Bigger Projects, Bigger Challenges

In the early days of your testing career, there are some things you learn and see on the job that no textbook can teach you. This is usually more apparent on the bigger projects where you work alongside 100+ testers. With 1½ years’ experience, I got my biggest opportunity to date, partaking in System Integration Testing on a Wealth Management System application called Sonata. The task of the project was to successfully re-platform from the old system to their new system.

I’m quite a confident person. I believed with 2 projects under my belt that I’d be ready for anything thrown my way. Good thing I was prepared for a tough and challenging project because that’s exactly what I received.

Deadline or Quality of Work?

With millions being invested into a project and with a very tight project scope, the pressure was on to deliver objectives on time or preferably ahead of schedule. When the pressure is on, the idea of shortcutting processes becomes even more tempting. There isn’t a single person who wanted to be responsible for a delay within the project. The thought of suggesting a practice that would initially slow down progress temporarily is almost frowned upon.

I was assigned to Back Office Report workstream in a team of 3. The team already started their test preparation before I joined. My first task was to see which techniques they used to complement each other’s work. I quickly realized both team members were doing their preparations individually with no consistency between them. I believed it would be very beneficial if we followed the same path on all our preparation. If a colleague were to be absent for that day, the rest of the team can cover the workload. Although no one verbally declined the suggestion, they didn’t express much enthusiasm as the idea of 3 days’ worth of work again could mean that they would miss their sprint target.

Prior to joining the team, I’ve heard elsewhere that the, “low quality of work + meet deadline > very high quality of work + miss deadline”. I couldn’t believe this notion and it isn’t something I believe in but this is how it was when I joined the team. Of course, our delivery work had to meet the client’s expectation in the level of quality. It may seem that a handful of poor quality test scripts would be harmless. However, on the grand scale, we could’ve potentially missed a high-level defect which could have cost the client millions if found once in Live Production.

Contractors Come and Go

Having to deal with 90+ separate Back Office Reports in the space of 3 months put heavy pressure on a personal development level to make progress, in whichever way possible. This meant chasing Business Analyst’s, talking to other workstream leads, developers or anyone with any sort of information. I would arrive at 7:30am to jump queues to get 5mins with the usually ‘busy people’ so that I could get the answers I needed. It forced me to come out of my shell and be counted. I couldn’t afford to play the waiting game and decided I had to demand answers from others. My biggest problem came when I chased the SME for a certain report, only to be told this individual had left the project 3 months ago. There was no owner of this report which made understanding the User Specification and Requirements a task in itself. There was no one to answer any questions or uncertainties.

So, my solution was to investigate who may have an understanding in the process involving the data prep for this report. The System Test team who ran tests for this report prior to SIT could have the answer I needed. The fact that I had to resort to different methods of gathering information just improved the efficiency of my work. This situation reoccurred at least 10+ times. I became the go-to person so, if others needed an answer, I would point them in the right direction. I eventually realised the benefits of having to continuously talk to differently people on the project. I applied this level of urgency and preciseness to all my work and I met the deadlines with high-level of quality within my work. Another lesson learnt – with appropriate time and expectation management, excellent work can be delivered on time.

This project was a rollercoaster. Travelling from one city to another, living in a hotel weekly, meeting other testers from across the UK has given me a great insight into where my future could go. I’m grateful to have worked with senior colleagues in a very demanding environment, who expect nothing but high standards, who encourage you to work hard and help you to prove to yourself that you can rise above these challenges.

I’m ready for another challenge. Bring it on!

Ilyas Yaqub

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