Women at Showmax
Meet Olga Tichánková, Android app tester
Every year, we use the National Women’s Day to publish an interview with one of our Showmax women, who are needed and respected. We share their stories to attract more women to apply to work with us – because they are brilliant colleagues and help us thrive every day.
Last year’s edition was about Rozi from the design team. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can still find it on blog: Meet Rozálie, our soon-to-be mobile designer. This year, we spoke with Olga, who made a leap of faith when she joined Showmax and traded her job as a financial officer for a new career as a tester. Two and a half years later, she is a great help to the Android developers’ team and she is happy about her decision.
When you joined Showmax you made a big change in your career path. From working on risk assessment or financial analysis you moved to testing Android applications. Why?
Life is full of changes :) And one of my life principles is to keep my eyes open and grab opportunities that pop up. I used to work in banks as a financial analyst preparing credit proposals, and I liked that just as I liked people I worked with. Then, I had kids and I wanted to return to work after maternity leave. It wasn’t so easy to find a similar part-time position which was compatible with my family life. After I spent some time searching, I had two options – become a bookkeeper in a big international company or leave the financial sector completely and become a tester at Showmax.
What was the reason to take on the latter very challenging option?
I was balancing two incomparable paths. On the one hand, I was quite familiar with bookkeeping, and continuing with this career would make perfect sense and would be easy. On the other hand I had been fascinated by the IT world for some time already. I was interested in HTML, CSS and the Bootstrap framework. And I even passed some Czechitas courses for programming in Python. I was looking in this direction with interest mixed with anxiety about entering a completely different world as an absolute novice. Regarding the specific position at Showmax, I did not know much about testing. I only knew that for me this could be an entry point into IT. The reason why I accepted was a call from Zita, the HR manager at Showmax, who promised me plenty of interesting work, great colleagues, and a company where each particular employee matters, and doesn’t represent just an item in the HR system. I was on vacation at that time, sitting on a beach, watching the sea and thinking about steering my career into unknown waters.
Has the promise come true?
Yes, and I’ve never regretted joining Showmax.
You got on board in autumn 2019, so you spent a few months with the team in the pre-covid schedule. What was onboarding and everyday work like back then?
That time was great. For me it was like living a dream. I had a job that I really wanted to do and I had a great colleague Alena who helped me a lot during onboarding. The whole team was always reachable and helpful, so all went smoothly. Of course, it was much easier to start a new job if you met the colleagues every day. We went for lunch together, had coffee breaks and made small talk, we got to know each other and I guess it helped us stick together in covid times. People at Showmax make the job so special. My youngest son still remembers meeting Michal Ursíny when he was at the office, who taught him to play the Mario game on a big screen in our meeting room. We treat each other as family.
What has covid pandemic brought, how has it changed the team work?
My first reaction to closing the office was that it would last only a few days or weeks and then we would return. It was pretty strange to quickly wrap up all our stuff, mobiles, android TVs, monitors, and bring it all home. To avoid feeling abandoned, we met at online coffees regularly and prolonged our standups including small talk and sharing more information. Every team dealt with that somehow. I remember that after a few weeks the smart TV team, having their living rooms cluttered with smart TVs, came up with a remote testing solution (editor’s note: you can read more about it on the blog: Remote testing on Smart TVs).
At that time, I couldn’t imagine that remote work would last so long, almost two years with short breaks during summer months. Sometimes it was tough for me as a mother. I had to become a jack of all trades – working, teaching my 3 kids, cooking, and more. Testing the Showmax app was kind of relaxing for me. I was sure I couldn’t give up on that. But in July 2020 I was pretty exhausted and worried about the upcoming school year. Fortunately, teachers were better prepared with online courses and I learned that everything doesn’t have to be perfect every day.
Anyway, in some aspects the pandemic brought positive things too. First of all, I really felt supported by the company during that time, which is a great finding when you are a newbie. And now, since we have flexible hours I can increase my workload and I work usually in the two-shifts mode. Everytime I am in the office, I very much enjoy being with my colleagues and the new setup helps us work intensively when we are not together, especially with Alena.
So you still work closely with Alena. Do you work together on the same projects?
Yes, that’s right. I discuss tickets and new features with Alena every day and because the time for the call is limited we come prepared and use the time to the fullest. We talk about our different opinions and sometimes we get to talk about irrelevant things; but the flow is a great opportunity to discover hidden issues. Which I guess gives that time the label of ‘well-spent’.
The approach to combine several points of view on the user journeys is interesting, where does it come from?
Let me give you the bigger picture of how we think about testing. Our designers and product manager conduct interviews with customers about their experience with our app. While we are testing, we try to use these interviews, and combine them with our common sense about what the users are likely to do or what could surprise them in the app. Every unexpected behavior of the application is worth discussing with a product manager or a designer. It could potentially be a bug or something that was left behind when briefing developers.
