SmartQA Community

On Career Growth

(In this SmartBits, Anuj Magazine outlines “ On Career Growth “.  The video is at the end of this blog)

Career growth can be divided into two buckets. One is  the nonlinearity aspect of the career, and the other uni-dimensionality. One of the things found common in most reasonably sized organisation is that each and every organization has career paths and the way the career paths tend to get designed are that there is an entry role that one gets into post college and then there is a role at the top.

The role which is essentially at the top of these ladders are of a VP or a Department Head.  Looking at these career paths, the highest designation in the organization is that of a CEO, if we associate these two logically, we will tend to think why organizations do not give a path till the CEO role in the organisation. This led to the question on the linear approach of following the career paths,  that are designed in the organisation.

Mark Templeton CEO of Citrix for around 20 years and quite respected in his field said that career paths up to the top in the organisation rarely tend to be linear, they always zigzag. One needs to figure out where the next dot is, to move forward. This questions the rationale behind the linear careers. There is nothing wrong having a predictable career path. It does help to solve a problem in the organisation. For instance HR wants predictable processes, even employees want them too, and there is nothing wrong with that, as not everyone wants to be a CEO. But there are other merits to following a nonlinear path.

The second part is on the uni dimensionality, let us take example of startups, .When the startup is new and the product market fit is not achieved, people play different roles being in one designation such as marketing, coding, testing or they may be hustling around and doing sales. In early stage organizations, one can afford to be a specialist in the interest of moving the organisation forward, but when it comes to scale, the uni- dimensionality, the specialisation matter,  of having a deep knowledge of one subject or maybe a related set of technology help scales the organisation and go to the next level.

Should I be a generalist or a specialist? If you want to be a specialist, choose a field that is going to be relevant in the time to come.The people who chose artificial intelligence and machine learning fifteen years back are reaping the rewards of that. In IPL we see around 200 odd cricketers from India in that competition, which is hardly around two to three percent of the cricket playing population or even less and these are like hyper specialised individuals who specialise in their areas.For choosing a specialised field it is better to have the conviction to be in the top ten or twenty percent so that one can reap the rewards in the time to come.

Generalists are people who are more adaptable, who can learn a new skill in a shorter time and deliver value and it is more akin to the gig economy. Pick up the rules for some time and then move on to something else. There is nothing wrong in both of them. Both have its merits and demerits. Hyper specialisation is going to be the thing in the future.

The QA profession has been under pressure from external forces, as decision makers in organization want to see more value. It comes to more of an economics decision, that we always called as cost of quality, we never use the term profit of quality. We need people who can represent QA in a boardroom where value can be showcased, and that is lacking at the moment.

What is Agile?

(In this SmartBits, Tathagat Varma outlines “What is Agile?“.  The video is at the end of this blog)

Software is a problem-solving process, where we are trying to take a shot at how we should be solving the problem. What is the best way of solving the problem? Looking at the philosophical element, a software is a way in which we are encoding a problem, solving from a given point of view. A designer would think of a  particular way to solve the problem and encoding that in a medium. Software is only a medium. It could have been any other medium for example , in which a problem could be solved.

What is the right way for us to solve the problem? Should we have a world view which is based on ‘we-the-designer’ or should we have a world view based on you as a  ‘we-the-consumer’. If you are the customer who is the real consumer of that? This needs to be understood.

Philosophically the first most important thing is to understand we are not building software for ourselves or for people like us. We are building software for a given audience and we need to be mindful and respectful of how they solve the problem. The philosophical element is really about, whom are we building for and are we mindful of the fact that this is how people solve the problem.

The mindset is the way, where we take the next step forward, where we say that now that we have understood the world view from how people look at it, how do we really solve the problem. Should we wait for a fully baked way of doing it. The basic idea is we cannot solve the problem in a single pass.

Every complex problem is best solved in a very iterative manner in a very collaborative way in which do not treat our consumers as just passive consumers i.e whatever we dish out to them, they will accept it. Even without the software they are solving the problem day in and day out which means they have some wisdom about how a good solution should work out. If I partner with them and treat them as a co-creator rather than a passive consumer then I can actually create a better solution. Mindset is all about stating that they are not passive consumers, they are co-creators, they are our team, so we start teaming up with them.

The Agile mindset very simply is something that we keep borrowing from the work from a Stanford professor Carol Dweck. She wrote this book on mindset where she talked about fixed mindset vs growth mindset, where the whole idea is that some people have a fixed mindset- this is the only way this should be done and have a very strong point of view. They are not willing to budge from that opinion. Then, there are people who think maybe there is a better way of doing it, maybe there are other ways in which we can grow, we may not succeed in that but in the process of doing it, will stumble upon the truth and that will help us eventually get to the right solution.

