Women at Showmax: Eva Podbrdská
Eva Podbrdská in the winning team at the Showmax offsite
Frequently on Slack, we sometimes get to hear fun stories she tells us about her dog, but more often we benefit from her devotion to her job and correct those mistakes of ours which she politely points out. She is an absolute professional and founder of the Showmax testers community, where members can share knowledge over a cup of coffee. Meet Eva Podbrdská, celebrating 4 years at Showmax this year.
People tend to simplify things so we could say Eva is a tester, but she would explain to you that there is much more to it than just testing the software, so read on…
You have been working for Showmax for almost 4 years now, solely focused on testing. What thrills you about testing and why is it the best job for you personally?
I love when I get to do investigative work. The thrill of tracking down errors, searching for clues, digging in logs, gathering tiny bits of information until the culprit emerges – it's like a treasure hunt. Other people pay for this experience – and I'm lucky enough to get paid for it!
Another thing that intrigues me about the QA field is how diverse and varied the job is and how much there is to learn. I get to work within all layers of the tech stack, so I have the opportunity to play with many different tools and technologies. I get to cooperate with a very diverse group of people from a variety of teams. I get to do all kinds of things – sometimes my job is just figuring out who needs to talk to whom in order to make things work, and then facilitating that meeting :-) So I wouldn't exactly say I'm “solely focused on testing.” I'm focused on software quality and testing is just a part of that.
How did you become a tester? Was it a coincidence or a well-thought-through choice?
It was a very pragmatic choice originally. Just like many other new moms, when my parental leave was nearing its end, I knew I didn't want to go back to my previous job in telecommunications where I'd had to work twelve-hour shifts, day and night. I needed a more flexible working arrangement to be able to combine work with caring for our kid. And I knew that jobs in IT tend to have this flexibility. At first, I was thinking of becoming a programmer - but I quickly realised it would take me more than a few weeks to learn coding on a level that would get me a job. Fortunately I found out that there is such a thing as testing, which I'd never heard of before. That sounded like something I could do! I was incredibly lucky to land a part-time job at Showmax almost straight away. And I quickly fell in love with my work. I think I've finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up! :-)
Have you ever had a mentor at Showmax helping you grow the tester's skill set?
I haven't had a dedicated mentor at Showmax but I have learned a lot from everybody I've cooperated with, regardless of their role. Showmax is an amazing place that has enabled me to learn and grow on a scale I'd never expected to be possible. In a sense, the whole company is my mentor! And being a backend tester, I am often acting as a hub connecting many different people and teams across the company. I get to work with developers, product owners, project managers, data engineers, and also with people from other companies we cooperate with. So many opportunities to learn new things every day!
Another community that has supported me a lot in my learning is the Ministry of Testing. It's without exaggeration the best testing community in the observable universe and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it and learn from my fellow testers all around the world.
Eva working with her dog
How many testers do you cooperate with on a daily basis?
Being the only tester on our team, I don't cooperate with other testers at Showmax very often. To be honest, that's something that's been bugging me for quite some time – that testers from different teams don't get to learn from each other all that much. I have recently started running regular “coffee” sessions where we share knowledge together. We'll see how it goes.
What does your typical day look like? (Is there a week day you like the most, e.g. because of regular testing loads?)
In the backend we don't have scheduled releases, we release on a continuous basis. That means there are no typical days for me – every day is different. Scheduled meetings, ad-hoc meetings, pairing, deep solo work or just jumping here and there on Slack to help people out… I never know what the day will bring.
So no favourite day because of its schedule?
I enjoy Thursdays – I've recently gone back to working part-time, I'm working only four days a week and have Fridays off. So Thursday is my Friday before a three-day weekend :-D I can't recommend this arrangement enough, it has been doing wonders for my mental health. It's absolutely worth the pay cut for me.
In December last year, you finished Femme Palette mentoring and Black-Box Software Testing (BBST) Foundations course levelling up your skills. What would you say the Femme Palette mentor helped you with the most?
