I have been on the Stackify team for just short of 2 years now and, let me tell you, it has been a wild ride. Until recently, I was the only QA resource on a team of 8-10 developers. I had never been on a team with that many devs to QA’s, but I learned quickly it could be done. We’ve even figured out how to do it well.
Being an Embedded Team Member
The biggest lesson for me wasn’t just about testing. It was about becoming more integrated as a member of the team. Specifically, I needed to evolve the classic understanding of my role; I had to do my job differently. So what did I do?
I tested the applications
I wrote automated scrips
I worked with the dev team members who were writing UI code to make sure that what they envisioned would also be easy to navigate for the customer
I helped craft requirements and support documentation
I planned out releases and took on project management duties
I basically did a lot of work in a lot different areas that I hadn’t done in previous QA roles.
Don’t get me wrong, my point isn’t “work hard.” That’s a given. All employees—especially at startups and small companies—need to be focused, collaborative, and dedicated to doing what it takes (i.e. long—sometimes long, long—hours). I’m talking about being a swiss army knife. I was able to adapt and learn how to accomplish all these tasks by working hard, leveraging online resources, and leaning on past coworkers.
Here are a few things that made a big difference for the team and I:
- Mocking up UI: I’d never done it before, but by investing an hour or so I was able to communicate my view of the user experience much easier.
- Scheduling releases alongside test management: I have met so many great project managers, but small groups just don’t have the budget for them. I occasionally reach out to PM’s I’ve known in the past. Even quick questions over email have provided a wealth of knowledge around scheduling, release management, and time expectations. For example, we’ve found major efficiencies by scheduling releases alongside the test management work.
- Picking up new free testing tools: Selenium, Loader.io, Postman, REST Client, and so many others have helped make my job easier, and they’re free!
Most of us at Stackify are “jacks of many trades,” and fill roles much bigger than any job title can capture. This is maybe the single most important thing we do. We all cover a lot of ground, so that we can save on overhead in those ancillary needs, and spend most of our time on the actual creation (and testing) of the best product possible. This is especially important for those in QA because we will always be outnumbered by developers.
Devs create value in the company by creating a product. They have an insanely important job. QA is there to make sure that the product they create is polished, clean, without flaws (dare to dream), and ready to be dropped every so delicately in the customer’s hands. Being able to handle so many different responsibilities makes QA not only valuable as a resource, but a valuable part of the team as a whole.
It has been amazing for me to see the product we’ve created and ushered into maturity. I have seen first hand how helping Stackify’s application performance tools can be for devs; not to mention entire teams. I’ve been so lucky to have a big hand in that process, getting to touch and tweek so many areas beyond just physically testing the UI.
Ultimately, I think the most important characteristic for QA in a startup or small dev shop is flexibility; taking on numerous tasks, many of which you might have little to no expertise in. That can be scary sometimes, but I’ve come to see I can help get any job done. That’s pretty awesome.
QA Lead / Stackify