In this edition of our ‘Getting to know us’ series, we are talking with Roel. He’s been part of spriteCloud for many years already and ‘a bit of a different tester’. Dive into his interview to find out why.
Can you please introduce yourself?
Nice to meet you. My name is Roel Wijker. Born and raised in Egmond aan Zee, which gave me the biggest sandbox (literally) you could wish for as a kid. I got my education in communication and multimedia design. That means lots of designing, digital photography, editing, coding, user interface design, user-centred design and so on. At this moment I am 36 years old and have been at spriteCloud as a tester little over 4 years.
What’s your role at spriteCloud and what do you like most about it?
Officially my role is being a technical test engineer, but if I have to explain my job in the simplest way possible I tell them I mash buttons until the software breaks. That does the trick. And it turns out I am pretty good at that. Being educated as a designer and having learned about user experience design (UXD) in college, helped me a lot. It taught me the most basic interaction patterns for users and what colour schemes or fonts do or do not ‘work’.
This makes me a bit of a different tester of your app (so, they told me). I like to go a bit further than just the technical side of things. If a feature works, if it gives me a 1 or 0, sure I could stop. The work is done, but I cannot resist taking into account the mind of the user and how they interact with the app. This makes for some interesting discussion with the design teams working on the products I was tasked with testing.
Is that usually a successful discussion or do you find it difficult to convince them of the importance of dedicating time to the problem you raise? How do you convince them if needed?
Most of the time there is data to back certain ideas up. If they need convincing I sketch certain situations and have people play them out. I let them think it out for themselves. If they are hard to convince, I just leave it at a comment or refer back to certain standards in the business, like user or design patterns that have proven to work for example. Never will I let this escalate into a hard discussion, it is not worth it and as long as it is not my responsibility, I won’t take any heat for it. I am just there to help.
What was the most exciting project you worked on so far?
The first, the best, my everything, is the project on the consumer app for Tele2.
The company was restructuring its IT department and the people working there were amazing and eager to make the best app possible. To this day I am in good contact with that old team, even though everyone moved on to other projects we still get together for drinks and talks. No other project has been as fun and taught me as much about how to work in a scrum team.
That sounds like a really great project, can you tell us a bit more about the app you were working on?
It was the consumer app, which was completely redesigned from the ground up by Ronin. The whole IT team was composed of external people who worked together on the same floor. We got an agile coach (Greig Bannatyne, an awesome guy) to help us. So the app looked great, and all potential future options were known and built from the ground up. All the newly hired externals of the IT department were young and greedy. This made for a spectacular atmosphere in the company.
The app itself was playful and rebellious, like the brand Tele2. We did get some negative feedback about the login screen from users. This was a mouth with a stuck-out tongue and the fingerprint reader was at the tip of the tongue. People associated this with drug use and we changed it later. The app kept growing with features. Not only the features management wanted, but also our personal picks and the ones we got from customer feedback. This made us all feel like we were actually working on something people wanted!
At spriteCloud, we have many international colleagues and English as a working language. Having worked in Dutch companies before and being a Dutch national, did you notice any differences in terms of the working atmosphere?
I will never forget my first time meeting Andy, back then he was our CEO. He IS something different. We Europeans have a soft spot for the Ozzies, I guess. My first talk with him, which was also my interview, was very relaxed and casual. Turns out that was the working atmosphere. I liked that so much, that I am still around today.
That being said, in my 4.5 years at spriteCloud the company changed of course. The whole society changed a lot in the last 2 years. It’s the little things that show you the changes in our company. Little things like the way the slack channel fills up with ‘Good morning’ now. This used to be ‘Goedemorgen’. It shows the more international atmosphere we have in the company. A lot of people who migrated to the Netherlands or live abroad also joined the team. I do miss some of the word-play jokes in Dutch though.
Thinking about your career, where do you see yourself in the future? Are there any particular skills you’d like to develop?
I would like to be a nerdtalker. With my knowledge of code, design and the pressure from management, I see myself talking to all the people involved in one project making sure they all understand each other. You would be surprised how much overhead there is in discussions between developers and management – even between developers and designers.
That was one of the roles I filled in the Tele2 project too; making sure the developers understood what the designers meant. 9 out of 10 times they would be on the same page, but they thought they were reading a different book. Getting them together and explaining things in words they both understood became my forte.
In the future, you’d want to be a nerdtalker, i.e. the intermediate between the developers and others (designers, testers, management). If you look at the development team structure what role do you think would best fit that ideal role? Product Owner perhaps? Or maybe something on the Business analyst side?
I guess product owner is something that resembles that part role. A business analyst is very exact, too many numbers for me. The insights analysts bring to the table in a project are very valuable though. I like to know the numbers and statistics, but do not want to do the work to find them myself. I would rather have a discussion about what they mean.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Or what’s a topic you could talk about for hours?
Probably gaming, but I won’t go into that. Everyone is a gamer now, it has become very mediocre in the mainstream. There are some games with interesting gameplay mechanics and different sorts of boundaries. It is kind of like what manual/functional testing is to me. The developer gives me a sandbox with clear distinct rules, which cannot be broken because that would break the game/app. Until they met a couple of speedrunners or people finding exploits. I like that, showing the developer what I found and making a mutual decision to fix it and make it better, or leave it because we actually like it as it is (aka it is not important enough). So yeah, there you have it. I think I can talk about bending the boundaries on any topic.
You mention that gaming is your hobby and I think it was interesting how you were also looking at gaming from your philosophy of testing, where in other areas of life do you find this testing mentality coming into play? Is it hard to turn off the testing mentality when not working?
Everyone around me wants me to turn it off. It can be quite annoying when there is this one guy who always comes up with the most unlikely scenarios for a situation ever. This mentality sometimes helps me win in a game in ways people did not think of, which also irritates them sometimes 🙂