In the “Job Profiles” series, various members of the InterNations team talk about their role in the company and the work they do at InterNations. In this interview, Senior Quality Assurance Engineer Arusikha talks about her career in QA, relocating from Kolkata to Munich, and what she appreciates most about working at InterNations.
How long have you been working at InterNations, and what’s your role in our team?
It’s been about two years. I joined in November 2019, and I’m currently a Senior Quality Assurance Engineer.
What quality assurance in general does is to maintain the quality of a software application. It should always be stable, and the end users shouldn’t encounter any issues. At InterNations, I’m responsible for looking after our product. This includes our apps for Android and iOS, as well as testing our website across various browsers, both desktop and mobile ones.
I’ve been part of a specific PXT (product experience team) right from the start. Our team is responsible for the main part of the application, for example, the registration process and onboarding new InterNations members, the profile pages, user accounts, and membership upgrades. But I also work with other PXTs on an ad hoc basis.
Can you explain in detail how a Quality Assurance Engineer works?
Some parts of my job are very technical. But to help you understand my role, I won’t go into too many technical details. Instead, I will just describe our workflow.
We work based on the Agile method. Agile software development follows certain principles, such as delivering working software frequently and continuously. Therefore, we work in so-called sprints of two weeks’ duration.
At the start of a sprint, we decide which features, updates, and known issues to tackle. Then the development cycle begins. Meanwhile, I go through the different user stories and look into the acceptance criteria to get a better understanding of what the developers are working on.
Sorry for the interruption, but what do you mean by “user stories”?
A user story is just an informal description of what the software is supposed to do, from the end user’s perspective. For example: “As a new InterNations member, I want to upload a photo to my profile page.” That’s a user story.
Our PXT describes every feature in the form of such a story, and every story needs to meet certain requirements — the acceptance criteria. How exactly should the feature function? What will the new component look like? Will there be any changes to the copy — the short bits of text on the website and in the app? The product manager usually takes all the information from different team members and merges it together in the user story.
So, while the developers are building the feature, I look into the user stories and acceptance criteria to have a clear idea of what exactly I’ll be testing, how it’s supposed to work, and what it’s going to look like on the screen. This helps me come up with various test scenarios, which basically describe the actions an end user might undertake when interacting with the feature.
And then the actual testing starts?
Yes, once the development cycle is over, the changes are deployed on stage. The staging environment is a kind of mirror of our actual product, used for testing purposes. As soon as the code changes are merged on stage, I can start testing.
I usually log into the staging environment, try out the new feature, and check if it behaves as expected. Let’s suppose that a new member uploads a photo and moves on to the next step in the onboarding process. If the photo doesn’t get displayed, things are definitely not fine.
I need to report any issues or defects I encounter. These bugs are prioritized in discussions with the developers and product manager, so we can figure out how urgent it is to fix them.
Once everything works fine on stage, we release the changes in production. Production is our live environment, where the end users interact with the product. That’s why I need to be extra-cautious here. So, I log into the production environment to run even more tests. My main goal is to ensure that the end users — 4.3 million InterNations members worldwide — don’t face any difficulties.
What do you need to keep in mind when running all these tests?
As a Quality Assurance Engineer, I sometimes have to figure out the best way to break stuff. Rigorous testing means not going with the flow and not following the conventional steps. You want to make sure that things really work, even if the users don’t behave as expected, if they don’t do things in the “right” order, etc. I often go beyond what’s mentioned in the acceptance criteria to identify all possible bugs.
Moreover, it’s my job to check that our existing functionality — especially the registration process — remains unaffected by any new features or other code changes. This is why we have regression testing.
Regression testing is a type of power testing of the entire application, done to verify that a code change in the software doesn’t impact the functionality of the existing product. You don’t know, for example, which part of the application some changes in the backend — which our users won’t even see — might affect. Anything might be broken. Then I have to run any number of tests to make sure that, yes, our overall application is still working fine.
Can you tell me more about your previous career in quality assurance?
I actually have a degree in electronics & communication engineering. By the time I was graduating, l’d already received a couple of job offers — one from an electronics company and one from a reputed IT firm. I still don’t know why, but I was very much interested in joining the latter, though the other job was closer to my field of studies.
