The Testing Show: Women In Testing, Part 2
This is the second part of a two-part series we’ve recorded for Women’s History Month.
Gwen Iarussi and Rachel Kibler continue their discussion with Catherine Carlos, Christina Codreanu, Rajini Padmanaban, and Maaret Pyhäjärvi. In this episode, the conversation is centered on how COVID has had an impact on them in general and as Women in testing in particular. Additionally, what can companies and other Women in the industry do to help enhance opportunities that are available and help out all Women in technology?
Gwen Iarussi (INTRO):
Hello And welcome to The Testing Show
Episode 114: Women in Testing, Part 2.
This Episode was recorded Monday, March 7, 2022. This is the second part of a two part series that we are recording for Women’s History Month.
We encourage you to listen to Episode 113 for the first part.
Gwen Iarussi and Rachel Kibler continue moderating and we welcome back Catherine Carlos, Christina Coddreanu, Rajini Padmanaban, and Maaret Pyhäjärvi as we discuss what impact Covid has had on their situations, keys to their success as technologists, and how can we continue supporting one another and expanding access of the quality field to everyone And with that,. on with the show.
Rachel Kibler (00:00):
Let’s talk a little bit about COVID. A lot of things changed and I’m wondering if it’s been a positive change of doing mostly remote work, or if it’s been mostly distracting; of being around, having to tend to kids. More during the day, having to split focus for me, it’s been wonderful to be able to, when I have 15 minutes of downtime run a load of laundry, but I know that my experience is not what other people have experienced. Let’s talk a little bit about COVID and how that’s impacted you. Rajini, Let’s hear from you.
Rajini Padmanaban (00:37):
Thanks, Rachel. I think it’s definitely a very interesting topic that runs in several of our minds globally. For me, I think it’s been a mixed bag to the extent that Bangalore, especially in India, is notorious for its traffic. So it has certainly saved a lot of time for several of us in terms of commute. In fact, it has brought down the pollution footprint in the country in some sense. So some benefit back to the country as well. So there have been significant benefits that way in being able to support the family, take care of the family, and simultaneously keep the professional space going as well. But the only downside that I have noticed and which, which several other women I’ve heard from as well, is that end of the day wrapping in terms of being able to say now the professional day is done. You know, I do understand as we further move along and for the leadership roles and such, it is not that you’re gonna clock in the eight hours and be done, but over a period of time, especially when you’ve not gone on breaks in such lockdown situations, not had that time to tune out, saying now ends my Workday. And again, it goes back to the prioritization, different ways that I’m trying out, saying, “This is a portion of time that I’m going to cut out for, let’s say, yoga meditation, or for my walks or whatever.” That doesn’t happen, though. Always calls, available for meetings all the time. That is the only outside that I see. So for me, it’s been a mixed bag. End of the day. Very, very thankful that there are several other professions which cannot afford this luxury of continuing to work. The IT industry is one. I think we all should be grateful for, but continue to work on priorities.
Rachel Kibler (02:21):
I love that. Catherine?
Catherine Carlos (02:23):
I have to echo, Definitely. I think that I found that I need to be very strict and very diligent about self care. Something that I didn’t really grow up with. That concept was very much rejected. It’s just the way I was brought up, seen as something that was selfish, or you’re not necessarily performing to your best. If you’re taking time for yourself, it’s almost a subliminal thing that I was raised with. But I think that everyone is kind of on board doing yoga, meditating, taking walks, making sure that you have healthy food, just remembering to have a snack. It’s so easy just to continue with your day and not necessarily take time for yourself. There’s studies that it’s good for productivity. If you take a lunch, supposedly that makes you more productive in that period, after that within the Workday, but on a more human level, we’re all just trying to cope and get through. Still today, even though things are looking up in the US as far as numbers for COVID cases and the severity of those cases, I think it’s really important to take that time for yourself and to encourage people around you to do the same.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (03:40):
I started a new job when this whole isolation started. And for me, COVID gave the opportunity of not caring about the physical distance or physical location of people, kind of who were in my team and physically co-located with me. And I could just find any one in the company globally that I needed to talk to. And I really turned that into a coverage exercise where I would ask everyone I met who I should talk to next. And then I would draw these little pictures of color coding coverage as I was moving along the organizations, if you’re out, we would do testing in that project, the extra two or hours that I got into my days have given me a lot of time to write. So you see that probably in the blog post that I write that I have now time for that, which I didn’t necessarily always have in the same way before. I do still kind of feel like, well, obviously there’s the family things and there’s the family organizing stuff, but the flexibility around doing those with the fact that I can always screen share with any of my developer colleagues and we can work together as a pair or as a group, it has given me so much efficiency in doing whatever I usually need to do. For me, it’s been like a lucky thing. In most cases,
Rachel Kibler (05:00):
Maaret, I love that you have color coded conversation coverage. That is such a developer thing to do. And that is just amazing. Thank you for sharing that, Christina, would you like to chime in here?
