Navigating Your Career as a Woman in Tech | TechWell

Navigating Your Career as a Woman in Tech

By
Janna Loeffler
-
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - 09:00
Janna Loeffler

pennytests

Question for Janna: Have you found that women can sometimes be taken less seriously than men in the tech world?

JannaLoeffler

Absolutely! I have actually run into this in a past position. However, I’ve never let it slow me down.

I’ve also learned that if Im not happy or not being taken seriously at a job, it’s probably not a good cultural fit

pennytests

Good point

JannaLoeffler

So, you have a couple of options: Find a new job or find a team. It all depends on the scope of the issue. You can also address directly, call it out. Sometimes people don’t realize their actions.

I’ve just learned that life it too short to be miserable.

pennytests

Have you ever ‘adjusted’ your personality/speech/etc. to attempt to help with the gap?

JannaLoeffler

I’m very careful with that. As humans, we need to have compassion and understanding. If there is a way you can adjust yourself in a way that is still authentic to who you are but helps bridge that gap, absolutely. That’s where soft skills come into play. However, I find that if I start to change myself in a way that is not authentic to who I am, I start to get jaded and miserable. I need to be me.

pennytests

Sounds like my experience with that too.

pennytests

What’s your favorite thing about testing?

JannaLoeffler

Honestly, being creative and learning new things. Testing is all about learning, exploring, and working with people. :slightly_smiling_face:

pennytests

I love solving the puzzle.

pennytests

Sometimes it feels to me like being a technical people-person is a disadvantage. I see the value in it, but those who lack soft skills seem to all huddle together in a tech-only bubble.

JannaLoeffler

I’m well-known for breaking those bubbles. :slightly_smiling_face:

pennytests

Did you or do you have a mentor? If so, can you suggest ways to establish a mentor-mentee relationship?

JannaLoeffler

I actually have a couple mentors. I highly recommend that people have at least one mentor and one sponsor. Honestly, I established the relationships in different ways. One I just started having coffee with and it blossomed into an unofficial mentorship/friendship. Another I flat out asked if they would be my mentor.

pennytests

Nice! Ummmm, will you be my mentor :smile:

JannaLoeffler

I am always happy to discuss mentorships. :slightly_smiling_face:

pennytests

You’re awesome! (This is why I’m online at 6am this morning :grin: )

pennytests

Do you have a favorite type of testing and why?

JannaLoeffler

I love exploratory testing. :slightly_smiling_face: I love thinking of different personas, being curious, and playing.

JannaLoeffler

I mentioned this in a thread and I think it’s important to bring up a level, are people aware of the term/role “sponsor” and the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?

pennytests

I know what a mentor is, not sure about the sponsor role.

JannaLoeffler

Not a lot of people are familiar with the term. A mentor is someone who can provide you guidance, advice, etc and tends to be a sounding board that you can bounce ideas off of and work through things with. A sponsor is someone within your organization/industry that can work with you to help you accelerate your career. They may do so by opening up or pointing out specific avenues for career growth.

Kelly M

Same. I have never heard this role before

pennytests

Working in a very small company and being the first to code tests means I don’t have anyone in-house that can answer my test questions. However, as a people person, I have built up an awesome network of amazing people who are far, far beyond my knowledge-base.

JannaLoeffler

Absolutely, some of my sponsors have been outside of my team/area but still within the company. Many times that’s how I get a seat at the table, because they recognize my potential and invite me meetings other people may not have thought to invite me to.

pennytests

Sometimes, our internal opportunities for career growth disappear when the company ‘chooses a different direction’, Anyone else experience that kind of a shift?

JannaLoeffler

Yes, that’s okay. Companies need to react to the market and the world around them. That being said, we too need to react to the market and the world around us. So maybe we’re no longer the right fit for the company. Maybe we are but our idea of growth changes. Maybe there are new opportunities to be found with this new direction. Sooo many questions, very personal decision.

