The Sweet Music of Team Collaboration
Through roles as recording engineer for the rock band 10,000 Maniacs and working at MTV, Gina Olmedo has always believed in the sweet music of team collaboration. Currently Qualitest’s quality engineering lead for a top pharmaceutical company, the former music major recently told us how she came to merge technological and musical expertise into a rewarding IT leadership career.
When did you join Qualitest, and what’s your role?
I joined Qualitest in August 2016. I lead a terrific team of quality engineers who support strategic digital initiatives for a major New York-based biopharmaceutical brand. My role is multifold and always evolving, but basically I lead quality engineering efforts as an engagement manager, and I’m working toward helping them mature their testing process and implementing a fully Managed Testing Service.
We understand that you have a very interesting background in music.
I have a degree in sound recording technology, but I started out as an applied-piano major. I also write music. At school, I got involved in a lot of ensemble groups, and also worked in film, video, and music production. I love collaborating, and I think that’s why I like what I do now, in testing, so much.
I also served as the sound recording engineer for 10,000 Maniacs, which was an incredible experience. They’re still friends of mine. I go see them perform whenever I can.
What was the career path that led you to software testing?
As dreams go, it’s not easy to have a successful music career! I realized I needed a day job. My first job out of college was as a production assistant on “The Natural” which was shooting in in the Buffalo area (I worked with the sound crew and in the production office – really just a glorified errand girl). I worked at a variety of other film and video production jobs, but also got involved with computers as a musician and recording engineer.
I was a technical writer for many years, and what I found is that when you’re documenting a system, you’re actually testing and documenting the steps that you took to do this or that function. I seemed to have an uncanny ability to find that one bug in a system, and I ended up finding lots of bugs.
Someone on my team at NYNEX/Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) kept telling me, “You know, you should do software testing, you’d be great at it.” I started working on Quality Systems there, set up Quality Assurance Teams at two other software companies (Nitorum and Triple Point Technology), and then joined a software testing team at MTV, where I was able to meld my passion for music with my acumen for finding bugs and defects.
How is being in a band similar to working in testing?
I’m a firm believer that the end product is always better when people collaborate. In testing, I don’t think anybody could do this type of technical work by themselves. The systems we work with are too complex. You need buy-in by the business users—for them to be involved and tell you how they’re going to use the system. They know their jobs better than you, and they’ll be working with that system or tool every day.
I get such great ideas from the people I work with. We all bring something different to the table, and those different perspectives are what make beautiful music.
What’s it like working for a biopharmaceutical client?
Quality assurance means something very different in the pharmaceutical world. Beyond the deep responsibility of helping bring life-transforming medicines to market, it also means complying with industry and regulatory policies and procedures, which must be tested and documented precisely and flawlessly.
What sort of projects do you work on for your pharmaceutical client?
Many times, we work with customized off-the-shelf software, which is configured and implemented to meet the client’s needs. This entails adapting an application to make sure it meets the necessary functional, requirements. We also have to make sure it integrates with existing systems.
Can you give me an example?
Our client provides research grants to different university facilities. Once a research project is approved for funding, employees manage the information coming back from the university team conducting the research. They need to make sure the grantees are meeting their responsibilities and providing reports.
The whole process of getting grants approved and accepted and reviewing reports required a commercial system, which was provided by a company called Polaris. We worked with Polaris to customize and test that system, and integrate it into our client’s environment. We’ve also been working closely with our client’s HR department on the digitization of their employee records s and on a consultant onboarding and management system.
My work is always collaborative, everyone plays to their strengths, and every day is different and full of surprises – just like the music studio.
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