Christina Codreanu (05:15):
Yes. I think that during COVID I found myself doing another job, the one of juggler. Professional juggler. I have three kids and this was a very exciting period of time, but also the most challenging. I was blessed, too, to have a support system and that was my husband, but also we didn’t say no to anything. It was always a yes to spend more time together, and yes to have some flexible working hours. Yes to go out in the living room whenever that was the case. So basically it was the time where we reconnected and rediscovered together as a family and very grateful for that. Other than that, there was the entire self caring self rediscovery. So it was both external in the family, but also an internal journey spending more time with myself and also with trying to perceive more and better. So yes, there were challenging times, but I think that the best way was to juggle and find that balance between what a traditional family would look like in certain geographies, as opposed to what we’ve accomplished.
Gwen Iarussi (06:42):
Yeah. I can relate to that. Wow. Yeah. Christina, you touch on a lot of points. I’m listening to all of you as you go through and I can see every one of those in my life. It’s brought a lot of challenge and yet it’s brought a lot of opportunity at this same time. COVID has really merged those two worlds because it kind of took everyone and it took your work situation and just brought it fully into your home. And so I think one of the initial challenges that I had to your point, Rajini, creating the right type of balanced structure. I have a hard time when I get really fixated on something and I’m deep diving on something. When I get engaged with something, I just go and go and go and go and go. And what I found at first, I was neglecting even eating during the day and taking any moment away from my computer. And I would start at six in the morning and be going at 10 o’clock at night, if I didn’t stop myself. And so that balance quickly shifts. And so learning to kind of temper that and say, “No, I need to take time during the day to have a meal or connect with my kids or take a walk and go walk my dogs during the day,” and just take a break mentally. Being able to, from a focus person perspective, from a removing distractions perspective, it’s been huge. From productivity perspective. I am far more productive in many, many ways. And I would say even in my personal life, just because, Rachel, you talked a little bit about putting in a load of laundry. I can sit there and I can do a load of dishes, or I can do a load of laundry or sweep the floor during my day. And I can take those moments where it doesn’t build up over the week because I’m not here. The other piece was it’s kind of equalized the playing field in a lot of ways. We’re all kind of remote. You have the social circles that tend to happen when you’re in a work environment, you get these pods of groups of people that hang out. And some of those pods as a byproduct of that, there are opportunities that happen within a business environment. COVID has really leveled that. And so it’s a really great opportunity for those of us who are a little bit more quiet, maybe not as outspoken, to really take the opportunity to advocate for ourselves and the work that we’re doing. And even though you have to force yourself to do that, you have to take those moments to reach out to the right people. I would say that’s one of the things that I’ve found incredibly empowering about this whole COVID experience, is that I find myself reaching out to individuals that I wouldn’t normally reach out to both in my business, as well as externally in the broader quality network. And I think because of that, I’ve been able to build a much broader support structure within that larger quality community. And it’s been really key to kind of opening up doors of opportunity for me. Have you guys seen similar things in your personal lives as well?
