My Journey so far…

I was sitting in the sofa of an IT company, waiting for the interviewer to call me.

I was confused and was throwing questions to myself. Why are you here? You are not interested in working as a BPO executive and you know nothing about it? Did you study masters to end up here? After working as a research fellow for almost a year, you left it because you find it not interesting. It took you almost 2 years to get convinced to restart and study again, and now when you finished that, you are here to work as a BPO executive?

Finally HR came and took the interview, She sent me to the marketing director’s office for next round.
To make me aware of the job I have applied for, he told me
“This is not the job were you will working on software”.

After I finished answering his questions, he asked me “Do you have any questions?”.
The only question I asked him was “What about my growth in your company?”, to which he answered
“We do internal transfer and give opportunity to our employees to work in the area they can give there best?

To my happiness, the “internal transfer” phase came up within next 2.5 months, and after next 15 days, I had been transferred to “Testing department”. I felt the luckiest person on the earth at that point. I must thank my BPO manager for that, as he had recommended my name for the post and I know if he had not done that, my chances could not be that bright as there were many candidates for the same post. But he had two reasons to recommend me. First, I was not an asset to his BPO team and my supervisors would find mistakes everyday in my work. Second, he had seen me how much interested I was, when it comes to testing. I was so much excited when we were asked to test our company’s software as Beta testers for some 15-20 days. So he knew my interests and that lend me the role of a “Software tester” in 2007.

Initial days I spent into learning the process and testing stuff as I knew nothing more than finding the bugs and log them in to the bug tracker system. In the office luckily in my surrounding, mostly all people were seniors to me. To my next, I would find the test manager, and next to him was a project manager. Behind me was the test lead and other senior developers in our lab. This helped me to work closely with them as I could easily access them to share and discuss things, and that made be a bit confident, and they also started putting trust in me. Sometimes I found that they all were treating me as a senior tester though I was junior in the team.

I was more fortunate to get the first project assignment which didn’t have any specifications except an excel sheet and that too for just one feature. But as it was a prototype of the earlier project, I could easily access the software tester who was leaving the company and to whom I was going to replace in the next few days. So I started questioning him when I had doubts in the project features and its functioning. Unknowingly I started building my questioning skill and to get those answers/information I started reaching out to available and responsible people of the company. Gradually I find myself communicating to developers, testers and project manager. So I learned communicating to people who were completely strangers before.

After I finished up the testing for this project, I have been asked to write a user manual which can be used by business analysts to develop other documents in future as I was the only person who knew everything about the project and there was no documentation available. So by writing the user manual, I learned documenting features such that it can help its readers to its best.

Later I had been the part of many projects at different phases and so I gained the knowledge of other domains as well. The only thing I regret about is being the part of the project where developers were taking every bug personally and as if we were trying to block their way for shipping. There were lots of misunderstandings in communications and no team spirit. I learned that no matter how much good you want to serve, make sure to check out your receivers you are trying to transmit your services to.

Meanwhile I have started reading testing blogs and forums too. This is how I learned about the testers outside of my company, who are the active contributors for the testing community and care to teach testing and what matters and what does not. In one forum discussion, where I was objecting with “why can’t I (as a tester) tell developers to what should be the expected behavior, as I know much about the product than others do?” Here Shrini Kulkarni and Micheal Bolton gave me the convincing answers, and here I learned not to put bugs close to my heart so much that I can’t see their rejections. There would be many factors which would decide whether to consider this bug for fixing or not? I learned to present convincing answers to do bug advocacy and also leave them behind when situations asks so. But that didn’t limit me to present my findings.

In one discussion where I asked that I don’t feel looking into my test cases while I actually do testing, as my approach and mindset with writing test cases and testing the product is very different. Here for the first time I read and learned about why should not we write test cases from Pradeep Soundararajan. For my first project I had adopted the exploratory approach but I didn’t knew what kind of testing I was doing until I read about them. So I started relying on reading experts ideas to understand testing concepts and clear my confusion at times.

Till this time I was very much active in reading and learning. I used to feel great when I was at work until my dad passed away in 2008. This unexpected and sudden loss affected my interests and I started to stay away from gatherings unless and until it was required. This was the time when I learned how difficult it is to answer a simple question “how are you?”. I was okay but I was not. I think I was living into two different worlds at that time. One which all other could see, and the other inside me which nobody could see. But soon I got the control back as time passed on. But this phase taught me to accept things which are beyond the control.

In causal chit chats with colleagues I would hear the complaints that their seniors do not highlight the good work they did or are not mentioning their names in the project emails. I didn’t understand what kind of satisfaction it gives to people when somebody writes about them like “X person did a great work” in their mail conversation, or why people want their seniors to mention their names in their meetings with M.D of the company. Anyways it does not say anything more than categorizing our work, and more than acknowledgment it sounds like a formal process after project completion. Feedback really helps and is necessary to know if we are working in the right direction, it motivates us. But taking feedback just to hear good about yourself would not do much. I learned here that, I must not look at feedback as trophy to show off my work. When I find I really really worked good at some places, I would pet my back silently. So genuine feedback is what matters.

