QA Manager celebrates five years at Lovehoney

Stepping up from QA Engineer to QA Manager, Julian Bowles celebrates his five year anniversary at Lovehoney by exclusively speaking to DevOps Online about his career and achievements 

Bowles has been a part of the software testing industry for more than 15 years’, with his first taste of software testing being in the form of performing UAT as a supply chain analyst at the head office of a supermarket chain. While in the course of this work, he luckily enough got in contact with the development Test Manager, who was in the process of expanding his team of testers, who soon employed him – helping start his testing career.

He then became the QA Engineer for a software-house who made compliance software for financial institutions. “Soon after joining, I was asked if I would like to write regression tests for the automated testing tool that had been built in-house. I ended up leading a small team of automated testers and also the developers in test that build and maintain the automated testing software,” explained Bowles.

‘A new challenge in the e-commerce space’

Furthermore, he finally arrived at Lovehoney, which was 5 years ago now, in hope to find a fresh new challenge in the e-commerce space.

Bowles enjoyed all the challenges that he encountered in his testing career, especially learning to script in python in order to build an automated regression test framework based on selenium that still forms the basis of the automated testing we run today.

He continued: “My favourite challenge and biggest achievement working at Lovehoney was when I made a change to the payment gateway we use in the checkout for all our sites within less than a month, with no problems when we went live. I also helped to update all the automated checkout regression tests during the testing process which helped the company quickly regression test when fixes to bugs were found.”

When Bowles began working for Lovehoney, he started as a QA Engineer in the tech team, but because of showing dedication to his work and tasks, he now manages a team of 7 QA Engineers, which led to him being promoted as the QA Manager.

Automated test environment

“I came into the company as the only QA Engineer and soon realised there was too much work for one QA, so began building a team to help improve the quality of the new live features we released,” added Bowles.

“I do fewer hands-on testing now but still have a very hands-on role in the creation of scripts and maintenance of the automated test suite. We run a large suite of selenium tests each night on our develop branch and smaller suites as part of our automated test environment creation triggered on the pull request. This smaller suite of tests gives us confidence that the core functionality has not been regressed before the manual testing starts on the created test environment for the feature under test.”

As QA Manager he now has to look after all recruitment for the QA team. To help him, he created an interview process, which has yielded good results with a number of capable individuals being recruited for the team. He documents his process on his blog:

Tech leadership

As part of the tech leadership team, he has to attend more meetings than he used to and works more on testing strategies. The testing strategy is required to support the current best practices for developing software that is used in his development team.

Bowles revealed: “Since I moved into management I have to work on planning much more. I work with our project management office team to make sure all development projects have the testing resources available from our QA team.

“I feel I am really lucky to work at Lovehoney, because I have learnt that you can work in a place where you are respected for what you do, where the senior management team are open to new ideas and where developers and testers share a mutual respect for what each other can bring to the development process.”

Lovehoney has recently employed a new CIO and Development Manager, both of whom Bowles is looking forward to working with, and seeing what exciting plans they have for the tech department to grow and operate in the future.

Exploratory testing

“As our development team is moving to a microservices model as QA’s we need to understand the best way to help test these new services and what tools can help us to do this, and develop more of the QA Engineers in the team so we are able to automate tests but not lose manual testing skills such as exploratory testing, as I believe humans find the worse bugs more sufficiently and quickly,” he added.

Since Bowles joined the industry, he admitted that there is a lot more emphasis on test automation due to the agile approach to software development requiring quicker delivery times.

“We want new features faster but we don’t want to compromise quality, lots of iterations of software as new features are added to require regression testing, ensuring features already coded are not broken by new features that have been added. The best way to do regression testing is to automate and let the testers manually test new features,” said Bowles.

Agile development

Agile development processes have helped testers to develop skills in other areas such as business analysis and stakeholder management, according to Bowles. Being able to have input into the process where users stories are created is a massive benefit of increased testing. Finding issues at the user story stage is also much cheaper after a user story has been coded.

Bowles believes “all these development processes have given testers a much better overall view of the development process and what we can add rather than the view that we just test what the developer gives us.”

He also noted that there will be more scrutiny on the ROI from automated testing as more and more companies start to roll out automated testing frameworks, as it takes real development practices and skills to build a robust testing framework and to maintain and improve it – consequently is not a low-cost option.

Written by Leah Alger