Testology's Harrison Baker shares his tips for getting into video game quality assurance.
What exactly does your role entail?
I'm an executive QA manager at Testology. My role is driven to improve operations, communications, QA processes, service, client relation's pre/during/post test execution, and overall success at Testology. What's great about my role is the extremely collaborative approach we have for all of the above, so Testology is a fantastic machine where everyone is open to new ideas and excited to implement them. The role is a cog in an ever-improving mechanism!
How did you get your job?
I started working as tester at Lionhead Studios around ten years ago. I then moved to Testology during its first year of formation as our first contractor (just over eight years ago). I started working in this role as a tester and progressed through positions as the business grew: from test lead, senior test lead, gameplay consultant, project manager, QA manager, to where I am now. It was an extremely organic and natural progression where I continued to develop my awareness of QA, service providing, and the business, in general, as my position in the company developed.
What special skills or qualifications did you need?
Because of my integration within the company, it was a more developmental experience and qualifications were less of a consideration when progressing – we truly believe in facilitating ambitious and talented people at Testology; throughout the company. I have ten years experience in QA, and over eight years experience with Testology, so my experience and understanding of the field/business was critical in my continuation through roles. My university degree certainly contributed to my analytical awareness of daily challenges and helped me understand myself as a person, but this contributes to my output, rather than distinguishing my role advancement through the business.
In regards to skills, the role in itself is heavily reliant on a high work ethic, strong organisational proficiency, working with people empathetically to achieve goals, creative/assertive thinking to develop and execute new ideas within the community, confident communication skills, and a passion for QA/service providing.
Describe a normal day. What do you do?
At a high-level, a normal day means arriving at 8am – an hour before the test teams – to ensure all projects are briefed and prepared for the day. With up to 35 projects a day, and many to plan, our inboxes and Skype instances are pretty hectic and contribute a considerable amount to my day. Beyond that, there are calls with existing clients to discuss new requirements, calls with potential clients to discuss our services and philosophy, visits out of office to client studios when arranged, internal meetings relating to management, operations, IT, online presence, projects, and everything else in between, writing proposals and amending test phase approaches, spending time with the test teams to see how they're getting on throughout their day and, before I know it, it's 6pm! Also, I do enjoy the occasional Nandos for lunch, and playing some Ping Pong, Pool, or FIFA during other lunches.
What are the best and worst parts of your role?
The best parts… Well, firstly, as a service provider, satisfying so many great clients and working on such diverse and amazing products is an incredibly fulfilling aspect of the role. Our business is heavily reliant on repeat work and word-of-mouth recommendations. So this is certainly rewarding and great validation of the company's hard work. Beyond that, working with so many talented colleagues for an unbelievably wonderful company, contributing to the evolution of ideas/operations/direction of said company, and looking forward to each day of work is also some of the best parts. Personally, as well, travelling to industry shows is a great opportunity. Meeting like-minded, enthusiastic, and talented developers/businesses always refreshes the inspiration tank. Plus, exploring new locations is a wonderful perk.
If being pushed for some 'worst points', which is tough when enjoying the role to the extent I do, sometimes the hours can be quite demanding – especially considering clients in different time zones and the extremely fast turnaround on some test phases, but this is what we sign up for, right! It's part and parcel of the service providing experience. And our combined willingness to go beyond the working day is why we have so many great relationships.
What tips would you give to someone applying for a similar position?
To work in a similar role, you have to be committed to QA. For me, my particular role is a healthy mixture of QA and business focus, but there has to be a desire to make QA your career. My advice for people wanting a senior role in QA is to fully believe in your own potential and the potential opportunities within QA when beginning as a tester. Understand the full process of testing and how it contributes to the overall development cycle. This initial awareness will go a long way in installing values of quality throughout your career. Essentially, the desire to make things 'better' and of a higher quality will drive you on no matter what role comes your way.
What tips would you offer someone applying to work in the same field?
QA is a wonderful place to work. It develops an understanding of development and facilitates entry-level jobs. When we read through CVs, which come to inbox by the hundreds, we look for engaging candidates that are able to display their passion for the industry and personality within their presentation and content. We have an extremely engaging interview process at Testology that goes a long way in spotting talent. So, with this in mind, we like to offer personable and passionate candidates an interview. Like us, there are many developers that offer QA work experience. If applications have been unsuccessful, I would recommend looking into these work experience roles to gain initial, high-level awareness of development, culture, and testing processes so that CVs are supplemented with tangible experiences.