Fernanda started working for clients in testing at age 18. Here’s what she learned.

Quality Sense is back for season two! Did you miss us?

In this episode, Federico invited Fernanda Sesto, a socially-minded Latina entrepreneur, current University of Rochester student, and a former Abstracta team member, to share a bit of what it was like for her to start working in testing at the ripe old age of 18!

What to Expect?

  • What she wished she knew when getting started in software testing
  • What it’s like to work from Latin America for clients in the United States
  • The differences between studying technology and actually working in it on the ground, in the real world
  • Mistakes to avoid and tips for success in your first year as a software tester

Listen Here:

Episode Transcript:

(Lightly edited for clarity.)

Federico

Hello, Fernanda. How are you doing?

Fernanda

I’m good. How are you?

Federico

Very good. Very good. I’m really happy. I’m very excited to be talking with you. Tell me, do you miss our country, our little country down there in the south? Do you miss the people in Uruguay?

Fernanda

Yeah, definitely. Today actually it’s been a year since I left Uruguay. I think even though I’ve been having a great experience here in the US, I definitely miss my home and my parents and my family in general, and my friends as well. Yeah. But it is what it is!

Federico

Yes, of course. Fer, I wanted to talk with you about your first experience working in the software industry. I remember when you just started a couple of years ago working on our team at Abstracta. I have great memories of sharing the office with you and working together and learning together a lot. 

One of my first questions related to that is how did you end up working as a software tester? How did you decide to study, or what were your first steps?

Fernanda

Okay. So I went to a computer science high school in Montevideo, and there, I learned software programming, project management, databases, a bunch of technical stuff. 

During my senior year in 2017, there was this opportunity, this program called Jovenes a Programar and I decided that it was a great opportunity to learn more. Software testing was not a course in my high school. So I wanted to learn more.

Federico

Typical. Right?

Fernanda

Well, it’s like, yeah, we learned a little bit about it in one of the courses that was more about software engineering or software design, the whole process, but it was definitely not a subject. So I wanted to learn more about it because actually in 2017… no, 2016, I visited Abstracta for the “Girls in Tech Day” or “Techy Por El Dia.” I remember visiting and I remember the environment was really cool, and I thought that would be a great first experience for me to start working in the software industry.

When that opportunity came, and after having that visit at Abstracta, I was like, “Yes, I want to learn software testing.” I already knew how to program. I already knew about database operating systems. So I think that also helped me to understand even better about software testing and the whole process.

Then after graduating from high school, that summer after graduating, I was looking for a job. I sent my resume to Abstracta and I got an interview and I think I did well in the interviews.

Federico

Yeah, you did! Do you remember which were your first fears or first thoughts about working in the software industry?

Fernanda

Yeah, I was very scared to make mistakes. Even though I knew how to develop and I knew how to do software testing because it was so recent, I was still nervous about making mistakes. Also working with clients was a very huge experience because I’ve always been quite responsible, so I didn’t want to make mistakes and then impact the clients in a bad way. So that was, I think, one of the biggest fears for me to do something wrong and then that affecting the clients because that’s real.

It wasn’t like in high school, where you just practice and you don’t really do stuff. This was actually impacting people’s businesses and people’s services. So I was like, “This is real. I need to take this seriously.” Then, yeah, just nervous, I guess, about the whole working style. It was all new for me; working in an office. It was great, though. I was scared of course, at the beginning, but I didn’t have any issues because it was a great environment. But I think, yeah, making mistakes, that was the biggest fear.

Federico

Do you remember anything that you did or anything in your attitude towards those fears that helped you to overcome them?

Fernanda

Yeah, I think I was very, very willing to learn and to ask questions. I was also very independent. I think it was a balance between asking questions and trying to solve issues on my own. So if every time I would get to a problem, and I would face a situation that I didn’t know how to solve, I would try to Google that and try to resolve it on my own. But if I was stuck and I couldn’t do it myself, I’d recognize that, yes, I’m a junior. I can’t do everything. So I would ask for help for my colleagues, like the project leads.

Federico

You know, I’d like to highlight this because I think it’s a very important attitude towards what you do. Because for leaders, it’s really important to help people. But if the junior testers are not trying first by themselves, maybe it’s not the best learning process. So finding the appropriate balance between asking questions and researching on one’s own and saying when you have a problem, or when you cannot solve a problem you’re facing, I think this is key. So I really like what you mentioned.

