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Meet VirtaMed: “I do things no sane developer would even think to try”

December 20, 2016

Our new Quality and Release Manager Tripti Abhijatha has been with VirtaMed for just three months, but she has already learned not to be afraid to ask questions. After all, when you crash software for a living, you should think less like an engineer and more like a busy end user who has no idea what all the buttons are there for.

Born and raised in Mysuru, southern India, Tripti did her bachelor’s in civil engineering and got recruited straight from college into an esteemed software firm for her first quality assurance job. After three years of training and working with software developers Tripti felt the need to study further. She applied and got accepted to the computational science master program at Zurich, Switzerland, hosted in collaboration by the University of Zurich and the ETH. She has now lived in Switzerland for seven years.

Tripti knew that getting hired as an Indian engineer in Switzerland was going to be much harder than landing that prestigious first job in India, so she gave herself six months to look for a job after graduation; should she not find her place in half a year, she would pack her things and go back home to find career prospects there. Three months in she was contracted for a consultant position, and consulting is what she did for the next three years for clients in banking, insurance, telecom, logistics, and transport.

Even though the work provided a good overview across industries, eventually Tripti felt her job was not taking her anywhere. She realized that throughout her career she had always accepted whatever suitable opportunity came her way; now she needed to take the initiative and find something she really wanted to do. That something turned out to be an open position at VirtaMed.

“At VirtaMed I get to use a wider range of my skills”

Medical technology is a new industry for Tripti, and medical simulation is a special branch for the IT professional. VirtaMed works shoulder to shoulder with medical associations and researchers, yet the daily development tasks are closer to gaming than medical science. VirtaMed operates in a field that offers something new to take home every day, Tripti explains.

Quality assurance, QA for short, is something Tripti has extensive experience in; her entire career has been about software QA. However, during her master studies Tripti also took courses in biology, robotics, and soft materials, simply out of curiosity. She has not been able to use those learnings since graduation, but at VirtaMed she faces a wide range of tasks where she gets to dip into those near-forgotten wells of information.

Quality assurance is all about verifying that developers are building the product right and validating that they are building the right product. The focus is on the product, and that makes Tripti the intermediary between the user and the developer. It’s the QA manager’s task to make sure the two meet; to see to it that what gets developed and shipped is not only the best product the developers can create but also what the customer really needs.

Mediating between customers and developers is complicated enough when dealing with a straightforward product like banking software; it gets even trickier when the customer’s needs are far more abstract and multifaceted, as is the case in virtual reality medical simulation. Many development paths at VirtaMed begin with a customer asking for a handsome tool to make teaching more effective; how this translates into product specifications is then for VirtaMed to design. Tripti is grateful for product managers who are dedicated to listening to customers and transforming the customers’ dreams into implementable plans.

QA is only one part of Tripti’s work; the other hat she gets to wear is of the release manager. That means it is her duty to declare a software release ready to be sent out to customers. “A release is like a facade of a building”, Tripti describes; a software release is what a customer sees of a company's capabilities. “If the facade is ugly, nobody even dares to enter the building to see it from the inside. My job is to make sure our facade looks nice.”

Release management is a new professional sphere for Tripti, and during her job interview she felt hesitant about taking on a new a responsibility like that. But the interviewers had faith in her, and they were right: after a couple of months’ experience Tripti is happy to admit the task suits her.

“I don't call them mistakes, I call them learning opportunities”

When Tripti joined the company, she was also a little worried about not having the strong programming background most of her new colleagues could flaunt. Soon she realized her novel approach was an asset: developers have often been surprised by the innovative ways non-technical users have been able to crash early software versions. Users do strange things that make no sense, things that no sane developer would ever try. Things that Tripti, however, does think to try.

Having a different mindset also means that what may seem like an obvious statement or a stupid question is anything but that; a recurring feedback Tripti hears is “I had never thought of it like that”. Tripti has been surprised to see how openly everybody at VirtaMed shares knowledge and opinions, regardless of formal position or tenure. Furthermore, even if her comment does turn out naïve, she will have learned one thing more about the problem at hand.

This professional confidence reflects Tripti’s relaxed attitude towards life in general: she regrets nothing about her past, and she drafts no five-year plans for her future. She makes sure she is working on something that matters right now, so that at the end of the day she can go home feeling she did a good job and became a better person.

Would you like to know more? “7 Ways to Improve Your Software Release Management”

“This article is a very nice and simple guide on how to introduce a good release process.”

Traditional Indian folk tales: Panchatantra, Jakarta, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Arthasaastra

“For anyone interested in Indian culture I recommend reading some of our traditional folk tales. The Panchatantra and Jataka tales formed a foundation of our growth and are an excellent simple read for everyone. For much more mature reading, I suggest the epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Arthasaastra by Chanakya.”
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