Mike Hrycyk (00:00):
Hello everyone. Welcome back to the PLATO Panel Talks podcast. I’m your host, Mike Hrycyk, and in this episode, we’re back with part two of our set of panels introducing PLATO’s Indigenous Software Tester Training program. Part one was a great way to get started with our manager of training, John Howes and PLATO Tester and Fredericton-PEI course teacher Dani Gulliver. They shared with us their experiences as people running the program. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend going back and taking a lesson after this episode. If this is the very first time you’ve ever heard of the PLATO training program, you might go and listen to it first, but it’s probably not necessary and after all, you’re here already. Part one was a great conversation, and we really learned a bunch about the PLATO training, but I don’t think any conversation about the program would be complete if we stuck to just the instructors. So what we did is, is we went out, and we found a couple of our graduates. People who went through our program in different places who we thought would have a good story to tell, and we brought them together to have a second part of this podcast. A conversation between the two guys to have their viewpoints. So without further ado, I’m going to introduce you to Michael Jameson. Please tell us about yourself, Mike.
Michael Jamieson (01:09):
Sure thing, Mike. I’m residing and working out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. I first heard about the PLATO training program actually while I was visiting my sister and her family here. I was originally out of London, Ontario. So I was just visiting for a week, and my nephew came home with information regarding the program, and it seemed really interesting to me, and we talked it over, and he was humming and hawing about it. And then I was like, you know what? This sounds like something that I could really get into. So I applied. That very same evening after we discussed it over and the next day, I received a call from Jennifer [Rushton] and went through the interview process. And all within a matter of 48 hours, I found myself moving from London to the Sault over a single weekend to start the program.
Mike Hrycyk (01:56):
Wow, that’s really interesting. If you’re willing to share, what nation are you from?
Michael Jamieson (02:00):
Oh yeah. Well, I’m originally from Northern Ontario and my – on my mother’s side, she was from the Wikwemikoong Unceded Reservation out of Manitoulin Island. Yeah. So I’m with the Ojibwe First Nations from Manitoulin. Yeah.
Mike Hrycyk (02:16):
Alright. We’ll get more into some of that but first, let’s give Nick a chance to tell us who you are.
Nicholas Grant (02:22):
Yeah, my name’s Nicholas Grant. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia. I found out about the training program via the Métis Nation newsletter. So I joined that in November. And I’ve been working on the Deloitte contract with the Government of British Columbia since May.
Mike Hrycyk (02:39):
Awesome. And just for a little clarity there, you live in Vancouver area, but you took the course in Victoria.
Nicholas Grant (02:46):
Yeah, exactly. That’s right, Mike.
Mike Hrycyk (02:48):
So how big of a life change is it to be working at wherever, doing whatever it was that you were doing – maybe you can even touch on that – to suddenly decide that you’re gonna be a student and jump to that. Michael?
Michael Jamieson (02:59):
Yeah, certainly. Well before I was working with a subcontractor to a military defense company out of London General Dynamics, and I was a specialist in carbon fiber and Kevlar materials and building molds. So I was essentially a mold maker. But the pandemic through a little curve ball into things, and, you know, you always had the hum and haw of being laid off and in and out of being forced to stay home because of COVID. So this opportunity presented to myself, like a really unique opportunity to maybe jump out of that uncertainty and into something that was a little bit more flexible with being able to work from home or office and into the tech field that’s always continuingly growing and whatnot.
Mike Hrycyk (03:44):
So what about software testing was interesting to you?
Michael Jamieson (03:48):
Well, I guess I’ve always been kind of a geek when it comes to technology and whatnot. I’ve always been fascinated with the latest tech cell phones, whatever gadgets. And the actual use of the software itself has always fascinated me. I’ve always been interested in what goes on in the background and learning about the coding and whatnot. And this has really given me that opportunity, so I’m loving it so far. It’s really great.
Mike Hrycyk (04:14):
Awesome. Alright. Well, so Nick, what was it like to be doing what you were doing and then suddenly boom, you’re a student?
