The Technical vs the Technophobic… (more of a lesson than an interview)
June 7, 2016
Interviewees: Paul Ainsworth, Martin Mountford and Chris Potter
I recently had the privilege of interviewing three Doris employees who work in ‘techie’ areas out on customer assignments. Although they humbly disagreed with me calling them ‘techie experts,’ from my perspective, their jobs require a great deal of technical and intricate knowledge of the systems they work with. Here’s what I found out…
Paul, Martin and Chris sit across from me looking expectant. We sit in the basement of a tall glass building in the middle of Manchester City Centre. We laugh because they can tell I’m not in my comfort zone.
Martin is the first to help me understand Test Environments, Gateways, Databases, Testing Schedules and how his job is to ensure that the right amount of testing is completed in certain areas at different times but also that not all environments are the same and that they can’t all accommodate the same number of users. His job is to mediate between and coordinate across many different projects and organise their required testing environments so everyone gets access at the right time and in the right area of the system. Martin didn’t set out to work in a technical environment having graduated in Geography but his role is diverse and he gets to deal with both people and technology and really enjoys it.
For the not so technically inclined among us – I thought of it as booking reservations in a restaurant and how a Maître’D has to coordinate start and finish times of meals and ensure that they don’t overlap as either way he will have one unhappy group of dinner guests; so replace angry dinner guests with projects that are advancing the IT Estate in one of the UK’s leading retail Banks and Martin just shrugs off the pressure with ease. Ironically, I had imagined Martin as a risk taker who always forgets to book – how wrong I was.
The boys knowledge of CICS regions, gateway points, migration zones and hundreds (it felt like hundreds) of other areas and sections of the mainframe is amazing to someone who’s knowledge of ‘IT’ stops if Google doesn’t know the answer. Thankfully Google knows everything I need to know. Did you know that a computer’s ‘server’ is an actual tin shaped piece of hardware stored somewhere in the UK? No? Me neither. I thought it really was all up in the clouds now.
Paul joined Doris after graduating in Computer Science. Heis currently working on a strategic migration programme which is moving hardware and software from one organisation to another. He explains that they are under pressure from a number of customer suppliers to deliver projects and migrations at certain times, in varying ‘waves.’ Each wave has a new list of applications to be worked through and these are constantly changing and being updated.
Again – for the technophobes – I decided Paul is like me choosing which clothes I should donate to charity, which ones have a bit longer to wait in my wardrobe before they too should probably go and which ones are a must this season (Paul may have the same problems but I forgot to ask!)
The whole IT team work together to prevent failures, to advance and enhance systems and to test what could go wrong; this is when Chris comes into his own. He takes over from Martin and Paul and talks me through how Testing is important to prove that software and applications will behave in their desired way once implemented into the ‘live environment’ i.e. into the real world.
Chris writes code which initiates an automatic process that mimics a user’s possible actions. He let slip a light hearted trade secret, that Testers often use amusing names when inputting test data e.g. Fred and Wilma Flintstone, which I enjoyed hearing about.
Writing the automated tests in this way saves our customers a lot of money on manual testing which requires many repetitions of the same test and takes much longer. Once automated, this test is free to reuse. The cost benefits are significant.
Chris has also recently been getting to grips with a new software product called Selenium – which is currently being implemented. He is a code-writing Automation Tester and mathematician, graduating from Liverpool University he has been with Doris for over a year now. He says he is constantly kept on his toes by the changing code, tests and systems he gets to work with on assignment.
This is a tricky one to translate into a real life situation.
I’ll go with this one – Chris is like a dating expert. (Chris might be a dating expert, that wasn’t on my list of questions.) It would be like writing a formula (in a crazy complicated code none of us understand) to produce a perfect relationship and then going through the same unarguable process every time to figure out which match will work. It’s tried and tested using the same criteria each time to test compatibility and only the successful ones make it to the next stage until all non-matches are eliminated. I realise my metaphors have gotten sillier throughout the article, I do apologise.
I’d like to thank the boys for putting up with my questions and for taking the time to explain their roles to me. I really enjoyed it and am glad that I understand a lot (/a bit) more about what some of my peers are doing for our customers. A combination of Doris training and mentoring helps them stay ahead in an ever changing environment which is really rewarding. I hope they stay with us and progress further and further along our Career Framework, they are already IT Professionals and I’m sure will one day be mentoring new Doris trainees starting out in IT and for those Doris employees, like me, who are in more business-related roles it’s reassuring to know that we really do have something for everyone !
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