What I Learned from IT Weekend

Pt.1 functional testing, Oct 1-2

Posted by Alexander Todorov on Sat 08 October 2016

IT Weekend

Last week I attended the first IT Weekend in Bulgaria. It's like a training camp for athletes but for QA engineers. There were 20 people attending and the format was very friendly and relaxed. The group had members with various levels of experience and technical skills, also different areas they work in. All presentations are on YouTube. Here's a brief of what happened and what I learned.

I had the honor to present in the first slot and gave a quick introduction to mutation testing. This was my first time giving this talk and I'm not entirely happy with how I've presented it. Also mutation testing is touching a lot on unit tests, programming and source code which in some organizations goes to the devel department. I think mutation testing is harder to understand from people not familiar with it than I initially thought. I'm taking note to improve the way I present this topic to the public.

Yavor Donev gave a good overview of Appium and how to use it on Android. The most important question for me was "Is it possible to utilize the same test suite on Android and iOS, given that the environments are different". With this I mean regardless of how much we try to make the same (native) app on both platforms it will end up differently because the platforms are essentially different. For example there is a different number of physical buttons available.

If we assume that both iOS and Android apps follow the same design and use similar workflow then it should be possible to create a test suite which is platform aware and account for the minor differences. We're also adding another layer of complexity by introducing the requirement that both apps stay in sync with each other and account for the quirks of the foreign platform. Depending on your apps and goals this may not be an easy task!

The one thing I didn't like about Appium is that upstream doesn't care much about version compatibility and they tend to break and change stuff arbitrary between releases. That said if it works, don't update it or otherwise be extremely careful.

I also had a nice chat with Yavor on the topic of career change, learning to program and working with people who have very little coding experience. His approach is to develop a higher level test framework on top of Appium which his team mates can use more easily.

Aneta Petkova's Selenium Grid in Unix Environment is a bit out of my domain. However I took one important lesson: regardless of how great your tools are there are minor details which can make or break your day. In her case these are the physical location of the tests (e.g. which Selenium node runs them) and access to shared resources. Turns out WebDriver doesn't give you this information directly and you need to go through hoops to get it. Her solution was to place the test code on the Grid Hub and provide a shared file system.

The bigger lesson is: whenever you have to design an automated test environment (aka test lab) make sure to evaluate your needs beforehand.

The last talk was a guest appearance by Denitsa Evtimova. She is a QA architect with 16 years of experience and presented the QA strategy at Paysafe group. They have a large monolithic system (legacy code) and have adopted a pyramid style approach to testing. Whenever possible tests are brought down to the lowest level (e.g. unit tests) and not repeated on the higher levels. At the top stand manual testing. Teams are small: 3-4 developers and 2-3 QAs. It is the team responsibility to make sure tests are implemented at the lowest possible level. The process is not strictly enforced and the company relies more on self governance in this aspect. Also everyone on the team can contribute additional tests whenever they see something missing. Test (writing) tasks are all logged in JIRA. They are also small so that everything can be completed in the same day.

The second day was more informal. We did a quick exploratory testing exercise and shared opinions on different test tools. Then the group had a discussion about soft skills and how QA engineers can change the perception of developers about the QA profession (especially in teams where there are many manual testers). The key points are:

  • Criticize the software, not the person, e.g. don't blame the person directly;
  • Communicate with concrete facts and data, not emotions and perceptions;
  • Jokes of the type "how many QA engineers are needed to screw a light bulb" are a problem because they lead to underestimation of the job role;
  • Sometimes it is not quite clear (to others) how the QA role contributes to the development of the product and the organization;
  • For a QA it is important to be able to give a non-biased opinion and observations on what is happening with the product/process;
  • A QA person needs to be very calm. They have to be able to listen to everybody (especially developers) and accept their point of view but at the same time also communicate their own point of view.
  • It is important to sit together with developers and observe the problem, brainstorm and propose possible solutions. This also creates a feedback loop where the developer feels empowered because he's part of the process identifying the problem and proposing the best solution;
  • In agile teams it is a good idea to rotate people between developer and QA positions. This will help them better understand the job of others, acquire new skills and also bring fresh thinking to the team;
  • Quality Assurance is an ungrateful job and only people with very calm and methodical thinking (to follow through and write all possible scenarios) are able to excel in this field. On the other hand developer usually think about the happy path scenarios and strive to make their code work as best as they can;
  • By rotating job roles within the team developers will quickly find out that testing is not their field and gain respect towards their QA peers;
  • US managers have the habit of telling "good job" to everyone, even for small and routine tasks. In Bulgaria (and maybe elsewhere) we're not used to this. Instead we're used of being scolded when we do something wrong. If everything is good then we don't receive any recognition;
  • Using the American "good job" is actually a good thing. Team mates will start performing better over time because they will feel their work is valued and not meaningless, they will feel recognized which will boost morale and productivity.

Thanks for reading and happy testing!

tags: events, QA

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