"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Manoj Nair's experience of adding great value as a tester

Manoj Nair is the co-founder of Weekend Testing and works for an organization that has a worldwide presence. The core business of the organization he works for, is to help people shop, online or at their stores. He functions as a Senior Tester for projects that are to be deployed in United Kingdom and Europe. 

An year ago, they decided to expand its presence in the United States of America and in the North American region. A lot of software had to be remodeled and developed to be able to deploy in USA. This was a strategic move by the organization to show its dominance in a market that their competitors had claimed to have conquered. Manoj Nair was chosen to play a role of Test Lead for the project despite being a newbie to the organization. It wasn't a lucky dip that helped the management choose Manoj to be the Test Lead for this important project but the passion and skills he demonstrated in the short period. They were convinced that bringing in Manoj would help them feel safe. Oh, by the way, he wasn't the domain expert.

Right to what they thought, Manoj ended up doing something so important for the project that literally saved the organization at least $6 million US dollars. Let me type that again, its Six Million US Dollars. If you think that was great, wait. He also prevented the company from being embarrassed in the global market and amongst its competitors.

So, what do you think? He found a bug and got it fixed that would have otherwise cost so many million dollars and embarrassment? That's what comes to mind when we talk about testers doing great work but here is a story that is different and demonstrates the great value testers like Manoj can bring in. I think he did things that most testers in that place might not have.

There's a large group of testers who have come to believe that functional testing is all what they need to do. If you don't believe that, you just might believe this - There's a large group of testers who know that other kinds of testing is equally important but they aren't skilled enough and powerful enough to convince the management and customers about it. That's where Manoj Nair differed and won.

In this new project that had to be deployed in the USA, he proposed quality criteria beyond just functionality and was seeking the time and budget approvals from the management to test for Usability, Accessibility, Reliability, Performance, Security and more. At this point, Manoj performed just like any other tester. Most of the test plan documents I saw during my first few years as a tester had all sorts of buzz words but people ended up just testing for functionality and I used to wonder why.

Manoj's test plan had an objection from someone in the senior executive team. The objection was, "About 70% of the code we are going to use is already deployed in other countries and hey its been working. Why do we need to test for all sorts of things again?" and then there could have been a chatter, "This guy is a newbie, so he probably doesn't know" and "Ah, he is relatively new to the domain".  What we are about to witness is that those domain experts were blinded by the fact that moving code from one country to another is like treating that if a software works on one machine, it would work everywhere else.

Manoj wanted to counter the objection. So, he decided to learn the impact of not doing certain things when moving code from one country to another. He found this link during his research : Target Settles Accessibility Lawsuit for $6 Million

Manoj drafted a response showing his respect to the objection and why he still continues to think that moving code from one country to another has to be treated like a fresh project in itself. He also shared with his management the link to how one of the organization had to suffer from lawsuits and a fine as big as $6 million.

The management was partially convinced but they needed more evidence before they could listen to this young chap advising them on what they should budget on. They consulted an attorney in the United States of America who was considered to be a specialist in laws of the US government pertaining to software quality and compliances. The attorney came back advising them to treat Accessibility and Usability as important as the payment and transactions through their website and did acknowledge that the information on Target was true and they had suffered $6 million and embarrassment.

Look at what happened after that. The senior management did listen to Manoj and treated this as a new project giving it the importance it needs. They came out of the bias that it was just re-use of code and started to treat this as a new application all together.

What did Manoj gain from it? As a tester he benefited a lot. He won so much credibility in the team that the next time he proposes something or reports a bug, a lot of people are eager to learn what he has to say. He has made himself influential in a short period of time in an organization. He is at least as equal as what the domain experts of the organization are. He has made people to believe that having a team with diversity is more important than having all domain experts agreeing to each other in what the other one says.

That's awesome!

Now you'd like to know that I wasn't surprised by what Manoj achieved because I know his background and education. He was constantly building skills that are important for a tester. I first met Manoj in Pune in 2008 although he had been reading my blog before that. We found a good synchronous between us. He relocated from Pune to Bangalore to work closely with me. That's when I introduced him to Parimala, Ajay, Sharath and Santhosh or should I say that I couldn't resist myself from getting these people to meet. This team craving for practice and learning set out to found Weekend Testing that today is considered as the revolution from India in the testing space. Manoj has attended my exploratory testing workshops (even the most recent ones) and is a BBST Foundations graduate. He has taught bug advocacy, exploratory testing, heuristics and oracles to wannabe and experienced testers in the past. He is well read (at least to the extent that he wouldn't feel intimidated when people are talking books) and networks with testers.

So, I am hoping that after you went through his background, it doesn't surprise that Manoj is adding great value to the project he is in. He practiced and was prepared for facing challenges even when his job in the past didn't demand all the skills he was learning. Today, he is skilled enough to handle most tough challenges in testing. He is inspiring his team members to surpass the boundaries.

If you find it tough to explain people what other kinds of value does a tester add to the project than just finding bugs, just get them to read this story. Also, if you find testers cursing themselves that they are not being treated well, get them to read this story and most importantly Manoj's background which is all about the quest for constant education and practice.

Kudos Manoj! You just did something that makes the country proud. Not just our country but people from United States of America, for the care you showed towards accessibility and usability for people with low vision and maybe other challenges.

On behalf of all testers who would love what you did, my little gift to you is this blog post.