13 October, 2013

A Decade in Software Testing - In Search of The Master

Hello Readers,

On 14th August 2013, I completed *ten* cool years in testing. While I am not a great fan of numbers, ten years is significant because of my journey in this time. It's been special, hard, painful and yet highly satisfying. This journey made me tougher in terms of handling situations and gentler while dealing with people. I wish to jot down my learning journey in these ten years as a series of blog posts. These blog posts are a gift to myself because I started this wonderful journey here - on Curious Tester blog! I am writing it down so I can look back when I want to, when I need to. If I lose hope someday, I will come back to regain it here. 

Failure favors the Unprepared
After failing in 30+ interviews, I was finally offered a job at Oracle.  I was quite a dumb kid who didn't know much of how the outside world works. I was least prepared for anything other than programming languages and technical concepts. I got beaten down in interviews for obvious reasons. It was the toughest phase of my life when I look back. I am glad I handled it (not to mention the cry baby I was).

The folks who interviewed me were impressed with how I executed my final year project (not the what part). At Oracle, I learned several enterprise products in Oracle CRM suite. I raised Severity 1 bugs on almost every product that integrated with the module that I tested, hence sending pager messages to them on weekends. Managers of those teams hated me. I didn't know that until a senior colleague told me this couple years later (how stupid of me?). 

Those days, if I ran out of ideas to test, I learned other CRM products like SAP, PeopleSoft and SalesForce offerings. These were obviously not available for free. I would download trial versions, make sense of screenshots on Google Images and come up with my own findings. I reported these as bugs in the module/product I tested (Competitiveness Analysis in 2003, Holy Cow!). What I lacked during my Oracle days was Confidence and my ability to present my work in a way that it would get noticed. I never recognized this until years later.

Post my wedding, I joined McAfee. During third round of interview, one of the Senior Test Managers (who became my reporting manager thereafter) asked me, “How good are you at setting up hardware?” I replied in a loud tone, “Very Poor, but I can learn quickly if that is important to do my job better.” I knew I was fired even before I was hired. I was wrong. I got hired. Life was very hard at McAfee. I had to learn a lot about hardware, set up stress/soak test beds and install an enterprise product on cluster machines which took 2-3 days. I was particularly scared of going into the Stress Test lab where not a single soul would be present in nearest vicinity between 3 PM and 9 PM. Add the drama of noises coming in from large cluster systems and it would sound like a Ghost Lab. I did many things that I never thought I would.

When Man proposes, God disposes
Due to my husband’s relocation plan, I quit McAfee. Unexpectedly, he changed his plan. I thought I could try a new company so I could learn new things. This is how I landed at SupportSoft, a startup with over 70 people at the time. As I start to write about SupportSoft, my heart dances with joy. It used to be a techie’s heaven. Employees were very talented and passionate. For me, most employees at SupportSoft demonstrated the highest level of professionalism I have ever witnessed in my life. If you are a startup and you want to create great stuff, you must be like SupportSoft. In here, I just put what I learned at Oracle and McAfee to use – effortlessly. I honed my leadership skill. I learned a lot more about Professionalism, Passion, Love and Mutual Respect at workplaces. Until then, I thought organizations had highly political environments where people always stab you in the back and where you should just do your work and get away without sharing what you know with your colleagues. At SupportSoft, it was one family working to build a great company. There were a few bad weeds, but the leadership team was so powerful, kind and lovable that the bad weeds never grew. They had to leave some day and that someday wasn’t far off.

I had started to read Pradeep Soundararajan’s blog while I was in McAfee. I started meeting testers outside SupportSoft, discussed testing, discovered Exploratory Testing, SBTM and Context Driven Testing. I must say I was na├»ve when I first encountered these new buzzwords. I used them just like that – buzzing around without really understanding what they meant. These started making sense only when I started to apply my knowledge on real projects.

Good things don’t last forever
ESG division of SupportSoft (where I worked) was sold off to Consona who took over our team. The transition was hard, although not new. I had been part of 3 acquisitions before - at Oracle and McAfee. The acquisitions at Oracle had a great impact on me in terms of understanding what job security meant and how it leaves people almost homeless. I had strong views around firing or laying off people. Some of those views have changed now. What I loved at Oracle was the way they handled Lay-Offs. At SupportSoft asa well, transition was handled with utmost care. The leadership team made sure it was that way. Great level of professionalism.

