Q&A with our QA Director around everything Quality in Software Engineering

Our QA Director Ariadna Trueba is speaking at the STAREAST Conference in Orlando on the 3rd of May about how Quality plays an important role in final deliverables. We sat down with Ariadna to talk about all things Quality, the conference, and the evolving role of women in the technology industry.

Where shall we start! How long have you been in the field of Quality?

AT: I have been in the field for more than 10 years. However, I started in the IT industry, not in the “Quality industry”. So, I started with hardware setting up servers. I really loved that, but at some point, I realised that women were not really a ‘fit’ in those kinds of positions. So, I had to start doing something else, something more challenging. And that’s where I discovered the Quality side of tech. I started performing manual testing, reviewing issues, finding bugs, and I discovered a new face under technology that I really loved. And after that, I just started automating and preparing regulatory documentation for certifications regarding Quality and that is what has led me to that position that I have today, as a Quality Director.

How did you make that switch from Hardware to Quality, and how did you become the Director that you are today?

AT: I didn’t know anything about Quality when I started studying and working in technology. When I couldn’t move forward in IT hardware, I started looking for something else. That’s when I discovered the Quality side, and little by little I grew into it and started looking at technology from a different perspective.

What is Quality? What can I do regarding Quality? Because in software, you are providing software for somebody; a company, a product for a client, whatever it is, you are providing something! So I started asking myself, how do I provide better things? This is why after manual testing, I realised that finding bugs at the very beginning was the best option to provide more Quality to provide better results. 

I started asking myself, ok, I am also a user. So what I am expecting to receive if I receive that product that I am testing. I would ask myself again and again, how can I improve the product that I am going to deliver?

For somebody not involved in technology, a random person on the street, how would you describe Quality?

AT: It’s difficult! It’s really difficult to try and explain to non-technical people. I always say “I work under Quality software, assuring that the product that you are receiving, in software, is what you are expecting to receive”. I assure that my teams work on creating the best product under the requirements that the client asks for, or that the user is expecting. 

So you are a user, you are using a smartphone and you don’t know anything about that application, right? And you expect that the application is going to work the way you are imagining, right? I am the person assuring that this is what you are receiving through evaluation, control and then validation.

So in the 10+ years of working in Quality, what would you say are the biggest lessons that you have learned?

AT: It’s difficult to sell Quality to a client. This is why the client often rejects it initially. I would say ‘try to understand the client needs, try to understand the client first, to present alternatives and a vision of the final product, after applying Quality controls. 

So, you don’t try to sell a client QA’s. Try to explain, or show, to a client what the alternative of providing Quality, or not providing it, is. Try to explain or demonstrate to a client their final product with, or without, Quality. This is one of the main topics of my talk in Florida, regarding client needs and what they are expecting. Because this is something that we don’t really ask them: what do you want from this product? What are you expecting that we provide to you as a software company? What exactly do you want?

Let’s say you are building a new mobile application for a bank. An application for a Bank, for a Fintech, it is not going to be the same as a cooking application. The focus is different, the user experience is different. So what are you expecting? Are you expecting your client to see their balance when they login to the application, or that they see their main recipes when they login,, what is your expectation? Because it changes depending on the purpose of the application. So the value here for Quality is trying to show to the clients the value of providing Quality controls, to assure that the final product is what they are expecting to see. 

You find that sometimes on a project people say: “no, we don’t need Quality; why do we need it when the developers will implement it perfectly?”. A lot of times this has happened to me, and this is the main phrase I hear in my job! Then we need to change our point of view and try to demonstrate, and show, the client what is the importance of adding Quality, and what can happen if we don’t add Quality.

What are the different roles in Quality?

AT: Usually you always see that there’s the QA Manual, the QA Automation. Now we are starting to create a QA Specialist, a QA Manager or a QA Lead. So for example, if you need the Quality based on the user experience, you will need the manual tester because you need the human feeling, the human vision, the feel of an application as a user. If you want to control the whole Quality process, you will need a manager, for example, a QA manager or Test Manager, depending on the company. If you want to manage teams, there’s the QA lead. And, if you need somebody really experienced, capable of solving any kind of technical situation, or proposing solutions, alternatives, you need a QA Specialist.

