The Testing Show: Women In Testing, Part 1
This is the first part of a two-part series that we are recording for Women’s History Month. To that end, we have changed things up. Gwen Iarussi and Rachel Kibler are taking the reins and moderating these episodes.
They welcome Catherine Carlos, Christina Codreanu, Rajini Padmanaban, and Maaret Pyhäjärvi to discuss the changing nature of Women in the testing space and what they have learned and adapted to along their journeys.
Rachel Kibler (00:00):
(INTRO) Hello And welcome to The Testing Show Episode 113: Women In Testing, Part 1 This Episode was recorded Monday, March 7, 2022. This is the first part of a two-part series that we are recording for Women’s History Month. To that end, we have changed things up. Gwen Iarussi and Rachel Kibler are taking the reins and moderating these episodes. We welcome Catherine Carlos, Christina Codreanu, Rajini Padmanaban, and Maaret Pyhäjärvi as we discuss the changing nature of women in the testing space and what we have learned and adapted to along our journeys. And with that, on with the show.
Gwen Iarussi (00:00):
Hello, and welcome to The Testing Show. Episode 113. You’re hearing a little bit of difference this week, you might notice. That’s because I am not your normal host. My name’s Gwen Iarussi. I am a big fan as well as a guest visitor on the show. My co-host here is Rachel Kibler. Rachel? Do you wanna introduce yourself?
Rachel Kibler (00:22):
Hi, I’m Rachel Kibler. I work at 1-800-CONTACTS. I’ve been on this show a few times, really thankful to Matt and Michael for letting Gwen and me take over. This is gonna be a lot of fun. We have a great show prepared for you. Let’s get right in with introductions. We have five people on our panel today. Really excited about this. Let’s start with Catherine Carlos. Catherine works for Qualitest. Do you wanna tell us a little bit about yourself?
Catherine Carlos (00:53):
Yeah, sure. I’ve been with Qualitest for about three years. I started in design, art, completely different fields, and just found a real home here with some other amazing creative people. I’ve worked on the ACU-weather project and led my own project at e-meals. I find myself getting really involved with the development of people and connecting with people. So those skills have really played a part in my success here at Qualitest.
Rachel Kibler (01:20):
Thanks a bunch. Maaret Pyhäjärvi is well known in the testing community. She is everywhere. She’s given keynotes for the last 25 years, Maaret, I’m sure that you can do a much better job talking about yourself than I can. Let’s hear from you.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (01:38):
Yeah, I’ve been around for 25 years, but I haven’t been keynoting that long. Maybe the main thing to know about me is that I’m kind of driven by the things I can’t do and I was totally afraid of public speaking and that’s how I ended up doing public speaking and keynotes. So always going towards figuring out how I can do something I couldn’t do yesterday.
Rachel Kibler (02:01):
That’s amazing. Thanks. Gwen? Do you want to take over introducing the rest of our guests?
Gwen Iarussi (02:05):
Oh, sure. Why not? I guess I’ll start by introducing myself a little bit. Gwen Iarussi, I’ve been in the testing industry going on 25 years now. Been around for a while. Seen a lot of evolution. Yeah, most recently I work for a testing services company. So I’ve gotten to do a lot more… a lot more on the business side of things, which is really fun, but excited to be here. Always excited to be a part of the larger testing community and to talk Women in Test. It’s a good topic. Let’s see who else we’ve got here. Christina (Codreanu)?
Christina Codreanu (02:39):
Hi, everyone. Very excited to be here today. I’m Christina. I’m the new kid on the block in Qualitest. I’m head of nearshore sourcing. Been with Qualitest for a bit over a month, but been in the industry for the past 15 years. I consider myself a builder. I love building teams, building operations. I’m particularly excited about the role of the women in the tech environment. Spot on with this podcast. Really excited about the discussion to come.
Gwen Iarussi (03:12):
Awesome. Glad to have you. Rajini? Please, correct me if I’ve mispronounced your name (laughter).
