Quality Assurance in a software startup

Friday morning 7:10AM: I stare down the sprinting lane at the University indoor track. I am anxious, not about my final sprint in a series of 10, but of an analogy that has just entered my mind. I am one of 3 founders trying to startup our company collabomatic, produce an alpha, get users, and raise some capital. I’m at the track this morning training for the sport of ultimate Frisbee, an activity that I try to cram into a day filled with 9 hours of contract work, 1.5 hours of commuting, 5 hours of work towards our alpha product, and 5 hours of sleep.

I am troubled as I’ve just been reminded by my co-trainer that a sprinter gains maximal velocity after just a few strides and spends the rest of the race slowing down. I find this incredibly analogous to a startup company. A successful startup is the one that manages to slow down the least. My quandary in this analogy is my role as QA lead in past software projects, and the heavy regulations that my teams have often injected into the development process. While the two other founders and I have fully adopted the startup/agile approach avoiding titles like the plague, I can’t help but worry that my past experience and strengths in QA will prove to be more of a douse on our sprint than fuel.

From here my mind wanders back to childhood days training for hockey; a game that I was heavily involved in. Boy, did I feel fast skating around the arena on Sunday afternoons – free of constricting shin pads, vision limiting visors, and bulky hockey pants that had hindered me throughout a week of practices. Are shin pads, shoulder pads, and hockey sticks comparable to test plans, code reviews, and regression test passes?

At the beep of my Timex, I am off sprinting … thoughts of founding a company and my role within left temporarily behind. The relief is short lived however, and as my heart rate returns to normal, so do my previous thoughts. As I think through my predicament, some compromises start to arise. While one of the keys to a successful start up may be getting to the finish line fastest, there really is more to a sprint than maximal velocity.

– As everyone knows, the closest path between two points is a straight line. Aha!! … part of my role as a founder has been to ensure that we’re not spending energy delivering features the customer may not want.
– The speed of Paul Kariya would be in vain if it was applied in a sprint to the wrong finish line. Yet another win for my role … I have been providing the customer voice and looking to ensure that their needs are being met and that we’re moving towards that voice.
– Once you’re at the finish line, we ought to be somewhat prepared for what awaits us. What good is the puck in the slot without an Easton Synergy to blast it home! Win! The automated tests that I have been developing are hitting the mark ensuring the product works as designed – and these tests haven’t been slowing development down much at all.
– While speed is essential, a certain level of precautionary equipment like a helmet is necessary along the way. Surely an unprotected website holding credit card information needs SSL even though it may require the investment of a day or 2 of sweat equity.

Alas my role has some definition … I’ll insist on for the helmet, the hockey stick and provide the hollering and encouragement as I help fuel and steer our team towards that finish line …Go Go Go ……

Ah relief … I am convinced that I have a role again … I am providing value … and I have just finished my final 100 yard sprint of the day … and now I’m going home to start the real sprint. 0 comments

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