Interviewing our FailQonf Speaker Anna Royzman | Failure Stories, Leadership, Community Builder
Each of our FailQonf Speakers has years of experience behind them and a crazy amount of knowledge acquired over those years. It would be bad on our part if we restrict their stories to only their FailQonf sessions. We are as eager as you all to know them and their journey better, and hence this Interview Series.
We had a few questions in mind which we wished to get answers from all of them, and there were questions we designed based on the little research we did on their work and life. We so enjoyed the process and now as we have the answers with us, we are enjoying it even more. We are sure you will enjoy this interview too.
In this Interview, I (Deepan Kumar) took the opportunity to ask our FailQonf Speaker Anna Royzman a few questions about Failures, Lessons learned, and a part of their amazing work in the Industry. We thank Anna for their time to answer these, and for sharing a part of their life with us.
About Anna Royzman: Anna is a renowned international speaker and recognized expert in Software Test Leadership. In 2015, she founded Test Masters Academy which runs major international events: Test Leadership Congress, Test Masters Online, and ConTEST NYC, which made the list of the best global Software Testing conferences in 2018-2019. Anna held various test management roles for 14+ years, served as the Executive At Large on Association for Software Testing’s Board of Directors (2016-2017), as the President of AST Quality Leader SIG (2012-2014), and as the Software Test Professionals Community Advisory Board Member (2014 2015). Anna is the founder of several Test/QA meetups in New York.
Deepan: If you recall your first professional failure, what was it and how did you respond to it?
Anna: I started my job at a startup – a small-size company, actively developing a brand-new product, with new components coming every day. Every Thursday, the company used to organize a “test night” event – where all employees would participate in testing. Naturally, being a professional tester – I have picked the new components to test. I found a bug during that group test; and wrote a bug report which went directly to the Head of Product.
My description of the bug was elaborate and lengthy; I was proud of myself for discovering that complicated bug. But it came back to me with the notes from the head of Product, who said – he did not understand what the bug was about 🙂 I went to him and explained the bug in his terms so that he could understand. That taught me a lesson: you always need to know who the customer of the report is. In that case, it was not a technical person, not a developer – but a businessperson. I needed to explain the bug in a way that he could understand to decide on its criticality.
Deepan: Any experience you would want to share wherein you learned from someone’s failure and based on that lesson you actually avoided a similar failure at work?
Anna: In 2009, one of our business units have adopted the “agile process”. They have been great with just about everything, from burndown charts to morning scrums and two-weeks iterations. Every iteration they would invite the customers (traders, who worked on the next floor), and did the demo. Traders loved it. The product went into release and was shut down 6 weeks after. The problem – it was missing the critical function, which required a complete architectural redesign. The customers never used the product during demo sessions. They only watched. The product did look good, only it was useless. What I learned – let the customer use the product before release and give timely feedback.
Deepan: What is the most interesting failure you have experienced, which kicked hard, but once you learned from it you achieved double of what was expected in the next attempts?
Anna: At one time, our team adopted an automation strategy – we wanted to automate our test scenarios as much as possible. The team created around 3000 tests that run overnight, and we experienced around 100-200 failures daily – mostly, intermitted failures, which created noise instead of information. A lot of time was wasted validating these failures daily. At one point we started the “0 tolerance” project – cleaning up our huge test suite, to make all tests failing for the right reasons. As a result, we trimmed the test suite to around 800 tests and achieved clean runs for several weeks. This time, our AT suite was doing the job – providing trustworthy results, and much-needed information about the build.
Deepan: Which challenges have you faced as a community leader and how have you overcome them?
Anna: The biggest challenge I faced as a community leader was the inability to organize face-to-face events for our community. I strongly support the community conferring; and worked hard in designing an environment for the most valuable peer encounters – our conferences in New York. We needed to change the whole conference concept when moved online. To support conferring – I introduced events at the different time zones so that testers from different countries could meet speakers and meet each other. It complicated the back-office tech support for the organizer’s team – but it created a unique experience for participants, which they loved.
Deepan: What is the worst failure you have experienced in terms of leadership, and you don’t want others to get into and fix it?
Anna: The hardest failure, for me, was fighting for the testers’ role and positions in the times of company reorgs. Our IT department undergoes 4 reorgs in a 6-month period. Each consecutive dept manager was putting testers lower and lower in the ranks. It took the company a while to recover from, as it was later called, “a reorg fatigue”. To me, it was a fight to keep the culture of quality, which was lost at that time. Now, when I build conference programs, I always invite and include the speakers who talk about establishing and growing the culture of quality. We should learn from each other how to lead and inspire the culture of quality in our organizations.
We hope you enjoyed reading this amazing interview. Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.
We can guarantee that you are going to enjoy FailQonf even more. Have yourself enrolled here if you have not done it so far. Please note there is a Free Pass option for the ones who cannot afford the Paid one in these difficult times. See you there.
About the Host:
Deepan is working with SecureW2 India Private Limited, Chennai as QA Manager. He is a passionate software tester and avid learner. He likes to explore new tools, technologies and implement them in real-time to make life easier. He used to connect with like-minded people and learn from them.