Rajini Padmanaban (09:42):
I agree with you, Gwen. In fact, I agree with what Mar had mentioned previously as well. What would’ve been limited to, let’s say a small scope of influencing the rest would be when you actually travel and meet those people. For instance, she had talked about these color coded charts. I write it down as my to-do, saying, “You know, meet with these people one on one.” So be absolutely comfortable in your own skin, turn your videos on because that brings in a huge personal connect. And I think that has worked wonders despite the fact that physical contact in terms of meeting people face to face isn’t there. I think thanks to technology, it doesn’t feel that very distanced at all, being able to connect with people, see them on videos, see them regularly, thanks to technology in one sense, the continuity and the richness in collaboration is a lot more now in the last two years.
Gwen Iarussi (10:37):
Absolutely. I would agree with all those points. Well, to keep the conversation going and maybe kind of round off and bring everybody back to a summary of the conversation today, when you look at being a woman in technology and the things that have helped you most, what do you think are some key ways that not only companies, but we ourselves as other women can do to continue kind of building on this broader welcoming and support structure, to continue enhancing the opportunities that are there for women in technology? What are some of those key things that have helped you and maybe what are some things that you think companies can do to really open that up for women?
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (11:17):
For me, at least personally thinking in terms of quotas have helped. It’s very easy for me to name a hundred women in testing. It’s very difficult for me to name a hundred men in testing who are equal to those women. And that’s because I have paid so much attention to who are the women in the last year or so. I’ve been very actively enforcing myself a quota and also paying attention to all the great stuff that the new women in the industry are bringing in. Whatever helps you figure out, how do you work with your own biases, I would suggest maybe figuring out personal approaches in those spaces.
Gwen Iarussi (11:58):
Oh, that’s a really powerful point. In general, bias and understanding our own biases is important just as testers in general and people working within the quality space. But yeah, that’s a great point, Maaret. Thank you. What else?
Rachel Kibler (12:13):
One thing that I do, a very personal thing, If a friend of mine or an acquaintance of mine in line at a coffee shop starts talking about how they’re working with really bad software, like an app is going wrong or something, interject and say, “Have you thought about software testing?” Because, like we’ve discussed before, the richness of our various experiences can contribute a lot to the industry. It’s wonderful that we have people like Maaret and so many people with degrees, but the barrier to entry for testing is so much lower and takes passion and aptitude rather than specific training. The training can happen on the job or on their own. It doesn’t need to happen formally. And I think that’s one of the beauties of testing. And so I talk about it with everyone I know.
Gwen Iarussi (13:08):
Yeah. To continuing that advocacy, that’s really important.
Catherine Carlos (13:12):
Rachel, I find myself doing this same thing in line, just talking to random, especially a younger person who hasn’t necessarily picked a path and say, “Hey, you know, have you heard of testing? Have you heard of QA? You might wanna look into something like this.” And yeah, just being available for people, whether they’re at Qualitest or, you know, random people that you’re meeting out and about. I think I just have one of those personalities where I’ll talk to anyone and I think that’s how we make a bridge there.
Rajini Padmanaban (13:42):
Totally agreed. In, in terms of the advocacy, for instance, I have a scope of influence of about 75 quality engineers across domains, across technologies. So the one thing we keep reminding each other day in and day out is it is very easy to get stuck with the day to day tactical stuff. Yes, it’s absolutely important, everyday deliverables. What we do is very, very important, but take the time to reflect how is all of this adding into the big picture? What are we driving towards in terms of end user value, constantly keep doing that because that is what is going to bring in that customer delight, end user delight and value, which is ultimately going to help us further along in the career and in the industry as well. So continue to look at the larger picture, not getting completely engrossed in the day to day tactical stuff. So that self reflect and reflection as a team because, you know, sometimes I may not have that comprehensive end-to-end view in doing that self-reflection. Continue to do it as a team, as well, team reflection so that together we are able to stride and move forward.
