got interested and then I started studying about this thing. I just started to read a few books around and try to find out what it is. So my interest to being into this newness of the world, I thought this is really very interesting. And that’s where I got started into testing, and that’s it. From them, it’s been a wonderful journey, where I’ve been learning, I’ve been working with different teams on different, so many varieties of products as well.

Jonathon Wright:             

You’ve kind of got the testing bug.

Parveen:             

Yeah.

Jonathon Wright:         

I think it’s lovely that you’ve kind of found that passion. You found your own journey through there, and part of it is as you’ve gone through there, you’ve obviously you’ve gone to try and find books and courses and self-learn some of this stuff yourself. And this is kind of where we wanted to build the community. This podcast that’ll go out to people, is going to be people just like you who started on this journey and have got no idea how to go about it. Have you got any tips about the kind of resources that you’ve found really useful, books that you enjoyed or anybody in the industry that you followed on kind of social media? And tell us a little bit about that and how you started getting connected with those guys.

Parveen:             

Yeah. When I started into testing, really I was completely unaware of this wonderful community. I was completely unaware of this. So I think back in 2018, so that’s where my exposure to this community started, and that’s where I started to follow people. And I think Angie is really the first person whom I’ve seen her speak. I was just searching for some resources to learn something. So that’s where I saw Angie [inaudible 00:05:45] automation. So that’s where I got connected to her, and that’s where, I think that’s kind of unlocked my community, world of community. And that’s when I started getting more on LinkedIn and Twitter and following a lot of people where they shared their resources. And I think one of the wonderful things for me was also starting to attend different conferences. And especially a lot of resources from the Ministry of Testing, Test Batch and a lot of other conferences. And of course following people like Lisa Crispin, a lot of other people. Like [inaudible 00:06:25], Lucy Hawk, there are so many other people who have been following and learning from them, and yeah.

Jonathon Wright:             

Well, what we’ll do is we’ll have to get you to do a blog of a few people that you can help other listeners follow and maybe subscribe to. So some of the names that you’ve given there, it’d be great for them to kind of just be able to follow those people, and look at those resources. So we’ll get something up on the QA lead, so we can share that because that sounds really good. And we’ve got Lisa Crispin coming on the show in a couple of episodes. I know she did a big call out for you when you did the Hungarian, your first public speaking. I’d love to hear about how you submitted for that. What made you do the call for papers, what made you kind of submit an article. Did you have a mentor, was it the community? What drove you to do your first public speaking?

Parveen:             

Yeah. Again, coming back. I’ve never come across this is something you can do as that. When I saw Angie speaking, when I saw her video, the way she was talking, I really got inspired by that. And that’s where I was like I would never think, I was never like, okay, can I do that as well? But it is something I came across speakeasy when I was searching around, I didn’t know how to start, where to start from. But then somewhere when I was looking at the different resources, that’s where I came across speakeasy. And when I approached them it was a nice program where you get a mentor, and they will help you about getting into speaking or they will try to mentor you.

So that’s where I got, and I was so super lucky that I got the same person as my mentor from whom I got inspired. So that was kind of a big, huge dream come true for me. And that’s where my journey started. And Angie Joan, she helped me a lot in finding my voice basically. I can say that’s what I can say. She helped me to find my voice, and that’s where it all started. And 2019 was where I was going across a lot of different conferences where I was sharing again. I shared my different stories, one was about my transitioning into agile, what different challenges I faced. That was one again in the story. And the next one was transforming into DevOps, which I’m going to speak at BCS as well.

Jonathon Wright:             

And I’m on the BCS committee, and part of it when we were selecting you because your name was the first one to come up actually for speaking. And part of it is we’re looking at internships and mentoring as well as part of kind of inclusion. Part of what we really want to do is get people who are young, and I think Angie inspired a whole generation of people to do coding to really see how you could do this, right? And empower people too. And I think why we brought the BCS back, is because that envisions that new world, right? That new kind of story that you’ve got to share. And I’d love to share your testing tour when you did the sketches on that, for some of the sessions that you did.

