Building a QA Team from Scratch and Achieving Seamless Functioning with Priyanka Halder

Building a QA Team from Scratch and Achieving Seamless Functioning with Priyanka Halder

Speakers: Priyanka Halder, senior manager of quality engineering at GoodRx; Kalyan Rao Konda, President at Cigniti

  • Here is the Transcript

Preview: We intend to talk about Quality Assurance where there will be an isolated team that will be responsible at the end of the cycle to make sure they catch all and the quality is high. Whereas we today talk about Quality Engineering where quality is the responsibility of the whole engineering team.  

You are listening to QA Talks. A podcast for quality assurance executives implementing digital transformation in their organizations. In this show, we focus on unique pitfalls inherent in quality assurance and quality engineering and how these executives are navigating them to position their organization for the future. Let’s get into the show.  

RalphWelcome to QA Talks. I am your host Ralph Miranda and today we have a special guest – Priyanka Halder has joined us today. She has 12 years of experience in quality assurance. She is currently the senior manager of quality engineering at the GoodRx. Priyanka, thank you for joining us today.  

PriyankaThank you so much Ralph for introducing me. 

RalphWe appreciate having you here. Of course, I am joined by my co-host Mr. Kalyan Rao Kanda. He is the President of Cigniti and Head of the North America East business unit. Kalyan, how are you doing today? 

KalyanI am doing good Ralph, how are you?  

Ralph: I am doing well. Good to have you back as well. Ok, let’s get started, we have a lot to dig into. And Priyanka, you have a very interesting background & some of the things that you have accomplishedSo, I guess I’ll start by asking you – tell us a bit about your journey so far & how you became involved in quality assurance & quality engineering? 

Priyanka: Sure, I would love to share my experience. I started back in 2006 with Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd. in India after I finished my bachelor’s degree & in India, it works very differently. You just get chosen for a particular department & I happened to be chosen for QA. They give you extensive training for 3 months & I went through that. Then I was placed with AT&T for my 1st project & it was like a CMMI Level 5 project so at the beginning of my career, I learned all the right things – how to do in a right way, how to do proper documentation, how to handle big projects. But then when I came to USA in 2010 for my master’s degree after that I kept on joining a start up space. I loved this space for there is so much more to contribute to. I would rather be a big entity in a small start-up than a small entity in a big company. My dynamic gave me a perspective on where to go. What correct process and team structure to implement. My journey has been quite interesting, so I had started with CMMI Level 5 companies & then I went to various start-ups in USA starting from Through Car, Hommey Inc, Heal, Dr. for House call & now I work for GoodRx so ya, it has been interesting so far.  

RalphWell, you must be very knowledgeable because the previous bio I had on you were in the quality engineering team and now you’re the head of the team, the senior manager. So, I give you kudos for that. That’s awesome. Let me kind of elaborate on what you just said on your journey. I know you have worked in large enterprises, involved in start ups. So, you’ve seen a wide spectrum of organizations. So, in your view & what you’ve been through, how do different organizations perceive quality engineering & quality assurance? 

Priyanka: Absolutely. Throughout my journey I have learned very different factors that affect this whole QA QE organization. Some of the points I want to touch is like it depends on how big the company is & how big their size is, what kind of product market they are into. So, I’ll talk to you about Facebook. We know that Facebook never had a QA department for a long term. But then if you think about its just a social networking & they have like they have a lower staging environment where their employees are testing it, so they do QA, but their approach is different. But again, in my start-up called Heal, Dr. for house calls it its like a doctor goes to your house and checks you up. So, suppose there is a bug where she’s not able to e-prescribe the medication or she/he is not able to see your history, that will be catastrophic. So, there is no room for a bug in production. So, I think it all depends on what kind of product, what bug tolerance level they have & wherein their STLC lifecycle QA needs to happen but like industry has moved along in a point of few directions – we talk about shifting left, shifting right. So today in my current company, we test production by feature flagging & just opening it up for our QA team. Like there are quite a few different perspectives to achieve this. A big company doesn’t mean it will have a big QA department. Again, if it is a small company, it will have a big or small QA department. It all depends on how big it is, how much money they have, what the higher ups thinking about the whole QA approach & what the bug tolerance level is for the product.  

