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QA – Some Type of Detective: Interview with Maciej Stanisz

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Igor Dąbrowski

It’s the official Tester’s Day! To celebrate, we sat down to have a chat with Maciej Stanisz – our QA who didn’t mean to be a QA. If you’d like to more about how to start a career in testing or just the specificity of the job in general, this is a must-read for you!

When did you become a software tester?

Maciej Stanisz: You need to know one thing about my life: the motto is “it just happened”.

You’ll have to elaborate on that!

MS: What I’m trying to say is I didn’t plan on becoming a software tester. I didn’t study IT. I chose logistics. During that time, I did not think that I would be an IT man. Part of it was because my older brother was a programmer and I didn’t want to do exactly what he did. I enjoyed logistics though. It gives you the basics about process design, organization, management. All in all, it’s valuable knowledge. 

So what happened later?

MS: Back in 2015, I had to take an obligatory internship to finish my studies. I did some stuff in PHP and C++ so I qualified for the internship at BinarApps. Working in a growing BinarApps was a fun adventure from the beginning. After that, 4 of us were offered a job: 3 of my fellow interns became coders and I was kind of stuck in deciding what I wanted to do. To be honest, that was the time when I really felt the pressure of the real world. I needed to have a job in order not to starve. 

At the time, BinarApps was a small company with about 25 people on board. You could say that software testing was done by everyone and no one. We did a little, the client did a little but no one really overlooked the entire process from start to finish. I am the kind of person who likes to look at things from a broader perspective, so the tester role went to me. 

If you asked me back then where do I see myself in 5 years, I wouldn’t imagine it’d be like this!

How did you learn how to do the job of a QA?

MS: Trial and error. There were some big errors at the start, I’m not going to deny that. However, this is truly the best method to learn anything. I appreciate that BinarApps gives you the space to learn from mistakes. The general approach is always that if a failure happens, we draw conclusions and move on. I did learn a lot from the Internet though, especially blogs. 

At what point did you feel that this might be it?

MS: After about half a year I felt that I am a good QA. The first two years were about shaping our QA style to what it is today. Then I started to focus on working with the business. Today I’m also a Product Owner on behalf of one of our clients. I did not cut myself off from testing but I “test” more by working with the client.

What was the hardest part of becoming a QA?

MS: I had no soft skills in the beginning. The company helped me open up. Before that, I was the stereotypical introverted engineer. Working with many different people and self-reflection was crucial. I realized I don’t always know better. Maybe in my eyes, some things work out but I might be wrong. I had to accept that. 

How would you describe the QA style of BinarApps?

MS: I’d describe it as very relaxed. It’s focused on thinking, not procedure. I feel good in an environment where not everything is fixed but every problem is looked upon from different perspectives. We don’t have a “that’s how you do it” approach. It’s more like “if the procedure doesn’t work, stop doing it”. Results are the most important factor. This has its drawbacks but I see more advantages than flaws.

In many environments, you get a list of cases and go through a round of case-test, case-test, without reflection. This is an approach from the 90s that many companies still use. It is not totally wrong but it does not work in every situation. In our style, the effects are as good if not better than in fossilized structures because it is based on understanding the client’s business and how the users will benefit from it. The main job of the tester is not the procedures, but asking the right questions. There is direct contact with the entire team. You look at the product from as many perspectives as possible: client, user, developer, your own. Then you check exactly the things you need and question the aspects that need to be questioned. This cannot be done with procedures! 

How the product is supposed to work is much more important to us than putting the comma in the right place. It’s like verification versus validation: at BinarApps, the latter is more important. We ask ourselves, did we plan to do the right thing? Did it meet the needs that must be met? It doesn’t matter that all the arrows on the list are green if no one will use the product. 

What are the biggest challenges you have to face?

MS: You have to try to make the best version of the client’s vision despite the temptation to say “let’s not do it, put it back in the box.” Clients often lack openness to what other people say. They’re stuck in the “I invented it, this is mine” line of thinking. I understand that. The ability to find out from the client what’s the idea and what is the need behind the idea is tough work. This is now my main task since I’ve become a Product Owner. 

How long have you been a Product Owner?

MS: I’ve been doing it for a year. It’s not something that is usually done. Most clients are very reluctant to give away responsibility for product development. At the same time, they often do not have the knowledge required to make the right decisions. I always try to say that something can be done better instead of saying that it’s pointless. The honest approach builds trust. 

What are the 5 features of a good QA?

MS: The ability to look at a problem from different angles. Creativity. Clarity of thought. Courage to stop the process in its rails if you know it’s going nowhere. Above all, the ability to talk and to listen.

Since you’ve mentioned it earlier, I have to ask: where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

MS: I plan to be alive and happy. The last 5 years turned out well so I’m going to stick to the approach of “it just happened.”

Interested in working at BinarApps? Check out our job offers.

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