Speaker Spotlight: Mona Soni of Dow Jones

By Cowerks

A lot of people think websites and applications just happen. Yes, development teams are responsible for creating volumes of code for a single website launch.

Dev teams may create it, but Mona Soni and her QA team make sure entire projects happen and work seamlessly, too.

Mona is an accomplished leader in the Quality Assurance industry with an impressive history in building teams, establishing processes and delivering high-end quality software. All throughout her career she has implemented and helped teams achieve desirable results through unprecedented work effort. Mona is also one of the speakers for Asbury Agile this year.

Along her career path, she has imparted an impeccable test engineering culture, adapting the best practices and teams wherever she goes.

“Quality as an afterthought is the major concern across the industry,” Moni said. “Companies either don’t invest in quality at all or would think about it just before the release. We have this challenge with some teams at Dow Jones, we are actively addressing this by embedding QA into our SDLC and adapting effective Agile practices.”

SDLC is a Systems Development Life Cycle, basically, it’s the process for planning, creating, testing, and deploying an information system. So what it takes to launch a website or app. This process is so easily overlooked, especially when it comes down to the wire and tight deadlines are involved.

Mona is one of the best at making it happen. But how?

Building Strong Foundations

Before becoming Director of Technology at Dow Jones, she led the test team at Amplify and excelled in various QA roles at Intent Media, ThoughtWorks, and Wipro.

But when it comes down to the work itself – it’s all about the Pyramid.

“We use an Automation Pyramid principles to guide our automation efforts, there is a huge emphasis on unit tests and integration tests,” Mona admitted. “We use manual efforts for exploratory testing and also use crowdsource testing to effectively test various platforms.”

The base of the Automation Pyramid is unit testing. The cool thing about automated unit test is that it gives specific data to a programmer, identifying bugs and on what line they are located.

This being said you can have all the foolproof processes figured out, but if you don’t have a solid team, you’re not going anywhere.

Building Strong Teams

Coding can be perceived at an individual activity, but (especially when working on massive national/multinational projects) it’s really a team sport.

“As part of my team I work with both test engineers and software engineers, the most crucial factors to successfully adapt a good test engineering culture is collaboration and empathy,” Mona admitted. “It is very important for both devs and testers to understand that their goals are common and they can be much more effective if they work together to meet them.”

Instilling collaborative and empathetic values in her team made everything run smoother, which in turn made them much more successful.

“I am a strong believer of Agile principles and its advantages, I regularly emphasize across my teams to focus on agile principles versus the methodology they are using,” Mona said. “Given the size of the organization, my main focus is to keep active communication and collaboration among various teams with minimal processes.”

Have you ever felt the never ending bombardment of work? Well, you can take a page out of Mona’s book. She makes one of the biggest corporations on earth pump the brakes and ask ‘is the work we are doing quality or just more quantity.’

Make the work you do count, don’t make more work.

“For me, continuous improvement and constant learning are very important, therefore every team I have worked with sets aside a few hours every week for learning and innovation. I regularly host retrospectives and futurespectives to help identify areas of improvement and future goals,” Mona claimed.

This effective long-term thinking process works for Mona and her highly successful teams, think about giving it a try next time you’re rushing the next deadline at work, rushing to work, or even rushing relax time.

Think about the quality of everything you do.

Don’t Rush A Startup

Mona works for a large corporation, but that doesn’t mean she is out of touch with the pulse of the tech industry or lose track of who the smaller guys are. Mona has built a strong presence in the QA community over the years. She is an active leader in the NYC testing community, participating regularly at a wide array of events. She has been an organizer of NYC Selenium (which has grown to 1350+ membership).

“Startups work with tight budgets and timelines, in the initial phase, all the focus is on building MVP and not so much on quality of the product. Testing at this stage is considered time-consuming and expensive,” Mona said.

Startups are known for throwing out MVPs (Minimum Viable Product) all the time, but they almost never work right out of the gate. Pokemon Go, anyone?

Mona continued, “I would advise teams to make small investments (unit tests) in testing even at early stage as a better quality product would go a long way in keeping those first customers around.”

Know The Quality of Your Community

The tech landscape is like an amorphous blob – it changes all the time and you never know what it will become. Staying in tune with the trends of the industry can be tough, but not if you look in the right places. Tech meetups, tech communities, conferences like Asbury Agile are a good start.

“I am a huge supporter of constant learning and therefore a huge fan of various coding boot camps and other nonprofit organizations. I have been very successful in hiring the best talent from these places,” Mona admitted.

These events are usually very welcoming and friendly environments. They are also magnets for talented individuals, because where is there a better spot to talk about programming than with a bunch of other happy programmers?

“They are providing much-needed tech talent, especially the ones who are quick learners. They are filling the gaps from college education and creating future tech leaders. I have recently joined as a volunteer teaching programming to school students in NYC. I am sure it would be a huge learning experience for myself. The NJ tech scene will see a lot of growth with the new talent pool available and will also give investors more opportunities outside of NYC.”

Mona went on to compare the NJ tech ecosystem with where she currently lives in Connecticut, both are blooming talent pools and companies are always looking to move out of the crowded city. They definitely provide a better work-life balance.

Mona is one of our speakers for Asbury Agile this year, catch her speaking at the event on October 7th and you will probably learn a thing or two about QA.

As the industry changes, Mona stays one step ahead of the game. Stay ahead of the game with Mona and learn a little more about what she’s up to on her website and LinkedIn profile.

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