I thought that was fascinating, and I think that is you telling your story. And it’s great that you got a mentor and Angie is a rock star in the testing landscape. And I’m sure you’re going to do some really good sessions. So I’m looking forward to speaking, we’re speaking at an event together on the 22nd this month, which will be great fun. And you’re also doing the first-ever British computer society SIGCIS, the specialist interest group for testing and headlining our DevOps. So it’s going to be great to see you talk about that dev op journeys. So I’ve looked through some of the slides. I think it’s a really good journey to share. Actually a lot of people who keep coming on are asking about how do I do DevOps, how do I do agile? It’s great to have somebody there who’s sharing that experience. So back to your testing tour for a little bit. Can you tell me how you got started with the sketches and what inspired you to do that?

Parveen:             

Yeah, so my testing tour, so basically that’s where I went to one of the conferences in 2019, which was Dispatch Brighton, and that was my first ever conference. So that’s there. I heard a talk by Lucy Hawk where she shared her journey or testing tour. So I kind of got so inspired because sometimes you relate to some of the talks, you relate to the story. And then I was so inspired that I wanted to try it by myself. Even I wanted to try that. So that’s where I got inspired, and that’s where I kind of tried to, I went onto my own testing tour. So I tried to pair up with different people on different topics and learn and share together basically. So it’s kind of having a pairing up session, where you together learn and share about different topics.

Jonathon Wright:             

And I think that’s really good because each time you go and like you said, sometimes the talk kind of inspires you, or you can relate it to. And then sometimes some of the topics that you had on here, there was performance testing, there was pair programming, there was exploratory testing. Part of it is there are so many diverse disciplines within testing. And I’m guessing each time you sat and you observe one of these sessions, you’d have takeaways that you wanted to share. And you’ve sketched, which is fantastic. And also I love the whole kind of quotes that you’ve found, like go slow to go fast and things like that. Which is really helpful, because it’s inspirational in the sense of people can relate to it, but they can also kind of go, well I understood when I was looking at this. I don’t understand that component.

Who can I speak to or what community can I go to? And the ministry of testings a fantastic source of information for that kind of stuff. So as far as your kind of journey now you’ve obviously, you’re working at a company and doing your part of the DevOps team, I guess in your current role. That Square Marble Technology, you’ve been there for about six months now. What kind of work have you been getting involved with, and what’s your kind of current role look like?

Parveen:             

So yeah, at Square Marble Technology. So I’ve joined this new team completely. So we’ve been trying to build the team from scratch, to work on a new product. They have their own product, [inaudible 00:13:39] product. So my role is basically coming in as a tester on that team. And I’m the first tester, again a solo tester. So I have to be starting my role initially to build up, be part of the team, build some the strategies within the team. And then slowly then we can expand the team. It would be testers, developers, all different roles. So basically initially it’s just six months now. So I’m the only tester right now over there.

So trying to understand the product, being part of the team. So that’s the same thing which I’ve done with my previous company as well, where I was very much involved in being kind of a testing advocate of being involved in the DevOps transition. So even here is something not exactly similar, but little bit similarities where we are also transitioning into DevOps. We are almost there, but kind of working with different, it’s kind of different set of tools which I’m working here. And also we are transitioning into the domain-driven design, so it’s quite different. So this is exactly, yeah, still it’s kind of a very huge, huge role. I can say where I’m involved everywhere, but it’s really interesting and challenging. That’s the reason why I took up this role.

Jonathon Wright:            

So I know you’re really passionate about this, as a kind of a solo testing hero advocate, in that kind of role, do you feel that your role is to go out and learn and bring in knowledge for the rest of the team. And share that knowledge, through wikis and do you do kind of… Obviously you’ve presented now a couple of events, but how do you present that back to the team? Your findings or your idea is if you’ve got an idea for something? How’s that work as a solo?

Parveen:             

Yeah. I think one of the reasons why I went onto this testing tour was because most of my career has been a solo tester. So I always, I never got an opportunity to pair up with someone, some tester. So that’s the reason why I thought this is a good opportunity for me to pair up with different testers to look at the different mindsets, how they work, how they think. And then going outside in the community, attending conferences or learning, I really listen to a lot of webinars as well. So trying to take that information and trying to have conversations with different people in the community. And I think I think of those ideas based on what my team is going through right now, what kinds of challenges. Or for example, right now my team, we are setting up the process.