Rajini Padmanaban (03:18):
That was perfectly fine. Hi there. This is Ragini. I have over 20 years of experience, specifically in the software quality industry, the first 12 years in the United States, and then in India over the last nine years, varied set of roles all the way from a tester, a test lead, a project manager for larger ISPs and of late, a lot of startups and unicorns as well out here in India. So really enjoy evangelism is another thing which is very near and dear to me. So have been doing a lot of keynotes, tutorials, workshops have done, you know, women in testing sessions in the past for several other forums as well. So really look forward to this discussion today.
Gwen Iarussi (04:00):
Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better myself. We have quite the powerhouse of women today. So really excited to talk about this. Excellent. Let’s get started then. Let’s dig in. Let’s open up the conversation and talk a little bit about some of the changes that we’ve seen in the last five to 10 years for women in the industry. Anybody wanna kick us off with that?
Rajini Padmanaban (04:21):
I’m happy to go on. So women in tech, especially in the last five to 10 years, I think the tech industry itself has evolved big time. Back in the days, if you look at the decade between 2001 in 2010, or even up to 2015, there was a lot of focus on functional testing, specifically functional testing in a non-automated manner. And that, too, with a heavy focus of pure UI and the core end to end functionality, I think the industry has evolved big time in that particular space and alongside now, women have also evolved in understanding the latest in these tools, the latest in these technologies. So it’s wonderful to see, especially the last four or five years. I, for instance, on my teams have a lot of women who are building amazing automation frameworks, participating in significant non-functional areas of test; performance, testing security. I have some amazing engineers in the space of accessibility, so it’s wonderful to see women grow along in this evolution journey, branching into areas which are heavy in technology, such as automation and nonfunctional areas.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (05:35):
I’m really kind of wondering, has something really changed in the last five years, particularly? Again, I’m looking at this maybe from the point of view of I’m in Finland and I’ve kind of grown used to the idea that in testing, we have half women, half men, and it’s been the most equal area of tech that I’ve ever been in pretty much entire career of mine. And it’s been kind of the same in the last five years as well. And if I see a change, it’s more in the side of these small teams where you have different roles, different people playing on the different roles and there’s less testers in an individual team. So you have to find your community a little bit elsewhere rather than in the immediate team. So now looking for the other women in testing, you would go for the other teams because very typically there’s just a single tester in a team for the last five years that I’ve experienced.
Gwen Iarussi (06:34):
Oh, that is an interesting development, Maaret. Yeah. I think, I don’t know about everyone. I’d be interested to hear kind of everyone’s experience here. I know for me, I would say I have definitely seen an uptick. I think five to 10 years ago, I would say in general, my teams were much smaller in terms of women to men ratio. It was probably more of one to four, one to five ratio. But my last team that I had was almost 40% women. That was a drastic difference from teams I’ve led historically, what have you all found at Qualitest and beyond?
Christina Codreanu (07:12):
I think that the last few years have seen the establishment of more industry awards, and I mean specifically aimed at celebrating the achievements of women. There are examples women in tech excellence awards in the UK. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of female guest speakers at tech events across the globe. So maybe this is something that I’ve noticed. However, despite these positive developments, I’m sure. And there’s still a long way to go until the industry achieves equal gender balance.
Gwen Iarussi (07:49):
Yeah. But it is great to see, isn’t it? Definitely more.
Christina Codreanu (07:52):
Rachel Kibler (07:53):
So one thing that I’ve seen is that there are more women and also the women are competing less with each other and more just trying to improve themselves and improve their skills. I’ve only been in this industry for five years. So I don’t have the long history of some of you. Oftentimes people come to testing later in a career or change careers. And we develop skills earlier in careers or in prior careers that help us become better testers. Catherine, you started in a design background. Can you talk a little bit about the skills that you developed from studying that and how they translate to testing?
Catherine Carlos (08:33):
Absolutely. I think for me, it’s not really a straight line from design to testing. It’s like almost every job that I’ve ever had in my life, managing a health food store, like way back when, or, you know, working at AT&T doing corporate sales. I think there’s so many different areas that you can pull into a role, especially if you’re on the people side, you just gain experience along the way. For design specifically, it would have to be just attention to detail, really having that drive to improve a product, to get something out into the wild. Everybody’s had that experience where they have that app that has crashed on them, or has had that typo. And just having that urge to fix that, to make that problem go away for the larger group. I think all those little things that you’ve accumulated along the way come together in a role, especially the kind of long path that could mean some real success for you down the line.