Nicholas Grant (04:21):
It was a big change for me, but it was definitely a welcome one. Like, I, you know, relocated from suburbs of Vancouver to Victoria, but I had family that was there, and I felt that it was very well rounded and supportive program for the training.
Mike Hrycyk (04:36):
Okay, cool. And so why software testing? Why not something else?
Nicholas Grant (04:40):
I just thought that it was sort of a nice change from my lifestyle that I was leading previously working in retail sales just having more consistent, steady schedule. My interest in software testing, actually got peaked in first year of university, and my roommate was actually a computer science major, and I wasn’t taking anything tech related at all, but like sort of him working on his homework in the common area and showing that to me, that is where my interests got peaked. And so here we are about eight years later, and I was just like, yeah, this seems like a good way to go.
Mike Hrycyk (05:07):
So I’m going be completely honest here. One of our ulterior motives in this particular podcast that we’re putting together is both to help everyone out there who’s a listener to understand what it is we’re trying to do with PLATO and in our Indigenous training program, etc. But also we want to have some content out there that will help someone who is a potential candidate, someone who might want to become a tester to make a decision. So I’m sort of putting you guys on the spot there, being representatives or advocates for the program, in your own opinions, and we’ll start with you Nick, but in your own opinion, what attributes do you have to have to step up for this program and be successful? Do you need to be a computer science geek to start out?
Nicholas Grant (05:45):
No, not at all, Mike. Honestly, if you just come with the right attitude, anyone can be a software tester. Like, almost all people use technology in some way, shape, or form in their daily lives. And any of us can like sort of do a critical evaluation of what’s good software or how things should work, so really anyone can do it.
Mike Hrycyk (06:02):
So Michael, are you of the same opinion,
Michael Jamieson (06:04):
Somewhat of a similar one. Yeah, I can completely agree with what Nick was saying there. To add to that, I would say don’t be afraid, be confident with your decision. Like Nick was saying earlier as well, within the program, you’re well supported. The instructors are very knowledgeable and patient with the students. And what I found unique about the program itself, well, I had the unique situation of being in a hybrid class space where we were both half from Sault Ste. Marie and half from Saskatchewan, and doing it all completely through Teams and online. And it was a really fascinating experience and that rapid change with having to be in office and then continuing the program through being at home because of the situation with the pandemic still happening, that really gives you an edge with your adaptability, being able to handle different situations on the fly and whatnot. Yeah, it’s been a really good foundation with that. And
Mike Hrycyk (07:01):
Good old pandemic. When will it ever stop giving. Alright. So you’re both graduates of the program now, and so we learned in the prior talk that it takes five months of intensive. It’s not actually the intensive. Your days are six and a half, seven hours long, and there’s very limited homework, right? So it’s really just make sure you’re showing up and doing your work. And then you both have done your internships, so, maybe tell us what it was like to be in the course every day. What kind of instruction was there? How did you approach it? How did you succeed?
Michael Jamieson (07:35):
Day to day, being in the class was a lot of fun actually. I like the fact that it was really regimented. There was like a lot of routine to it which helped with the transition of being like new as a fresh learner and the interaction with my other classmates was really well welcomed among everyone. We had a nice mix of backgrounds in my particular class. Yeah, it was a great mix and you get a lot of unique viewpoints and vantage points from working with all these other individuals from basically all over the world it seemed. And it was really nice.
Mike Hrycyk (08:09):
That was really interesting, Michael. So the one follow on question that came out of what you said for me though, was I just wanted to be clear that we are open to all sorts of Indigenous people everywhere, right. You just have to identify as Indigenous depending on who you connect to it depends on which funding that you’ll be able to help us get from those sources. But your own classes, like, I think if Nick, maybe you can answer this, I think there were seven or eight different peoples represented in your class, maybe even more than that. There was heavily from the Métis, but then there were a bunch of others, right?
Nicholas Grant (08:40):
Yeah, we had one person from a local nation, and then we also had another person who was from the Mohawk Nation outside of Montreal. So we had a good amount of diversity, but yeah, we were heavily Métis in my cohort.
