Having been the first ever Quality Assurance Engineer for the Robotic Company, I have to say it was a pretty hair-pulling but interesting experience. Especially as the final demo day approached closer and closer and the blog posts coming in began to become suffocating. However, since I am typing this, you do not need to worry, I made it out alive.
With a semester as Q/A under my belt, and practically being the guinea pig to this operation, I am going to go over how I feel the position should be handled from here on out. I first want to go over documenting tips I learned, which I feel will benefit later Q/As. Then, having collaborated with a fellow student (Mark Huffman), I will layout the procedure future Q/As should follow, in order to have the task of website management flow smoothly, which I hope, will make their life much easier.
Having never been in a position with the duties tasked such that of being a Q/A, I have to say my documenting skills were pretty terrible. As the semester progressed however, I feel I continued to get better at this. I began keeping records of the work I was doing, something I have never really done before. Basically, I learned to make sure everything was nice and tidy on my end. Being the Q/A, everything is essentially going through you, so it is best to not lose track of what you’re doing. Therefore, it is absolutely essential you have your documentation in order.
So first and foremost, what I feel is a necessity for all future Q/As, is to keep a record of all the work you are doing. I would recommend keeping a spreadsheet which lists all the group projects and the blog posts each of them has done. Record the date of when you review the post and when you approve it, and if necessary, when you review it a second or even third time. In addition, remember that a part of your grade is made up of the number of hours you spend, essentially doing your job. So, keep a spreadsheet on this as well. I, however, forgot to do this, but thankfully because I did document my reviews, I was able to get a general idea of the amount of time I spent. For the documentation of the hours spent, you can either time yourself when reviewing, which you will record, or you can record the number of reviews you did on that given date, add them up at the end of the semester and give all reviews the same review time, which is what I ended up doing.
Finally, in terms of documentation, and this is completely optional, keep track of the feedback/changes you give to each post. Therefore, you have a document or documents, I used Word, of exactly all the work you did over the semester. So hopefully there is no he said/she said sort of thing going on between you and the PMs. Which reminds me, CC all emails/interactions you have with the PMs to Professor Hill, and if he is still around, Chris as well.
Here, I will provide a link to the folder which contains the spreadsheets I kept for documentation over the semester, as well as the feedback documents I sent to the PMs. You can use my spreadsheets and feedback as a template, however, I hope/believe as the semesters go along, my way of documentation will become obsolete. Because personally, I think my spreadsheets are pretty ugly, so hopefully, a more creative Q/A comes along in the future.
Future Review Procedure
With this semester being the first with a Q/A, there was no set way or procedure in how to manage the review of the blog posts. Through much trial and error, learning from my own mistakes/experience, and in collaboration with fellow student Mark Huffman, someone with much knowledge of the workings of the site, we believe to have found a procedure that should make future Q/As’ job of managing the site, flow much more smoothly.
The way we see this working in the future is as this:
Project manager writes a blog post and saves under DRAFT until complete
PM then updates to “Submit for Review” when the post is ready
The QA checks the blog post labeled as “Pending Review” and takes one of three actions
Reviews the post, corrects minor “formatting” errors, and publishes the post [Nearly Perfect Post]
Reviews post and makes notes directly on the post (using a red font) and shifts the post back to “Draft” status [Bad Post]
Reviews post and then publishes it [Perfect Post]
If the post is shifted back to draft, the PM will correct changes
The PM then resubmits for review
Step 3 repeated…
Figure 1: Menu PMs Will See
The idea behind this is to ultimately cut out a large amount of back-and-forth between the Q/A and Project Managers, which from the way it was handled this semester, there was a considerable amount of. This resulted in much wasted time in which nothing was being done.
So, unlike this semester, PMs will only be able to “Submit Posts for Review”, edit posts which are “Drafts”, and no longer have the ability to publish their posts. That job of publishing will fall solely under that of the Q/A. Therefore, I highly recommend staying on top of things and taking this task very seriously, as a portion of your fellow classmates grade falls a bit under your control.
In the end, being Q/A was a very eye-opening experience. Like I stated before, I had never been tasked with a job which comprised of similar duties of a Q/A. I am thankful for it however, because I feel I now have a taste of what is waiting for me in the engineering work field. I never quite realized how important documentation is, but getting through this semester, I believe my documentation, evaluation, and may I dare say my reading skills, have improved quite considerably. I hope future students who are given this task have the same positive learning experience and realize the practice they are getting with skills, I feel are very much looked over. Hopefully, the contents of this post will help them get there and keep them from losing hair over the course of their semester.