Sunday, April 22, 2012

MoDevUx and the Latest On My Testing Journey

I attended another amazing event last week organized by MoDevDC, my local meetup group. The event was called MoDevUx – “A user experience, design and development conference discussing all things mobile.”

MoDevUx was packed with interesting content, amazing speakers and the exuberant energy of its participants from various mobile design and development shops in the Washington, DC area, and some from other parts of the country. The speakers shared their experiences on how to understand users (what users think and want), how to handle feedback, learn from it, and improve the user experience in mobile apps. I thought that the presenters talked from their heart, they were entertaining, witty and insightful. I walked away feeling enriched and that my time was well spent.

I went to a few testing events last year which were all very useful and thought-provoking. However, I found some sessions too formal and lacking useful content, and some people too set in their ways and a bit closed-minded. Not surprisingly very little was available on mobile testing.  Mobile development is still in its infancy just like the web was in the 1990s. Compared with testing on a PC, testing on mobile devices requires different skills, mindset, as well as atypical tools and techniques. After all there is no physical mouse, 80% of the screen space from the desktop is gone, and testing has to be done on different networks, handsets, models, and OS versions. Then there is the multitouch on smartphones and tablets, rotations to landscape and portrait modes, battery life, geo location, video and music streaming to mention just a few things.

So how did I end up at this and the MoDevEAST event that happened in December 2011 as tester? How did I hear about MoDevDC in the first place?

Early last year a friend heard a report on FOX about a local mobile developer group called MoDevDC and emailed me. She knew that I recently ditched my full-time job for freelancing work through uTest so I could learn mobile testing, and she thought that this news report could be of interest to me. Curious as I am, I searched for MoDevDC online. I decided to join and then started attending various events. The group meets locally twice a month to discuss news, trends, technologies, creations and challenges in the mobile space as well as to network socially. Most of the members were mobile developers, designers, and managers. I did not run into any QA or testing professionals. During my first few events I kept quiet and observed what was going on. I must admit that being an introvert and working as a lone tester did not help much with the social skills. I find it easier to communicate via email, Skype, IM or SMS texting vs. over the phone or in person. Plus I never met or dealt with mobile developers directly before and initially it felt intimidating. The male to female ratio did not bother me as I have worked in IT for a while and am used to being the only woman on the team.

What appealed to me about the mobile developers was how openly and candidly they talked about their successes and failures, dealings with investors and management, as well as lessons learned from app ratings and user feedback. I felt welcomed and made a few good friends.

As a result of my involvement with the group, a few months ago I was referred to and hired by one of their company sponsors as a mobile tester. A dream comes true. Not only am I now testing their in-house mobile products, but I am also in charge of their uTest relationship and running test cycles on various platforms through uTest.

I recently watched an episode of Monk (Mr. Monk GetsLotto Fever) where Malcolm O’Dwyer, an obsessed lotto fan, talked about his fixation. He said that playing lottery was not just a game but a journey. “It’s how you get there. I’d rather lose my way than win a 20 million dollar jackpot your way.” This quote resonated with how I felt about my own journey. Even though professionally I look up to a few people in our field, I never wanted to follow their path. I learn from them but am eager to find my own way.

Ever since I lived in Siberia I have been impulsively curious about things. I interpret some things as signs and act upon them. I am motivated by learning and exploring and that’s one of the reasons why I appreciate testing so much – you never stop learning! I don’t know what there will be to test after smartphones and tablets, but I hope I will be a part of it. I also hope to hold a session on the importance of software testing for my MoDevDC community – if only could I overcome one challenge… fear of public speaking. 

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