Gwen Iarussi (09:35):
It’s interesting that you say that, Catherine. I know when I think about this question, I think back very, very early on, even when I was a kid and some of the things that were instilled in me as a child and how many of those early lessons that I continue to apply. Because quality… I’ve always said quality is one of those industries that it’s one of those practices is that really apply to anything. You can take these principles of quality and apply them to every single discipline, regardless of whether it’s technology or not. I’ve had a pretty diverse history. Early on, I was cleaning K-mart bathrooms, doing everything from that to woodworking. And I worked in a cabinet shop for a while and those quality type focus areas and the practices were there even at that time. And so those have kind of translated over the years into technology. And so whether it was support or leading teams or doing development work or doing automation work, it’s all of an underlying theme and it’s been something that’s been much bigger than just the job itself, right? (laughter)
Catherine Carlos (10:39):
Absolutely. I think this might be a little off topic, I’m not sure if we’re going this direction. I found that people that have had some kind of a service role, people that have waited tables, people that have worked retail, tend to be the people that I work with fast. People that are team players that really have that desire to solve the problem efficiently. And I just find some of the best people that I’ve worked with that I’ve hired myself have had that experience, where they really have dealt with the public and know how hard that can be. And really, they wanna bring that experience to the client. They tend to be the best client facing people that I’ve mentored.
Rajini Padmanaban (11:26):
And if I can add on both you and Gwen and Catherine, totally agree. I really think we are born testers. You have those innate skills to be a successful tester. The curiosity, the attention to detail that we spoke about all of these. And I also agree with Catherine to the extent of that end user empathy; that goes a long way in being a really good tester. One thing I’ve also noticed I’ve been telling my teams as well as a tester. It is important for us to understand that we have the highest scope of influence. The number of entities that we touch; business folks, other engineering, coworkers, end users, other stakeholders, all of this requires a lot of multitasking. And as women, we, we know that we are biologically well-positioned to multitask compared to men. So if we are able to bring in the best of all of these, I think the future is very, very bright for women in the space of software testing.
Rachel Kibler (12:25):
Thank you for that, Rajini. Maaret, I believe you wanted to add to this.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (12:29):
Yeah. I need to first kind of comment on the, “we are biologic wired for multitasking.” No, we’re not. I suck at multitasking. I am really, really bad at that. And that’s kind of what I wanted to pitch in with this, this conversation is that what I really like about the recent developments is that we get to be more individuals. We don’t have to be women. I get to be Maaret, you get to be whoever you are. Being able to be that individual person it’s really invaluable. I oftentimes, when I listen to these conversations, where we talk about our past experience before tech, I feel a little guilty that I went to the technical university and I actually studied this stuff. I didn’t come from a different background. I am actually a computer scientist. I have come through that path. I appreciate me being here. I appreciate everyone else being here. And I love the richness of teams that we have, but it also means that all of the beliefs that we have on what we are like, all of us, they’re probably off by some degree. And we have people in all kinds of genders that fit these characteristics. And these are skills that we can learn. That’s absolutely one of the things that is my favorite. Being able to teach whoever I work with either better collaboration, better technical skills, attention to detail. And I absolutely love introducing my developer colleagues to all of the different stakeholders that we have when we are creating products, because the motivation they take out of that when they need a real customer, they turn it into code that is available on the next day’s build. Being able to make that introduction, sometimes, I think that’s like a superpower.
Gwen Iarussi (14:15):
Yeah, absolutely. And Maaret I think you touch on a really important point is that all of us have different traits that we bring to the table and different experiences. And that’s something that it’s been awesome to kind of dig into a little bit, to look at even how our minds are developed over time and how that affects the way we view testing and how that affects the way we interact with applications. It really points to that importance of having that diversity within your teams. Some of my strongest testing teams have had a rich background in different experiences. Some have been computer scientists, some have had an entire career in technology while others are just starting to get involved in technology. They bring with them more of the customer side of the experience. They’ve come from the business and their subject matter experts in a particular area. And all of that can lead to a stronger testing team. That’s a great point.
