Questions and Answers with a QA Manager
Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Jennifer
Butcher, QA Manager of Integration Products, for Pivotal
Q: With your busy schedule, I appreciate you taking the time to do
this interview. Thank you for sharing your insights with the
A: It is my pleasure to have the opportunity of speaking with you
Q: Jennifer, what attracted you to Pivotal and how did you get to
your current position? What challenges did you need to overcome?
A: Prior to joining Pivotal, I had just completed an intensive IT
certification program at Capilano College. I chose the program as it
was a highly recommended program targeted at mature students with
business experience seeking a career change and entry into the
exciting and challenging world of Information Technology (IT). Upon
completion of the program, I was particularly wanting to join a
growing and dynamic organization which offered a lot of potential
opportunities for career growth and training with the firm. Pivotal
was a smaller (but by no means small) company that was already
making a name for itself within the mid-enterprise market as a
leading provider of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software
solutions. I started as a Quality Assurance Specialist, testing the
integrity of the product prior to its release, and within just four
months of joining the organization, I was promoted to Technical Lead
for Third-Party Integration Products. Pivotal’s willingness to
promote me so quickly to Technical Lead, despite my lack of previous
industry experience, was highly rewarding and solidified the
rightness of my decision to join Pivotal as a company of
opportunities. And my experience with Pivotal since then has only
reinforced this belief. Over the course of the last 3 years at
Pivotal, I have also been promoted to Team Lead, and now hold the
position of Quality Assurance Manager, Integrated Products, a role
in which I manage a group of Team Leads, Technical Leads and Quality
Assurance Specialists and deal with project teams dispersed
throughout North America and Internationally.
Q: You’re a principal architect behind QA--Integration Products. Can
you provide useful pointers and best-practices to our audience from
your experiences in this area?
A: One of the biggest keys in building a great product, and testing
that product effectively, is understanding your target market.
Knowing the ins and outs of your customers’ business needs and
practices will allow you to ensure that you are designing a product
which meets – and more importantly – exceeds their expectations.
This should be the goal of any software solution, and it is
important for not only designers but also testers of the software to
keep in mind what the clients’ needs are and how the software is
likely to be used. It is nice to build a product that you think is
great, but the bottom line is that if the customer doesn’t have a
use for it, you’ve failed to produce great software.
Q: Where do you see your area evolving in the future and how will
you direct these changes?
A: The trend for software development as well as for many different
streams of business, seems to be towards international and global
corporate strategies. Advances in communication with the Internet
and other Web-based technologies, have removed or greatly decreased
the previous obstacles to global communication and collaboration. I
believe you will see many companies embrace global collaboration and
project teams will need to read just their mindset and business
practices to work in this new environment which crosses time zones,
languages and cultural differences and where the workday occurs on a
24/7 basis for companies that span the globe.
Q: With regards to Pivotal itself as a company, are there any new
technologies businesses should be watching for?
A: Pivotal is always looking to expand on its already vast product
offering, by offering customers solutions that anticipate their
needs. Pivotal has already brought to market a number of industry
vertical solutions which are customized for specific segments of the
market. These solutions allow businesses to start with a solution
which is already tailored to their specific industry workflow and as
consequently, mean a much short, and therefore, less costly,
implementation period for our customers.
Q: What 10 tips can you provide to others that helped you in your
path to success? What would you do different looking back in
A: The best tip I can give to someone wishing to start a career in
the IT field is to pick a specialization within the field that you
love and pursue it with passion. There are so many different focuses
you can choose in the IT profession – from scripting to database or
network administration, the sky is the limit. Employers tend to look
for those individuals who have expertise in a specific area, rather
than those with a broad knowledge that is not extensive in any one
particular area. Looking back, I wouldn’t change any of the
decisions I made. The only action I might change looking back is
that I wouldn’t have debated as much as I did about some of the
decision I made. I would just go for it now. Risks – if they are
calculated risks – are a necessary part of moving forward in the IT
industry, and you learn so much by taking on new challenges.
Q: What do you see on the horizon that businesses and IT
professionals “must” be aware of to be competitive?
A: Businesses as well as IT professionals must never become
complacent. The market is always changing, and although you may be
offering a product or skilled in a technology that is revolutionary
today, it quickly becomes obsolete and replaced by the next latest
technological innovation tomorrow. So professionals must remain
vigilant in keeping their skills updated with continuous education
and businesses must remain open to exploring and working with new
technologies in their solutions.
Q: What do you feel are the top ten the hottest topics of interest
to both businesses and IT professionals today and what will be the
topics in two years and in five years?
A: From a technical perspective, I think methodologies like UML will
be the hot ticket in the coming 1-2 years, as businesses and
professionals try to find a common language for communicating their
needs and workflow practices. There is always another “hot”
technology looming on the horizon…. First it was ASP, then XML, and
tomorrow it will be something else. But the constant focus will be
the ability to understand a user’s workflow and translate that
workflow into a solution that works for them.
Q: Who/What do you think are the winners and losers in IT in next
five years? [This could be companies, technologies, …and so on.]
What advice would you give to enterprises in their adoption of
technologies in the next five years?
A: The winners in the field of IT will be determined in a lot less
than 5 years from now. How companies choose to do business over the
next 1-2 years, will determine who is around in the next 5 years.
Winning companies will be those who embrace change and look at
unconventional ways of doing business, including global
collaboration. Pivotal is one of those companies which is
positioning itself well to be in this category of winners, by
thinking outside of conventional business practices and looking at
innovative ways to meet customers needs.
Q: If you were doing the interview, what four interview questions
would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your
A: I don’t know about 4 questions, but here are 2 that I always ask.
The first allows me to understand whether the person is a fit for
the role they will be required to take on (do they have the mindset
required for QA which involves looking for defects and requires
thinking beyond the functional specifications and thinking outside
the box). The second question allows me to determine what path the
person is likely to take in their career and with the organization,
which can be helpful in determining whether they will stay with the
organization for some duration or are looking for more of a stepping
stone to another, difference career focus:
Q1: Why are you seeking a job in Quality Assurance and what appeals
to you the most about working as part of a Quality Assurance team?
A1: I enjoy working as part of the Quality Assurance team because I
have the opportunity of using my analytical abilities and problem
solving skills to assess the defects in the product and how they can
best be resolved. I also enjoy working as part of a team and the
rewards of working together to produce a great result – a great
Q2: What attracted you about Pivotal as a potential employer and
where do you see yourself going within the organization?
A2: I became interested in joining Pivotal because I was looking for
a growing and dynamic firm which offered me the opportunity to grow
my career and increase my technical knowledge and expertise. I see
myself continuing in my current role, gaining further project
management experience through the continuing expansion of my role in
international project management.
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give?
A: For anyone who has the goal of entering the IT market, I offer
these words of encouragement. If you have a dream, pursue it and do
not let anyone deter you from your vision. The marketplace is very
competitive, especially after the economic set backs of September
11th and the drop in investors’ confidence with the Dot Com market
disappointments. But for those who are determined and persevere,
there are rewarding and challenging jobs to be had. And a career in
IT is one of the most stimulating and rewarding careers you can have
it you chose.
Jennifer, thank you for this most informative interview.