Delving into your talk at the STAREAST Conference, how does Quality play an important role in the final deliverables?

AT: There’s the situation where there is a final deliverable, a major release that you are delivering, to your client. But you have to realise that this client already has clients. So it’s like a chain, everyone is expecting something. Your client is expecting that your software works as they designed it, or as they specified in a list of requirements. But the client also has their own clients, customers that are expecting a working product. Our clients are selling something to the customers, and customers are expecting that the product works the way that they are paying for. 

So this chain needs to have assured value from the development side, all the way to the very last customer. You need to add Quality controls by evaluating from the customer, to the client, to the software. We need to evaluate the customer of our client, what are they expecting? For example, if I am using a bank application and I am not seeing my balance, it is not working for me, as a user. So we must evaluate at an early stage situations for unexpected behaviours before completing the development. You have to think like a final user all the time

And this is what I will be detailing at the conference!

Based on the specific talk that you are giving, what are the main lessons that you have learned?

AT: The main lesson is the relationship with the client. I used to always treat the client presentation as “ we need testers, we need to test things. This is what we have to do…”. But year by year, I learned that we cannot sell it this way to a client. Right now, there’s technology everywhere and there’s lots of frameworks and tools that can provide you Quality solutions, or test your product. So, we need to understand the client, try to get into the client so that they can understand our value. This involves managing personalities, understanding who the client is, and who the people involved are.

What separates someone who is good in this field, and someone who is great?

AT: It depends on 2 factors: technical skills, and managing skills.

Regarding technical skills, it is easier to evaluate. For example, having a situation where it is needed to set up a new framework, or a new architecture; what can we do here? A “great” Quality engineer would say: “you will need this and that, and maybe an alternative will be this one or that one”. Basically someone who is great goes directly to a solution, or provides a couple of proposed solutions, but can also provide multiple options. Someone who is “good”, goes under the orientation or indications from the experienced one, not being able to propose new alternatives, but performing a great technical job!

And secondly, managing skills; managing the Quality value and the Quality control. This is someone that knows the Quality methodologies and applies it. For example, having the situation where you need to apply a certain kind of framework under certain practices, and you need to help your team members to adapt it, and put it in place. Someone who is “great” goes deep into it, evaluates the client, what they have, what they really need, and adapts the main Quality methodologies and practices to achieve it. Adaptation is what brings you to a higher level.

In the last 10 years, have you seen any trend or any upsurge in women getting into the industry of Quality?

AT: I think that there is a trend that every year there’s a lot more women involved in technology. I remember when I started studying at university in 2003, for a technical career, there were only 3 women in the class, and around 80 men. Now, there’s a lot more women in universities, studying technology, and involved in the industry in general.

Especially in Quality, I have seen during the years that there are a lot more women involved in talks, it seems like this is a trend. Right now, there are more women than men performing talks and webinars about Quality. Women have realised that they could have more influence on the Quality side than in the technical side of the technology.

Why do you think that is?

AT: I think that there’s still a feeling of being afraid of getting involved more on the technical side. When I started in the IT area, I had to change because I didn’t have the opportunity to prove my qualities on the technical side. Why? I think that it’s sociological, but year-by-year this is changing. It’s definitely changing. But there’s still a lot of work to do, and I think that in Quality, women see a way of starting to get involved on the technical side, a gateway, and elevate themselves to a higher level of knowledge.

As you said, things are changing, things are evolving. In your opinion, what do you think still needs to be done?

AT: I think that women need to be more sure of their ability on the technical side. Women are going into interviews and trying to prove to themselves how good they are. And I say “believe in yourself!”. I think that this is the final step; believe in your skills! Because I’ve seen in interviews that they are maybe not sure on answering certain questions in a certain way. But I know that they have the knowledge because I have asked different questions and they have answered them perfectly! I know that they are good, capable, but they need to believe it so that they can show it. They might think that they need to prove MORE than a man, but the truth is that they are more capable than they think. Women only need to stand up and believe.

Ariadna Trueba gives her talk at the STAREAST Conference on the 3rd of May, 2023. Stay tuned for more insight!