The crucial thing that every tester should bear in mind is the customer’s expectations. Why the customer specifically selected our service, and what user experience needs to be sustained within every update. It might seem obvious but it isn’t always as intuitive as you would expect.
And back to the question. Last year, we had an interesting training focused on the customer experience. People from various Showmax teams attended the training and during one of the sessions we discussed all the pretty obvious things on the user journey. Each of us expressed what the user does in the application when he wants to use it. It was funny to see that each of us was very much focused on his particular part of the business and we were adding more and more potentially important details to a very simple journey. So we saw that no journey is as simple as we might think.
How was this learning put in practice? Do testers cooperate with other teams, such as Product, Design or Engineering to think about the journeys and use cases before developing new features?
Yes, for sure, we closely cooperate. At Showmax we organise grooming meetings where designers and product managers present us with new features. Developers attend to discuss implementation, and testers to ask annoying questions. These meetings are very useful because they put people with diverse roles, mindsets, and experiences into one room. Every opinion counts when you aim for perfect design and functionality. Sometimes we discover some edge cases that need to be treated, which is great, because the sooner possible failures are discovered, the cheaper the solution is. In addition to the grooming sessions, we also have ad hoc meetings with designers and devs to clarify app behavior or features, like whether there are differences between adult and kids profiles, or similar questions.
Back to your home team. The Android team prepares new releases for Thursdays to offer users the new features before the weekend. What does your typical end of the week look like?
First you need to understand what the beginning of the week, or in general the beginning of the release is like. Long story short. First we have to test tickets introducing new features, bug fixes, etc. Once a sum of tickets have been tested, after a week or two, the release build is prepared. And on the release build, we test all of the changes that were made once again to see that all was put together correctly and no regressions occurred. In fact, we retest every ticket included in the release, and we do a quick test to see if all of the key functionalities work as expected. If we find a bug or some issues turn up, developers prepare a hotfix. Then another testing round starts – first we check any impacted tickets and then the key functionality. Of course, there can be more hotfixes. It’s pretty usual to have three, sometimes we even have seven. If the version seems to be stable, we prepare a full test where we go through more functionalities and dig into deeper detail. And after all these rounds are finished, we do a quick test on a Huawei without google services, which are becoming more and more popular in Africa.
Release builds are usually prepared on Thursdays so that we are able to do the first hotfix(es) by Friday evening. This way, at least some beta testers can use the application during the weekend and we get first users’ data and can see if the version is stable or has issues. And we can see that for more devices than we could test. The beta version of the Android app helps us enormously in getting the app ready for every possible scenario and Martin Šuráb, the Android team leader, spent some time last year promoting it even further (editor’s note: read more about testing the Android app in the Interview with the Android team leader Martin Surab).
How much does automated testing help you? Have you already built some automated tests yourself?
Applications are continuously tweaked and new features appear, which is great (fun) but it also means a lot of testing.Test automation has already become crucial and inevitable due to the growing number of test cases. It is almost impossible to cover everything with manual testing. We test two platforms - Android phones and Android TVs. The most used phones are Samsung and Huawei which itself includes two big families of devices – with and without google services, each coming with its own specifications. Regarding Android TVs, we need to test the app for both a common Android TV and a special hybrid TV that is widely used too.
You have to bear in mind that we don’t only test the simplest or shortest paths, we also test paths with obstacles, or diversions from the intended path. Paths when the user loses their wifi connection, turns off display, or needs to accept a call. Even in these scenarios the application must continue working as usual.
Our colleague Kelsey who joined the team about a year ago focuses solely on test automation, and we are very happy to have him on the team. He explained the principles of automated tests to us, and how to build them; we’ve already managed to commit some on our own. I am really looking forward to preparing some more.
Last year you got into a mentoring program. How is it to have your own personal mentor?
I’ve been mentored since December. So, not for such a long time. But, it’s like having a coffee with a colleague or a friend and discussing work. I wanted to have a mentor that started from scratch in testing, the same as I did, to better understand me, my questions and worries. And my mentor Alina Sedymova perfectly meets all my requirements. She managed to build a successful career within a few years. She keeps challenging me by asking difficult questions. I can’t sleep then and I have to think about it. At the beginning, I set some targets I would like to reach. But to be honest, I can see that the path is the goal in my case.
I highly recommend having a mentor. Because Alina encourages me to think more about what I do, where I could save time and how to get more organized or automate work. She recommends topics that are worth reading and in general she helps me see the big picture. I find it very very useful because I do not have experience with testing from other companies and she offers other opinions and attitudes. She pushes me forward faster than I could get on my own.