How to Adapt to the New Age of Testing and Development: An Interview with Melissa Benua

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Melissa Benua, a senior technical lead at mParticle and senior backend software engineer at PlayFab, explains how the speed of development and testing has changed, as well as how to adapt to the new era of software.

Josiah Renaudin: Welcome back to another TechWell interview. Today I am joined by Melissa Benua, a senior technical lead at mParticle, senior backend software engineer at PlayFab, and keynote speaker at this year's STARWEST conference. Melissa, thank you so much for joining us today.

Melissa Benua: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Josiah Renaudin: Absolutely, and before we kind of dig into the meat of your keynote, can you tell us a bit just about your experience in the industry?

Melissa Benua: Yeah, so I've been all over the place now. I started actually really large company. I got my start at Boeing, then I spent many, many years at Microsoft working on Bing and Xbox and a couple of other products. And then probably three or four years ago I jumped out to startups. So I started doing, I started originally as a tester and I've since moved into a sort of combined engineering role. So I do some dev work, my passion is always testing. So I've been working, now, startups to kind of balance that evolving line between dev and test and what quality do we need or more fashion—how do we balance speed versus making sure our software is what our customers need.

Josiah Renaudin: The idea of speed that you just mentioned is something that is really integral to your actual keynote, because your talk is going to tackle ultra-modern engineering technologies and how much faster software development has become over the years. So to kind of kick things off in terms of the actual keynote, in your mind, has agile really been the catalyst for this speed, or was it really something even before that that made people realize that software has to be faster in order to really make sense in modern times?

Melissa Benua: Agile was definitely part of it. It's part of the process of it, but really it's a big, just a set of as process and technology has kind of improved over time, we've just gotten faster. Remember forty years ago we were using punch cards. That was not so quick. But as the tools evolved and the tools for the tools and the tools for the tools for the tools, everything just gets faster and easier to do. Especially around monitoring and deploying your software.

So, now we can see almost immediately when you've shipped out a piece of new code, if something's gone wrong, you can roll it back very quickly or push out a patch if you have to, if rolling back isn't viable. It's just everything has become so quick. It used to take ... I remember when I was at Bing it would take us days in the early years to deploy a piece of software to all of our servers. And now it takes minutes. So the cost of rolling back or rolling out is very low. It's just become very, very quick. So now we can make these trade-offs. We can trade off delivery speed for, theoretically, some of our quality—some of the upfront testing, I should say. You don't want to sacrifice quality, but you don't necessarily need to spend as much time to achieve the same amount of quality as you used to.

Josiah Renaudin: And now that testing is happening in parallel with development, for you, what new skills do you think testers have kind of been forced to adopt in order to keep up? Because I've been talking to people recently and it's always every time you talk about agile or the fact that testing is happening with development, testers are the ones who keep needing to adopt new skills, doing new things to stay relevant. Do you at all feel that testers have gotten the short end of the stick during this transitional period because they have this new workload?

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