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Tester Spotlight - Charlie

Michael Ebako-Hodgson

test IO’s­ community of testers is critical to the business. Today I’m joined by Evgeniya, our community manager, to interview one of those indispensable testers, Charlie. Charlie has freelanced around the world as a data scientist, researcher, teacher, and community manager. Now he is applying those skills to a career in software testing.

In this interview he tells us:

  • How he started freelancing around the world
  • His approach to work and how its translated to success
  • How he stays productive while working from home

Evgeniya: Hi Charlie. You probably read Alex's story that we published. We want to do something like that – just have a chat to learn more about you and share your story with other testers for inspiration.

Charlie: Great. I just need some very good questions because I don't like to talk about myself.

Michael: I got you. We'll start from the beginning. I’d like you to tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from, and how you got into testing.

Charlie: Well, I was born in Colombia, Bogotá, the capital city where my family had a company that worked with the government. So, I started by doing some tech stuff for the government when I was 16. Then I went to college and did my bachelor’s in sociology. I was doing things in sociology that few people would do, like analyzing data by using software focusing on statistics.

I realized that I could make a living by doing what I like which is software, coding, and research. After the first semester, I joined some research projects as a volunteer. They realized that I knew some specific software for qualitative research, so they just grabbed me and added me to their teams.

Nowadays they have a name for that – "Data Scientist." But at the time, I was just doing the things that I liked. I was learning software, how to code, and how to get stats from different sources.

Michael: Did you use that experience to get jobs after college?

Charlie: Oh, everything. Doing research, I was learning a lot of things about computers and software so I started teaching when I was 20. I was giving lessons and doing research for about 15 years. I'm now 37 years old. So, it was a lot of time doing research and teaching. In fact, I wrote an article that was published last December and recently taught a course in Spain about data and text mining for research.

Evgeniya: As we were talking, it was interesting to learn that you almost pursued a career in fiction writing. Could you say something about that?

Charlie: I've been in love with Raymond Carver and Palahniuk and those kinds of writers since I was 15. When I was 23, I started a course about creative writing and was writing fiction, short tales and those kinds of stories. Maybe I can make a living from writing, but now is not the time for it.

Evgeniya: Michael, you may not know this, but Charlie is also a brand ambassador for Brazil and Latin American countries. So, I want to ask, What’s your favorite part about doing this and do you face challenges promoting test IO in the Brazil community? 

Charlie: Yeah. for example, I’m trying to teach all that I've learned during this year. I give the testers a lot of tips and tricks to get to know the platform so they can learn quickly and start earning money. But the translation part is tricky. When I try to speak in Portuguese, I think in English and sometimes get lost. But in that relationship between me trying to tell them the right thing in their language and them trying to understand me, I make connections. It's unbelievable. I just keep getting messages, “Hey, Charlie, how you doing today?” from testers from around the world, and that's it. They just want to know how I'm doing. Like how I’m actually doing.

Michael: This question is for you, Evgeniya. How did you select Charlie to become a brand ambassador?

Evgeniya: As I remember, Charlie reached out to us himself and offered. We were happy because we were really looking to grow our tester segment in Latin America, and Charlie is an Awesome tester and very proactive. When we started working with him, we noticed immediately that it was a success.

Michael: It definitely sounds like it. But that also reminds me, we skipped something very important. Charlie, you never told us how you found out about test IO.

Charlie: At the time, I was working with an agency in Argentina. I was sent to Spain but as soon as I arrived, the agency canceled my contract. It was kind of tricky because I was counting on that income and was actually planning to move to Europe because I had an invitation to give a course about text and data mining in a university there. So, I started panicking. One afternoon, I sat down in a cafe and started making a  checklist – what can I do from abroad? I wanted to keep my time for myself, so being a freelancer and doing the software thing seemed natural. And, I thought I wanted to test things because that's what I've been doing for a long time in research. So, it came to me that I wanted to do something that involved testing and software and freelancing.

When I got home that day, I just put these three things in the browser. Out of all the websites, I only recall one that was lime green and black and test IO. I remember the other website because it was horrible. It was like they tried to put all the cool things they think you can put in a website. But then I entered test IO, and I really liked how it was presented. And it was my favorite color! I said “Woah, that’s a good sign. They have my color.” They’re offering me to become a tester, freelancing, and I like the website. So I signed up. That's how everything started.

Evgeniya: It’s great that you found us. What do you enjoy the most about being in software testing?

Charlie: I love learning things every day. I’m a long-time self-learner – learning languages, learning software, coding, and all these things. So, by doing testing, I've been learning a lot from all the testers, from the Academy, and from my own interests.

As a brand ambassador, one of the ideas I want to address is that when you get a rejection, you have to learn from that rejection instead of just reacting. That's how it is now, but in the past, I was just reacting because I couldn’t understand. Then I just switched – “Okay man, you are new at this you don't have to react, you just don't know how to solve the problem.” You have to learn and then when you get it, you’ll probably understand why the team leader was rejecting your report. And if not, you can always dispute it.

Even though you are testing websites, all websites are designed differently. So, you are learning from that and you never get to a standard way of testing. I don't see a good tester as having only one way to address or to perform the testing. It’s a challenge and that's my motivation.

Evgeniya: You have a lot of different interests so I wondering, how you manage to combine a versatile lifestyle with your work and especially work from home? How do you keep yourself disciplined and not distracted?

Charlie: Well, I have some practical things I do. I need to start my day by taking a bath. And, I take a bath at the end of the day. That is telling my brain, you are starting your day, you are finishing your day.

Establishing a routine is very important in freelancing and so is managing time. To do that, I set up alarms. My best friend at home is Siri, because I tell her, "Hey, Siri, set up a timer for one hour," and I just start working. Then, when my cell phone tells me it’s over, I rest for 15-10 minutes. I don't do things like checking my Instagram when I’m working because I try to respect myself and my time.

What I’m trying to share with you is that time is life. If you don’t respect what you do with your time you are not respecting your life. And you just only have one life. So, try to embrace that, try to respect it.

Evgeniya: Thanks for the tips. I think they’re very valuable now in the modern situation.

Charlie: Well, there are a lot of other things. For example, if you only use your computer for work, why do you have other things around you? So, I just grab my computer. Or, if I'm testing with my cell phone, I only take my phone with me. I don't need other distractions. In Chinese culture, people say cleanness and clearness create miracles. I think that’s true. I tried it and it does create miracles, like learning fast, getting focused on the task at hand. I think that this may apply to others as well.

Michael: As we wrap up I want to ask if you have anything that you want to say to aspiring testers who are reading this interview?

Charlie: In this part of the world, people don't think of being a freelancer as a career. But, I think it's a career. The good thing about being a freelancer is that freelancer is just the description of a function. You make your career yourself. I was freelancing as a researcher. I was freelancing as a community manager. Now I'm freelancing as a tester. So, address freelancing as a career. A career is not something that you just do part-time, a career you have to do every day. You have to go for it. You have to learn about the things you are trying to accomplish.

Second, I would say, don't rush when you are testing. That means don't rush getting, for example, 500 euros per month. Don't rush something that is meant to take time. You cannot control time. So just let it pass and if you respect your time, which is respecting your life, you will get to the best place.

Evgeniya: I can’t think of a better way to end it. We learned a lot of new interesting things about you and the whole interview was very inspiring. Thank you very much for taking the time to have a chat with us. It's really been a pleasure.

If you want to read other stories like Charlie's, check out this interview with another tester, Alex. If you want to be like them, sign up to become a tester, here.



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