Melissa’s story: From Customer Service to Quality Assurance

Melissa Arneau started out at WorldRemit as a customer service executive before changing tack. She’s now a junior QA (quality assurance) correspondent — and the latest Awesome Woman in Tech.

How did you get started in technology?

My journey is quite atypical, because my start was a pure coincidence. It wasn’t something I was planning.

An internal opportunity had arisen as engineering were looking for someone [from customer service] to do a secondment, and our co-founder Catherine Wines considered me because I was one of the longest-serving members of staff.

So I agreed, started my secondment in October 2015, and officially transferred into engineering in January 2016.

What brought you to WorldRemit?

My previous company — a mix of a travel health clinic and travel accessories — was really great.

I worked for them for about three years first as a clinic assistant, then a store supervisor and finally as head of pharmacy sales. But the workload was quite intense and I was unable to take time off as no-one else could do my job.

So I went onto the Monster job site, added my CV, then received a call from WorldRemit’s recruitment company. After the first interview, I went for my second interview the following day.

At the time, the office was in Hammersmith, they had only recently moved in, so it was quite a strange experience seeing the place so empty.

That was the first time I met Ismail — but I remember thinking I didn’t do so well. So it was a fantastic surprise to receive a call telling me WorldRemit wanted to offer me the job.

What is your role now?

I work in QA as part of the correspondent integration team.

This means I run manual tests on all the forms of integrations we have with our correspondents, making sure everything’s working smoothly, checking for discrepancies that may need resolving for ops and CS, and discussing with my manager whether any issues need raising with the correspondents.

Any interesting technical challenges?

As I deal with correspondents from all over the world, there’s several challenges I face on a daily basis.

I have to bear in mind different time zones. So they could be sending me messages first thing in their morning, but I’ll be on my way to bed, and only notice several hours later — causing a delay in communications.

Another challenge is working with companies who use different software, usually because it will have been blocked by their internet provider.

For example, we were doing an integration with Morocco, but were unable to send them details through a particular messenger platform as it was blocked.

This was a huge issue for us as this platform was one of the most secure forms of communications for us, and when we tried to send it via secure email, their system ended up blocking it.

Finally, we resorted to sending it through an alternative platform, so it’s good to be aware that certain tools we use will not always be compatible with all our correspondents.

You’ve got to keep in mind the alternatives, and thankfully my team are extremely knowledgeable about knowing which platforms are used by our various partners.

Any unexpected challenges?

I first thought that working in tech would bring people together to work on similar platforms, but in fact many people have their preferred systems — making it challenging to collaborate in a smooth fashion.

What’s also difficult is trying to communicate ideas, only for others to either be against them or to get no response for several weeks.

But then when they do finally respond, they expect you to instantly agree to their ways of working — which is frustrating, especially when you’ve been waiting months for an answer.

One thing this job teaches you is not everyone will communicate at the same level, and you need to find other ways of dealing with this. So effectively, you have to juggle technology with human interaction.

What’s your favourite thing about your job or WorldRemit?

For both, it’s the people — they really make the job worthwhile. Engineering is a different dynamic, because in our team we tend to work regular hours — though some engineers are on call during nights and weekends just in case we need to fix a potential service outage.

Another good thing about working in that department is the human interaction experience I gained from being on the phone to our customers.

Plus after working here for nearly four years, I’ve got quite a strong emotional attachment to the company, so if I wasn’t enjoying myself I would have left a long time ago.

What are your thoughts on women in technology?

That’s one of the first things I started to think seriously about when I joined engineering, because at that time we had a total of 17 engineers — but only seven were women. That was quite a significant ratio, but it’s also interesting as Catherine is WorldRemit’s co-founder and therefore partly involved in tech.

Our former CTO Gabriella Poczo helped me move to engineering — I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her getting Catherine’s approval to finalise my transfer. However, since then not many women have joined my department — therefore I think tech is still seen as a very male-oriented world.

So I believe when it comes to management — especially in engineering — the position of women in tech is still yet to be improved.

Do you have a motto?

I don’t really have a motto, but I do have this mindset: never close yourself to any opportunities. Another one is don’t force yourself down a path you know you don’t want to travel just because other people are forcing you to.

I was an accountant in Paris for seven years, but when I wanted to move into retail, it was extremely difficult.

As France is so academically-focused, I was told I had to go back to school to learn how to sell a washing machine but I said no — so that’s when I took my sabbatical and moved to London and eight years later, I’m still here.

Would you move from engineering?

It’s interesting moving from accountancy to retail to engineering — but with so much to learn, I see myself being an engineer for quite some time.

There’s plenty of development opportunities available to me which I fully intend to take advantage of, as I believe it will benefit me both professionally and personally.

What are you working on right now?

I’m learning to code, which is something I never thought I would do. It’s taught me to see things differently, for example, I look at the signboards on the tube and wonder: how did they write the code for that? I’ve started looking at everyday objects that use technology and questioning how they work.

Is there anything else you’d like to learn?

I’m extremely interested in domotics: how to operate your house remotely so for example, turning a bedroom light on in my home while I’m in another location.

As my parents are building a new house, I’ve started thinking about what I could do in 10 years’ time to help them remotely, without having to travel back and forth to look after the house while they’re away.

Are there any educational websites or resources you’re using?

I started using Pluralsight, then moved onto Treehouse which I believe is slightly better as it’s more modern. Pluralsight has some good resources but it’s a little dated.

I’ve also been doing Free Code Camp, but that’s more front-end, meaning there’s more focus on website design. I’m more interested in back-end, and am much happier leaving others to work on how the site should be designed while I work on the functionality.

So if I do stick to engineering, I’m more likely to pursue a role as a back-end engineer. Plus once you become qualified, you can explore so many other sectors, and after working in fintech, I would consider anything from retail to fashion.

I even considered Formula One as I’m fascinated by what their engineers do with the race cars. It looks so impressive as their cars are pretty much computers, and that is something I would love to get my head around.

What project would you like to work on next?

I’ve got a side project where I’m building a simulator to help with the integration of airtime.

During an integration we run a series of tests, but once the integration is completed, there are occasions where the correspondents close off their testing environments.

This is when we use the simulator, as this basically replaces a test environment. By allowing us to run tests throughout any period of given time, this enables us to essentially hardcode the responses we expect — meaning we can then test and make sure everything is working.

How does testing vary?

For bank transfers, you simply need to make sure the bank details are correct. With airtime however, there’s only two outcomes: either it gets paid or it fails.

So for example, incorrect beneficiary details on a bank transfer or cash pickup can be amended as it can easily be reprocessed, but for airtime it can’t be changed — once it’s done, it’s done.

That’s why we implemented the process of asking the customer to enter the telephone number twice, as this allows our website to identify if the number matches and if it doesn’t, it will show up as an error to prompt the customer to input the details correctly.

Other contributors often mention they “fell” into engineering. Why do you think this is?

I don’t think enough opportunities are offered to women while they’re at school.

When I was doing my baccalaureate , I was studying science — but at that time, we weren’t covering anything computer-related. However, my male friends had started hosting computer clubs at school, but none of the girls were ever invited.

As I got older, I rarely came across any women purposefully pursuing a career in technology. I think there’s a strong parallel between the gaming world and the tech world, as I had a lot of female friends who were avid gamers but a lot of the time had to pretend they were male, because otherwise they would be harassed.

What advice do you have for others?

Just go for it. With so many resources available online, take the time to learn coding at home or on the move.

Also, there’s no such thing as a stupid question — unless you work in retail (laughs).