When Consona took over, I decided to stay. I wanted to be a part of that journey and see where it could take me. New leadership team took over, there were changes every day, resignations were dropping on desks every week. It was painful to see some of my great colleagues leave. My manager left from whom I learned a lot about project management. I stayed. I was resilient. It paid off in the end. 

Life is all about choices!
What I learned post Consona acquisition was amazing. I was constantly observing how the organizational goals were changing. I finally decided to invest on my learning all over again. I decided to pay from my own pocket to attend Pradeep Soundararajan’s workshop. The fee was 50% of my monthly pay at that time. I told my family to bear the cut for that month and told them how important it was for my career. That is one of the biggest decisions I made in life that has paid off so much. If I had looked at money and opted out of Pradeep's class, life would have been different. My director Sai sponsored a couple more workshops by Pradeep Soundararajan which I attended during his time. He wanted to bond with his new team while I wanted to learn new stuff. It was mutually beneficial.

In the meantime, there was a personal turmoil and my support system took a hit. My second child was 3 months old. I had to take a little break so my parents could take care of other important things in life. The long commute to office was eating into my health too. It was time to say goodbye to Consona. I loved what I did at SupportSoft and Consona. I groomed myself pretty well.

Moolya happened around the same time my second child was born. It was a little baby taking tiny steps in this big world. When my child was 6 months old, I joined Moolya as the 4th employee. Today we are 67. The journey so far feels awesome. At Moolya, I was knocked out of my comfort zone every single minute. At the end of one year, I had accomplished a lot and yet had not accomplished many other things. My growth in Moolya has been phenomenal in terms of what I learned and how I made use of every opportunity that rocked my life. I work with some of the best colleagues in the testing industry at Moolya. I interact with some of the greatest minds in testing and outside testing using technologies like Twitter, Skype, Facebook. I have started to attend entrepreneurial events and meet passionate people every day. I now have so much do to in life and so little time. Well, Einstein had the same time. I better work harder and smarter!

My Inspiration – People who helped me be Parimala Hariprasad
Devang Mehta – Karnataka’s IT minister who took IT to a new level during my college days
Dilip Ranjekar – CEO of Azim Premji Foundation who wrote great stuff in Times of India when I was a teenager
Ishwar Hangargi – my first mentor in IT
Harini Swaminathan and Ramanjit Singh at Oracle
Amit Kumar Yadava, Dipankar Roy, Smriti Metikurke, Lakshmi Athreya, Vadiraj Thayur, ShyamSunder Jaju, Navarathna Narsimha Murthy, Rahul Verma, Rahul Mirakhur at McAfee
Yatish Nagavalli, Sanjeev Kumar, Sai Balakrishnan, Shan Kadavil, Arvi Krishnamurthy, Ravi BV, Seema Bharadwaj, Rituja Indapure, Meera Huddar at SupportSoft/Consona
Pradeep Soundararajan, Dhanasekar Subramaniam, Sunil Kumar, Manoj Nair, Sharath Byregowda and Warriors (my team) at Moolya. Moolyans also inspire me. I work with most of them in different capacities and am inspired at different levels. Muthu Kumar from one of our client locations inspired me big time. 
James Bach has become very special especially after I got an opportunity to ghost-follow him (for five days) everywhere during his visit to Moolya. Thanks to Pradeep for making this happen
YOU – All of YOU whose names I haven’t mentioned, but who touched my life in some way or the other have inspired me. 

Special thanks to all those wonderful critics who said I couldn’t do it, who hoped I must fail, who prayed that I should wither out and who told me I can never be happy and successful at the same time. Special thanks to you folks because without you, I wouldn’t have challenged myself. Thank you so much for being a part of my journey!

I often wonder what is it that I was actually doing in these ten years. In these ten years, I have been in search of my Master. Have I found my Master?

Watch this space!

Regards,
Parimala Hariprasad