I heard the sponsor term when I attended WWT at STAREAST 2019 :slightly_smiling_face:

JannaLoeffler

As more companies adopt the DevOps/Agile practice of team autonomy, this sometimes allows for teams to go Wild Wild West and use whatever tools, process, practices that works for them. As long as they are producing quality code, it doesn’t matter how they do it.. right?

pennytests

I think it does matter! First off, in a large company, if there are multiple groups going ‘WWW’ doing the same kind of work, there is a loss of knowledge-sharing and pair-programming that could be happening. There would have to be some good documentation within each group practicing such autonomy - so why not share that burden and the knowledge and grow together? (This is working smarter rather than harder.) (edited)

At the same time, I do not personally believe we all have to code in Java because our Devs do (for example). In theory, the Devs can help with the learning curve and answer questions. A lot of that depends on the culture of your organization. In my experience, over the last 4 years, I’ve received help 3 times and it was specific to my framework setup rather than the coding language. (This was not due to a lack of asking questions.) (edited)

Hayley Tankersley

My stars. This is literally my life. I’m in a constant battle with developers trying to get them to understand the process of making sure things are QA-ed before they’re deployed and that they shouldn’t be tested in prod and they can’t QA their own work. It’s a bit of a give and take relationship because some things they aren’t giving up. They’re gonna deploy when they’re ready without communicating anything to me, but other times they’re super great and helpful. excuse me while I bash my head against the wall.

JannaLoeffler

Are you seeing issues in prod? Are you seeing quality suffer because of this?

Hayley Tankersley

There have been a couple times we’ve had to rollback because of this. But mostly its my anxiety level of not knowing they’ve deployed to prod and then “oh somethings broken. hayley what’d you break?”

pennytests

Well, if you didn’t code it, you didn’t break it. Have you discussed the situation with your Lead/Superviser and the Dev Lead/Supervisor?

JannaLoeffler

@pennytests has a point. Testing is not about breaking software, the software is already broken. You just point that out as a tester. So, what are some reasonable actions the team could take that would lower your anxiety? I’d start putting a list together. Then I’d sit on that list for 24 hours. I’d call a team meeting and be like, “Okay, I know we all want to feel good about the product we are producing and right now I have some concerns. So, here are some concerns that I have as well as some action items that I feel would address some of my concerns. Is anyone else having these same concerns? Are there any other concerns that people have? Do you have any other ideas on how to address these concerns? I don’t want to be nagging you or making your life difficult, so help me help you.” :slightly_smiling_face: (cheesy, but hopefully you get the point)

Jeanette Kreutner

How do you handle it when when not all the requirements are shared, and then something breaks in an area not tested, and yet somehow this is your fault because you did not catch it (edited)

JannaLoeffler

You bring up an excellent point! I think it comes down to how you are handling your testing and testers. Are testers responsible for just testing their area or are they responsible for testing the entire project?

Jeanette Kreutner

They are responsible for the entire area. Problem is features are added or what has been more likely is that what is presented as a change that requires only light testing was actually a complete refactoring which would require a full regression

JannaLoeffler

So, I have to admit it was a bit of trick question in my mind. You’re not going to be set-up for success if you have a silo’d test team that is held solely responsible for quality. They can test and radiate risk out, but can not be held accountable for the issues that are found.

I like to say that testers do not create defects, they find them. So, it has to be cultural shift where testers are not responsible for the defects developers wrote. So, lets work together to make sure we’re all successful.

Gaps will happen, things will be missed. So let’s learn and course correct. If the problem is that requirements are not being communicated out, pull people together and suggest a way to improve things.

pennytests

What do you think about test plans/cases being written outside of QA? (That’s been a recent change in the company I work for.)

JannaLoeffler

Interesting… First of all, I could go off on a whole rant about test cases. I guess I would have to ask about the role of the tester in the company? Is it just to be a button pusher/clicker and execute the test cases/plans being written outside of QA? Who is writing these test cases/plan?

pennytests

welp, due to recent changes, I feel like I can check my brain at the door. So, I’d have to say that role is clearly changing. Currently, our Project Manager is writing most of them with more complex cases written by Devs. For 3.5 years, I wrote my own.

