A year ago, Suman Bala came across a quote that said “Surround yourself with women who would mention your name in a room full of opportunities.” Over her decade-long career, she’s done just that. Today, she influences (and has been influenced by) other talented and like-minded testing professionals.
Suman is a tester by choice. When she started her career in 2006 after completing a degree in computer science, she was told that she should be a developer because she can write code. “Testing wasn’t seen as a skilled job, and I wanted to change that mindset,” says Suman. “I decided to carve a career path in the field of testing with a goal of showing the value of testing and bringing quality to the entire team. I have now been coaching teams on technical testing, automation best practices, and strategies for over a decade.”
Suman works as QA Lead at Sky in the UK, working in data across Sky Sports and Sky News. “I am responsible to drive quality best practices by shifting testing left and bridging the gaps between developers and testers. I am an emerging accessibility advocate and co-founder of the accessibility guild at Sky. I am also a member of better allies, diversity and inclusion, women in tech and grassroot leaders groups. All these groups support me to become a better leader and also help me in spreading the quality mindset across the wider areas of Sky.”
We asked Suman what it’s like to be a woman in the testing field. “It’s good to see more and more women getting into tech, but I think we have miles to go before we see the right balance,” she said. “It’s important to be our own advocates and uplift each other.”
Suman says she found a blessing in disguise in 2020. Despite the global pandemic that limited travel and kept so many people working from home, she attended many virtual events and met some incredible women in testing who became her role models—and ultimately, friends. “I’m thankful to Beth Marshall, Laveena Ramchandani, Marie Drake, Heather Reid, Patience Ndlovu, Parveen Khan, Julia Pottinger, Gwen Diagram and of course Renee Hunt for being a constant source of encouragement.” She also lists Angie Jones as one of her most important role models.
We asked Suman what accomplishments she is most proud of, and she replied that she is helping to educate the next generation of testers. “Currently, I am coaching a group of diverse people to get into software testing through a bootcamp sponsored by the UK Government,” she said. “It’s been a bit challenging to deliver this bootcamp alongside my full-time job, but seeing the learners progress throughout the course has been rewarding and it has been worth pushing myself. I can’t wait to see them growing in their testing career. Here's to many more women in testing in the future!”
The advice Suman would give to other women starting out in testing? Be yourself, and get involved in the community. “Every single person I’ve met has been really supportive and encouraging,” she says. “I’ve learned so much from others. Find what excites you and create your personal brand.”
As a well known testing professional, Suman will be speaking at SauceCon 2021—all about flaky tests. “Automation is meant to be fun, but flaky tests can ruin it completely. So many teams focus on coverage instead of reliability. It’s a very common and acceptable saying in the teams that, ignore this failure, it’s due to the flaky test. One flaky test in the build can make a team not to trust the other reliable tests. Often, I have heard teams saying “We have to live with flaky tests, it is what it is!” But I believe, we need to listen to our flaky test results, it’s an opportunity to improve our product.”
Her talk will help attendees identify what tests should be automated and take away some tips to help reduce flakiness. To learn more about Suman and other speakers at SauceCon, check out the agenda.