Having that kind of a mindset where we are open to experimentation, open to learning, willing to take some meaningful risk, not scared of failure, willing to keep iterating over is the need of the hour. We need to have a culture that really supports these kinds of mindsets. This is the third aspect here.
In organisations where making mistakes is a considered sin, where an individual gets reprimanded for failing,  Agile thinking will not work. Agile demands tolerance for intelligent failures. We need to have an appetite where we can say this person made a mistake. let us have a small party, let us learn from that person.  If it is a great mistake we make a big deal out of that.

That Agile mindset will not fit into a very conventional kind of a culture where people say do not make any mistake, do everything right the first time, everything has to be Six Sigma. A very nice quote by a management professor Gary Hamel, where he said thank God for the biological screw-ups, if not for that we would still be slime, because in a Six Sigma world, evolution would not have happened, if animals did not genetically recombine with each other in novel ways.  

If we are really looking at very creative ways of doing things and are looking for finding some novel solutions to that, one has to have a tolerance for bringing the Agile mindset into the workplace. Agile mindset is like the seed that requires an Agile culture as a fertile ground, otherwise it will not sprout.
Tools, methods and processes are the fourth and the fifth-order extensions, because in order for us to do the job properly we need the tools. Unfortunately people get it totally wrong, they ignore the holistic part of why we are doing it, the whole philosophical element, the mindset and culture, they straight away jump onto tools and methods bandwagon, because that’s the easiest thing to sell. The tools, methods and processes are the fourth and fifth order functions of the core thing but the whole idea is if we don’t start on some of these basics, we will never get to the point. If we start only with the tools, it might give a short-term win but then it’s not sustainable and definitely not be scalable in the long run.

Build in quality

(In this SmartBits, Girish Elchuri outlines “Build in quality“.  The video is at the end of this blog)

One of the important things we have to remember is that we can not add quality. Adding quality is not similar to painting a wall. It has to be built in and for that, we should have all the processes in place, starting from architecture, design and development and so on.

An example in this context would be the way a German car company makes cars. They build the car, do extensive testing, fix it and then only release it to the customers so that they get an excellent product. Looking at another company in Japan that makes high end luxury cars, when this company finds a problem in one of the cars before it is shipped off, they stop the assembly line. Then, they find out where the defect has been introduced, fix the process and throw away all the cars that are manufactured with that defective process, and start manufacturing again. The result is that Japanese car with the same quality and luxury of German car is build at one-third the cost. It is a classic living example we have.

Building quality through absolute processes is more beneficial, important and efficient than trying to add quality or stating that quality can always be added later. When a pizza gets burnt then can the quality assurance team make it proper? Certainly not, because it is a one-way process. It is important to realize that we can’t add quality. 

We have to only build quality into a product as part of our architecture, design and development. It has to be the attitude of the organization. It has to come from top- down. Organizations, people and processes should have the attitude of building quality in and not adding it later.

System deployment architecture and testing

(In this SmartBits, Zulfikar Deen outlines System deployment architecture and testing“. The video is at the end of this blog)

it’s extremely important to understand system deployment architecture. Let’s say we are delivering the same system and as an organization we decide to deploy it in the cloud. It requires a completely different way of testing and we need to show whatever was appropriate works correctly.

If we decide to do a hybrid for various reasons, the solution remains the same, but as an internal decision-making, we may have to make a decision based on compliance. In India, we could take the data into the cloud without much of an issue, especially when the data centres are hosted here, but the same may not be the case in other countries. 
The same solution deployed differently in a different country implies testing has to be different. If it is a hybrid we are trying to work with the two different system fidelities, where part of the system sits on-premise, some of them on cloud. We need to be sure that the data flows through properly and it is secured.

We may not worry about system security between two systems if the entire system is deployed at one place, whereas if it goes through public and private clouds then testing has to be slightly different. If it is completely on-premise then deployment and  testing differs.

If we decide to use a part of it even in the cloud and using only infrastructure as a service the testing would be different. Again if we use a part of a service, say using a data factory from Azure, the testing has to be different because we are using a service provided by the cloud in a different way. We need to make sure it works, if we decide to use advanced services. If we were to use it as part of a whole system, it can’t be tested on-premise. Definitely we need to understand the deployment architecture, how we are planning to deploy and the testing therefore has to be appropriately done for that.

What is Blockchain?

(In this SmartBits, Yuvaraj Thanikachalam outlines What is Blockchain? “. The video is at the end of this blog)

The way we move files from one system to another system via copy and paste “Ctrl-C & Ctrl-V” is very popular with every computer savvy professional. On similar lines can we Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V the money? Why can’t we move the value in a digital format?
A gentleman by name Satoshi Nakamoto wrote a white paper on Bitcoin. He was trying to decentralize the internet, by creating a mechanism in the digital world to move the value from one pocket to the other without any central authority in place. To do this, he took this problem and solved it by using peer-to-peer technology, encryption technology, and database technology. Bringing all this together he created a solution called Bitcoin which everybody referred to as a Blockchain.
Bitcoin is one of the applications of Blockchain, it is not the Blockchain. Underlying technology which powers the innovation of moving money like a copy of a file from one pocket to another pocket solving the double-spending issue was revolutionary.