QA used to report directly to the CEO. No longer the case.

JannaLoeffler

Is this a recent change? Have you seen any change in quality from this change?

“Pretty good testing is easy to do (that’s partly why some people like to say ‘testing is dead’– they think testing isn’t needed as a special focus because they note that anyone can find at least some bugs some of the time). Excellent testing is quite hard to do.“— James Bach

pennytests

PM has only been in place for ~6 months - so, Yes. Nothing major yet because we’re in alpha.

JannaLoeffler

Do you think it would help to talk to leadership and help them understand the difference between developers and testers? Perhaps come to them with what you see your role should be and why?

Developers are code focused, they like building things and take pride in the things that they build. That’s what makes a good Developer, that passion for writing code and building things. Testers are curious creatures that explore, examine, and learn the project (the good and the bad). They are able to communicate above and beyond just the code. They are able to perform tests and provide feedback on any issues they find and the risk associated with the current state of the product. That’s sooo much more than just writing test cases. :slightly_smiling_face:

Tomiwa

@JannaLoeffler We are currently switching to the Rapid Software Testing methods at my workplace. And thankfully, we've been able to get more testing done with the 'leaner documentation'

However, sometimes, it's hard to monitor the progress my team mates have made testing a product. I know what features they've tested but I can't really tell how much they've tested scenarios around that feature.

What can you advice as an efficient way to track progress and coverage as we are no longer using traditional test cases?

Secondly, at times, efforts overlap and makes the process redundant, do you have any tips to mitigate this problem?

JannaLoeffler

I’ve use communal mindmaps in lucidchart and jira for this in the past. I capture my test ideas. I have the team capture all of their test ideas in jira and label them in association with the feature. Then as test ideas are executed upon (not test script/cases) I can see feature coverage. I’ve integrated that with lucidchart apis to color code the mind map to give a visual of coverage/status (grey=none, yellow=some, green=all, red=blocked).

Using JIRA or a communal tool help provide visibility to the team on what everyone is working on. I do standups as well to help mitigate duplicate work. Also, mob testing helps spur test ideas and mitigate redundant work.

pennytests

Replying to: https://techwellhub.slack.com/archives/CDED7A6LS/p1582038530043400?thread_ts=1582037665.041400&cid=CDED7A6LS I don’t think it will help at this point. I’m afraid this may be the point at which we need to see failures in order to address the pain points before we can move forward. For example: I used to work plenty of overtime in order for us to stay on track while understaffed. I totally recognize that my extra work helped to cover up a manpower deficiency. (I have such a strong work ethic that I truly hate failing.)

JannaLoeffler

Do you think it would help to talk to leadership and help them understand the difference between developers and testers? Perhaps come to them with what you see your role should be and why?

Sometimes that is the right approach. Even though it may not help the situation, I don’t think it’s a bad conversation to have with leadership. Its really easy to wrapped up in problems and try to focus on the problem. However, sometimes you lose the forest when focusing on the trees. I try to flip my mindset to think of the solution. Even if you can’t enact it right now. As a leader I get annoyed when people constantly come to me with problems and expect me to solve them for them. Come to me with a problem, but also show me that you’ve put some thought into a solution as well. Im happy to help work through solutions and push solutions. I get annoyed with solving people’s problems for them. :slightly_smiling_face:

pennytests

That makes a lot of sense - thanks for that! I have been communicating with leadership and they are aware that I’m back to working normal hours. In one case, it has started the conversation and the realization of our current workload. I consider that a win.

JannaLoeffler

You have to find that balance when it comes to work, and trust me… I know it’s hard. I don’t mind putting in extra hours on occasion. I do mind burning out because Im trying to carry the weight of the whole company on my shoulders. I actually get mad at my team if I see them habitually working over weekends or long hours. That tells me that they are not aware of the business priorities and they are not prioritizing their work. Work smarter, not harder. Ask for help and be aware of trade-offs.

tori

Do you have any advice for QA/SDET Teams that are beginning to implement automated end-to-end system tests?

