Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Maciej Wojciechowski, QA Engineer

Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Maciej Wojciechowski, QA Engineer

Tyk’s users appreciate the emphasis we put on the quality of our service. We make our product shine so that their services can do the same.

But how do we embed such a high level of quality into every element of our business and our products? Well, that’s where our Tyklings come in. We recruit the brightest and best from the global talent pool, each of whom contributes to Tyk in a unique way.

When it comes to quality, that means people like Maciej Wojciechowski. Maciej spends his days intentionally trying to break Tyk. Here he shares his insights into everything from QA testing to the importance of remote working for family life.

What do you do at Tyk?

I’m a QA engineer, which means that I test our product before we release any new versions. My role is to ensure that we don’t have any critical or major bugs.

We agree as a whole team when we want to release something, with the QA process built into that deadline. One thing that we test is all the new features that we release – of which there are a lot! Some are requested by users, while others come from ideas within our team, which the developers then share with the users. The testing verifies that those features are working as expected.

The second – huge – part of the role is the regression testing. That’s where we make sure that everything that has been developed so far is still holding together and working fine. Regression testing is often a pain for QA engineers as it’s a pretty repetitive process, testing the same things again and again.

That’s why my team is seeking to automate as much of the regression testing as possible. We use various tools to automate the process. It can’t all be automated, but at least we’re getting rid of manual testing wherever we can. Automated testing is much faster, and you can run it multiple times, so it helps not just us as QAs but also the company as a whole.

How often does your testing cause you to send things back to the development team for further work?

It depends so much on what we’re testing! Features vary hugely. Some might be just a change on the frontend side, like a change of colour. That’s a very minor change and unlikely to be a big problem.

Some features are really complex. They can affect so many different areas of our product. When we want to develop something, the whole team sits together and we think about the change and what it’s impact on different areas will be. We try to foresee any problems that we might be creating. But some features are so heavy that they can impact many other areas and it’s possible that one tiny thing can escape our attention.

It does happen sometimes with very complex features that involve backend changes, frontend changes and lots of dependencies. In those cases, I might spot something. It’s not that the main feature isn’t working, but perhaps an edge case that nobody thought about.

It’s great that Tyk takes such an inclusive approach to development. Does that help to head off problems before they occur?

Yes, that’s something we try to do at Tyk globally now. The company is growing and we’re hiring more people, so we try to take best practices from the market, one of which is that QAs are involved very early in the development process – even before we have code. We just have an idea and we get together the UX team, developers and QAs and look at it from different angles. By doing it this way, we can catch some issues even before the developers start to write code.

Is there a particular pain point in the tech industry that you would like to fix?

When it comes to automation, there are lots of frameworks that you can use. Sometimes it’s difficult to select the best tools and frameworks for your situation. With many tools, it takes time to realise that they’re not the perfect fit. Or sometimes they are missing features you need. Then there are so many languages that you can use; tools can be written in Java, Javascript, Python… whatever language you can imagine!

This can be a big problem. Which tools should you use? Will they work well for you? I don’t think you can solve this issue though.

It’s good in one way, as everyone can choose from a wide selection but some of those tools can create headaches.

Where do you base yourself when working remotely?

I work from my home, which is Gdynia in Poland. I don’t travel much as my older son is in primary school. I didn’t chose remote working because I wanted to travel and work from different places – it was for family reasons. Previously I had a 40-minute commute to work, which was a terrible waste of time. It meant I wasn’t able to participate in my son’s school life, whenever they had a play or other activity at school. So I selected remote working in order to be closer to my family and to be able to spend more time with them.

From time to time I work from my parents’ place, as my wife and I live in a different city to our families. So we like to go to them for holidays, for vacation time and to work from there too.

Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to Tyk?

I come from a really small town – maybe 10,000 people or fewer, so there are no universities there. That meant I had to relocate after graduating from high school. I moved to a bigger city to study telecommunications at university and stayed on to get my master’s degree.

At that point, it turned out the city was too small to offer any decent roles, so I relocated again, this time to Warsaw, Poland’s capital. I got my first job there. It was a bit of a coincidence – I studied telecommunications and then got my first job in Telecorp as a QA tester. It wasn’t really planned but it turned out that I was so good at the role and enjoyed it so much that I’m still QA testing – and enjoying it – 15 years later.

