Smita-Mishra-QA-ZoneSmita Mishra is the founder and chief consultant at QAzone Infosystems, which is a pure-play software testing organization. She is a first generation Entrepreneur and is a Test professional who has spent over 12 years practicing testing and leading test efforts of varying sizes, cutting across all key domains and technologies. In the past, she has worked with multiple organizations, likes of – HCL Technologies Ltd, Fidelity Investments, Nucleus Software Exports Ltd, Churchill Insurance (Now RBS).
In her current role, she is involved in creating test teams, managing testing for software companies, leading the overall test strategy for them. She is also engaging constantly with different forums to assist growth for women in her field and women in general too.

Organization: QAZone Infosystems Pvt Ltd
Current Role/Designation: Chief Test Consultant & CEO
Location: New Delhi, India

* Interviewed by Jay Philips

1. Tell us about your journey to becoming a software tester. How did it start and how this has been so far? Was it planned or by accident?
My journey to become a good tester still continues. However, it began in 2001, with my first job at Nucleus Software Exports Limited, where I was campus placed after my engineering. A batch of about 20 engineers were picked from across the nation and put together as the founding (independent) test team. Honestly, I had no introduction to “Testing” until then other than the few chapters I read on SDLC, Verification and validation in a book of software engineering by “Roger Pressman”. It was planned by my employers not me but wasn’t really an accident. Once in testing, I quickly began to learn it and found it interesting.
I will agree that though I really enjoyed my work, the initial years were nothing exciting. But over the years, I realized that I enjoy testing more than anything else. There have been tremendous learning through the 13 yrs spent in the field. The more I learn the more I see I have yet to learn.
Hence, I can easily say that the journey so far has been terrific. 2014 seems to be extraordinarily good year for me and I am loving every moment of it, as a test professional.

2. When did you realize your passion was software testing?
I would be wrong if I said that it was love at first sight. It was not. But as they say – good music grows on you even if you don’t like it much in the first go. It was similar in my case. I realized I enjoyed testing early in my work life. But it wasn’t until 2006 that I began to love it. I attended the first conference in my life – it was a QAI conference where I was presenting a practice paper on estimations. Met many testers there and I loved the feeling of belonging to a community too. Then in 2007 I went to work in GE Healthcare account under the most dynamic technology leader and sharp as razor – Gazanfar Hakeem and an excellent Test Manager Smita Sethi (who also happens to be a very sharp professional). I got exposed to very technical testing in DW-BI (ETL Testing) and performance testing of these ETLs and implementing lean methodology. I would term that as the turning point in my career on how I began to look at my testing career. I realized I was cut out to do this.

3. Do you regret being associated with software testing today? Given a chance would you move from testing to any other field in IT?
No, clearly no. Quietly no. Loudly no. Simply no.
I am proud to be a part of an ever evolving field and that has a huge legacy of achievers. I can easily say I never had second thoughts about my work. Also, I would find it very difficult to work on a single technology or domain all my life – and to look conversely at it – which other field can give me so much exposure in understanding “what really matters” in IT field, while keeping me hands on with all latest technology.

4. What does QAZone do? How are its services different from the services offered by other similar organizations?
QAZone is a pure play software testing organization that offers Testing solutions and services, Test consulting, Test training and test support services (Test data management, test environment setup). We offer Business as usual testing as well as specialized testing. We have built a client base of over 20 clients in last 3+ years.
Our business focus is our key differentiator. Our testing solutions are designed to work for your business. We look at technology as a platform to make business happen. All our testing has a component of domain focus which becomes a very serious need of our clients when we are dealing with regulated environments like Aerospace and Healthcare.
Our next differentiator is that against the trend – we believe in hiring locally, even if it means training potential resources at our expense. For example – anytime we need a resource in US, our first approach is to find a resource locally. This has so far proven to be a very fruitful approach.

5. Last year you organized a conference called ThinkTest in India. Was that the first year of the conference? What were some key sessions and feedback?
We had planned for a conference ThinkTest 2013, which would have been the first of our initiative in this direction. We were very keen to bring James Bach to this part of India (and we still want this to happen). Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances at my personal end and not having suitable alternatives, we couldn’t take this forward. We will keep the test community updated of future plans related to this.

6. In February 2014 you held the first meetup for Test Practitioner’s Club. What made you want to create this meetup?
It always feels easier to work with people whom you have met and can relate to them as a face and as the vibes you share with them. All leading test conferences are still physical conferences not webinars. That’s because learning happens in many forms today and one of them is networking post conferences. With the thought of building a network of co-learners, we created a LinkedIn group – Test Practitioner’s Club and planned for its meet-ups that would help local testers to learn more from each other and get introduced to global platforms too. If we could – we would have such test meet- ups all over the country. We are planning to do one meet every month at the very least. We will keep posting the updates from our meets at my blog, for all to read.

