Math: the only thing that is generally true, most scientists would say. Or, like most of us would describe it: the horrible class we were forced to take.
I didn’t particularly like math in the beginning, but I started to understand how it works and most importantly, I knew why I have to learn it. The connection was there from the beginning, I could feel it, and it no time, I became a teacher, sharing my experience from that point on.
The journey started once I’d decided to become a teacher. I learned how to select the information I needed, between useful and toxic data. In no time, I woke up in Bucharest practicing math, learning how to extract information, how to connect it and most importantly learning how to use it. Four years later, with a mind full of knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm, I followed down the path to reach the best course of my life and started a new journey in Cluj-Napoca.
From a math teacher to QA engineer is just a step. There are a lot of aptitudes that are useful in both areas of expertise. For example, you must be adept to analytical thinking or detailed attention. My entire life I’ve learned to be skeptical, constantly putting a question mark on everything I see or hear. After more than eight years of questioning, I can easily say that “not believing” and “double checking everything” is a way of life.
Transitioning to a QA position was pretty easy and smooth for me. I was mentored and constantly getting help from my fellow colleagues. The first month was a month of learning. I began to understand what the QA field means, what the basic principles are, what I have to do as a QA and what tools are on the market that can help me perform well.
Over the next two months I engaged more, learning so much about the project I was assigned to, the people associated with the project, ways of working and time/task management. Project onboarding time is important and could be a real success, but only if your team colleagues support you. First, they have to make you feel like you are part of the team and that you’ll become an important piece of it. Once everybody works with this setup in mind you will easily become a solid QA asset.
My first steps into the QA world were a pain, since I didn’t even know how to properly engage with all the tools I had at my disposal. Everything was new to me – from getting into basic operations like running my local station, an iMac, down to usage of complex tools. Studying and asking a lot of questions, many of them multiple times until the information was deeply implemented in my mind, allowed me to develop and become the QA I am today. I’m ready for new tasks, open to new challenges and willing to help out where I’m needed to.
Over the past few years I’ve been involved in training/mentoring type of activities. And I was happy to see that my experience as a math teacher, has somehow paid off outside of a school environment.
To be a trainer inside the IT world requires an additional set of skills besides the tech side of it. And it’s oriented a lot on people/soft skills. Communication is key, and making yourself understood from the beginning is something that will facilitate the process along the way. To be a teacher or a trainer you have to know how to share the information, you have to understand how your students can assimilate most of the information in the shortest time possible.
As I’ve started taking this approach more and more, I’ve started to develop and become aware of a set of best practices that a mentor should apply in order to make sure it’s going to be a successful mentorship program, fit for both trainees or folks that are directly ramping up inside a project.
- Encourage your trainee to ask questions about EVERYTHING
Let your trainee know you are there for them and always willing to provide support when they get into bottlenecks. Being open and having a positive attitude, will pay in having a healthy back-to-back communication. Along with the trainee, find a Q&A system that will work for everyone. For example, the trainee should fill up their questions in a systematic manner, and you both can set a 2-3 slots/day, around 20 mins each, for answering questions, avoiding cases where you as a trainer, need to de-focus from your day-to-day tasks every so often. Pulling away from work in short 10 minute spurts won’t work and it will become frustrating at some point.
- Constant sync up’s between coach/mentor and trainee (1:1’s)
The trainee needs constant feedback along the way to be aware of his progress or on the things he still needs to invest time into overcome and learn. This also helps out the coach, as he knows exactly how to personalize the ToJ/ramp up program (if needed), in order to map it on the areas that are most challenging. And besides that, having constant 1:1’s during the training program, will make the trainee feel that he always has support and will give him a morale boost.
- Make the trainee feel that he’s part of the team
Feeling a part of a team was very important to me as well, as I’ve already mentioned. Making the trainee feel that he is one of “us”, develops his responsibility and ownership senses. This approach plays a crucial role when the trainee program concludes and they start being productive on a larger scale inside a project.
- Find trainee’s strengths
As a coach, you have full exposure over the entire progress and level of growth of the trainee. This insight will help you find the perfect fit once the program concludes, based on the technical level reached or based on development potential and adaptability (learning new things in a short period of time).
- Attitude / Soft skills / Approach
Always be calm and have patience when dealing with open questions or follow up’s. Be aware that the trainee may onboard with a minimal set of knowledge. This is an area where being a math teacher in my early years has paid off big time, as that helped me understand how new knowledge is easily picked up.
Having my “QA students” complete their ramp up and training, and seeing them productive inside projects once the program ends, is a great feeling. The road is filled with challenges, but it’s also fun, so I encourage you to be a part of it and try it.
I was surprised to see so many similarities in two very different working fields (Math vs IT), especially when dealing with people and being part of their initial career growth. I’m no longer a teacher, and haven’t been for many years now, but I’m still doing teaching inside Trainings/Ramp up programs on some level, and it really does fit me perfectly.
So if you have a critical mind and an enormous desire to “break stuff” feel free to join the QA world.