A software tester by choice, Suman Bala has proved the value of a testing career and has brought substantial value to the profession of software testers.
When Suman started her career in 2006 after completing a degree in computer science, she was told by the Engineering Manager that she should be a developer just because she could write code. “Software Testing wasn’t seen as a skilled job, and I wanted to change that mindset,” she notes. She decided to carve a career path in the field of testing to show the value of it and how it brings quality to the entire team.
She has now been coaching teams on technical testing, automation best practices, and strategies for over a decade. She expresses: “It makes me happy to see how people’s perspectives have changed throughout my career and now teams’ value that ‘quality’ is everyone’s responsibility.”
Currently, Suman is serving as the Lead Test Architect at easyJet, one of Europe’s leading airlines, with its Data-Driven approach to Technology.
Being the Change She Wishes to See
Suman moved from India to the UK in 2014. Despite her vast experience in software testing, she didn’t feel comfortable sharing her knowledge outside the teams because she has a strong Indian-speaking accent. Soon, she realized that she was not the only one facing these barriers, and she wanted to play her part to improve the diversity and influence other under-represented groups. She wanted to take this forward and feels strongly about the need to share her skills particularly with woman, who are underrepresented in the industry. Suman then took the step to immerse herself within the testing community. Today, she is a mentor to various testers within easyJet and worldwide testing communities.
Suman has been nominated for multiple award categories; Women in Tech Excellence Awards, FDM Women Awards, Women in IT, UK Awards, Woman@Sky, mentor of the year, testing manager of the year, a role model of the year, tech for everyone – champion, making the difference, behind the scenes wonders, changing the game just to name a few. The barriers only existed in her head; it was easy to keep going.
Taking about the lessons learned Suman marks, “We all are superheroes with different powers. Don’t let your imposter syndrome push you down; instead, use this as a driving force to move it forward. Be the change you want to see in the world.” No matter how busy Suman is, she always finds time to help testers across the world and share her knowledge.
Mentoring Diverse Group of People
Alongside her day-to-day job, Suman is co-delivering a software testing Bootcamp in partnership with West Yorkshire Combined Authority. The project aims to make tech education more accessible, create career opportunities for people in under-represented groups, and close the digital skills gap for local businesses. Over 50% of those learners are female, and a large contingent comes from the BAME community, with an emphasis on using this project to promote greater diversity and equality within the local tech industry. She is honored to coach and mentor such a diverse group of people. Some of the learners from the Bootcamp have already started their careers in testing and Suman is proud to be part of their journey. She is excited to see where the learner’s career progression in the coming future.
Giving back to the community and making an impact on people’s careers is what keeps Suman going. She hopes to inspire more women of color to join a career in tech.
Putting Customer at the Heart
Talking about the values at easyJet, Suman mentions that its purpose is to seamlessly connect Europe with the warmest welcome in the sky. The company puts the customer at the heart of everything it does to ensure this.
Building Culture of Learning
We asked Suman, if given a chance, what change she would like to bring to the industry, to which she said, “Our customers are diverse, so our products and teams should be diverse too. I would like to bring more people with diverse backgrounds and experiment with new ideas and technologies. I would also like to build a culture of “Embrace Learnings” because I truly believe we never fail; we learn instead!”
Opening the Door of Tech to Diverse Group of People
Taking about the future Suman states that she would like to be the core part of building the Centre of quality excellence at easyJet. She absolutely loves coaching about testing and quality to anyone who wants to get into tech.
Moreover, she would like to start the software testing academy at EasyJet so it can open the door to tech to a diverse group of people and ensure it is building the products for the future.
Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs with Succinct Advice
Suman advises aspiring women entrepreneurs in the tech sector to prioritise the right things, including themselves. She expresses that it is never too late to start a career in tech. She says, “You can be anything you set your mind to.”
Suman firmly believes in the power of mentors to make a positive difference. She advises them, “Firstly, find yourself a mentor! Having a mentor is the best thing you will do to your career. Make a 5-year plan with multiple milestones.”
“Secondly, get involved in the wider tech community. I have friends I have made, both in real life and online, from all around the world through my time in software testing, and that has been so helpful in building my reputation in the testing community especially, during the difficulties of lockdown. You can learn so much from the community and lean on them to help you achieve your goals — and once you have, don’t forget to give back,” Suman concludes.