7. I noticed that you are certified in ISTQB and QAI (CSTE). What made you decide to go for both certifications?
Yes, that’s true – I have indeed done both the certifications. I went for ISTQB (in 2005) because until then I had no certifications. And under our training and development program, my organization paid for this certification. However, later on I went for QAI (CSTE), as it was not widely done so far due to its cost and students failing in it and this made it appear more respected and challenging. I paid for this one myself.

8. Do you recommend that all testers get both certifications? Are there any other certifications you would recommend to other testers?
I would let testers decide this for themselves. But I can say it with reasonable confidence that these certifications do not prepare testers to handle serious testing problems. I enjoy being part of miagi-do and discussing actual test issues with real testers there and how to resolve them. I have heard very good things about BBST and most of the leaders I follow are associated with it. I would suggest all testers to atleast go through the content and format and decide for themselves.
If learning is the objective and certification is not really the goal, I would suggest testers to go through James Bach’s site for RST classes and RTI (online) classes.

9. According to you, what is lacking in today’s commercialized training industry, especially in testing?
With all due respect to the 2 certifications I did, I believe an ideal test certification would be one which would have more practical problems to deal with, as tests for their students and would involve real life situations of testing than focusing on glossary of testing and terminologies. Also, I would invest in domain led testing certifications for my team. So far, there are no such certifications available which would certify testers for regulated environments like those of aerospace and healthcare. I have heard of a new certification that Cem Kaner has come up with. I need to look into that one too, if it has domain based testing certifications.

10. What qualities will you look for in a candidate when you want to recruit someone for software testing job?
I like to work with enthusiastic people who enjoy learning new things and working on new areas. This is true not just for software testers but front office executive, accountant, HR and Admin folks – all of them.
Many today do not feel the need to look at the past experience and hire only for attitude. However, when I am hiring testers particularly – I like to see the kind of work they have done before and like to hear their stories of projects on exactly what was that they were testing and what were the key defects found. What was their approach and the key challenges faced and how did they bring up the challenges to the notice of relevant stakeholders and how did they do the contingency or mitigation as applicable.
Formally speaking, we have 2 set of patterns – one for freshers and other for lateral hiring.
For laterals particularly – We have a process that helps us map the required technical skills with the available resumes. So, anytime we have a need we look into our database of testers who have applied with us in past and from the matching resumes, we shortlist based on availability / joining time and expected compensation. Post this, we share certain project links with these potential candidates and expect them to submit us their Bug Reports in a given time frame. Finally, after a candidate is found technically suitable, we setup face to face interactions to evaluate more HR aspects and general communication.
For freshers, it’s really about what they have to offer beyond their formal education. No firm expectations, as long as they are able to convince us of them being fast learners and having aspirational attitude, they might.

11. What will you suggest to people who want to join IT industry as software testers?
I am very happy to be part of the software testing community. And I can only suggest the new folks that learn what is testing and then get into it. I find people to be doing testing for all the wrong reasons like – its easier that Development, it doesn’t need coding, timelines are easier and hence the work pressure, etc. None of this is true. Testing is becoming as challenging as any other part is with the ever evolving IT and
When I look back, I think the biggest gap that I see during my initial work tenure was how closed and we were in our approach to testing. working in silos as a closed group and not being exposed to the whole world full of knowledge and awesome teachers and trainers willing to invest time in you.

12. Name few people you would like to thank, people who helped you directly or indirectly in your career as a software testing professional.
I would like to thank my family for always standing by me – ALWAYS. But a special mention of my son here for being the world’s most loving and caring son and being very understanding when his mommy needs to work.
At work front there are too many names and I would like to thank each good and bad interaction, because it has helped me grow in one way or other. Everyone I know – Thanks for being part of my life.

13. One last question – Do you read Testing Circus Magazine? If yes, what is your feedback to improve this magazine?
Yes, I do read Testing Circus Magazine. I first heard about it in 2010 I guess when my manager Akash had been invited to be interviewed in it. But I never followed it then. I began to read Testing Circus since sometime in 2013 onwards.
I liked the original format of the magazine. But the new format is truly amazing. I really enjoyed the editions coming out in 2014. And I think they are doing all the right things to get noticed and to put in right content. My only words will be – continue the good work.
And maybe you can cover small meetups and group test events happening across the globe as a regular column. This could help other meetups to learn what more can be done and how to be effective.

Blog/Site: http://smitamishrablog.wordpress.com
Twitter ID: @smita_qazone

 

This interview was published in our March 2014 edition.

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