I know that nowadays, you’ve moved to Rochester here in the US. You’re studying something not related to software testing, business. So you quit the field!

Fernanda

No, I didn’t quit it! Actually, software testing helped me to realize a lot of things. For example, that I really liked the business side of technology and because when I was starting out, I was a functional tester. So I felt that I was understanding, I was trying to understand the business side and the client side of the users. Then on the other hand, trying to work with the developers, engineers. So that bridge is what I think helped me to figure that, okay, I actually really like technology, but I see myself in the future working more like a project manager role or working more from the business side of it. So even though I did change, I wouldn’t think that it’s not actually related to software.

Federico

Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just kidding! But what I wanted to ask you is if you had to try to convince any friends or anyone to become a tester, have you tried that?

Fernanda

Yeah, actually, the first year, when I was working, I was very much like, “You should all get into software testing!” 

I think, when you say “software industry” to a person that hasn’t really studied anything related to technology, they freak out and they’re like, “Oh, no, that’s too hard. That’s not for me.” But I try to encourage my friends back home that they can join it too.

FERNANDA SESTO

Jovenes a Programar is still there, and it’s still an opportunity and they can learn for free, a lot of useful tools and skills that you can apply then. Then you can… It’s the entry point, let’s say, into software testing, into the software industry. So I just, yeah, definitely. I tried like that, convincing them, saying things like, “This isn’t hard.” This is something you do every day, actually, when you’re on the phone… I even tried to convince my mom to go into software testing.

Federico

Oh wow! And how do you tell someone what a tester does?

Fernanda

Well, it depends. Right? Depends on the person I’m talking to, but I usually start with when you are using an app on your phone, like Instagram, I don’t know, Facebook. You know when you’re using it and when it doesn’t work, something is wrong? That’s a bug. That’s something that is not supposed to be there. 

That’s an issue. And that’s what we usually do when we’re working. We try to find that type of issue and also improve the user experience and to make it more… to make it better for them. So, yeah, that’s basically how I go about explaining, with an example. I think others in Abstracta explain it similarly.

Federico

What do you think has helped you to succeed in your first experience working as a tester?

Fernanda

Well, asking questions when I had to and also being independent, and researching on my own definitely was one thing. Then also being very curious, just when approaching a problem like software, just trying to get out of my zone a little bit and try to explore different things. I think in getting out of my box and wondering, “What else can we do to improve this? Or what else could the user need?” Just asking questions like that, being very curious about the target audience that the software is trying to reach, or that it’s designed for.

Then also getting out of my comfort zone as well, as a software tester. I remember that sometimes I tried to do performance testing, which is definitely not right up my alley because I started out as a functional tester. 

But, yeah, just trying to see if I can get out of my comfort zone and learn new things that would also benefit the product. I think that it was a great skill for me to also develop my own knowledge and learn more skills and get to know other areas within testing.

Federico

Cool. Those are some excellent pieces of advice. What about if you were able to go back in time and tell something to the younger Fernanda, what could you suggest?

Fernanda

Be more patient. Yeah, and listen more. I think it was more like sometimes I would just… I think this is a normal thing amongst young people and I probably still do it, but I just talk. I think, “Yes, I have this. I know this. I don’t need you to tell me this.” But be more like, “Okay, no, let’s listen to people who’ve been working in the industry for a long time” and be more patient in my own learning process.

Federico

Yeah, patient with yourself. Right?

Fernanda

Yeah, yeah. With myself, yeah. Patient with myself and with the process and in the things around that. Yes, I’m not going to be able to do a whole performance testing script from day to night or night to day because it’s a process. I was just starting, and I think just being more patient.

Federico

Yeah, learning takes time. Right?

Fernanda

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Federico

Well, another question I have for you is, how was your experience? Because I remember you were working in Abstracta for customers in the US. So how was your experience as a young Latin-American woman working remotely for customers in the US? Is there anything you like to ask people to take into consideration in order to improve the experience of people in a similar position as you were?

Fernanda

Well, my experience was great, to be honest. That was one of the things that I was scared about. Yeah, it was a language barrier, the cultural barrier, the fact that I was not present in the same room with them. Sometimes I felt not excluded, but that I was missing some stuff that the team was experiencing, because I was remote, and they were in the same place.

