Testing Based on Actual User Experiences: An Interview with Marjana Shammi

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Marjana Shammi, the test lead at IceMobile, digs into a tester’s experience with user experience mapping. She explains the basics of experience mapping and tells how testers create great test ideas from that data.

Jennifer Bonine: Hello. This is Jennifer. We are back with the virtual interviews for our conference. It’s hard to believe we’re already coming towards the end of our interviews. This is one of our last two interviews that we’ll do. Marjana Shammi, thank you for being with us.

Marjana Shammi: Thank you.

Jennifer Bonine: Maybe give us a little bit about your background. For the folks out there, they'll know your background, where you come from, what you’re doing, the organization you work in, and then we’ll talk a little bit about what you talked about here.

Marjana Shammi: Awesome. I’m Marjana Shammi, like you mentioned. I’m coming from the Netherlands. I work in a company called IceMobile. It’s based in Amsterdam. I’m originally from Bangladesh. I’ve been in the testing industry about now ten years or so. I started out as a programmer, and then went into testing. Basically, what I talked about today actually was about how can we learn from user experience journeys and apply those insights in testing as heuristics and oracles that you can apply. This is my first time here at STAREAST, and I’m having a fabulous time. I started from Sunday onwards.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow.

Marjana Shammi: I did all the tutorials. I loved all the keynotes and especially your tutorial. A lot of insights that I can really take out. Also, for example, Isabel Evans to apply influence diagrams. I can immediately use that. What I was also refreshed about is what we do in automation and testing in IceMobile that a lot of people also similarly uses here, so that’s reassuring.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Isn’t that nice?

Marjana Shammi: Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: I think that’s one of the great things about these conferences when you come to them is you see validation, right, of a lot of the things you’re doing?

Marjana Shammi: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: You go, “Okay. I’m doing this right or other people are doing this. This is great. I thought it was right, but yup, it is.” The other thing I think is so neat is just understanding that other people experiencing some of the challenges.

Marjana Shammi: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: Right?

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: You’re not alone. If you’re having challenges out there and things aren’t working the way you want, you also sense there are similar challenges other people face, and that’s normal, and it’s totally okay.

Marjana Shammi: Exactly. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Hopefully, network and meet some new people that you can chat with ongoing from the conference as well.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah. I’ve met some great people, and also, for … They’re looking forward to meeting them in other conferences.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: I love the perspective of … Most of the folks we talked to today that you guys have been listening to have been coming to these conferences several years or multiple years, so it’s great to hear the perspective of someone who … This is their first time at this conference, and what you thought of it, and just what you gained from that. Any observations or special insights that make this conference maybe different than some of the other ones you’ve been to or the unique things about this conference for you?

Marjana Shammi: What I really liked is we are located in the same place as having the conference.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes. Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: It’s a great plus.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, it’s huge.

Marjana Shammi: You get to mingle with people more often then.

Jennifer Bonine: You see them all the time, right?

Marjana Shammi: Yes, yes.

Jennifer Bonine: You really do.

Marjana Shammi: It’s pretty large compared to other conferences as well.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, over a thousand people.

Marjana Shammi: Absolutely, so that’s really refreshing.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah, so I really found that different compared to EuroSTAR. EuroSTAR is pretty big as well in Europe, but it’s also nice to have it long and in the same location.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: See, that’s interesting. Some other folks may not know. There’s a EuroSTAR, so which is in Europe.

Marjana Shammi: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: Interesting to hear that perspective, but it is. This is a fairly large conference with lots of people.

Marjana Shammi: It is. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: The nice thing is you walk around the halls if you make an effort to get out, right?

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Besides just going to your room and going to the sessions, if you actually get out and are in the common areas, in the lobby, in the sitting areas, you will absolutely find other delegates and people.

Marjana Shammi: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: What I also find, I think … I don’t know if you saw this, but people are very willing to strike up conversations. and talk to you, and talk about different topics.

Marjana Shammi: Absolutely. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: People are very approachable I would say.

Marjana Shammi: It’s really interesting in the testing industry because people are very keen to share their experiences.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: I’ve noticed that in EuroSTAR as well that testers really like sharing experiences, and you learn a lot from that.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes. Yup, what they’ve done, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and getting that real-life experience from someone else.

Marjana Shammi: Exactly. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: So helpful.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Let’s talk a little bit about your talk that you did for it because obviously, the folks watching whenever to a conference didn’t get to see it. Tell us a little bit about the heuristics from these or experience perspective. Some folks out there maybe hearing this for the first time.