JannaLoeffler

Dont write your own test framework if you don’t absolutely have to!!!

Leverage the knowledge of the individual teams. Figure out who is responsible for what so that if something breaks or if you find an issue, you know who to talk to and who is responsible for that functionality. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to fix all the things.

tori

For context, we are using RSpec/selenium/capybara/site prism for pages. I’ve found many of our page elements don’t have great locators (bc they were not initially created with automated testing in mind). However, our frontend devs are on board to help us create unique locators if we need them

JannaLoeffler

Thats awesome. The next step is working with those front end devs to help them understand why they need to develop with testability in mind. Sometimes just doing a demo of what you are working on and showing them your pain points sparks some ideas within them on how they can better partner with you. :slightly_smiling_face:

Francisca Cano Ortiz

@JannaLoeffler - how big is the need for PR skills for a Test Manager in your opinion? Isn’t the old “let the results speak” not enough? Thanks!

JannaLoeffler

Im not sure if it would fall under PR skills, but more general communication and situational awareness skills. How do you communicate those results out in a way that meaningful to your stakeholders? Dev teams may care about different metrics/results than Project Managers, and the C-Suite may care about different metrics/results as well. So, its knowing how to communicate out the results in a meaningful way that shows value to your stakeholders.

Kelly M

We have a question that was submitted:

As a woman in technology, I feel like Im not going being paid enough. Is it okay for me to ask for a pay raise? Do you have any suggestions on how?

JannaLoeffler

You should most definitely ask for a pay raise. However, make sure that you are being realistic. Just “feeling” like you are being paid enough is not a very strong argument. Everyone should know their worth. There are a few ways of doing this.

First of all, to the internet! There are a lot of websites out there that let you list your skills, title, and location that will give you the pay range that you should be making.

Secondly, apply for similar jobs and talk to recruiters about the expected pay range of the position. That will let you know what the market is like.

If you know of people in the area that are hiring managers, you can always ask them what they pay for a position like yours. If you have peers and feel comfortable asking them, thats another source of information.

Figure out what you are worth by gathering data.

Also, make sure that you are talking with your leadership about your career goals. Carve out a specific plan for them so that you are both on the same page for your career development. As you work through things and gather your data, you can then present an informed, data-driven case for your pay-raise.

Kelly M

awesome, thank you!

JannaLoeffler

I got a question privately that I think is an interesting one: Which is the best way of automation in Devops environment ( API testing or UI testing)?

Both have their strengths weaknesses and need to be used properly. I tend to lean more on API testing for release and then a combination of API and UI testing for Deployment validation.

One thing that I have noticed is that there has been a shift to more unit and integration automation, which is great! Don’t get me wrong, but Im also starting to see death by a 1000 cuts. Because unit and integration automation tends to run faster than traditional UI automation, people feel like they should automate all the things! For large, complex systems this can unnecessarily slow down your builds. You should have an automation strategy at all levels.

Tomiwa

Thanks for raising this question. It's been on my mind but I could really articulate how to ask the question.

What's the difference/things you look out for between the release and deployment validation? (They seem to belong to the same flow in my head)

Also, what tools do you prefer to use for them?

JannaLoeffler

I tend to focus a lot more on automation prior to release. Release to me being the creation of the binary/package/etc. I use different tools depending on the language. Then I look at doing a lightweight UI and user flow validation as a smoke test upon deployment to any environment. Depending on what is going out in release, I’ll do some deep testing in a test/stage environment prior to release to production.

The big thing is to look at the product holistically, figure out what testing you need to perform to test the minimal viable product, and then figure out where it best fits into your process.

I have a variety of tools in my toolbelt for different types of software: PinkLion.ai, Nightwatchjs, testng, jmeter, etc.. the list seriously goes on and on and it depends on the need.

Tomiwa

Thanks for the response

Hayley Tankersley

As someone coming from a less technical background trying to deal with devs who communicate poorly is super frustrating. A huge portion of my day is pushing back become there aren’t enough notes on how or what to test. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with these circumstances or these types of people that just aren’t willing to work with you?