When I started there, together with other graduates, we received some basic IT training and then were randomly assigned to different groups. I ended up among the quality assurance analysts. At that time, I honestly had no idea what I would be doing.
But as I became more familiar with the technical terms and processes, I realized how much I enjoyed working in quality assurance. It requires an interesting mix of technical knowledge and analytical skills.
When I run backend tests or do automated testing, I benefit from my technical background. And whenever I do functional testing, I use my analytical ability to think outside the box. You always need to think from the user’s perspective and anticipate what they might be thinking. Quality assurance serves as a bridge between developers and end users.
And while I gained more experience, I gradually climbed the corporate ladder. I started off in a junior position, then I became a quality assurance analyst and finally a senior analyst. In the end, I was a team lead, responsible for managing seven or eight people.
But you’re currently the only Quality Assurance Engineer at InterNations, aren’t you?
Yes, and I was also the first person with a background in quality assurance to ever join the team. This has been a bit of a challenge, especially in the beginning.
Many of our developers weren’t accustomed to working with quality assurance, so I had to explain the process. We didn’t have any established testing procedures before. But if you just test a feature you’ve built yourself, you might not think of as many potential issues. You develop a kind of tunnel vision, whereas you need to check it from someone else’s perspective.
I’ve really enjoyed working with the product managers and developers to implement and improve our quality assurance process, though. In my previous position as a team lead, I was responsible for setting up and improving upon the processes within my team, which has been a huge help here. I also got enormous support from all my colleagues. This is something I really like about InterNations — how helpful the people are.
How did you come to work for InterNations?
Both my husband — who also works in IT — and I wanted to live and work in Europe for a while. When he found a job opportunity in Munich, he moved here in autumn 2017. However, I wasn’t able to join him immediately. I only came here about a year later, after he’d settled in. It was rather stressful to be married and live on two different continents, with a time difference of around four hours!
When I started looking for a job in Munich, I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t sure what working in a German business environment would be like, and my German wasn’t very good yet. While most people in tech speak English, you might also need German language skills in order to communicate with clients. I thought this would be rather challenging.
So, finding out about the vacancy at InterNations on a career website was a bit of a relief. It’s a product company, not a services company, so there aren’t any external clients to talk to. And an on-site interview gave me the chance to meet the entire Product & Engineering Department. I was very excited to see so many people from all over the world at the same office.
What has expat life in Munich been like for you?
I’m originally from Kolkata, so moving to Germany was a completely new experience. Coming to Munich definitely didn’t feel like love at first sight to me.
I arrived in December: it was cold, it was dark, and there was snow everywhere. Where I come from, it’s always hot and humid. When it’s 15°C in Kolkata, people will put on their sweaters and complain that it’s freezing. You can imagine how I felt, arriving here in winter! I also miss the food. There’s no such thing as a good Indian restaurant in Munich, or at least I haven’t found one yet. So, I took up a new hobby and started improving my cooking skills.
By now, I feel much more at home, though. Once it became summer and the days grew brighter, I started taking a lot of walks along the Isar River. I also live fairly close to the city center. I hang out there a lot because such a lively, crowded environment feels just lovely to me. The area is always full of people from different countries and cultures, too — there’s lots of tourists and international residents around. And, to be honest, I’m a bit of a shopaholic, so I love all the different shops and department stores.
Speaking of special: What makes your job at InterNations special?
This is actually my first time in a product company. In my old job at a services company, I would work on different projects with different products for different clients. Here, I’m able to focus on thinking purely from a product perspective, and I always get to know the business impact of whatever feature we’re building.
I also like how transparent the organization is. Management has always been very open, freely sharing news and updates, even during the tough COVID-19 times, which I really appreciate. I’d also describe the general culture as very open minded. People are open to both appreciative feedback and criticism.
And yes, I know that everyone always says this, but I must mention the people. So many people in the team have an international background, and I see so much diversity here. Getting to know my colleagues from different parts of the world, hearing their stories, and learning more about their cultures has been very exciting.
Image credit: InterNations, iStockphoto, Pexels