A few weeks ago Belatrix held a “Successful Women In Technology” week, which involved me interviewing some of the women working at Belatrix, to find out their thoughts on topics ranging from how they got started in their careers, to whether they have faced challenges being a woman in the tech industry. This week, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re again publishing a series of profiles, both as articles and videos. To start with, let me introduce you to Mónica Colombo.
Introducing Mónica Colombo, Director of QA
Mónica Colombo is the Quality Assurance (QA) Director at Belatrix. In this role she is responsible for the design, development and delivery of Belatrix’s global QA and testing solutions, as well as the orchestration and growth of Belatrix’s QA engineers. At the same time, she is Director of Accounts, managing different clients and projects. She has been a university professor for the last 30 years. She has participated as an advocate in congresses and universities in different countries, as well as PMI and Agile events.
Alex: Mónica, many thanks for sharing your thoughts here.
It is a pleasure!
What is your background? Why did you decide to study software engineering?
I graduated as a system information engineer from the largest engineering university in Argentina, the National Technological University (UTN), which has 29 campuses. I continued to study, achieving some post-graduate degrees, and I am also a Certified Scrum Master.
My personality influenced my decision, because I am very curious and creative, and, in addition, my father supported me in choosing my career. I loved math, logic, working with people, and sciences. I took a university orientation workshop, and we analyzed different options in teams. I discovered the importance of information in the world, how important it is to work with people to help solve their business and decision issues, what it means to be part of a team and to work in important projects… this was the beginning, and as time went by, I fell in love with my career! Of course, I have needed time, different projects, teamwork, learning from mistakes and experience to discover all the dimensions, particularly focusing on quality. It was not easy to study, but by being persistent and focusing on my dream, I’ve achieved it.
Interestingly, my cohort at university was the first to achieve a systems information engineering degree at the Mendoza campus. The university needed teachers and so I began helping voluntarily when I was nearing the end of my studies. It is very interesting being a teacher, and it helps me study and stay up to date with the latest changes in the industry. At the same time I am working with students and I can teach them what I know and transmit my professional experience. I have been a professor in different subjects and I am currently the coordinator of software engineering and project management subjects at the university. A lot of my students are now working at Belatrix.
How has your career progressed?
I have been fortunate to have had a diverse career, and have played many roles. These include being QA Director, account director, program manager, project leader and coordinator, testing leader, deployment leader, and being responsible for the accreditation of SEI CMMI and ISO 9001/2008 certifications. I’ve also had responsibility for a testing lab, organizational and reengineering processes, and have worked as a functional/business analyst, tester, consultant, auditor, trainer, coach and university professor, among others.
I’ve also been lucky to have the opportunity to work in different companies and industries, ranging from banking, to government, industry and commercial sectors, and of course, IT companies.
How did you get started with QA? Why did you decide to focus on testing?
I began testing in my first job, as it was part of my responsibilities in my role as a business analyst. I had to validate that the requirements were complete, correct, and based on the bank’s business rules and processes, and of course, also based on end user needs. This way I checked their quality. I used different tools to validate it, for example following the code and testing the data in the database using SQL DB.
How do you see the role of testing & QA changing in the future?
Today, a QA engineer has a critical role to ensure quality in IT services and software products. You need a good academic basis and be prepared to learn and develop new testing techniques, implement tools, new business rules, processes, and environmental changes quickly.
We are moving fast in the IT market. We are moving towards digital transformation (involving IoT, mobile technology, third party relationships, etc.), and DevOps transformations. We’re seeing organizations look to areas such as test analytics, smart test automation or digital automation intelligence (artificial intelligence and cognitive automation, machine learning, predictive analysis, robotics automation). Combined with this, organization’s need usability testing (UI/UX), as well as developing testing centers of excellence.
We have and will continue to see new roles, tools, testing strategies, technologies, architectures, devices, and environments. And all of these will generate new roles and responsibilities. What this means is that businesses need to test their rules and processes to continue and survive in the market, and that is the heart of QA.
Looking back, we can see how the role of QA has changed. Around 15 years ago, testers were part of a different team model: we used to work alone, without much contact with the client and the team, and we did not work closely with developers. This was not an approach which helped produce good results. Communication was at the minimum that was necessary, and we always had to wait for the code at the end of development to begin testing. We were only worried about errors. Today, Agile development allows us to work differently and we are part of the team. This has had a dramatic impact on the results…we can discover and prevent bugs earlier, reduce costs, improve team effort and play a crucial role in ensuring software has a positive impact in the market. From the Agile Manifesto and its key practices, we understanded what are we testing and work together in teams with developers. We help build better solutions and understand that “the team is responsible for product/service quality”. We are making Agile testing.
What is it like working in a male-dominated industry? Have you faced any particular challenges?
In fact, in our industry and area there exists a good number of women working. Everyone knows that traditionally, “engineering careers” were selected by men because it was considered a “hard profession”. However as time has passed, this is changing, and gradually, more women are choosing to study careers related with IT and they are excellent professionals.
Something that I like in my profession is that we work in teams, and it is certainly not an impediment to be a woman. First of all, we are a person and a professional, not a man or a woman. Of course we may have different sense of humor but we make jokes just as men do, it is part of the communication in every relationship. In Belatrix, we have experience of working with people from many different countries, and it is interesting to exchange and share traditions. At the same time, we work with people from different backgrounds, titles, roles and experiences. An important part of our teamwork, is to constantly work to create and maintain an excellent working environment, and that means one that is not concerned about gender or origin.
One challenge in my personal life is to be wife, mother, professor and professional at the same time. But, I am working in Belatrix, and the company has special and flexible policies. That helps a lot! And, of course, I also have to mention, I work in team with my husband – we are a family!
You have a lot of experience as a manager and a leader at Belatrix. What advice do you have to women wanting to move into leadership roles?
We can be different class of leader, and women can be just as effective and successful as men. Of course, there are so many factors that can affect leadership success, from genes, family, social environment, education, personal and work experiences, and last but not least, intelligence.
Management culture has started to appreciate and incorporate gender differences, and it is coming to see the value of a mixture of feminine and masculine characteristics in the range of management skills needed in the global IT market place.
Research indicates that actually there is no gender-based difference in leadership effectiveness.
Whichever gender you are, as manager, we have to identify people’s skills and their added value. We have to work to help them develop themselves, and be happy, successful people. The goal is to empower each team member.
Do you have any advice to aspiring female developers and testers?
If you can dream it, you can do it… you need to focus on your goal, be persistent, organized, study and learn, and be passionate about your profession.
Many thanks Mónica for sharing your thoughts!
Belatrix is currently hiring. Find out about our career opportunities here.