Improbable Defence

#IBelong: Callum Akehurst-Ryan, Senior QA Tester

Q: What’s your role at IO?

A: I’m a Senior QA Tester in the Defence Unit.

Q: How did you get here?

I was the one of the first testers that started in the defence practice (although not the first hired). I’d heard about this role during lockdown, having been made redundant from my last job, and applied because of the cool stuff Improbable was doing in modelling and their interest in Exploratory Testing. Before working at Improbable I’d had a long and varied testing career across Finance, e-Commerce, Public Safety and Broadcasting, having apprenticed in testing at the company I was working for as a Customer Services rep.

Q: What’s the most important piece of career advice have you been given?

It’s actually something I’ve had to learn for myself: work somewhere that’ll accept you for being you. Don’t settle for working somewhere where you can’t bring your full, authentic, self or feel you had to hide.

Q: What’s been the toughest moment of your career and why?

In a previous role, an Engineering Manager dismissed my contributions to a team discussion because I was “too emotional”. It was an easy way to basically shut down my testing contributions and made me feel really small. I ended up having to leave that role because of that.

Q: How do you unplug from work?

I play a lot of games with my friends and am usually running a couple of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns at any one time.

Q: How do you balance life and work responsibilities?

Honestly, by switching off. I have booked out my lunch every day and I make sure to step away from my computer in the evening and not be tempted to look on Slack. I’m in a pretty privileged position where my day to day home life doesn’t really impact my working day, so I can focus my work day on work and then after work is my time.

Q: What book or podcast would you recommend to anything thinking about a career in tech?

Other than my own blog? I’d recommend that anyone interested in testing should head on over to the Ministry of Testing as they have tons of awesome resources. I also think that the book Explore It! by Elisabeth Hendrickson is a must read for people wanting to learn more about exploratory testing.

Q: What does a supportive work environment look like to you?

It’s more than saying we live diversity, it’s creating that day to day culture of psychological safety. It’s one that celebrates me being myself, where I don’t feel that I have to hide any part of me. All of this comes from the culture, people being open and human towards each other every day as well as from management leading culture by example.

Q. Have you faced any barriers in your career? If so, how did you overcome them?

I’ve been very privileged that I haven’t had any specific barriers. However, working in engineering as a queer person has sometimes meant hiding parts of me which has taken energy away from being able to do my job. I’ve overcome this by bringing my full authentic self to interviews to gauge whether or not this is a culture that I can be authentically me.

Q: What advise would you give to someone trying to break into engineering and technology fields?

Get involved; join discussions within the community, go to events and maybe even blog! When we’re looking for new people to join us we love to see people that are engaged and interested in the career, so it’s great to be able to show that you have that interest. 

Be yourself! You’re the expert in you and can bring new ideas into teams just from having your own unique life experience. Don’t worry about having to be like everyone else to be seen to be “and engineer” because if we all look and think the same we end up with a monoculture which stifles innovation.

Q: What inspires you and why?

Elisabeth Hendrickson’s book Explore It! Inspired my ways of working and to become better at exploratory testing. Rikard Edgren’s blog piece on charisma testing inspired me to test to look at the good in things to become a trusted advisor. I’m also frequently inspired by the people around me, usually to learn new things and share them as a way of helping or by learning from them.

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