Marjana Shammi: Okay. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: How do you think about that? We’ve heard a lot about … I’m hearing more from different companies about trending towards the QA group being the customer advocate and having that customer voice and customer perspective, so tell us a little bit about what you’re seeing and your experience with that.

Marjana Shammi: I definitely … There’ve been multiple talks about, indeed, exactly that where testers need to be the voice, let’s say.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: Absolutely. What we noticed, what we do in IceMobile as well, that while doing the customer journey mapping, we plot it out, make charts for each of the journey, and we pick out, let’s say, the high-risk areas, or the peak points, or the low points, and we can apply that as part of path-based testing. What I talked about is how can you identify different paths and communicate in such a way so it’s a little bit more interesting like the wicked path or let’s say, the bleak path or the angry path that people get … users get annoyed with. You can use these flavors and apply to testing heuristics, emotional heuristics.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and keep them interested, right?

Marjana Shammi: Absolutely. Yes. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: If you watched the keynote this morning with Isabel Evans telling stories and just being creative and how you deliver information so people pay attention.

Marjana Shammi: Exactly, exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: Because people want, at the end of the day, to be interested in whatever it is, and then they pay more attention to whatever you’re talking about.

Marjana Shammi: Absolutely. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: As testers, taking something that could be relatively sublime or not so interesting and trying to spice that up a little bit and make it a little more interesting, so people pay attention.

Marjana Shammi: Exactly, exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: Something else. Just being you, work in that mobile space for people out there in the mobile space, what are some of the challenges you’re seeing with now mobile versus some of the more traditional technologies where you had users who are more … The word I should use probably is forgiving around things not working. When you had traditional old CDs, and you’d load them in, and the application would boot up, and if everything didn’t work, you were like, “Okay. I have patience for this.”

Marjana Shammi: Patience. Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Now, what do you see, especially being in a mobile organization, in IceMobile around that? People’s level of patience so to speak.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah. Yes. I mentioned this as well in my talk. Since we’re very mobile app development company, what’s even crucial is to find those insights where it matters to the clients. Otherwise, people will just delete your app once they installed it, right?

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Marjana Shammi: You need to be able to keep them still there.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: We do a lot of interviews to find out, “Okay. What are their interests?” That’s the challenge in terms of, “How do you keep them engaged?”

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and keep it relevant.

Marjana Shammi: Keep it relevant.

Jennifer Bonine: Yup.

Marjana Shammi: It should be to a particular target user base. Maybe it’s generic. Maybe it’s to a typical type of user base you’re referring to. It’s important for the business to know who your customers are and make it personal. It’s a human level. It’s connected with a human level.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and make it part of them and something that they’re loyal to which gets harder and harder with, right, that they identify with because …?

Marjana Shammi: Exactly. Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, I find that with mobile. It’s not even … It has to work out of the gate or they delete it initially, right?

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: You get one shot.

Marjana Shammi: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: Whereas before, you could have multiple shots at a consumer base and maybe get it right.

Marjana Shammi: Exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: This is like you get one, and they either keep it or they delete it initially. Then, what I’m seeing also … I don’t know if you guys are seeing this is after a while, people evaluate screen real estate because there’s only so much real estate on their screens that they’re willing to invest in an app and if they’re not using it, so even over time, even if they initially liked it, you have to keep them engaged and have to keep them wanting that app because there’s new apps coming all the time and yours could get replaced in any moment.

Marjana Shammi: Yes, indeed. That’s why it’s so, so very crucial to involve the users as early as you can because otherwise, it’s too late.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: That’s what we try to do in sprint development, involve the users already doing the sprints, so you can get their feedback from the beginning and be able to apply it just before you release the product.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Exactly.

Marjana Shammi: That’s how we do it. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Then, how do you see it in terms of … So, I know you had said you’re based in the Netherlands. European-based audiences versus Asia-based audiences versus maybe US-based audiences. Are you seeing some differences in the user group?

Marjana Shammi: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: Do you pull in different …? People have different backgrounds too, right, because your groups may not only be certain age groups or certain genders, but it’s also certain nationalities and cultural bases?

Marjana Shammi: Yes, absolutely. If you look into just testing, the differences that I’ve noticed is there’s a lot of waterfalls still here in US that people are really finding challenges in. Whereas in Europe, people are more and more adapting towards agile. Although, it’s agile-ish they say.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: There is a difference. In the context and community, you see more and more of that practice in the Netherlands as well. It’s all about seeking relevance.

Jennifer Bonine: Yup.

Marjana Shammi: How relevant is the product to you? How relevant is the practice to you? How relevant are your skills given the certain context? I’m actually doing a talk in EuroSTAR to talk about methods and techniques that you can apply for skill development that can be pertaining to what you’re doing in bringing value to your customers, so it’s about reflecting, asking, learning, and practicing.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, yeah.

