Inside ABOUT YOU: The varied job of a QA Test Engineer at ABOUT YOU — From automated testings to empathizing with the customer

Vol. 8: Robert — Quality Assurance Test Engineer, ABOUT YOU Checkout & Customer Unit

Get to know our growing family. Follow our Inside ABOUT YOU blog series and catch a brief glimpse of the people behind Germany’s most exciting e-commerce project!

Hi Robert, please shortly introduce yourself — tell us a little about your team and especially your role at ABOUT YOU.

Hi, my name is Robert and I’m born and raised in Hamburg. I work at ABOUT YOU since September 2013 as it was still known as ‘Project Collins’. I started as a working student for Quality Assurance (QA) in the Frontend team. Shortly after, I became responsible as QA Manager for one of our former shop-projects, called „Mary & Paul“. After having completed my bachelor degree in “Web Design & Development” in 2014, I became QA Test Engineer in the Checkout & Customer team. That’s the team, where I’m still part of.

The Checkout & Customer team is responsible for the whole payment processing of our customers. Which doesn’t mean that we’re only responsible for payments! We process the delivery status of orders, take care of transaction mails and the return handling — and that are only a few examples. One can say that the Checkout & Customer team is the interface between customers, payment providers, our accounting team and our shop system.

My role within this team is to secure that customers have a smooth and positive shopping experience at ABOUT YOU. I provide this security by continuously performing both manual and automated frontend- and backend tests resulting in insightful data, which I share with both internal and external stakeholders.

Quality and accuracy seem to be crucial factors in your team. What is your approach to assure the quality of a newly released feature?

In general, it’s important that every single team member takes his or her responsibilities seriously and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

In detail, the approach is the following: If developer A finished his feature or bugfix, he creates a so-called ‘pull request’, which is then both tested against acceptance criteria and executed on another machine by developer B. If the test works out well, the feature or the bugfix is deployed on our staging environment. Now my function comes into play. First, I run the automated tests for getting a quick overview whether there are any errors or bugs. Of course, it happens that you change existing features in order to meet the acceptance criteria of the new feature. If the existing features are covered by tests, the automated tests will fail. I then have to adapt the tests to the new feature. When the automated tests are running, I additionally scrutinize every criteria of the feature / bugfix manually. Simultaneously, I try to ‘break’ the system by performing tests that simulate edge cases or that haven’t been taken into account during the development process or the feature planning.

During this process, the focus is to ensure the customer’s seamless shopping experience. Therefore, one can indeed say that the testing is client-related since I need to put myself in the customer’s position.

After having deployed a new release on our production systems, I test the whole deployment both automatically and manually. Thereby, I pay close attention to the systems’ performance under real conditions so that the customer only has a loading time of milliseconds. Additionally, the Checkout & Customer team and me always have an eye on the logging systems to identify and solve errors and bugs immediately.

How often does your team release? Since you need to test a lot of features, what helps you to test successfully without spending weeks or even months on this process?

We work in two-weeks sprints based on scrum. We release however once a week on our staging system so that I’m able to provide feedback and test results at the end of the period. After every sprint, hence, every second week, we release live on our production system.

What helps me a lot in my daily business is the automatisation of testing. As an example, in our backend, we can automatically run thousands of assertions in only a few minutes for which one manually needs several days or even weeks. On our frontend, we can run several automated tests simultaneously, which provide test results that allow me, in case having identified a bug, to trace the whole testing process manually.

From other companies you might hear in the development process: ”I won’t check that now in detail, we have a QA for that.” How does your team avoid a “throwing the code over the fence” mentality for the QA phase?

As already mentioned, its a general rule in our Checkout & Customer team that a feature can only be merged if a second developer cross-examined the feature and run it successfully on his or her own local device. I am happy to say that this works extraordinary well in our team, which makes me as QA Test Engineer especially happy, because it shows how we act as a team.

Your teams deploys new features that make the buying process easier and more comfortable for our customers. What are you doing to improve our QA capabilities and processes in the Checkout & Customer team?

At ABOUT YOU, we work with a Jira ticket system. During a sprint, I firstly get an overview of all current tickets in the system relating to our sprint. Secondly, I try identify all mutual dependencies between tickets to be able to check these as a ‘bundle’ in the testing process and thereby, save a lot of time.

Since you are currently the only QA position in your team, is there any knowledge transfer with other teams to share current trends, best practices or useful tools? A certain level of quality is surely important in all of the tech-teams.

Yes, definitely. Every second week, we have a collective meeting with all QA Managers of the different ABOUT YOU teams such as the Mobile and Shop team. In this meeting, we share and discuss new test methods, tools, current issues and solutions. Additionally, we hold presentations in this meetings to comprehensively update each other.

What were the most important facts for your role you learnt in the last months?

To develop and build up the test automatisation of the frontend from scratch. In doing so, the connection to external cross-browser provider played a big role, because we plan to expand the testing in the future. For this, we’ll need sufficient browser types, test devices and capacities. As a plus, it was great that I could show the other QA managers and developers at ABOUT YOU the automated testing through presentations and direct collaboration.

What would you say are the most important qualities for someone to work at ABOUT YOU? Both in general and specific for an QA Test Engineer in one of our teams?

In general, one should be capable to focus during the testing process and to be able to put yourself in customer’s position. This is vital to ensure high product quality. As QA Test Engineer is also advisable to be open-minded and don’t be afraid to directly approach colleagues in case of uncertainties or irregularities — sharing information helps to identify and resolve potential risks.

What do you like most about working at ABOUT YOU?

Most important for me personally is the harmony in our team, because it results in mutual trust, great teamwork, a lower stress level and a lot of fun! And in my role as QA Test Engineer, I’m particularly happy when my testings and evaluations earn much trust.

I’m convinced that ABOUT YOU will be one of the biggest e-commerce players in Europe. Therefore, it makes me proud that I was part of the project from the very beginning and got to experience the start-up spirit.

Additionally, there are many benefits such as free entry to the code.talks, employee discounts in our shops, a broad variety of drinks for free, free choice of your preferred hardware and the opportunity to use your preferred state-of-the-art technologies for the testing.

Last but not least, congratulations to your newborn child! One might think that working in a startup and having a family is hard to combine. But you seem to be very happy working here. How does ABOUT YOU support working parents?

At ABOUT YOU, flex-time is common practice (of course, we have core working hours and a lot of meetings where we need to be present as well). This facilitates our time management for the childcare. Moreover, the planning and realization of my parental leave was very easy und unproblematic. And I am sure that are even more benefits, which haven’t been relevant for me yet since my child is only two months old.

Thanks, Robert!

Thank you, too!