Nothing like a good Metaphor Cake: Explaining my Day Job

It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I got my wake up call. Was it realizing that after a 15 work hour day, I’d spent 20 minutes standing in my kitchen, eating tortilla chips and cold queso, watching celebrity Instagram stories because I had no energy to do anything else? By the way, Busy Phillips is taking a workout class that involves a trampoline. She’s also drinking a special coffee that involves putting actual butter into it, but I don’t want to get into it.

Here she’s explaining the rush on Elmers Glue that stores are experiencing due to the popularity of “slime.” I don’t know.

Was it being so distracted, I was caught by a sales associate smelling an empty vase at Target because I thought it was a scented candle? And that trip to Target was my “fun” thing for the week?

It could have been the night I only had the mental capacity to debate if I should unfollow a bulldog’s instagram account because I was worried I followed too many dogs’ accounts, and what did that say about me?

As you can see, it’s just been a really really cool month for me.

When did I get the wake up call that my work-life balance was less “balance” and more just….work. A lot of work.

I’m not complaining because jobs are cool. Jobs are super cool! Jobs let me pay off my loans, buy food, AND buy a shirt with a badger on it saying, “Don’t tell me what to do!” The badger is holding flowers, by the way. I feel like that’s an important point.

But a long week is a long week. And a long two weeks are even longer. A long four weeks? We don’t talk about that.

I guess it’s time to tell you guys about what I do.

I am a software tester. I make sure software works.

Girl, we gotta talk about ergonomics.

If you’ve ever been on a website or app and something went wrong, that’s a failure in software testing.

Sometimes the testing is done by the software developer. Other times it’s done by someone like me. A quality assurance tester. A QAer.

Much like someone who is proofreading a paper, we check software for logic, and flow. We check for commas and misspellings. We make sure it works all right and it looks all right, and we make sure that anyone can use it and understand it and it won’t hurt anyone’s eyeballs to look at. Sometimes this process takes us to a weird place. How about an example?

Let’s say I have to test going from point A to point B.

A QAer will do the following:

  • Walk quickly and calmly from point A to point B. Success? Success!
  • Skip, run, mosey, electric slide from point A to point B. Looks like that worked too.
  • Start at point A and run full tilt at point B yelling, “SPARTA!”
  • Start at point Z and then go to point B because technically you hit point A along the way
  • Look at point be, and yell, “I DON’T LIKE YOUR TYPOGRAPHY! TRY A SANS-SERIF!”
  • Get out your Razor scooter! See if you can get from point A to point B, and then we get to have a conversation about why you have a Razor scooter.
  • Put point B on the Razor Scooter, and drag it towards you with a complicated pulley system crafted from plaid Target scarves.
  • Put point B on your vision board and wait for the universe to respond, and it totally will if you used the proper amount of vision-board glitter.

Ok, you get it.

In the world of software development, QA thinks of the user. Every user. We comb over software with the eye of the devil’s advocate’s advocate.

“MmHmm, users are very fond of color squares. Test case, passed.”

I’ve done this job for three years now, and I’ve learned a few things about the type of people QA can attract.

Group 1: People who enjoy job-having

You have people like me. People who needed a job, got a job, and decided to try and be good at that job.

These people tend to pick and choose their battles. These people tend to see the forest for the trees.

Group 2: Sees the trees and the forest and would like to speak to your landscape architect

These people needed a job, got a job, and realized they found their calling. It’s their time to shine, and as God as my witness, you better get their lighting right.

Software testers are detail-oriented. Most of the time it is normal-level-detail-oriented, but other times it feels like “I’m never going to be happy with that detail. Never. Never ever ever. No take backs time infinity. #Never”-oriented.

I didn’t know there was a difference till I got this job, and you’re correct, as a group, we are not always fun to be around.

Imagine you’re baking a cake, and someone stood beside you telling you everything you were doing wrong.

“Why’d you use box mix? Won’t people eating the cake be able to tell you didn’t make it from scratch? Won’t they be able to tell you chose the lazy solution? Won’t they be able to tell you shouldn’t be baking cakes but at all?”

The QA brain chooses her battles, and she will have every last one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t naturally have QA brain; I don’t always understand QA brain, but I maintain that QAers make the world go round. QAers make sure things get done, and makes sure those things are, as they say, good things.

They totally say that.

Now that you know, QA, let’s meet their foil, their nemesis, their really-pretty cool-sometimes colleagues, the software developer.

The software tester tests the software (shocker). The software developer gives them something to test. They’re the ones with the code. They make the metaphorical cakes.

Developer: I’ve baked this cake because our customers like cake. #business
QAer: You used salt instead of sugar. Try again.
Developer: Got me a cake with max sugar-using.
QAer: I’ve tasted this cake, and it tastes like it’s from a box.
Developer: That’s because it’s from a box.
QAer: It should not be from a box. Have you even seen Great British Baking Show? #MaryBerry4life
Developer: You know, that’s a really good point. Try this cake I made from scratch.
QAer: I mean, it looks good, but I saw you sneeze in it.
Developer: What’s wrong with that?
QAer: You shouldn’t sneeze in cakes.
Developer: I guess so. Try this cake that I made from scratch that I totally didn’t sneeze in.
QAer: This tastes good, but you messed up the icing. People like pretty cakes.
Developer: Ok, I made this cake, and I consulted actual cake-artists as I was decorating it.
QAer: *cuts into cake*….You went with carrot cake, huh? I mean, I guess that works for some people. Seems like an interesting choice.
Developer: …I’m going to murder you with my cake tools.
QAer: That’s probably fair.

Most developers are good enough not to murder, or even, on good days, threaten murder, though there are definitely moments I wouldn’t blame them.

This is called the development cycle. A developer says, “I did a thing!” And a QAer says, “I’ll be the judge of that!” And round and round we go, till a QAer begrudgingly says, “ok, fine. Good job.”

The best developers and QAers see this cycle as a team effort. Making the best software and/or cakes you can. The thing to remember is, antagonism can come from both parties. Take the following:

QAer: Hey. I ate this cake, and got food poisoning. People should not eat this cake.
Developer: But like, it’s probably just from that one corner right? I bet if people just didn’t eat that corner, everything would be ok. They won’t get food poisoning from the other corners. Because I am great at cakes.

Cake-murder is a two way street.

So this is my job. This is what’s been taking over my life. Fighting with these weirdos who also happen to be geniuses who also happen to never give me cakes despite the fool-proof metaphors.

This is the reason why I haven’t been posting, but this also happens to be the reason that I have a roof over my head and can afford food and also flower-holding-badger t-shirts. I can’t get too mad. But maybe I can. I don’t know, team. Busy Phillips has to get an MRI, and we’re all very curious if her claustrophobia will be an issue.

As for my wake-up call, I think the phone is still ringing. I just know what the voicemail is going to say.

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