Gwen Iarussi (14:50):
That’s a fantastic thought. I had a coach recently as part of a session, we were talking about problem solving and quality in general. He said, “If you wanna solve any problem in the world, start looking at the systems in play, start looking at the systems and start understanding what the dependencies are and the different factors that are influencing, whatever that problem is.” I’ve taken that with me. I think learning more about psychology and really understanding kind of systems theory and systems thinking and even design thinking. Those three things along with learning a little bit more about critical thinking and building some of those skills has been so empowering to me. And it’s helped me in those spots when I find myself kind of hyper focusing on the problem itself, kind of taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. So Rajani, that’s a great point.
Rajini Padmanaban (15:41):
Totally. Gwen. totally aligned with you.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (15:44):
Also as a tester, or as testers in this group or people interested in testing, a lot of the times we are actually looking, even in the work with the application, we’re looking for those variables, the things that we can make different and change. When we recognize something we can change, we also recognize something that is a default, both in applications and in these more human systems. Starting to see the variables and start to see the defaults and starting to actively play with those defaults and making them something different. It’s kind of key to a lot of the experimentation towards a better place, both for the quality of the systems, but also quality of the collaboration that we’re trying to build in, in our projects.
Gwen Iarussi (16:30):
Absolutely. You know, I will say, you know, one of the things that I really coach in my teams is the concept that if you’re comfortable and you’re feeling like you’re bored in your job, then it’s time to shake things up because if you’re not learning, then you’re not really testing. I think understanding testing as this active thought, the type of an exercise is really important. And I think it’s part of the reason that you’re starting to see so many other people kind of open up and kind of look at testing as a career. I mean, it’s something that definitely drew me to testing early on and has kept me in the industry is just the fact that it evolves and it grows depending on the context and depending on the domain that you’re in, it’s just more of those things that continues to grow and continues to challenge me, not only as a technologist, but as a person. I love that about it. Going back to your point, Rachel, and even Rajini about the advocacy or Catherine finding yourselves in line and talking to other people, I start talking about this stuff and it brings out this passion. And I think the more we can share that with one another, it’s such a powerful thing. And I think it’s part of the reason that we’ve seen so much growth. Well, it’s clear that the future of testing is strong and I think the future of women in testing and larger technology roles is definitely heading the right direction. I know it’s really exciting to see having the opportunities to connect with all of you has been so key.
Catherine Carlos (17:56):
I wanted to go back to the COVID topic. I think that obviously there’s a lot of negative that came out of COVID in this time. We have learned to communicate, to adapt via Zoom, be it Teams. Rajini, you were saying that we have really learned to connect in a new way. I don’t personally think that it’s as an involved connection as being in person, but I think that it is definitely a positive. We’re moving into this new age. I think that one positive that came out of it is awareness of mental health. I think that there’s hopefully less of a stigma attached to saying, “Hey, I’m having a hard day”. And I think there’s more of a conversation around collectively people being able to reach out more to people they may not have, even at work. We do have services through Qualitest that do help people through hard times. But I think just having that connection available, just people being really real about their experiences, this is something that is new to business. I believe, I think maybe in office setting, we may have had more of that dialogue, but we’re managing to make these connections in this completely new format. That vulnerability I think is really benefiting business at large.
Gwen Iarussi (19:24):
Yeah. I agree 100% with you. It’s not just from a woman perspective. I think it’s just from a human perspective, it’s kind of raised awareness across the board, no matter who you are, maybe some of the stresses that are going on at home as well as kind of bringing some perspective to the table.
Rachel Kibler (19:41):
I agree as someone who’s been advocating for mental health for many, many years and feeling a lot of stigma around it, it feels like the last couple of years it’s become a lot more acceptable for everyone to say that they’re struggling.
