Get to know Hristina – our Quality Engineering Technology Manager
Get to know Hristina Yonova, a Quality Engineering Technology Manager at Scalefocus, a connoisseur of wine and a person who loves to change bravely the colors around herself.
1. On Quality Engineering
The thing that has always appealed to me about Quality Engineering is that, despite popular belief, it’s not only about identifying problems, but also about preventing them as well as finding a solution.
2. On your background
My career journey started 20 years ago. After graduating from Sofia University with a degree in Computer Science, I became part of an IT support and system administration team for 2-3 years, after which I switched to a QE role. Ever since then, my work experience has been related to QE.
My first position as an Automation QA was at an international company, where I was responsible for maintaining and utilizing the internally developed test automation framework. We are talking about times when the tools we use nowadays didn’t exist, and my work was based on Еxcel and Visual Basic scripts. At that time, I got ISTQB-certified. What is interesting is that people usually begin their QE career with the foundation of software and manual testing, and then jump to automated testing. In my case, I started my QE journey backwards.
A few years later, I transferred to a Bulgarian company where I focused on performance testing for a big project of the first telecom company in Bulgaria.
Almost seven years ago, I became part of Scalefocus. When I say seven years, it sounds long, but it feels like yesterday. Here I had a chance to go through many different positions, to learn continuously and take on increasing responsibilities, so the company quickly turned into the place that has had the most significant impact on my professional development.
3. On your role at Scalefocus
My entry role at Scalefocus was of а QE Lead on various projects.
After a while, my position evolved to a Practice Lead. My QE Мanager had gone on parental leave, so I got into a situation where I had to take responsibility for the technological development of the whole QE team for a year. Giving my best and learning quickly ad hoc, I managed to establish solid relationships within the team and build trust with the rest of the company. As a result, I kept the QE Manager position even after the return of my manager.
Organically through the years, my role evolved to the present point – a Technology Manager, who is leading the QE team at the company and is responsible for their personal and professional development. I am very happy that I have the chance to lead a strong team with a diverse expertise: on the one hand, our colleagues have a detailed knowledge of various technologies, tools, frameworks, and testing techniques; on the other hand, they have a solid cross-industry expertise gathered through our work on different client projects.
Another important aspect of my work is the focus on knowledge-sharing. Together with the other technology leaders at Scalefocus, we build training programs and onboarding plans, and organize knowledge exchange sessions in various formats which help spread fresh ideas in the team and across the company.
Last but not least, I find very rewarding my involvement in presenting the company’s QE services to end customers, in proposals and in designs for customer solutions; in measuring the results achieved by the QE team and evaluating QE activities within each project.
4. On the cross-cultural diversity
One of the most exciting things about my role is that it allows me to work with different people, to learn how to ‘read’ them and to get to know their nature, temper, and qualities. To match them with the correct people and to form a strong team. To predict future problems and what might cause them.
And even though I mastered well those skills over the years and with practice, the recent opening of the Turkish delivery location of Scalefocus presented a challenge. We had to quickly learn the specifics of the local culture and habits, so as to understand well our colleagues. This was important as we had to find a way to correctly mix the teams and to be able to address different situations without confusion. And we found the right approach for that, treating everyone with the needed respect and balancing the professional and cultural differences.
In other locations such as North Macedonia, for example, this challenge did not exist — even though our team is pretty new, their bond has been strong from the very beginning. Maybe the pandemic made our colleagues hungry for building connections, and the human factor grew stronger.
I am sharing all this to highlight the diversity we have at the company and how important it is to be open to accepting and understanding well the differences. This allows us to establish and manage cross-cultural and distributed teams who can work seamlessly together, achieve strong results, learn from each other, and grow professionally.
5. On your team
When I joined the team, we were less than ten people. Since then, the team has grown several times and I am happy that as part of the hiring process I was able to meet each candidate and find the right fits for the team.
As the team grew bigger with time, staying connected with all colleagues became more challenging. To address this, we started organizing various meetings, gatherings, and regular practice sharing sessions, such as our QE breakfasts and QE catch-ups. We are keeping many of those formats today and even expanding them.
These initiatives are vital not only from a team bonding perspective, but also because they help us keep everyone on the same page. What is interesting is that even though we are part of one team, we work on entirely different client projects and use various tools, techniques, and specifications for approaching niche solutions. This requires regular knowledge-sharing.
Another essential part of our work, deeply built into the Scalefocus culture, is the encouragement of all our colleagues to choose their own professional development paths. We want to listen to everyone’s needs and support them in the best way we can. That is why the company has established a clear career path for each technology team. What is interesting is that the main prototype has come from the QE team. We were the first to define the requirements and responsibilities of each position. By incorporating a skills matrix in the career path, the Technology team leads have the flexibility to create individual development plans in their departments. This practice proved good and was adopted by all the other technology teams, winning a reputation for the QE as an internal trendsetter in the company.
6. On the right candidates for the QE team
Team players. Individuality is an important quality, but our work is a team one, so it’s very important for each of our colleagues to integrate well into the team. Especially the QEs need to be critical, analytical, and responsible for the process, so that they are able to both identify the problems and solve them. A Quality Engineer needs to ensure quality not only in the code itself but also in the teamwork.
7. On Scalefocus and what makes it the right place for professional development?
It’s simple. New colleagues join our company and team because of the people and environment they create. Through the years, I’ve learned that the projects come and go, but it is the people who make the work meaningful. If you feel good among the surrounding teammates – hold on to that.
And because of the challenges, there is always something new to do even after seven years in the company.
8. On the best advice to new software engineers
To never stop improving themselves and to be self-critical. They should not be afraid to try or to fail.
9. On your everyday work life
Probably the most challenging question so far. Not two days are alike. I always check my calendar for the next day, but when the sun rises, the calendar is completely changed. In brief, I try to plan, but my plans often go down the drain, so I constantly need to adapt promptly. Almost everything happens ad hoc. A lot of communication with various people on different topics keeps me energized. If someone wants to imagine what makes me passionate about my work – this is certainly everything opposite to a calm day.
I try to be there for my team where and when they need me. I am completely fine to help, join a meeting or do something after the working day or when I am on vacation, just because it does not cost me anything to help others and help resolve issues.
That said, however, I genuinely try not to bring my work home, mostly because I know that there will always be more of it, and it never ends. It is healthy to set some boundaries and to know your limits. It’s important to be able to define what is urgent.
10. On who you are outside of work… except the woman with the purple hair*
Actually, this was a mistake of the hairdresser, but the people around me are always curious about how I will appear after they find out that I have an appointment at the salon.
Overall, I like to try new and different things – my hair is a perfect example of that. I enjoy discovering unique aspects of life.
I’m interested in wines too. And very quickly, that became a “thing” among my friends, so now I’m the person who always picks the drinks wherever we go. I guess I’m good at managing people outside of work, which is why they trust me to organize trips. So, my casual position is as a tour operator.
*At the interview, Hrisi had purple hair. If you are curious about her colour now, don’t hesitate to contact her.