A day in the life of a test engineer at Insider Inc.

Chaithra Rao (Chai) joined Insider Inc. in February 2016 as part of what was then called the QA Engineering team. Chai is a graduate of VTU in Mangalore, India, where she received her BE in information science. She later received a Masters in Computer Science from Pace University in New York.

From day one at the company, Chai has made huge contributions to our Viking (CMS) automation coverage; provided tremendous value for other major initiatives, such as the Post Page Redesign and SSO; and recently was promoted to lead what we now refer to as the Test Engineering team.

I wanted to use this as an opportunity to discuss Chai’s journey from QA Engineer to Test Engineering team leader, as well as some of the challenges she’s faced throughout her rise at the company. Given all Chai’s been able to accomplish in such a short time, I was also keen on knowing more about what motivates her in her work.

Why did you join Insider Inc?

I was really interested in expanding my skill sets in engineering, specifically, in automation. And I was very interested in joining a growing organization that had such a strong presence in the digital media space. Lastly, the culture at Insider is a very open and collaborative one, and that was a strong selling point for me.

What do you love most about working at Insider Inc?

I really love the culture, the opportunities for growth, both professionally and from a technical perspective. I also really enjoy the day-to-day interactions with members of product and tech as well as other stakeholders — everyone seems to be invested in real progress and conversations are always positive. The company’s mission and values also really resonate with me.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like?

Prior to becoming a Test Engineering Manager, I was a member of two of our feature teams: Creation and Engagement. The day-to-day in that role consisted of stand-ups, team swarming around features in development, and partnering with our release engineer on pushing features to production as well as validating them.

After becoming Test Engineering Manager, my responsibilities have shifted more towards redefining the Test Engineering team’s mission and values, and shifting the focus more towards automation vs. manual testing. My day-to-day now consists of daily stand-ups for all feature teams, attending retrospectives and plannings, 1-on-1s, and team meetings.

What are you motivated by?

Insider Inc has invested in continuing to diversify our revenue streams, and Subscriptions and eCommerce are two business lines we are going to be heavily investing in for the next five years. In order to align my team with that, we really want to have a strong test engineering group in place that can support all these initiatives. I am extremely excited, passionate, and motivated to not only hire some of the best talent out there but also to shift our mindset to become more test driven and automation focused.

How are you aligning the Test Engineering team to support the Tech & Product’s 2019 initiatives?

Our previous team structure meant that each feature team had at least one dedicated test engineer. This also meant that any manual testing, automation, cutting release branches, as well as releasing was the responsibility of test engineering.

We hired a release engineer on the DevOps team to move towards CI/CD for all feature teams. We also removed the barrier between back and front-end engineers for various reasons, decreasing the number of handoffs that occur in the ticket life cycle. We partnered with Applause to leverage their global testers from all over the world, eliminating much of our manual efforts.

Our current automation framework consists of a Java framework using selenium web-driver. Unfortunately, it has too many flakey tests and is not scalable, so we are exploring using NightwatchJS, Pupeteer, Jest, and WebDriver IO. (Interested in learning more? Check out the Automation Strategy post by Adam Mardula.)

What is your goal for this quarter?

Our Q1 goal is to decide on a new automation framework that will support the business for the next five years. By the end of 2019, we want to move from 30% automation and 70% manual testing to 80% automation and 20% manual testing.

What do you love about engineering?

Technology has so much power and we can build a lot of cool products — and that amazes me. We as an organization are so invested in our users and it’s so rewarding to see the growth we have had over the years. On a personal level, having others ask me what I do as an engineer and seeing their reactions is also really rewarding.

What makes Insider Inc the culture it is today?

We do so many different things across the organization — as well as in Tech & Product — that continues to strengthen our culture. We have a culture club where, most recently, we sent out Valentine’s Day cards to children’s hospitals. We have potlucks, team outings, board game nights, and, perhaps most importantly, we like to celebrate our successes.

In addition, we as a Tech and Product organization strongly believe in ideation and innovation. We have hack weeks twice a year, we encourage anyone to submit features and ideas to our single product backlog, and we also hosted tech meetups.


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