So I would go out and try to see how different people are trying to do those kinds of things, and then come up with… I’ll try to add my own ideas and take those ideas together. And then I tried to present it. I try to present to, for example, I then try to my team lead, and then I can share that idea. And if my lead likes it, then I kind of do a presentation or kind of a session with my whole team. And then kind of take feedback to see whether they agree. It’s not like I don’t try to impose anything, but I advise to go take the ideas and present it and see if people like it or not. So based on that kind of feedback loop, try to work in that way.

Jonathon Wright:            

So I guess with DevOps it’s a fail fast, learn rapid kind of culture. It’s kind of, I’m not going to say agile 2.0, but you’ve got kind of agile, you’ve got a bit of a manifesto. You kind of, you’re going through quick iterations. And then DevOps is maybe even at a faster rate. When you think about DevOps and that kind of culture kind of change to agile. What was your difference from coming from a team, which was kind of doing an agile transformation to what sounds like your doing again, but in a DevOps landscape, what kind of to you is the big differences?

Parveen:             

Yeah, so it was interesting for me that I went from waterfall to agile, and then from agile to DevOps basically. So I can see the difference, what the difference is for me. Again everyone has their own way of doing, they have their own way of doing agile. They have their own way of doing the work. So for me, it was agile, I got more value team members. I felt like I was more valued as a tester, and there no silos basically. So I was really interested while doing agile. So this was one of the aspects of agile. But then when I transitioned into DevOps, it was more about pushing yourself. For me, it was mainly because when I was completely new, there were a lot of things going around. Do we have any space place as a tester or not?

So you have a lot of questions, right? But then I think the difference is quite a large shift within the DevOps. The difference for me and also is you are more and more involved within the team. Just like when we talk about agile, when we’re working in waterfall you say okay, testing is just one phase. But in agile, you are involved everywhere, right? For me, with DevOps, it was the same strategy of involving, but it was more and more involved very early on. And trying to not just accept whatever has been… Sometimes the quality gets neglected, or sometimes people say that, okay this is some kind of technical things. You don’t have to be involved in these things. You hear these things a lot when you hear about all these pipelines and DevOps goals.

So that’s where I think I kind of had to be very courageous, and I kind of had to be very pushy myself. Yeah, I had to find the space. Of course, I had already a good team. Anyway when you’re working no one understands you straight away. But when you try to explain when you try to create your visibility, when you try to show that this is the reason why you have to be involved and you have to be there. So that’s where people would understand, and they will, I mean for actually I was lucky that they could value why I’m trying to say this. So this was kind of a difference for me.

Jonathon Wright:             

I think it’s really interested. And I know I’ve got one of your slides up at the moment. And you mentioned about kind of shifting left and a bit earlier in the life cycle as far as well, when should you get involved. And when should you know test or quality be, at what stage. And you’ve got here you’ve got things like you’ve got your integration tests, your content-driven tests, your API tests, smoke tests. And then you’ve got this fast loop back where you’ve got passes or fail, or it’s ready to be deployed into the next environment. I think I guess each environment, whether it be pre-prod staging, QA, performance, security, there are all sorts of different types of testing and quality checkpoints that you’re doing there. And I originally joked at the title for this as quality ops, in the sense of really what you’re talking about is adding quality gates to that process, where there’s no real too early to get involved or too late to get involved.

And Dan North is a good friend, and he’s talked a lot about DevOps. And when he talked about DevOps blurring the lines between operations and development. I really liked the idea that actually it was around a kind of extending your reach out to not only processes and teams that you used to be dealing with from a software development life cycle, but now to an operational, and a business kind of perspective. Do you find that you are dealing with, I know you talk about silos in your presentation? Do you find you’re dealing with either more stakeholders and more teams than you were doing when you were doing agile? Or do you think it’s just your reach is greater? Or how would you describe your role changing from the kind of your involvement in an agile life cycle versus DevOps?