My mentor was Lewis Prescott and I couldn't have wished for a better one. Not only is Lewis extremely experienced as a tester and test lead, he's also one of the kindest and most supportive people I've ever met. It's priceless to be able to talk things through with somebody who has gone through the exact same challenges and knows how to deal with them.
The main topic we've been discussing was implementing change. It's one thing to identify issues and inefficiencies in the current ways we work as a team and know what we want to change, but actually making the change happen is a whole new animal. People are naturally resistant to change – the force of habit is a very powerful one. Lewis has helped me a lot with figuring out how to split a change into tiny steps and then find out ways to achieve each of those steps. Every now and then I find myself referring back to my notes from our sessions.
And I haven't only gained a mentor, I've gained a friend.
And what has the BBST course brought you?
Oh, lots of things :-) It was a very intense course that took basically all of my free time during a period of four weeks and covered a lot of topics – for example, there was a module on computer science fundamentals, another one on test strategy… But my main takeaway from this course was probably how it changed my mindset about testing oracles. A testing oracle is something that gives you a definite answer to the question “is this a feature, or a bug?” Previously, if I didn't have a clear and unambiguous oracle, I would always be looking for somebody to make that decision for me. The BBST course has empowered me to make the call myself and given me tools to support it – not only to say “I think this is a bug,” but also to give a powerful argument for “why is it a bug?” I'm very much looking forward to the next course, BBST Test Design, which I'll be taking in April.
Last year you also visited the TestBash conference in the UK. This year you are coming back as a speaker. What will your talk be about?
TestBash UK (run by the Ministry of Testing) was absolutely incredible and I can't thank Showmax enough for funding our trip. The format of this conference is pretty unique – each speaker gives not only a talk, but also facilitates a hands-on workshop and an “activity” (a short, bite-sized workshop) which together make for a very intense and enjoyable learning experience.
I was very surprised when my abstract for this year's TestBash UK was accepted. I have never spoken at an in-person conference before so this is a whole new challenge for me – I'm equally exhilarated and terrified :-) The workshops will be especially demanding for me, as I don't have much experience with interactive teaching. Fortunately the MoT team is very supportive and I know I can ask them for help when I need it. My talk and workshops will be on the topic of learning – strategies for making learning more effective and persistent. My boss John is really the one to “blame” here because it was him who once suggested the book “Make it Stick” to me. That sparked my interest and sent me into a deep rabbit hole of learning about learning. I hope to empower other members of the community in their learning efforts and also to learn a lot myself in the process. Teaching others is the best way to learn after all!
What is your goal now, what do you want to achieve next?
I have just gotten the news that my submission for yet another conference, DevConf in South Africa, has been accepted as well! This time it will be a completely different talk – I'll be analysing the software bug that caused the crash of a rocket (Ariane 5 flight 501) from the point of view of a quality engineer. It will basically be an Air Crash Investigations episode but about a software failure. Fun!
It sounds like you have many interests – what do you want to focus on learning next?
There is so much to learn and so little time!
Apart from upskilling myself in testing tools and other technical topics such as coding and test automation, I definitely want to be more actively involved in the testing community. I'm working on resurrecting the Ministry of Testing Prague meetups – one small meetup has already taken place (many thanks to Showmax for sponsoring us!) and I hope that together we can make the local community grow, thrive, and learn from each other.
Eva at the Ministry of Testing meetup at Showmax
Some could also hear your engaging talks about autism. Why is it an important topic for you?
It's a topic that is close to my heart – it was just a couple years ago that I found out that I'm autistic and the knowledge has changed my life in very profound ways. It has enabled me to accept myself for who I am and to finally get the tools and support I need. And that is what originally got me into public speaking despite being absolutely terrified of it. I have given online talks about autism and neurodiversity on several occasions: at TestBash Leadership (Ministry of Testing's online conference), at Showmax and at several other companies. I felt driven to pass the knowledge forward, share my personal story and what I've learned about myself with the hope it might help somebody else. If I've made just one other person's life better it was worth it.
Thank you Eva!