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Interview with Massimiliano Della Ferrera - Etiqa's Software Quality Assurance Engineer

February 15, 2024

Meet Massimiliano Della Ferrera, Etiqa's experienced Software Quality Assurance Engineer, who embarked on his journey into the realm of Software Quality Assurance (SQA) a decade ago through a rather unconventional route. Prior to his tenure in SQA, Massimiliano immersed himself in the world of theater and TV as a video maker. It was during these experiences that he cultivated a commitment to delivering exceptional products, developing his own quality-focused approach. This unique perspective, characterized by his innate qualities and a drive for excellence, laid the foundation for his transition into SQA.

What began as an instinctive and prototyped path evolved over the years into a structured and deliberate methodology. Massimiliano's journey aligns seamlessly with Etiqa's innovative approach to QA, which introduced a fresh perspective to Italy's QA landscape.

In this interview, we explore Massimiliano's role as Etiqa's Software Quality Assurance Engineer and gain insights into his invaluable contributions to the field, learning more about his fascinating career trajectory, spanning a remarkable 10 years with Etiqa and a cumulative professional experience of two decades. 

As a Software Quality Assurance Engineer, can you provide an overview of your role at Etiqa and how it contributes to the company's mission in delivering high-quality software solutions?

Even when I use the word testing generically, I always mean Quality Assurance because it is a deeper and broader concept: in fact, my work is not limited to software verification, but also to process analysis with a view to continuous improvement. A process that evolves correctly allows for better testing, which over time is increasingly effective and efficient, keywords to which I pay daily attention.

My role in Etiqa therefore consists in ensuring that the released products satisfy the requirements and needs of the end user, but also - and even before that - that the applied process satisfies the work team and the customer.

It is essential to reflect on the process in use aiming for continuous improvement, because if we do not improve our testing quality, how can we guarantee the quality of the products we test?

In short, if we are what we eat, we similarly give the quality that we are: QA work transcends office hours and project implications. It is a real Weltanschauung applicable to any area of life, not just testing.

I deal with manual testing, and I prefer the exploratory testing technique, because it allows me to identify with various types of end user personas on whom I leverage to make the app work under different conditions of use. Aware that final validation is only possible by the customer, I still want to prepare the best possible experience basis for them. Each user applies their own methods to the app, and my testing reconstructs and retraces these ways to provide a broader knowledge of the app from a quality point of view, using proven testing techniques that allow us to find more failures with fewer test cases (written or mental) performed.

This approach that mixes verification and validation allows me to get a more complete understanding of the app under test and its quality characteristics, guaranteeing that it does the right thing in the right way, i.e. it guarantees customer satisfaction, an aspect that some other companies delegate exclusively to the end user.

In detail, my role to contribute to the company's mission in delivering high-quality software solutions can be summarized in “questioning products and processes is a must”!

One of my main beliefs in this work is to try to break the software instead of just verifying that it does what you expect it to do, examining the procedures and the process itself to make them more and more compliant with the needs of the team and the customer, as well as aligned with Etiqa's quality vision.

Massimiliano Della Ferrera

What are the daily challenges you face in ensuring rigorous testing and bug identification within the products developed by Etiqa?

There are constant challenges in the work of a tester, especially in Agile environments characterized by continuous change. Regardless, to ensure rigorous testing and bug identification it occurs to:

- always question the product, the process, my testing approach, to provide better quality;

- always keep in mind that time is a cost, so adopt a more-with-less attitude that strengthens effectiveness without limiting quality. It’s needed to seek balance between external factors such as time constraints and the high quality we guarantee and release;
- always apply a “first-day” approach: it can be the hundredth time you execute a scenario, but approach it as if it'd be the first time, with curiosity, willing to catch the failure, and passion for the job you do (that isn’t always a hip hip hooray thing);
- never be discouraged.

Another series of ‘Always be’ can be summarized in being effective and efficient (again), transparent and committed, open to feedback and collaborative, credible and resilient. 

Concrete examples of challenges that I particularly remember are:
- get to projects "at the end of the race" to get them back on track (for example, respecting a release date that seems impossible to respect), which requires the ability to understand the key aspects of the software and the project on which to quickly build an action plan, in harmonious collaboration with the team, which allows you to - get the best out of each member and situation to eliminate the gray areas, risks and gaps still existing shortly before release;
- any anomaly that involves rapid adaptation, with consequent revision of process, procedures, etc., to guarantee seamless development and testing.

How do you collaborate with the software development team at Etiqa to ensure a seamless integration of quality assurance processes throughout the software development life cycle?

Etiqa uses Agile methods, so the tester is in effect part of the development team. The collaboration with developers and customer representatives is continuous, constant, and profitable, with a view to introducing quality assurance as early as possible in the life of the project

Each project then has its own characteristics, which require different relationships, but in general Etiqa’s projects involve this close relationship between testers and developers. Working side by side with developers to design apps and tests concurrently provides diverse perspectives, completing the overall picture and enriching it. This approach contributes to the compactness and solidity of the product in development from its early stages.

I like having direct contact with the developers, and solving the various issues that occur during the development of an app makes the product the result of a synergistic group whose aim is to release the best possible version.

I like to find out how developers think “from the other side” of the code. It is also a way to understand and strengthen the testing psychology activity necessary when you need to communicate that the work done has room for improvement.

How do you tailor your QA processes to adapt to the diverse needs and requirements of different projects and clients?

Projects and clients are different but common patterns exist, let's say a basic knowledge on which to build custom testing experiences that best meet the needs of the specific project or client.

An example of common foundations could be the testing strategy or technique to adopt, while tailoring examples may include determining the depth of documentation to plan and provide or selecting the experience-based technique to use.

Working under the guidance of Francesco Tartaggia, Director of QA at Etiqa, what synergies have you observed within the QA team under his direction?

Francesco is one of the main added values in the company. Deep and intelligent - not only professionally speaking - he is determined but discreet: in short, he knows how to lead without imposing. In this way, continuous growth and self-organization, key points in Etiqa, are guaranteed and encouraged.

From your perspective, what do you consider to be the most valuable skills for a Quality Assurance professional in the software development industry, especially when working on complex and regulated projects?

Well, a certain frame of mind is needed, especially on complex and regulated projects, like the last one I worked on, which in addition to operating compliance requires regulatory compliance, achievable through a rigorous testing process that includes extensive documentation and strict procedures to record and store objective evidence.

But hard and soft skills common to all projects, regardless of their formality, exist and are all important. In addition to a good technical preparation that allows you to understand the technology and the product under development, you need a critical eye, communication skills, a sense of collaboration and imagination.

Let's not forget that we produce machines, but we belong to the animal world: soft skills are necessary to complete the testing framework, given that both the work team and the end user are made up of emotions, not just technical knowledge of an electronic device.

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