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (19:56):
I still kind of wanted to continue a little bit on the thought of some of the best things that COVID brought to me. I remember how difficult it was to go to some of my colleagues and ask for us to pair because then we would have to sit physically close. When you don’t know the person, it is actually not very comfortable to sit physically close to them. Now that we’re not physically close, but we can be working together on the exact same thing in the exact same time in the same virtual space, not having to share the keyboard and think about who else is touching my keyboard or any of that stuff. It has really freed me to learn the things that I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I could not have asked for them because I had no idea that I didn’t have those pieces of knowledge or skills or ideas. But when we were working on the actual thing that we’re supposed to, be it exploratory testing or test automation or fixing a really tricky bug or trying to even hunt it down, like I’ve been doing a lot of troubleshooting sessions online. It’s been almost invaluable to me, the online presence and the online screen sharing and control sharing that has been available.
Rachel Kibler (21:12):
That’s a really fantastic point. Thank you. Thank you so much for this conversation. It’s been marvelous to hear all of your varying viewpoints. This has been a really fantastic conversation. So at the end of The Testing Show, we like to give people a chance to give their elevator pitch. So let’s hear where we can find you in the next six months or the next year. What good things you have going on. Let’s start with Rajini.
Rajini Padmanaban (21:42):
Absolutely enjoyed the conversation with all of you out here. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn in terms of posts. Anyone wants to send a message, I make sure I respond to the same and would love to be in touch with all of you and the rest of the industry as well. I continue to speak in a lot of forums. A couple of days ago, I did a workshop for the Test Tribe on Accessibility testing. I continue to speak for several like the software testing conference and such. So all of those I will continue to post, but LinkedIn is the place to connect with me.
Rachel Kibler (22:17):
Thank you, Rajini. Christina?
Christina Codreanu (22:20):
Sure. I loved the discussion. It was great time spent together. You c an find me on LinkedIn. That is the place where I I’m most active and anyone can get in touch there as well as in Qualitest, I’m here for everyone. Thank you very much and was a really enjoyable discussion.
Rachel Kibler (22:40):
Thank you, Christina. Maaret?
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (22:43):
My go-to platform is Twitter. So my DMs there are open. So everyone is always welcome to send me a message. If you don’t dare to have a more public conversation, I’m very open to the direct messages there as well. I’m also on LinkedIn, so that would work as well. And I have a blog visible-quality.blogspot.com. So I write things there. Twitter is mostly for public note taking of anything that happens when we are creating products and thoughts that come to mind.
Rachel Kibler (23:19):
That’s great. Thank you. Catherine?
Catherine Carlos (23:21):
I personally don’t have anything to promote right now, per se. Definitely feel free to reach out on Teams or LinkedIn. I think that, you know, we’ve kind of just scratched the surface on this topic. There are some amazing points of view that were brought up that I feel like I could definitely investigate and learn from. It’s great that we’re coming together in this supportive setting. I would love to keep in contact with some of you guys here.
Rachel Kibler (23:49):
Thank you, Katherine. Gwen, how about you?
Gwen Iarussi (23:52):
Yeah, absolutely. I just wanna say thank you to all of our guests today. Really enjoyed meeting you and getting to know about your perspectives and the experience and adventures that you’re having in your individual areas. You can always find me on LinkedIn. I’m out there, would love to chat any of you up about testing or other things. I would say the most exciting thing that I’ve been up to lately is I’ve been working on a training program for ex-military individuals who are coming out of the military and entering civilian life and helping them kind of find roles within testing. So that’s been really exciting. If you’re interested in that, please hit me up. I’d love to chat about it, but other than that, it’s been fantastic. Thank you all.
Rachel Kibler (24:36):
I am really excited about the Association for Software Testing. We’re having CAST, the Conference for the Association for Software Testing, 2022. It’s going to be in San Diego, second week of August, and our CFP, our Call For Proposals, is open right now. If you want to apply to talk, it’s gonna be a fantastic conference. I’m on the board of AST and just love it so much. So please connect with us there. If you wanna connect with any of us, the links to our contacts will be in the show notes. Thanks so much for joining and we’ll see you next time.
Gwen Iarussi (25:12):
Thanks everyone. Have a great week.
Catherine Carlos (25:15):
Maaret Pyhäjärvi (25:16):
Christina Codreanu (25:17):
Rajini Padmanaban (25:18):
Take care. Thank you.
Rachel Kibler (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.