Ralph: And I would have imagined that bug tolerance level is probably one of the most important ones, right?  

Priyanka: Absolutely. And I will give you an example of very recently happened to me. I am travelling to India & I booked through a very big airline. Instead of sending me the right check-in, they said I would be going to Bangalore instead of Calcutta. I was like my god did I book the wrong ticket and it is thousands of dollars. I cannot cancel it. But when I went & checked on their website, it was right. Their email system was not working. It’s like fascinating how much bugs we see on production today like in various big companies right? 

Ralph: That’s amazing. Kalyan I’ll switch over to you. Cigniti has come up to several global enterprises in their journey towards QA transformation. You have so much experience in this area. What are the key factors that drive this transformation journey?  

Kalyan: In the QA transformation journey that we helped, we grow with some of the top, especially the ones from the F1000. Also, some of the key factors are management commitment for the overall transformation. I find that, that it is very very important unless it is driven from the top which is very unlikely that it can get the results that it needed. The 2nd thing is to be able to communicate, communicate and communicate. Communicating about the why we are doing it, what are we going to achieve & more importantly, celebrating the intermediate milestones while you keep the end objective in mind & it is also very important for the team to celebrate the intermediate milestones on their journey. 3rd thing is that the transformation journey would have to go through a lot of change which needs to happen in the way we do think & any change induces a lot of uncertainty which troubles a lot of individuals. So, it is very important we fully explain to the team what we are doing, why we are doing & rather than taking this as an uncertainty, lot of transformation journey that individuals can benefit a lot from this journey as opposed to being fearful about it. Those are some of the things that we generally experience in the QA transformation journey. 

Ralph: Let me take it down to microlevel & ask you if you can talk about 2 or 3 tangible benefits that organizations have gained by partnering with you on this journey? 

Kalyan: I would say that some of the benefits have achieved would include defect leakage into production like the ones that Priyanka was talking about the ones that are experienced by the end users in case of a consumer facing organization. That is very important. We were able to work with organizations in reducing their post production defect density to a really low level. Another benefit is that trying to find defects earlier in the lifecycle which in the technical term is called shiftleft so if you can find defects that are cheaper, they are not only cheaper to find, they are also cheaper to fix. Another is to drive down their overall testing cost while at the same time improving the overall test coverage, the cost reduction is primarily issued through the innovation & methodology that we bring to the table.  

Ralph: Priyanka, you have been involved in building QA teams from scratch. So, you’ve started from square 1. So, what are the key things that you look to in the process of building a team from the start? 

Priyanka: Sure. I have a 3-step strategy that I usually follow. 1st is whenever I join a company & I have been given a task to create a brand-new team, I 1st learn what are their botttlenecks, why was their QA team not successful before why they never had a QA team & why they are thinking to bring in a QA team. 1st few weeks will be learning & jotting down points & also jotting down what resources they have. Do they have developers who are motivated to test by themselves, do they need software developers in test who can pair up with the developers & be their extra hand, do they need release QA team to make the releases more faster. Coming up with this strategy & next what I do is run POCs. Maybe I’ll come up with 3 or 4 approaches. So OK, maybe we will do a 24-hour cycle, we will have an offshore team or maybe we will have an extended team which will not be on site, which will be temporary to see how the vibe of the team is. I do POCs even on automation efforts as well so whenever we are choosing a particular framework or a particular tool, we run POCs for 30/60 days & then once we are confirmed that ya, this is the approach we want to take, and this is going to be successful, then next we go just go on scaling in a larger termSo, its a simple 3 step strategy. The 1st step is learn from the previous mistakes, failures, 2nd is do POC for 30-60 days & 3rd then just scale on the success of POC.  

Ralph: Excellent. Let’s touch a little bit on crowd testing. I have a feeling that that doesn’t mean going out on a parade & asking questions to people. Give us 3 benefits that one can achieve from crowd testing.  