Marjana Shammi: It’s all about seeking relevance. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: For you, besides talking to the consumers themselves, other ways you keep current or relevant in your skills, right? I noticed that with mobile, and with all the technologies, and the internet that things … Technology is changing so quickly.

Marjana Shammi: So quickly.

Jennifer Bonine: Right?

Marjana Shammi: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: New strategies are coming out all the time.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: What are some things or some tips you could give to folks watching that say, “Okay. How do I keep up? Like how do I stay involved or engaged, or what are some ways that you’re keeping your skills current?”

Marjana Shammi: Yeah, yeah. You have to do extra work, naturally.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: That eight hours in work office, that doesn’t cut it.

Jennifer Bonine: It’s not enough.

Marjana Shammi: No, and you have all the resources in front of you. You have your smartphone. Just go through what’s really going on in the world. Right at work, it’s also important for companies to allow time to give to the people who are doing their job and do … Be creative. Bring innovation. Do a little proof of concepts that can be applicable to the domain, so that’s important. I think doing those things, reading, blogging, and also keeping up helps you.

Jennifer Bonine: Does your company …? I know one of the topics yesterday at the lightning keynotes was around innovation and how to make sure people are being innovative in what they’re doing. Does your organization or company do anything to create that space as you talked about for employees to be creative because as Mike mentioned yesterday in his talk, we don’t often take time to stop, and think, and just be? We’re always busy doing multiple things.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah, yeah. I actually really think it’s very refreshing in the company I’m working. I’m there for a year now. What I really like is if you have an idea that’s relevant to the business, you can approach the CEO or the CFO immediately and say, “Okay. This is something interesting, and I think it might help in this way. Can I get some time and scope to do it?” They’re like, “All right, let’s … Why don’t you time box it and see what comes out of it?” I always had that support. My team always had that support.

Jennifer Bonine: That’s great.

Marjana Shammi: That really helped, and our creative people that are in there like UX designers, they’re always doing this creative stuff, and that is so much important. That support from management really takes you to a different path. I think every company should help in that.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Hopefully, provide that space.

Marjana Shammi: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: For those out there that maybe don’t have that is a good thing to request or interject is to say, “How do we create some of that space to allow our teams, ourselves, everyone to be more creative?” because that’s how you come up with the next great idea is having that time and space to do that.

Marjana Shammi: Exactly. Yeah. If you don’t have time at work like the 8-hour period let’s say, why don’t you hold an evening session? Have some pizzas over and just engage, and see what you can do. Make it fun.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, make it fun.

Marjana Shammi: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: That’s the key, right?

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Make it fun. People want to do in … and I don’t know if you found this, but it sounds like in talking to you, you’re incredibly passionate about this topic and getting close to the user, and the heuristics, and those pieces. For you, how have you found it in terms of finding your passion and finding what you love, and how did you do that, or did you always just know, or did you guide yourself towards this over time?

Marjana Shammi: Yeah, that’s more like it because I started programming, then I got into testing, and then I started getting into coaching people, and learning, and doing conversations with different kinds of stakeholders. When you’re conversing with different kinds of stakeholders, you get into the practice of, “Okay. What are the tactics to use, or the strategies, or the ways really affect or create impact in people?” Through time, I found out, “Okay. This is very interesting,” and to seek relevance like I said. It needs to be applicable into the context, and that’s how I basically got about.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Marjana Shammi: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect. We’re out of time and need to wrap up. If folks want to contact you, have more questions, things they want to ask, what’s the best way to find you?

Marjana Shammi: I’m on LinkedIn, Marjana Shammi. I’m on Twitter, @MShammi, and you can also contact me on my office email as well, [email protected], and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect. Thank you so much for sharing your insights.

Marjana Shammi: Thank you. Thank you.

Jennifer Bonine: Thanks to the folks out there for tuning in. We have another interview coming up next, so stay tuned.

Marjana Shammi: Thanks.

Jennifer Bonine: Thank you.

MarjanaMarjana Shammi is a test lead at IceMobile where she leads a team responsible for the test process in products related to mobile applications for ABN AMRO, Jumbo, food retailers, international cash management, global client data, financial eCommerce, and CRM. With a career in testing and development—and a technical and management education—Marjana involves herself in technology and working with people, which she says helps her learn more. She was labeled notorious for her favorite question—Why? Marjana likes a good in person conversation but she can be found on Twitter @mshammi.

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sudeep mahato's picture

Only answer is on "yeah" and "correct".

August 17, 2016 - 8:41am

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