Choosing a career path can be daunting. What if you get stuck doing something you hate? Or what if you’ve had so many jobs that you never master one skill set. Wouldn’t it just be easier if the profession chose you instead? For Salsita QA Engineer Katarina Achbergerova, this seems to be the case.
Kate has had a long-standing predilection for technology and mathematics, which is why she’s always wanted to work as a developer. But if you combine a passion for solving problems and helping people—along with a candid attitude—you end up with a model QA engineer. She just hadn’t discovered that yet.
Her interests led her to a bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics at Comenius University in Bratislava and then to Prague to pursue a Master’s degree.
Never one to depend on others, Kate started looking for a job as soon as she was accepted to the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University.
She applied for a full-stack developer position at two companies that really appealed to her—one of them being Salsita Software.
While she waited to hear back from her prospective employers, she returned to Bratislava to get ready for life at her new university.
During that time, Kate read about a React Meetup in Bratislava. The evening’s speaker was Tomáš Weiss—a full-stack developer from Salsita Software. Since neither company had gotten back to her, she was getting anxious. Fed up with waiting, Kate attended the conference to meet Tomáš and pick his brain about Salsita. It turned out to be a good decision as this initial meeting ended up having a significant impact on Kate’s life.
“I was stressed, but Tomáš calmed me down,” said Kate. “He told me more about Salsita and I thought it was great that they encouraged employees to speak at conferences.” This made Salsita appear experienced and exceptional, which impressed her.
WELCOME TO SALSITA
A week later Kate got the call that she had been waiting for. Salsita Founder and CEO Matthew Gertner wanted her to come aboard, but not for the position she applied for. “I felt I had failed Matthew’s technical questions,” said Kate. “I think that’s the reason why he offered me a QA job instead of the full-stack position.”
While Kate was thinking over Matt’s offer, her other prospective employer finally called and invited her in for an interview. “I didn’t like that it took so long for them to reply and that made me feel they weren’t interested,” said Kate. “Salsita was faster, more straightforward, and told you exactly what they expected.” These characteristics meshed well with Kate’s personality. And, even though she wouldn’t be working as a full-stack developer, she accepted Salsita’s offer.
If we meet someone good, we try to find a position that fits them, even if it’s not exactly the one they applied for. – Matthew Gertner, Salsita Founder and CEO
TESTING THE WATERS
Going to university and working 40 hours a week are both full-time commitments. Doing them at the same time is impossible.
Kate started at Salsita during the first week of August 2016. Her first semester at Charles University began a couple of weeks after that, but she never went. “If I were just working part time, I could’ve studied and worked,” said Kate. “I wanted to start saving some money.” It’s fulfilling when you can apply what you’ve learned at school to your job, but that’s not always the case. Kate learned that the hard way.
“Most of what I learned at university in Bratislava hadn’t been put to practical use anyways, so I couldn’t see the value in studying any more at that time,” said Kate.
She was soon notified that she had been dismissed from her Master’s program. Her educational run in Prague ended without her attending a single class, but better things awaited her.
Kate had no trouble adjusting to QA, but the idea of becoming a full-stack developer was still in the back of her mind. Matt suggested trying the QA role for a year and then reassessing her situation.
After her first-year review, Kate finally dismissed the idea of becoming a developer. “They were surprised with how well I did,” said Kate. “My colleagues said a lot of positive things and that really motivated me to stay in this position.”
Katarina is incredibly passionate about her work. For me, it seems that she not only wants to do good work, but that she NEEDS to because it’s baked into her DNA. She is so perfectly suited for this career that, at times, I wonder if she chose her profession or if the profession chose her. - Alfred DeRose, Salsita Project Manager
Kate had worked as a tester before, but that first year made her realize how well her personality suited her QA role. “Generally, I’m careful and I tend to put my soul into solving a problem,” said Kate. She rode the wave of motivation from her review and decided to reach out to the entire QA department.
To make an impact beyond her own projects, Kate started a bimonthly QA event to openly talk about project issues. The participants took turns cooking a meal of their choice, which helped create a more casual atmosphere.
“I wanted my colleagues to be honest with me so we could effectively analyze issues,” said Kate. “People who were frustrated came to the sessions and they always got something out of it—even if only part of the problem was solved, progress was made.”
Kate was always an active participant, too. She emphasized having a more transparent department and presented different methods on how to achieve it.
I care about things and it’s been that way my whole life. That’s just who I am. If you feel your work’s important, then you’ll care. My job has a high priority and that’s how it’s always been.
The one area of QA where Kate feels most at home is testing. When asked what her favorite part of automated testing was, there was no hesitation: “the technical part,” said Kate. “I like learning new frameworks, coding, and the feeling I get when I’ve automated repetitive manual work.” Though she prefers automation, she appreciates the freedom of manual testing and being able to see things from the end user’s perspective.
Nowhere is Kate’s passion for code and process improvement more obvious than in her work on a high-profile project for eBay. She was brought in to help accelerate the automation of an extensive manual regression testing process that was taking too long to allow for regular deployments of critical new features.
Kate immediately improved the process by changing the test strategy to cover multiple application layers rather than constantly test the same feature with various data. She then followed up with a detailed plan to cover a majority of the remaining test cases with automation, and with unit tests that would be contributed by her full-stack colleagues.
DECODING THE FUTURE
Kate didn’t follow her original plan to get her Master’s—or the job she thought she wanted—but she trusted her instincts, entered the workforce early, and gained the kind of experience that can’t be taught in any classroom.
“I’ve learned to carefully listen to clients and ask the right questions,” said Kate. “Sometimes they care about things you might not think about, so you must find a balance.”
When asked about long-term goals Kate said she’d like to work as an automation consultant. This would let her lead more automation teams and allow her to set up testing infrastructures and processes that she’s learned across various projects. For the short-term, she’s focused on learning from other experts in her field and exploring how different frameworks function.
“I’ve improved as a tester over the last four years, especially the technical parts related to automation.” said Kate. “I’ve learned a lot of great tricks on how to break an app.”