I shared with Farah Chabchoub about her perspective on the evolution of software quality in this interview of the QE Unit.
With experience in demanding, dynamic but also regulated environments, Farah defends the quality from operations up to the management committee.
We discussed her vision and perspectives for a quality assurance with more impact and value for organizations.
This sharing leads us to reflect on the positioning and investment of quality for our companies.
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About Farah Chabchoub
After completing her master’s degree in machine learning and image treatment from Pierre and Marie Curie University, Farah became particularly interested in innovation and service improvement.
She began to take an interest in quality assurance from her internship experiences by testing products and services for INFOTEL, then for Groupama.
These experiences sparked her passion for quality control, and she joined Dassault Systèmes to become a quality assurance engineer for R&D products.
From 2017, his global experience in quality assurance is put to good use at MANGOPAY (end-to-end payment solution for marketplaces) and Leetchi (the most developed social pot platform founded in Europe).
As a Head of QA, she enjoys working in an innovative environment with new daily challenges in a highly regulated environment.
Antoine: Can you start by introducing yourself?
Of course, I am 27 years old and currently Head of QA and a member of the operational committee for one of the largest FinTechs in France. I will soon change my adventure, but I remain someone who feeds the company’s strategy through the QA vision by ensuring continuity of service.
Apart from QA, I like to do photography, oil painting, and I love Japan, going there quite often. I draw a real parallel with the rigor of Japan with life, sometimes a little rigid, that we also find in the QA.
Antoine: What are your priorities in the evolution of quality?
For me, it is a step-by-step process. I took on a QA leadership role early on and had two challenges: Create my vision of quality and have impacts at a strategic level.
I went a lot in contact outside of my silo to understand the stakeholders’ objectives and expectations. I think that’s part of why I managed to create a more transversal QA.
Antoine: I imagine that the teams have also grown in parallel?
Yes, indeed, in 2017, when I joined the group made up of MangoPay and Leetchi, I was the only person in QA. The two entities had 20 to 25 people between product, development, and infrastructure, with whom I had to collaborate.
The teams have grown, and today the QA team has 16 people, including five who report directly to me. I remain convinced that our work in communication, processes and transversal roles has been just as important.
We have made changes to the missions to meet the objectives of the various stakeholders by aligning the processes and roles of each collaborator. It was one of the significant actions we did to increase the impact of quality.
I wanted to share the strategy with Céline Lazorthes, founder of Leetchi and MangoPay. Aligning quality with the challenges of the company was compulsory for me. I have also conditioned to stay if I managed to reach an alignment.
Antoine: What brakes do you identify for a more transversal quality?
It is, for me, the QA itself. I think there is an archaic and historical view of the QA profession that creates terrible reflexes. For example, a QA manager arriving in an organization will quickly focus on testing, coverage, and automation.
In my opinion, the contribution of QA is much broader.
We’re not just here to test but to support product acceleration and innovation. We are, therefore, far from having to focus solely on bug management. We can respond to these issues in different ways: through observability, pipelines, etc.
We’re not just here to test but to support product acceleration and innovation.Farah Chabchoub
The brake is, therefore, the mind of the QA themselves. We find it hard to accept that our job is not just testing. For me, this is a weakness that we can overcome through transversality. Our efforts also make the professions more attractive, going beyond just coding or testing.
To share an example, when I arrived at MangoPay, we had a release cycle of 4 weeks. This frequency was far too slow for our business. One of the first challenges of QA was to improve our time-to-market while maintaining quality.
Our approach has led us to deliver every ten days, a real gain for the organization. We do not necessarily need a precise ROI; we allow the company to be more responsive, capture opportunities, and accelerate its growth. There is no ambiguity about providing value, even for the CEO.
Antoine: I sometimes have the feeling that we are behind in the valorization of QA in companies. It took 15 years to position the roles of CIO, CDO, and CTO, realizing their strategic stake, instead of a single IT manager attached to the CFO. For the quality, we are still lagging even if I see clearer investments in quality. Do you share this vision?
Clearly, yes, the environment is more than favorable to the development of QA professions. If we look at the figures, the number of business start-ups has never been so high in France. Since 2010, the start-up ecosystem has continued to gain momentum.
These factors increase the need to provide a quality digital experience while being a pioneer in markets. Actors who have invested in quality can take a step ahead.
I reflected on my role in the organization. Initially QA Manager, I am now Head of QA while participating in the operational committee. I see more and more positions of responsibility and remain convinced that this trend will continue.
Antoine: Which opportunities and threats do you identify for a more transversal quality?