JannaLoeffler

Is the pushback because they feel they have provided you with enough information or that they don’t have enough time to give you the information that you need? (trying to figure out the best way to approach)

Hayley Tankersley

Sometimes I think its both. For example this week I had a case where a developer had left sparse notes on his PR, but even when I asked another developer they weren’t sure how to make sense of it. I asked the developer whose work it was several times and he kept putting me off, telling me he was busy or that it was almost EOD in his timezone.

I’m willing to work with these developers and learn the technical side, but I can’t learn if they don’t explain, at the very least, what I’m supposed to be doing :grimacing:

JannaLoeffler

I would start by having a meeting to all get on the same page. Ask them what their pain points are when it comes to testing and quality. Figure out where they feel you could be of the most help to them. Explain to them where and how you are providing value to the team. Be blunt and let them know that the way things are aren’t working for you or the team, so you all need to work together to figure out the best way to produce quality software.

Soft skills are important when it comes to testing and so is empathy. Not only empathy with your customers, but empathy with your team. I know sometimes I get caught up in “being the expert” and feeling like I know better. I get into a spiral of “things would only be better if people would just do like I suggested”. When I get like that I recognize that it’s time to take a step back and walk a mile in my team’s shoes.

I like to keep an attitude of “assume good intentions”. I know very few developers, product manager, project managers, BAs, etc. that don’t want to take pride in the product that they are working on. So, sometimes it helps just to pull everyone together and say, “As a team, what are our pain points and how can I help?“. If the team isn’t giving me the information that I need, think of ways to make it easy for the team to provide that information. Maybe that means, I need to be at another stand-up? Maybe if I find away to make a JIRA template that’s easy to fill out? Maybe it’s giving them a demo or just sitting down with them to let them know what it is that I need so we can figure out an easy way to help each other.

JannaLoeffler

The other question I tend to get a lot is: With companies moving towards DevOps practices they are saying that everyone is responsible for testing. How does this affect me as a tester?

The role of the tester is definitely changing in some companies. Instead of performing all of the testing, everyone on the team is expected to test. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Cynthia M

Can you elaborate on this a little more. I 'm not sure I completely agree. I've always had an issue with companies seeing testing as the bottom rung of tech and thinking "anyone" can do it. Like all other IT disciplines it has its skill set requirements as well. I'd like to hear more.

JannaLoeffler

Where it can go wrong is when no one is responsible for the testing. Notice that didn’t say when no is responsible for testing. I specifically put “the” in there. What I mean by that is we need to be more strategic than ever about our testing. What testing does it make sense for the Developers to do? What testing does it make sense for Product Owners or BAs to do? What testing are we missing out on? How do I, as an expert tester, provide guidance on testing to the entire team? How do I, as an expert tester, ensure that the status of testing and the results of that testing are communicated out in an efficient and effective way? I know I can’t rely on my team to do all the testing. So how do I best use my skills and how do I take responsibility for the testing that my team is doing and guide that testing.

Cynthia M

Just for context - in my company we do that now, have the BAs and compliance folks assist with testing. Devs are still required to do unit testing only. We don't do it so much from a DevOps perspective but from a resource (only 2 official testers) perspective.

JannaLoeffler

So, that’s when I pull out the whole “work smarter, then work harder”. I become the testing champion and mentor on the team. I learn the product to my best ability and prioritize testing (usually based on risk - customer and business). As a mentor I work with the devs and BAs to give them guidance on what they should be testing and focusing on when it comes to testing. Then I look for any gaps in that testing and figure out how to prioritize and cover those gaps with the testers that I have on the team.

I work on product coverage maps and reports/dashboards to visual and communicate out: what is being tested, how its being tested, who is testing it, and what have I learned from that testing (issues? everything is okay? needs more testing? covered to the best of my ability?)

Cynthia M

Thank you @JannaLoeffler for all the advice

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