Mike Hrycyk (08:52):
And something that I’ve seen is that the more urban you are when you were in the course, the more all the way across Canada you might get candidates from. And then the more – we ran a course in Miramichi in New Brunswick, which is a small town in New Brunswick. And when we did the Miramichi ones we got people from the four different bands that sort of touched that location. So it sort of runs that sort of gambit between local and, and cross country. And, so, sorry – sort of diverted there. Nick, tell us a little bit about what you thought of the day to day and the learning.
Nicholas Grant (09:23):
I thought the day to day was a good mix. It was maybe about like two-thirds was like focused on the curriculum and the software testing. And then about a third of it was just various things that you’ll need to be successful in a workplace. So like working on, you know, office etiquette or resume writing or how to compose professional emails. And I thought it was nice that we could sort of sprinkle in those little activities so that it’s not just purely intensive software training, like career development, and then you’re also doing like teamwork exercises here and there. So it was nice and light and easy to sort of like handle it.
Mike Hrycyk (09:52):
Awesome. Spring boarding off of that, Nick, do you want to tell us about your internship? How did that work? Was it like the day you finished classes, boom, you were suddenly testing somewhere? What did it look like?
Nicholas Grant (10:01):
Luckily for me, and I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but for me, we had a week off between the end of the internship and when we were co-located with the client, so the government of British Columbia. And then it was just like right from the start, 9:00 AM on that Monday morning when we started, it was onboarding, it was getting us our government devices, it was getting us up to speed on the project because, you know, this workplace has got a million different pieces moving. So we had to get caught up to speed to make sure that we knew whether we were on the right track for where they were for this software release. So it was a learning curve, but I felt very well supported by both Deloitte and the government.
Mike Hrycyk (10:35):
And how well did the course prepare you for that?
Nicholas Grant (10:38):
Very well. The course I found didn’t make me like a software testing expert, but it built me up with enough well-rounded skills that I could adapt pretty much any different component of the course, and it translated directly to what I was working on for software testing for government.
Mike Hrycyk (10:52):
Cool. So sort of same question to you, Michael. How did your internship unfold?
Michael Jamieson (10:58):
Actually, I had a pretty spectacular experience if I may use those words knowingly. Like Nick also mentioned, there was about a week break in between the end of the program and the start of the internship. I did my internship with East Side Games out of Vancouver. I couldn’t have asked for more of a well-oiled machine of a place to do my internship. The folks at East Side Games were very welcoming and supportive with the fact that I was new and a student just coming off a program such as ours and the experience there was unique as their a mobile gaming company. And I had the lovely experience of working more of like – not with the games per se and testing the games on the mobile devices. I had more of a backend testing experience and more technical aspect of the video game development there with the one particular program area was Idle Kit, it was called. And I worked with a number of numerous different software tools and I worked amongst a small group of QA teams within that project, about eight or nine different individuals on a day-to-day basis with the daily morning scrums and the day to day tasks. It was just fantastic. I had a great time working with them. And all the folks over there were out of this world supportive and very welcoming. They actually sent Cory and I – she was also interning with ESG at the same time I was. And they sent us a nice swag package and with a whole bunch of various different ESG swag and made us feel very much part of the team over there. And it’s an experience that I’ll never forget.
Mike Hrycyk (12:41):
I guess it’s a good way to come out of your training, right? To put your stuff into play, and then if you have a good experience, suddenly what you’ve been thinking about wanting to be a tester really gets cemented, right? And suddenly –
Michael Jamieson (12:52):
Oh yeah, most definitely.
Mike Hrycyk (12:54):
That’s good. I don’t think – Nick, I don’t think the government has handed you a giant swag bag, have they?
Nicholas Grant (12:59):
No, they’ve got a few more budget constraints and some oversight that they have to worry about <laugh>.