Parveen:             

Yeah, I think in terms of involvement, I think it’s a bit DevOps. It’s more, and I find more of… Rather than just defining about what needs to be tested and how it’s more about defining at the initial point of when the story level starts. For example, if I go into detail. When the two-level starts, at this moment I think it’s just for me because I could see the architecture. Earlier on I did not question any decisions based on the architecture level or unit test level or API level. And again it could be because of the way our team was working, because we used to never write any unit test, or never write any integration test. But then with this DevOps, it became so obvious that because we had to go with the pipelines. For example, [inaudible 00:23:56] integration, there was no way that you could escape. Actually certain tests, you can’t say that you are covering everything directly, you have to like certain things.

So that’s kind of changed completely for me, because then my team, developers started to write at least some amount of tests, at least some amount of integration test. And then I was involved. I got exposure to looking at those tests and pairing up with the developer to see what they’re writing and having some discussions. So I think it started off more earlier there was not much about me pairing up with the developers on certain things. Apart from having those three amigos, and just discussing about [inaudible 00:24:42]. But now, I think it’s more and more involvement of me. Even if they want to add some… Because I was also involved in building the pipelines. When you have to decide what stages do we have to have. It’s like a whole team approach.

It’s not about developers deciding what stages do they want, how they work or just anything [inaudible 00:25:07]. I’m not saying developers are testers, but then it’s, as a whole team coming up with the entire set out, what would work for us and what was possible for us basically. So I think the involvement was more for me in terms of when I was working in DevOps, and of course because with agile it was the releases, but you have one in two weeks releases. But now it changes completely. Now because for us we are having releases, one release ever one day or two days. So your complete mindset changes. How do you think? For me, the difficult part was you have to let go. You can’t say that oh my God, I want to my whole this kind of testing goals, you have to let go that mindset and occupy what you have to, or you have to change completely basically. So I think that yeah, it’s involvement, getting that visibility and letting go and trying different approaches towards testing. Yeah, this is what was different for me completely.

Jonathon Wright:             

Well, I’m actually really looking forward to hearing your talk, because that sounds really fascinating. And I guess the next step a lot when you’re talking about things like I guess a new trend is things like site reliability, engineering and chaos engineering. And all those kinds of things where there’s quite a big focus on the operational state. So like you said, you’re releasing something one to two days, could be twice a day, it could be X amount of times a day. And then the products there like you said, you feel you’ve got to let things go, and let it go. And then just kind of once it’s gone, you’re actually then kind of, it’s in an operational state where you’re learning quickly, you get in tickets from issues that maybe get detected. You start seeing things, patterns that you kind of go, well actually that doesn’t look right. Do you find that you’re learning a bit from what’s going on in the real world, and how people are actually using the application? Or do you still feel like once it’s deployed, how does that differ? How do the teams differ? What is the extended reach?

Parveen:             

I think, earlier on yeah, I will admit this. I was more of like, okay, once I do my testing and once it is on the production, all I do is do my smoke test and I’m done. But now, it’s not that. The actual thing starts when it is going onto the production because that’s where people start to use. That’s where you see whether whatever you have done it’s working or not. Even though it works for us, it works for my whole team, if it doesn’t work for the real users then there’s no point of whatever we have done so far, right? Whatever process we have used, whatever tools we have used that won’t make any sense at all. So I think right now the shift has completed, it’s kind of shift left and shifts right as well, basically. So it’s, I kind of get more involved with the business stakeholder, who are very close to the clients.

We have it set up where we have our own project managers who deal with different clients because our system is multi-tenant, so we have different clients using the same system basically. So at the moment what I can see is I try to be very close to business stakeholders and see how they use the system, because again when and I say multi-tenanted systems, every client is using the system in a different way for a different use case. So that comes to the challenge.

For example, I have my system, I can test my own way, I can see the UI, I can see those different actions, I can test my way. But at the end when the users are using, every user is using in a different way. Every client is using in a different way. And if you don’t get that, then my testing is of no point. My testing errors are of no point. So that’s the reason why I tried to be very close with the business stakeholders or the different stakeholders and try to get, how they’re using the system. Especially once any feature has gone live. That’s where my actual curiosity starts. How are they using, are they finding any difficulties or is there any feedback after that feature? The actual feedback starts from there basically for me, like right now, yeah.

