How Manual Testers Are Evolving into Automation Engineers: An Interview with Jennifer Scandariato

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Jennifer Scandariato, the director of test engineering and leader of the Women in Technology initiative at iCIMS, explains the changing role of the manual tester, how they can adapt to a much faster environment, and why security is more important than ever before.

Josiah Renaudin: Welcome back to another TechWell interview. Today I’m joined by Jennifer Scandariato, the senior director of cloud services and president of the Women in Technology initiative at iCIMS, as well as a keynote speaker at this year’s STAREAST conference. Jennifer, thanks so much for joining us. First, could you tell us a bit about your experience in the industry?

Jennifer Scandariato: Thanks, Josiah. I am happy to. I have been in the IT field for more than twenty-four years. After school, I worked at an accounting firm and quickly realized I was more excited about the LAN/WAN, application side of the house and was the go-to person for printer spooling issues. I made a career switch and quickly found myself flying to several states across the country to install computer system for LabCorp (National Health Labs at the time). During my time there, I also tackled training on applications and realized customers faced usability and software challenges. I raised my hand and started testing the software and received recognition from the corporate IT and was soon offered a position leading the QA department. It was an exciting time in my early career. Since then, establishing and tackling software engineering challenges has been my passion. Engineering excellence doesn’t happen overnight, but I feel like I have a good blueprint for establishing the steps, process, and maturity to get there for any company.

Josiah Renaudin: Much of your keynote tackles the concept of testing in the fast lane. To give people an idea of today’s speed, can you explain how much most teams have shortened testing timelines since the introduction of agile and other modern concepts?

Jennifer Scandariato: Testing can make up to 50 percent of the costs and time of overall software delivery. Everyone is driving toward efficiencies and automation with methods such as CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery), where you test early and often, to reduce the number of defects found late in the software delivery lifecycle. There is also paired development, which aims to increase quality and turnaround time. Agile engineering is at the heart of some of the concepts within our industry.

Josiah Renaudin: Do you think some or even most managers think that automation is automatic? It seems as if every team wants to institute test automation but rarely have the resources in place to do it properly.

Jennifer Scandariato: That’s a tough question. I’ve met with various leaders who think automation is the magic pill, but it’s not. How you automate and how much you automate is the key. Skills and the team effectiveness is also a large ingredient in this calculation.

Josiah Renaudin: You talk about how in your organization, manual testers became automation engineers over time. At the start, were they resistant to the idea of this much change?

Jennifer Scandariato: Of course! At the start of these conversations, I received resistance and doubt from everyone. They literally looked at me like I was crazy! Change is hard, but as a leader, it’s our responsibility to draw the vision and define what good looks like—we create the map people need to see. The next step is to talk about the benefits of reaching that goal. It’s important to identify the win-win approach. What’s in it for the individuals? What’s in it for the company? And how do we get there.

Josiah Renaudin: Is it fair for testers to bear the brunt of all these changes? Do they ever feel singled out?

Jennifer Scandariato: Absolutely not. It’s a transformation at every level. At iCIMS, our QA team needed to learn new skills. Our SDETs needed to embrace the help and create a buddy system. Our developers needed to accept the help in test automation and be open to receive feedback on more effective ways to code.

Josiah Renaudin: Is there a lack of respect for manual testers in most modern software teams? Do other members of the team feel like testers are doing enough?

Jennifer Scandariato: There is a bias that manual testing is something that provides less value. I believe a strong engineer knows that there’s a level of critical thinking that is required to “break” things and ensure they are built robustly. It’s easier to teach Java than to teach the critical thinking required in a test engineer or SDET. On a great team, you have diverse skillsets where everyone complements each other, and you might even alternate roles such as paired programming where one person is developing and the other performs the validation or peer review (test).

Josiah Renaudin: Can management often be hesitant to heavily invest in their testers (training them in automation tools and even coding) since there might be a risk these testers decide they don’t want to be testers anymore? Can you accidentally convert all your testers into developers through this transformational process?

Jennifer Scandariato: Last year when I spoke about the need to upskill testing abilities, there was an attendee in the audience that voiced a concern if they did that, then perhaps that person would leave his company. So, there is a fear about attrition. My experience, and the transformational program we put into place at iCIMS, has zero attrition. My keynote will highlight ways to build a robust transformational program where individuals are engaged and believe in what they do and how they perform as a team—I think that’s the key.

Josiah Renaudin: We hear time and time again that everyone on the team is responsible for quality, but what about security? Keeping user data safe and insuring security is as important as ever, so who’s responsible for making security a high priority?

Jennifer Scandariato: That’s a great question. My belief is that the entire team is accountable for the quality, not just the QA engineer, test engineer, or SDET. At iCIMS, we specifically developed a center of excellence (CoE) around security engineering to ensure we are building from the beginning, versus bolting on at the end. The idea of high performing and best-in-class software as a service (SaaS) is focused for everyone in an agile team and not just the testing arm. Security is just one CoE, and we’ve developed four other CoEs—performance, accessibility, localization, and agile engineering. These will be covered in my keynote, as well.

Josiah Renaudin: More than anything, what central message do you want to leave with your keynote audience?

Jennifer ScandariatoI hope to provide the audience with a new lens around testing transformation, where our industry is heading, and provide a map on how to get there successfully. I will also sprinkle in some pearls of wisdom we’ve learned along the way. It can be done, and we need to be the voice and strength for our businesses.

Jennifer SJennifer Scandariato is the director of test engineering and leads the Women in Technology initiative at iCIMS, the leading provider of innovative software-as-a-service talent acquisition solutions. Jennifer has more than twenty-one years of experience developing technical solutions to drive growth and profitability while increasing customer satisfaction through high quality and overall engineering effectiveness. She is a frequent keynote speaker at schools, as well as women and leadership conferences in the New York metropolitan area.

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