Mike Hrycyk (13:04):
And to be fair, we can’t promise everyone that they will get a cool job with a game company when they come out cause game companies tend to be very, very, very cost conscious for their testing and often go overseas. But there’s some, and we’re actually doing another internship right now with the Vancouver class with East Side Games. So what did you get at the end of your internship? Did you get something to put on the wall?
Nicholas Grant (13:27):
Yeah, I got a lovely certificate from the College Communautaire de Nouveau Brunswick.
Mike Hrycyk (13:32):
And is that meaningful? Is it just a piece of paper? Does it mean something to your family?
Nicholas Grant (13:38):
Yeah, my family’s very proud. We’re actually in the process of getting it framed. Like picking out the right frame for it. But I think it’s meaningful cause it does represent that I took, you know, five months out of my life to go take a ferry, ride across the water, move to a different city and do this training course, then do the internship. So it’s been meaningful to have that.
Mike Hrycyk (13:54):
Awesome. Michael, has yours been a similar experience?
Michael Jamieson (13:57):
Very much so, yeah. I could say that there’s a lot of similarities between our two experiences. Where it may differ on my behalf is having also relocated for the program and moving to Sault Ste. Marie at the end. We had a small nice graduation ceremony hosted by Jennifer [Rushton] and the acknowledgement of our friends and families being able to attend because of the lax COVID restrictions and whatnot, we were able to gather finally. And it was a nice culmination of the whole experience. And having that diploma certificate is a nice icing on the cake as well. It’s to add validity to the experience and what you’ve done and you actually can say you’ve accomplished something uniquely. And to add to the experience because I had relocated, I had a nice small welcoming letter from the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie as well, welcoming me to the city, having moved from another place to there. So that was kind of a nice interesting like piece of the pie, so to speak.
Mike Hrycyk (14:59):
That is neat. I’ve lived in a few different towns and I’ve never gotten a letter from a mayor!
Michael Jamieson (15:03):
Mike Hrycyk (15:04):
<Laugh>. Oh, that’s cool. I do have one recommendation for you. Do not put icing on your certificate. It will not hold up.
Michael Jamieson (15:12):
<Laugh>. Well noted, well noted. <Laugh>,
Mike Hrycyk (15:16):
One of the big, and really important things the program likes to think about itself is the guaranteed job offer that you get at the end. Casting your mind back. Michael, can you tell us, was that meaningful at the start? And did that meaning of that guarantee change on your way through? Did that play a part in your education?
Michael Jamieson (15:37):
Yeah, well that’s an interesting aspect of the whole offer and inclusion with program. Having heard about it almost seems too good to be true, as they say. And it’s like, who does this? Like from what vantage does a company have from doing this? And that in itself, when you actually learn that it’s an actual, like, real thing and a part of the whole experience, it actually gives you that more momentum going into the training program. I think as an end goal, like yes, I’m maybe struggling a little bit here through the middle parts of the program. There might be like SQL giving you a hard time or whatnot, but it’s a nice motivator to have, definitely, as there is something solid at the end that you’re going to be achieving.
Mike Hrycyk (16:26):
And it’s obvious, but we’ll just be clear. And the guarantee was true. You got a job offer.
Michael Jamieson (16:31):
Mike Hrycyk (16:32):
Right. Next same question for you, Nick.
Nicholas Grant (16:34):
Yeah. Very similar to what Michael said, like it’s this really nice guaranteed light at the end of the tunnel knowing that you will be employed in like an office job, whether you’re co-located with client or working virtual. But either way, just knowing that you’re going to have that like nice steady job ready for a go at the end of the training was definitely a big motivating factor for me.
Mike Hrycyk (16:54):
Awesome. Alright. So what do you enjoy most about being a software tester, Nick?
Nicholas Grant (17:02):
Oh, what do I enjoy most? I think just, I think my favorite part is finding the problems and pointing it out. And then also just sort of like sitting back and watching how the developers will fix the problems. But I don’t know, I just enjoy messing around with the applications and just trying to break them or trying to almost like baby proof them before they go out to the public. Like just trying to anticipate the different ways that other end users could be, you know, maybe misusing the software and trying to protect against that.