Jonathon Wright:             

I love that, and I love the curiosity side of things about, it’s like just letting it out in the wild and seeing how it behaves, and how it grows. And I guess part of where you’re talking about having multiple tenants, using it in different ways. So potentially they’re all configured differently. Maybe they’ve got customizations on there. It’s great you’ve got these kinds of content-driven tests. I’m guessing, that said, well you’ve said some really interesting things in the sense of their writing unit tests. They might be doing an integration test. Do you do an end to end tests? Are you doing the smoke tests? And then part of it is you’re building the context on top of that. So what’s it like for customer X versus customer Y, and does customer Y use features in the same way as customer X? And this is this whole kind of Canary kind of it starts getting confusing. You’re starting to do AB testing to say, well in this tenant, if we turn on this capability will they use it?

If this other tenant uses it in a different way, or if we start customizing things or doing feature flags or whatever else it is, it suddenly becomes incredibly complex. And I’m really excited about your story here because it sounds like your not only the ambassador for quality, and you are bringing in some of those tools into your arsenal. So you’re kind of going, what’s next? So you’re doing smoke tests then kind of going, actually what else could I do? How can I get closer? How can I get involved with the teams? How can I get closer to the business to understand their requirements? And I think this solo hero kind of testing heroes is a great idea. Where it’s, you’re really pushing the, how can I get more involved, and how can I learn from what we’ve done before.

And I think it’s fascinating. So I’m really looking forward to seeing your presentation, and hopefully, we can share that with the listeners as well. And also some links to some of the great names that you’ve mentioned. So I’m going to ask you kind of what’s your, for the people listening who are probably gone through that same journey as you did, have you got any kind of really good kind of tips on sites to go to, training to look at? What would be your advice for them who are just starting out, or even if they’re just trying to learn more?

Parveen:             

Yeah, I think now if we see there are so many resources out there, where you can learn so much stuff. So I think I’ve always found that me learning how I tried to learn by myself is going out. As I’ve already mentioned about a few, there are a lot of sites. There are a lot of resources out there, but few to name them, which comes up into my mind right now, is the Ministry of Testing, Test Automation University. And there are different blogs. I think once you start looking at it, you try to get so many people involved and the community’s so great that I think I just have one formal one, which I can say is asking. I think we always have that fear, I don’t know whether I’ll get the answer or not. Where people might answer me or not, you don’t know. Asking questions has always worked for me. You don’t know how people might, you will be surprised to see that, if you reach out to someone they’re always ready to help you.

And I’m part of a lot of Slack groups, where I can ask… So right now that’s what I’m saying. There’s so many different resources which you can try to find if you have any question. I tried to use Slack as well, you can see I have a lot of Slack groups where if I have any question or if I’m stuck, it’s just asking away and trying to get the answer from different people. And again, you get different viewpoints, different perspectives from different people. It’s not something you’re just reading, reading, reading, but also it’s a two-way approach, where you can ask questions straight away and get an answer for it. And we all read books. I’ve never read books, to be honest, so I just started reading different books. And I am so enjoying that now I’ve started reading, a book by Dez Humble about DevOps, content delivery. So Mike [Lice 00:34:43], I might be giving his name in a wrong way, but yeah, I don’t remember the title of the book. But yeah, I’ve started reading so many and exploring it, by Elizabeth Hendrickson.

Jonathon Wright:             

Yeah, she’s a good friend. ATDD is just a lost art. Elizabeth is a fantastic speaker as well. And I think Dez as you mentioned with the continuous delivery book, it’s a really good book. So I’m going to have to get your book list, which you’re going through at the moment. And we should put those out. And a great quote, great idea around the test automation universe. That’s a brilliant initiative which Angie started out, and it’s free. It’s really helpful, really good platform. And we’ll add a link for the Ministry of Testing Slack channels because I know that is extremely active. And you’re right, it’s such a wonderful community. But with that said, thanks so much for this podcast, and it’s been an absolute pleasure. And I can’t wait to speak at the same conference. We can have a proper catch-up, and then we’ll have to get you back on the show, and also get you to do some more blogs.

Parveen:             

Awesome. Thank you so much for having this, and I really enjoyed sharing my experiences and my journey with you.