The culture of the company is fundamental to me. Organizations that do not have a QA department can have a culture of cross-functional quality of service. For example, teams will have integrated quality into their existing teams and processes.
The QA community is also in place and very dynamic. There are mines of accessible information both on quality and change management, engineering, etc.
On the other hand, not all companies are good candidates for creating a culture of quality. A single QA person in a team of 50 developers will have a hard time getting the mindset changed. I have experienced this at MangoPay by starting alone. I have invested significantly by working diligently to make a difference.
Therefore, the scale of the teams is an essential factor such as culture, members of the management committee, etc.
Antoine: In a favourable context requiring the recruitment of 20 QA profiles, would that be a challenge for you? Do you see the lack of profiles as a potential threat?
I don’t think the lack of profiles is a real threat. Soft skills and cultural fit remain the most important to find the right people; we can learn hard skills more quickly.
The battle for talent is also valid for QA. Companies want the best profiles.
We also see the emergence of visual tools of the low code or scriptless type, facilitating certain activities and therefore future recruitments.
Antoine: From your experience, what practices have you found effective, or on the contrary ineffective?
First, taking the first step to understanding the need is fundamental. We need to fully understand the problem without rushing to solutions. Therefore, the expression of the requirement is structuring and must, above all, not be carried out alone.
You have to go and see the various interlocutors and ask them what they expect from quality. If the answer is limited to perform the test, you must dig deep to understand the need and the “why”. We must meet the true expectations of stakeholders.
This collaborative exercise also allowed me to understand the business better and create a relationship. We must have the humility to recognize that we must understand the expectations of our interlocutors.
The second practice is to act as a supporter, coach, and problem-solver. The situation will have to be constantly improved; we must know how to work iteratively and collaborate with the most available teams. Our objective must be to provide solutions without being limited to pointing out problems.
Our objective is to provide business solutions supporting strategic goals.Farah Chabchoub
For example, the QA team at MangoPay was only affected by a ratio on ticket volume. We quickly realized the limits of this model. The Product team shared with us their difficulties in evaluating the testability of their specifications. We have defined a shared process where we act as consultants in assessing the supervision or the continuity of the applications.
Subsequently, the Product and Development teams also noticed that our questions were relevant. We have brought about the emergence of practices that improve our deliveries. Over time, our involvement has even become systematically demanded by the teams. It is, therefore, by example, sharing, and collaboration that we have convinced the teams.
My last point is to embody a vision of change without hesitating to take leadership on subjects. This is what we did on observability, without passively waiting for other teams. Our initiative turned into a project that we were able to carry out.
This openness allows teams to learn on subjects, in transversality, and to shine in the organization. It is also much more rewarding and recognized in the company, from operations to the management committee.
Antoine: What are the critical points for you to remember for a more transversal QA?
Listening to other teams to embody a QA that brings value to the business. We need to get out of our silo and the stereotype of QA to respond to business issues.
QA must also move out of its role as an executor to increase its impact. Collaboration, communication, and process topics are just as important as testing and other automation ones. We must know how to share and articulate the value proposition with our CEO, CIO or CTO. It means going out of operations to get a more strategic perspective.
Antoine: Do you think we will see more and more Chief Quality Officer, VP of Quality emerge?
I hope so, even if the role alone will not be of value, it is the relevance of our vision that will be a consequence of such positioning. We must define the objectives and align the quality contribution, specific to each organization.
For us, for example, the acceleration of time-to-market and responsiveness to incident management were two key priorities. In this case, we worked on improving the delivery chain with the ops, dev and product teams, on the other hand, on the implementation of SLOs, incident management with the support teams. With these missions our strategic contribution becomes trivial. Without transversality, we would have missed out on this strategic priority.
My advice for any leader in the field of QA; it’s about working to bring a big picture and not aim for a role motivated only by personal ambition. We would not change the prejudices on the field if we aim for a role and not a transverse mission.
My advice is to work to provide an overview and not aim for a role motivated only by personal ambition.Farah Chabchoub
Antoine: To end on a personal note, what references, content, or people have inspired you the most?
I would first quote John Cutler to work on a more transversal quality and organization from a product perspective. He is a product coach at Amplitude who writes excellent articles pushing to break down silos. He shares the impact of the organization on the creation of products and projects.
The question of “why” is essential to me. “Start with Why” by Simon Senek is, for me, a reference that everyone should read. There is a logic behind what we do, what we undertake.
On a more operational perspective related to supervision, monitoring, and incident management, I highly recommend Cory Watson’s podcast “Stripe Observability Pipeline.” He shares his vision and practices that he could put in place in such a significant player.