But in general, it was great because the teams I had the opportunity to work with were really open. They were also really responsive. On Slack, they would answer right away and they would help on calls if I had to talk to them. It was challenging. I’m not going to lie because it was my first time working in an environment like that, in such a context and in English. It helped me to learn English as well and to develop my fluency.

I think the last team I worked with, it was an awesome experience working with them. They were great and they made me feel really included within the team. I think that that is important for someone to feel that they are part of the team, even though they are in another country, and they’re from another culture.

When I Ieft, they even sent me a present with a bunch of things. I still have the card they sent me saying, “Thank you, Fernanda, for everything.” For me, that was great because I worked with them for a long time and they really made me feel like I was part of their team… Even saying, “Oh, you can come and visit. We can go for a coffee or something.”

So I was, I think, in an environment when there’s at least one person that is remote, is very important to make them feel included and I would definitely advise that to people who are in that situation.

Federico

Yeah, especially now in hindsight. I think this, what you mentioned, is important not only for people working from other countries. Nowadays, we are more distributed because of COVID-19 and everything. Having these details or paying attention to this type of detail and making sure people feel included, I think can make a difference in the remote work experience.

Fernanda

Yeah. Definitely.

Federico

Is there anything else you would like to mention, regarding testing or your experiences as a tester or anything that’s going to help someone during their first steps in testing?

Fernanda

Yeah. 

For people who are just starting their career in software testing, they should definitely try to be as curious as possible and get involved with the community. Go to meet-ups or webinars and network with industry leaders. I think we all should do that because the power of networking is great, and we get to meet so many people and learn from so many people.

I think that actually helped me a lot even though, yes, I was independent. I still recommend that to anyone. I just feel that when you are connecting with other people – and people who know a lot about a topic – they could help you. You can collaborate with them in a future project or something. So definitely my advice goes in that way, to network and to be curious within the industry.

Federico

Excellent. Excellent. Perfect! Thank you so much. I have a couple of questions, more personal questions, I’d like to ask. One of them is, do you have any book/s you would like to recommend?

Fernanda

Yeah, this is not related to software testing, but I recently read a book called Women, Culture And Politics by Angela Davis. I really liked it. I think it was not exactly what I was expecting in a way, but it really opened my mind about a lot of things. I’ve been suggesting to everyone to read that book, because nowadays, I think we need to be more aware of certain social issues. 

For example, what we mentioned about working with Latin American people and as a Latin American woman, how I felt. So I think we should definitely look into that and how women are feeling in the workplace and women’s rights.

Then well, also, we have the whole thing about Black Lives Matter, which I think is definitely important, very pressing right now, especially in the United States. So definitely I encourage you to read that book.

Federico

Excellent. My other question is related to habits since I really believe that improving those things, small things that you do every day, multiple times, you can improve your life and the way you achieve your goals. So do you have any habits to recommend?

Fernanda

Yeah. Recently, I’ve been practicing a lot of mindfulness, and I think it’s the fact of being present in real time. So sometimes we are too focused on the future, especially when we’re working. I think that is perfect. I definitely do that for myself a lot, but sometimes just taking, especially when we’re trying to be productive, just five minutes or 10 minutes to go back to reality.

Just sit at your desk and focus on your breath, focus on what you’re feeling and then just take an actual break. Not like a five minute break, you’re checking your phone, but an actual five minute break when you’re just doing nothing.

FERNANDA SESTO

Let your thoughts go and just feel your body, how it is, if you’re tense things like that. That could actually boost your productivity. So I definitely recommend that.

Federico

Thank you so much, Fer. Is there anything you would like to invite the listeners to do?

Fernanda

Yeah, definitely. As I mentioned, I am very interested in social issues right now. I think the most pressing issue right now in the US is Black Lives Matter. So if you can get involved with that, either donating or sharing resources, you can check Black Lives Matter online, their organization. They centralize a lot of information and I think they’re the most reliable source of that. So getting involved with that, I think, especially in the workforce, it’s really important to be thinking about that.

Federico

Thank you so much, Fer. It was really, really nice to talk with you again, and I hope to continue talking, and I’ll be in touch with you.

Fernanda

Okay. Awesome. Thank you very much for inviting me, Fed.

Federico

Stay safe. Bye.

Fernanda

Bye!

Okay. Bye-bye.
Federico:


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