After next 12 months I found myself at the same point where I got myself ready to resign from the job, and that too without having another job in recession times. I won’t list the reasons here as they don’t matter, but an increment and work from home offer could not stop me as I had already made up my mind. The thing I learned here is leave the place as soon as you find that there is nothing more that could make you feel happy.

When I left the job I was confident enough that I would get another job quickly as in my company everybody used to appreciate my work and they would consider me first for any new projects when I was available. I started applying actively after I finished my notice period. Soon I realized that it won’t be that easy to get another job, as others’ would not find me as good as my previous employer did. But I was not regretting my decision to quit. The hardest thing in  in any interviews is to convince HR people. I mean they want to hear the truth, but at the same time they don’t respect it and find it hard to digest it. So they didn’t bother to call me for an interview, and I didn’t have any fancy tools to add to my resume. But this phase generated lots of patience in me. I learned that it is good to be nowhere than being at wrong place.

I started freelancing in last quarter of 2009 and got first project to test. I was very happy that I would be testing after almost 5-6 months. It was a fixed price project from UK. After some days I learned that there are some other testers too who are testing the same website, but we didn’t knew about each other. Also it appeared later to me that the buyer was interested just in the bugs and though he had a good rating over the site, I could feel that something is wrong. I emailed him that I won’t work now as I have other projects to which he replied he would pay me double and would rate my work as 5 out of 5. I said thanks but not thanks and left working for him, and I know he would not pay my dues. I learned that everybody is not as they appear before us. He was clearly doing frauds with testers by not paying them and recruiting as many as he can with different bids. I logged a complaint against him when I find he is still continuing the same thing with other testers. But as buyers are the payers, I find nobody took actions against him.

Soon I lent into other projects and find myself much more comfortable with freelancing. Working as a freelancer is really a joy. I can decide my work times, I can spend time with family and can work at most productive hours of the day, and when I feel not energetic or focused I would do something else and return later when I get the focus back. It also saves travelling time. It gave me a balanced life where I can focus on both personal and professional aspects.

Also I didn’t feel pressurized at work. Nobody would judge you on how many hours you are putting into the work. But focus is on how much work you have done. In past I had seen a tradition where if an employee puts more than X number of hours at work s/he would get the monthly bonus. I would find myself taking at least a day off in a month as I would travel to my hometown after my Dad passed away. That means it would cost my hours at the work. But I always made sure that my absence does not cost the project and I would finish my tasks mostly in advance by putting frequent deadlines on myself. Result was that I never got that bonus and people whose work would remain pending which require them to work on off days would get the bonuses every month. Here I learned that hours are not important than what I put into those hours. I learned not to fake hours for monitory gains. One can not develop honesty in a day, it should be the part of your habits:). So be more transparent to others. You might lose money but you would have most precious thing, your values. You can live the way you are.

As a freelancer I got access to talk to clients directly and that helped me to get the answers quickly when I had any doubts. With timely discussions I can switch priorities and know where to put focus on. What matters and what does not, what is expected and what is not, helped to reduce self made assumptions about the product. Discussing bugs would not have anything to do with whose code was that. Rather focus is on what is causing the problems. Nobody took bugs personally. These little things decide whether you are working to build a solid project or just breaking it so that you can add X numbers of  bugs to your credits.

Working virtually though requires a discipline, I mean  self- discipline :). As in testing if you don’t keep focus, you can easily wonder into the things which do not matter or are not that important, same can happen when one works from home. Others would come to me and asks me why don’t I try in the big companies, why am I working at this rate? They would tell me if I want to try at this company. The best person I have ever met is my uncle who always asks me why don’t I become a manager and manage others under me so that I don’t have to work 🙂 Anyways he doesn’t know the details so I take it as a joke, but seriously people will judge you without knowing what you are doing. Also I have come across many people who wants to work as a freelancer. They ask about everything from the site I started getting project from to how to register and what is the payment process. Can I help them getting the projects? I don’t like when people think freelancing as an extra income generator. One has to be serious as s/he would be with full time work. Its not a sweet dish you eat after you finished your dinner. When your are making a commitment, make sure you live up to your words.

When in 2012 I attended Jame’s RST workshop and a conference in Bangalore I could know how active testers are. They are constantly doing self checks to know what they are learning and what they are doing. This was really an amazing experience. Also a recent workshop visit to Pune gave me an opportunity to know some more testers there.  I guess I know more testers from other states and countries than my home state. But its good that you can reach out to people from different culture and know what they think and what they write.

I recently quit (yes, again without having another job, and plz I am not a Kejriwal fan 🙂 ) from the projects I was working on, and attending BBST course from AST. I purposely quit before attending the class so that I can focus better and don’t do things in rush. I am feeling like what was stopping me from learning when all these things were available at finger tips. But as they say its never too late to do what you really want to do.

As for the future, let there be surprises, it would unfold itself when the time is right. So goal is no goals, Just do what it takes and be patient. There is enough for everybody in this world 🙂