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Four Dimensions For Aspiring Assurance Professionals

 
October 12, 2016

I spent the first six years of my career in the healthcare domain, testing extensively for one of the largest companies in the US. Being part of a sector that directly impacts life quality worldwide was a great feeling and experience. My experience helped me gain the big picture perspective on how testing directly impacts the quality of life of people across the globe. Later, this learning enabled me to make a smooth transition from healthcare to the Oil and Gas (O&G) sector. Through this post, Id like to share my learning and perspective on testing as a career.

Let me begin with some advice for aspiring assurance professionals. To make a career in testing, you need to view it from four dimensions, or 4Ds:

  1. Domain know-how: You can never test an application without putting yourself in the shoes of the end user, and for this, domain know-how is essential. For instance, the domain intensive and workflow heavy nature of healthcare and O&G requires QA teams to have good understanding of sector nuances. Familiarizing yourselves with business workflows is also important.
  2. Technical expertise: if you dont catch up with evolving technology such as digital, IoT, and cloud you will never ever be in the game. Without adequate hold on technology, you may lose the race, even before running it.
  3. Testing Skills: On the attributes front, testers must be good critics, with a strong desire to unearth defects from the most improbable zones. To ensure product performance and other expectations, testing teams must be involved from inception.
  4. Process knowledge: Finally, competencies on processes and standards such as CMMi can help testers assess maturity levels of testing processes, streamline activities, drive business process improvements, and achieve results all seamlessly.

In my challenging stint with the compliance heavy healthcare domain, these 4Ds enabled me to test diverse and complex data sets, with all permutations and combinations, while ensuring privacy and compliance with regulations. When I moved to O&G, I found some common factors essential healthcare components that are also applicable to the O&G sector. Heres a quick list.

Standards, Regulations and Compliances: Whether it’s HIPAA in Healthcare or D5503-94(2008) in O&G, strict compliance is a must, failing which, companies can end up paying huge penalties. The Ohio O&G enforcement actions and penalty regulation is a classic example. Besides thorough knowledge of industry and geography specific compliance standards, assurance teams must also be armed with the right set of process controls, systems, and tools, to ensure that the end products being certified are functional, fool proof and compliant with standards and regulations.

Safety and Hazards: Inadequate testing of healthcare products could be fatal. In O&G too, which involves risk intensive operations involving hazardous chemicals, safety and health awareness is a vital constituent of work norm. The sector has had its share of fatal accidents one at Petronas sites forced a relook of safety standards, while the Deepwater horizon accident required a massive clean up and federal government intervention. In both these cases, the response was reactive post accident. QA shoulders a big responsibility here - of preventing such disasters with proactive controls and upfront involvement. The role of the tester has clearly moved beyond testing.

Data Security: One of the most critical aspects of not just healthcare and O&G, but all sectors, data security involves securing personal data and protecting privacy of patients, users, customers, employees and all stakeholders. As per a recent report, over 112 million healthcare records were compromised in 2015.

Domain knowledge:

Both Healthcare and Oil & Gas are domain intensive industries; and detailed workflows are a core part for both. Hence QA & Testing functions must have a deep understanding the industry domain. A major breach or incident will have huge fallouts for these businesses globally, and hence there is a compelling case for upfront QA involvement. The answer is in working together, and collaboration across all teams business, IT and QA.

The 4D approach helps equip professionals to perform testing in any domain. Build on each of the dimensions for a rewarding career in QA.

Chandan has six years of experience leading test management initiatives at TCS. He has spent over a decade in assurance services, including account management, test service delivery management, change management, defect management, and business process improvement. Proficient in ITIL, Prince 2 and Six Sigma, Chandan's assurance expertise spans healthcare, retail, and energy.