After Telecorp I moved to an insurance company, then I spent five years in the banking sector, where I tested systems for trading options on forex markets. I stayed with testing throughout, albeit while changing business domains.

With QA testing, it’s really important to understand the business. So whenever you change from, say, insurance to banking, it’s a totally new domain where you have to learn so many different things. Even though the testing element is the same, there’s always something new to learn.

And now, in Tyk, I’m in a totally new domain again. I didn’t have any previous experience of API management.

What do you like about working at Tyk?

I like the freedom. Tyk is a totally different working culture to my past experiences. I don’t need to work during office hours. I don’t need to fill out any timesheets. I have absolute freedom over how I want to work and when I want to work.

Obviously, with this type of freedom comes responsibility. And that’s what Tyk is like – everybody trusts each other. We are a team. Everybody trusts that if you say you’re going to do something, you will do it because you don’t want to let your colleagues down.

This kind of freedom shocked me when I joined Tyk. Other companies, especially remote ones, impose so much control over everybody. I’ve heard of companies using cameras to record the time employees are spending in front of their computers. I just love how our managers respect us and give us this freedom. They trust us.

What are your tips for someone new to get the best out of working in a remote-first organisation?

You need to find your own schedule. There’s not a single ‘best’ way of working remotely. I believe everyone needs to find out how to organise their work in the way that is best for them.

For example, I work from and I know that children can be very disruptive at times. I have two sons and the youngest is three. It’s difficult to explain to him that I’m working. So it was important for me to find a room that I can lock myself away in. I have a pair of headphones that I can use when I need to focus. Then I can work undisturbed, without hearing all the noise in the house around me. That’s really important for engineers – that ability to focus and clear your mind. So when you work from home and have kids, try to find a place where nobody disturbs you.

I know that some people work from cafés. For me that would make it really difficult to focus, but the ‘right’ way of working remotely is different for everyone.

What is a mistake that you made early on in your career and what did you learn from it?

I think I’ve made lots of mistakes – I believe I still do!

It’s not a major mistake but in my first job I found it hard to estimate how long tasks would take. It’s a problem I struggle with even now. I always estimate based on delivering something as fast as possible, but that’s not always the best idea. My first boss told me that after you estimate how long something will take, double that estimate. There are so many unknown factors that will end up having an influence and you have to account for those. If you promise to do something in an hour, then don’t manage it, that’s much worse than if you were just upfront and said it would take two days to deliver.

I still try to deliver faster than I should. It’s a problem because if you try to work too fast, you open yourself up to making mistakes or missing something. It’s always better to be cool-headed and calm when it comes to estimations.

What are the values that drive you personally? What’s important to you?

I try to be an honest and open person. I think it’s so important to be honest. Everybody has better and worse days, so you don’t need to hide that. I try to treat my colleagues at Tyk as I do my family, being honest with them about everything.

I think that’s important because then you can have a good relationship with everybody, and you can trust each other. Even if I have problems at home, for example, I am just open with my manager about it. I can explain that I need some time off and he understands that. If you are open and honest, you have that kind of special relationship, even when your colleagues might be sitting half a world away.

All of the people that I work with at Tyk seem to share the same values and opinions. It’s beautiful.

What are your three favourite books and/or podcasts?

My first book is The Witcher by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Netflix recently created a movie based on it, so it’s become really popular. It’s fantastic. The author can really hit your imagination with his words. It’s my favourite; I’ve read it five or six times.

For work… Some time ago I bought some training from a guy called Kevin Lamping – a JavaScript framework course. He sends newsletters about testing and tools for automation that I read. I don’t have a favourite technical book because it depends what I need at the time. Some time ago, I was learning Python, so then I was reading Python books. Now it’s JavaScript. I don’t stick to one book – I reach for different ones based on my needs.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I’m a family man; I have two sons. The older one is very keen on Lego, so we have a room full of Lego bricks! He’s keen on natural catastrophes. So he’ll build buildings, take them to the bath and make a flood or something. The younger one is only three, so it’s still a case of keeping an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t eat something he shouldn’t!

I have a small garden, so I like to go and mow the lawn, clear leaves in the autumn or do some gardening. All the usual family stuff.

We live at the seaside, just 10 minutes’ walk from the coast. So almost every weekend we try to go to the beach. Especially during the summer time, obviously, but we also try to walk with the kids and enjoy the fresh air there during the autumn and winter.