Rachel Kibler (15:08):
I wanna talk a little bit about support. So we have a lot of people who do hiring on this call. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t, but I wanna hear about your experiences of supporting specifically women, but also just generally people who may not have the same background as you, like Catherine was talking about. And also the support that you found in advancing your career. Wanna celebrate some of those successes. Catherine, I called you out, but would you like to start?
Catherine Carlos (15:41):
Sure. I find myself offering support to men, women, and everyone in between, no matter your identity just saying, “Hey, I’m here. I know that you may have a lot of questions starting out.” I think that just saying, “Hey, you know, I’m a person too, you know, the one that hired you and the one that interviewed you and you may find some kind of a barrier there, but there really doesn’t have to be. I’m just an email away and I’m a teams away.” And I think that I’ve had a lot of really great people take advantage of that and say, “Hey, you might not be the right person to reach out for this mundane thing, but can you steer me in the right direction?” And I find that when you have conversations like that start, you kind of get more into your experience. You might even get personal and say, “Hey, you know, are you having any hardship?” I think just saying, “Hey, these are the experiences I’ve had. These are the resources that you have at your disposal.” I think just telling people that they have you to look to for support, you know, we’re all learning from each other the whole way through.
Rachel Kibler (16:50):
Thanks. Christina, you have a background in… Your role right now is recruiting, right?
Christina Codreanu (16:57):
Rachel Kibler (16:58):
Can you talk a little bit about how you support people that you bring in?
Christina Codreanu (17:02):
Sure. I was just thinking about the fact that, and I was listening to Maaret and what she was saying. I just want to echo that first. Yes. Before everything else we are individuals. Apart from that, I am in the recruitment space. I am being tested, let’s say, each and every day by my team, by the candidates that I’m interacting with. Other than that, it’s having a transparent and open conversation, always. It’s bringing the best in each other. This is the way that we are dealing in a very open manner and in a very transparent discussion with everyone.
Rachel Kibler (17:45):
That’s wonderful. I wanna add my own story in here. I’ve had managers who have not been advocates for me, but I’ve also had people who have taken an interest in my career, both internally and externally of my company. And that’s been magnificent. To know that there’s someone on my side who cares about my career. Who’s been advocating for me. So one way that I’ve passed that on is I’ve started a “Shameless Slack channel” at work where it encourages people to talk about their own successes and also to celebrate each other’s successes in a very public way, but also a small way. So small acts of kindness, small acts of excellence, where we can talk about the managers can see that and we can celebrate each other. So that’s one way that I’ve given back for the support that I’ve been given. Maaret, I believe that you’ve had some similar successes with being supported and offering support.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (18:40):
Yeah, definitely. And your story of the bragging or the appreciation channel really reminded me of this practice that I learned fairly early on as a tester, that we are often bearers of the bad news. And if we can balance that with kind of appreciating all of the good stuff that is going on in the workplace, making things visible that are otherwise invisible, it tends to be positive on us as well. So definitely having had similar experience.
Gwen Iarussi (19:11):
Those are all great points. I’d like to take the conversation a little bit different path. I’d like to get a little bit more personal. I think one of the questions that often comes up and I hear from other women in the industry, they’re looking to understand what our paths have been. What are some of the challenges that we’ve overcome and what are some of the keys to our success and our roles. I’d like to throw that question to all of you. What are perhaps the biggest challenges that you have found in your career to date and how have you personally overcome those? And then in addition, what are some of the keys that you’ve found to help you kind of succeed and grow in your role?
Catherine Carlos (19:51):
I think that one of the, as consultants especially, we’re often thrown in situations and we can’t always count on the client unfortunately to really prepare us for what we’re getting into. So I think that it’s really important to reach out to people and get to know who you’re working with. You never know who you’re gonna work with again in the future, but also those people can become resources and you can be a resource to that person. You kind of have to build your own network of support for yourself, really, because we have to be adaptable. We have to be there for the client. And I think that’s really benefited me.