Priyanka: The 1st one will be pricing. Its way cheaper than having 40 people on your team. I have worked with various different sized start ups & 1 such was Hommey & it was only 10 people team and a pre-seed phase. The budget was tight. So that time I did crowd sourcing team & the cost we achieved through this team was significant cost reduction. 2nd is huge coverage on devices & browsers. Crowd testing works the way such as invite 100-200 people & maybe 40 people will come up & test your application. Having 40 eyes looking at your application & trying on different devices in a really short period of time, its like amazing. & you’ll find like lot of bugs which will be very difficult with 2 or 3 people. & then the scaling part of it – if you want to scale your team fast, I think adding crowdsourced testing angle to it helps you to achieve that speed way faster than anything else at an awesome cost.  

Ralph: Interesting. Kalyan lets take it up to the macro level. I understand you are investing quite a bit these days in IP innovation. How that helps in the QA transformation journey that we’ve been discussing? 

Kalyan: I’ll say that what is that most of the time, right now we are surveying about 200 plus active clients as an organization & we have been doing this more than a decade. We have probably dealt with and seen many different problems in the testing space & came up with our own solution. Many times, what we find is that the organizations are facing problems but the existing tools that could be commercial tools or open source tools are not able to solve. That is why we start developing our own tools, utilities & sometimes methodologies over a period of time. What we found out is that while the problems are little bit unique for each client, but we also see that there is a pattern in some of these problems that we are solving. To address that, we sort of productized some of the tools, utilities, & methodologies that we had built & packaged all of these under one name, that is, BlueSwan. It is basically the testing IP that Cigniti has packaged & to help organizations achieve their digital transformation journey & also accelerate their DevOps journeyAs part of BlueSwan, we have different components that can help in different aspects of testing – it could be test automation, digital testing, establishing quality management system & putting together quality management dashboard at the enterprise level. These are some of the areas which we have developed all of these IP. 

Ralph: OK. Priyanka, I have seen every organization is driving for- whether it is QA or sales & marketing, its seamless functioning anytime you try to bring groups or organizations together, you want to bring it in a seamless fashion. How do you think quality engineering & the efforts in that field can help teams bring innovative approach towards that seamless function?  

Priyanka: Absolutely. I 1st want to touch upon what quality engineering means to the organization. From a long time, we used to talk about quality assurance where there will be an isolated team which will be responsible at the end of the cycle to make sure they are catch all and the quality is high whereas we today talk about Quality Engineering where quality is the responsibility of the whole engineering team, starting from developer who does the happy path testing where we are shifting left, they are running automation test in their Dev environment before giving it to the quality engineer. Then we have brought up to a UAT, where they are coming up & are making sure their requirements are met. So, working in a cohesive manner as a whole engineering team, achieves a quality engineeringIt achieves quality as a whole engineering dept. 

Seamless functioning comes when everyone does their part – the developers are doing their happy path testing, the testers are doing their HKs & cross browsers & the product is doing their UAT & then we have a laid out process like how in a AGILE environment, we are achieving it faster with help of some tools like Jira or testrail where everybody knows what next is going to happen. Everybody in that particular AGILE team like developers, testers or product owner knows exactly what’s going to happen next. Only that way we can achieve seamless functioning. I just want to reiterate on Kalyan’s point that quality engineering has to come from bottom up. Its a culture & only one department won’t be able to foresee it. Also, there is nothing like 100% bug-free product. Go through my Twitter profile everyday I post bugs on production like for big companies & its fascinating. How people think that just having a QA department can give them a unicorn product without bug.  

Ralph: Right, interesting. Well, this has been a fascinating episode with lots of great information & nuggets for other organizations to take away. Priyanka give me the final word.  

Priyanka: I think in quality space we have achieved significant progress in a couple of years like there are so many new terms like shift leftshift right, test more, quality engineering but at the end of the day, its a whole company approach & I am very glad to be a part of this journey.  

Ralph: We are glad to have you as a part of our journey on QA Talks. We appreciate that our guest today has been Priyanka Halder, she’s the senior manager of quality engineering at GoodR& we certainly appreciate her for joining us & my co-host, all the way so far, Mr. Kalyan Rao Kanda, President of Cigniti & Head of North America East business unit. Both of you, thank you for your participation.  

Quality Assurance is vital to an organization’s success in digital transformation. Lack of control can quickly derail a company’s technological presence, costing thousands. At Cigniti, all the solution is to build a better world with better quality software. Renowned for the global thought leadership in the industry, we try expertise from over a decade of test engineering experience across verticals. To learn how we do it, visit Cigniti.com.  

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