Mike Hrycyk (17:28):
Cool. So I look forward to talking to Nick in plus five years cause you’ve been out of the course since May. That’s when you started your internships and then three months after that. So you’ve been a tester for about six months now. I would like to see what you say five years from now when you’ve been a tester for a whole bunch of time. Let’s see if your story’s the same or if it’s different or if it’s evolved. Cause what you just said is great. That’s a great thing to love about testing, but is it going to stay the same? So I’m interested to see, Michael, what do you like best?
Michael Jamieson (17:56):
Let’s see, This is a pretty easy question actually. I’ve been fortunate enough to have jumped from East Side Games to two different projects in my six months experience as I also ended my internship at the end of May. And I like the challenge that it brings to jump into a new project and working with the new software that is being tested and the different tools that may be implemented as well through the testing and working with a whole new group of individuals. And it can be challenging right off the hop and I kind of really like, I dig that actually. It actually like, makes me want to get into it even more. I don’t know, I welcome the challenge of it and thrive off of it. And like Nick said too, it’s like you want to get in there and actually break as many things in the software as you possibly can. It’s almost like a challenge. And have that end user perspective as well to see where – just kind of put yourself in a user’s shoes, so to speak and how would they use the software, how is this going to be implemented and used after production. So yeah, I’ll just say that that’s where I’m at.
Mike Hrycyk (19:08):
What advice, Michael, would you give someone who’s thinking about going into the program?
Michael Jamieson (19:14):
Honestly the one single advice is to keep an open mind. Keep an open mind with it. It does sound like it comes at you at a fast pace and it can, but it also has those little lulls in between and like little breathing moments, so to speak. And you can really take it all in and, you know, it’s worth it in the end. I think it is really worth it in the end. It’s very, not only enjoyable, like it’s fun and it’s challenging all at the same time, but there’s huge amounts of value in it, I think not only for yourself, but for the numerous different clients that you’ll be able to work with in the end.
Mike Hrycyk (19:56):
Same question for you, Nick.
Nicholas Grant (19:58):
For advice. I’d say biggest thing is don’t be scared of it. If you’re thinking of taking the program is designed for success. Anyone who takes the program that I’ve seen can come out successful if they’re coming with the right attitude and, you know, barring some life altering event that requires you to, you know, step back from it. But it’s, it’s just, don’t overthink it and just be willing to show up and learn. And the program is designed to turn anyone into a successful software tester, in my view.
Mike Hrycyk (20:26):
Awesome. Alright. To wrap up how that you’ve done all this training, you’re a tester. Just tell us where you think you’ll be in five years and we’ll start with you Nick.
Nicholas Grant (20:36):
I don’t know. I’d like to be like a test lead and a scrum master. I think just sort of helping people get through, sort through their blockers and what’s stopping them, trying to connect people with resources that they need to be connected with to do their jobs.
Mike Hrycyk (20:50):
Cool. Same question for you, Michael.
Michael Jamieson (20:52):
I’ve actually thought about this seeing how there’s still numerous opportunities within the company. PLATO itself, I could see myself being – well, my past experience through my whole grown adult life I seem to take on different jobs that I’ve had and experiences and make myself very adaptable and useful for that particular company wherever I’m at. And with PLATO, I see so much opportunity where not only can I be like a test team lead or an office manager or whatnot, I could also, you know, maybe even take a little bit of the Subject Matter Expert [SME] road and, and jump into a course maybe down the road and help facilitate and reach, on student level, and kind of bring a different aspect in that regard as well.
Mike Hrycyk (21:43):
Well, thanks everyone for participating in our talks today, both the most recent set with Nicholas and Michael and also with John and Dani before. I think that it’s provided a very good perspective and insight into what the program PLATO Testing is all about, what our goals are. We would be happy to continue the conversation or answer any questions with anyone who is interested and you can reach out to us through the avenues where you get your podcast from. Same thing if you have topics that you’re interested in for future podcast topics reach out the same way and we’ll see what we can do to make that happen for you. So thank you everyone and have a great day.