Rajini Padmanaban (20:31):
So for me, what, one of the main challenges, if I were to say, especially in those years in my career where it was also growth for me on the personal front was how do I balance, right? How do I juggle? So over a period of time, two or three things, which I’ve really found useful are first of all, pat yourself on the back. You’ve got to acknowledge, don’t wait necessarily for someone else to appreciate a little good thing that has happened. So take the time, end of the day, to reflect on how the day has been and really pat yourself on the back, give yourself that appreciation and love. Second, learning to say no. I think once we start doing that, judiciously people will really start respecting in terms of there is a reason and objective reason why this is being said no to, and gradually when this saying no, and prioritization, becomes a habit, we are really gonna be good at what we have on not played.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (21:28):
I think for me, some of the biggest challenges that I’ve needed to deal with are around credit. One of the big insights that I picked up some years ago, I don’t even remember how many anymore, but one of the big insights that I picked up is this idea that the best work wins when we don’t care about credit. When we care about the work over the credit. Finding nice writing, like the writing about dinosaurs and how they were named and how we didn’t recognize baby dinosaurs and finding comfort in how the world works and how attribution in particular works, It has helped me a lot in figuring out what’s my contribution. How do I present it? How do I claim it back if it ever gets stolen, which happens sometimes. And just kind of figuring out what’s a positive way for showing up to do something that an individual person can’t do alone, what we have to work together on.
Gwen Iarussi (22:31):
Great points. Yeah. I think about that as I look at my own story and think about some of the challenges I’ve had, one of the biggest things that has been in my way is myself, my own brain and going in and overanalyzing things. And those moments when I doubt out my own abilities and the expectation that I’m on all the time, that’s something that when you’ve been in the industry, as long as I have in many ways early on, I felt like I had to fight for my place there. And in order to do that, I had to prove myself constantly. And I think that’s always has been there in the back of my head. And I’ve had to tone that down, especially as I’ve gotten into leadership in terms of really recognizing that I don’t have to know it all. There’s too much out there to really know. So recognizing the fact that I may not know everything and every time, I don’t know something, it’s an opportunity for me to learn something new or to collaborate and ask questions, really getting to that moment where I’m okay with asking for help. I think earlier in my career, I felt maybe that was a weakness that if I asked for help, then it was showing that I didn’t know what I was doing. And I’ve learned as I’ve matured in my career that asking for help and collaborating it not only helps me learn and helps me grow my own skills. And it’s nothing to be afraid of, but it also gets the opportunity to get other people involved and to get other people’s voices heard and part of the discussion. And that’s been really critical.
Christina Codreanu (24:08):
Great point, Gwen. And this reminds me of something that I lived. A couple of years ago after returning to work, following my maternity leave. I was actually ready to throw myself back into work, just to pick up where I left off. And I, I was ready to prove myself, but then a colleague of mine told me that, albeit with very good intentions, he decided not to throw a big project my way, just because he didn’t want to overburden me. So the other side of being overprotective. So he was very proud of his efforts. But needless to say, I was very frustrated. That was the point where I started to think more deeply about what it means actually to be an ally at work. What I wanted actually from my male coworkers, particularly at that moment. Basically in my colleagues attempt to help, he made a decision that he felt was in my a best interest. Unfortunately he didn’t ask first that experience put a lot of focus into me because being an ally of any kind, isn’t actually something static that we can claim. But it’s an active process, always, a choice that we’ll make every day, actually one that happens not just by doing what we think is best, but by listening, actively listening, confirming someone’s own needs. And following that person’s lead basically.
New Speaker (25:47):
(OUTRO). That concludes this episode of The Testing Show. We also want to encourage you, our listeners, to give us a rating and a review on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, and we are also available on Spotify. Those ratings and reviews, as well as word of mouth and sharing, help raise the visibility of the show and let more people find us. Also, we want to invite you to come join us on The Testing Show Slack channel, as a way to communicate about the show. Talk to us about what you like and what you’d like to hear, and also to help us shape future shows. Please email us at thetestingshow (at) qualitestgroup (dot) com and we will send you an invite to join group. The Testing Show is produced and edited by Michael Larsen, moderated by Matt Heusser, with frequent contributions from our many featured guests who bring the topics and expertise to make the show happen. Additionally, if you have questions you’d like to see addressed on The Testing Show, or if you would like to be a guest on the podcast, please email us at thetestingshow (at) qualitestgroup (dot) com.