MaidSafe New Team Member: Calum Craig

Hi, I’m Calum, the newest member of the QA team here at MaidSafe. I’d like to introduce myself a bit and what share what kind of background / skills / experience and knowledge I’m bringing to the team. I’m originally from Ayr — born and raised here — and although I have lived in a number of different cities and countries, I have been back living here for the last four years or so.

First, a confession — I had never heard of MaidSafe until I came across a job listing for a Software Test Engineer in Ayr. A testing job in Ayr?! Wow, I simply had to go for it — I’d been commuting from my home town to the central belt for a number of years and was kinda resigned to that being the case for the foreseeable future. Now, here’s an exciting tech company about ten minutes from my house — the stuff of dreams.

Luckily I was invited to interview for the role so I duly did some research and tried to get my head round what MaidSafe actually did. I have to say, my mind was basically blown! I’d been working at a UK Government agency customer facing website for the previous year or so and, while I learned lots of good stuff (more on that later), testing a pretty basic website was not the most intellectually stimulating work it has to be said…

I’ve traditionally been a fan of open source software and the principles behind it — extending to online rights and privacy. Developments over the last few years where governments around the world, not least the UK with their GCHQ surveillance operation, have been encroaching upon the digital rights of their citizens have been extremely troubling.

So, I have to say, I am absolutely thrilled to be joining such an exciting company, doing such intriguing work with massive potential to benefit everyone’s online lives.

To return to a bit more about myself, I came to be interested in IT / software from a biological background by doing a post graduate course in bioinformatics where I learned about relational databases, programming and data analysis / manipulation amongst other topics. After I finished my course unfortunately I found myself in the Catch 22 position of all the jobs I was interested in required experience — but how do you gain experience if you can’t find a job in the first place?!

Finally getting frustrated with my lack of success in establishing a career in IT I decided to do something different with my life and found a job teaching English — in Japan! The original plan was to go there for a year, maybe two and come back to Scotland to look for a tech job. Seven years later that plan had kinda gone out the window…!

For a few years living in England I continued to work in education management / learning and development. Then, I was made redundant and took the opportunity to assess what I wanted to do with my career. The answer was obvious — I still wanted to work in technology. On the advice of a friend who is an “application packager” (to this day, I still don’t fully understand what it is that he actually does!), I looked into testing as he reckoned it would be something I “would be good at”.

After some investigation, I agreed that he was on to something! I have always had an analytical mind and logical thinking was something I enjoyed and prided myself in being good at. Testing software is a field in which this kind of approach is not only beneficial but absolutely essential!

To get my start, I acquired a number of learning materials and studied for the ISTQB Foundation level course in software testing. At the same time I signed up for various freelance online testing platforms and started to get practical experience to complement the theoretical knowledge I was acquiring.

In due course I obtained my first full time testing role — working as a consultant at a large Scottish bank. When I joined them I was informed that they were “trying to be agile”. What was really the case was that they were following a Waterfall model with rather “challenging” milestones. A bank is a rather risk averse institute so it is not really surprising that that would be the case but it meant that the test team were obliged to produce seemingly no end of test collateral.

It was all great experience to write test conditions, traceability matrices, test plans and scenarios and the test scripts themselves but it seemed a lot of work outwith what was supposed to be my primary role — testing the software!

So, when I moved after a couple of years at the bank and joined a new company, I was sceptical to hear that we were “doing Scrum”. It came as an extremely pleasant surprise to discover that my new Scrum Master was incredibly enthusiastic about Agile and we did indeed seem to doing it properly! I am now very familiar with sprint planning, backlog grooming, story refinement, retrospectives, 3 amigos and many other aspects of working in an Agile manner which, again, has been a great learning experience.

I no longer work in education / learning but something I have taken from that part in my life is the incredible value of continuous learning for all us — if you don’t keep moving forward, you move backwards — especially in the tech world. Even more especially when you are part, as I am now, of building something new and revolutionary like the SAFE network!