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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

What It’s Really Like to Be a QA Software Engineer at Audible

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Ankita Thawani, a senior quality assurance manager at Audible.
| Courtesy of Audible

Name: Ankita Thawani
Title: Senior Quality Assurance Manager
How long she’s been at Audible: 3 years

Tell us about your career journey: How did you end up working as a software engineer?

I have always been passionate about software technologies and their implementations. After graduation, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work on different aspects of the software development life cycle from planning and designing to developing, testing, and deployment.

Over the course of my career, which has now spanned over a decade, I developed a keen interest—and became highly skilled—at quality assurance. At its core, QA challenges one to find loopholes in an implementation that not only require a much deeper and thorough understanding of a system as a whole, but also necessitate foresight and vision to be able to come up with a plethora of scenarios that a developer may have overlooked.

What attracted you to work at Audible? How did you know it would be a good fit?

Before I joined Audible, I was a customer and frequent listener. Specifically, I was always impressed by the quality and diversity of its products, as well as the truly remarkable growth of the company over the years. When I got the opportunity to interview with Audible, I was ecstatic. It was during my conversations with the various team members as part of the interview process that I became cognizant of the exceptional work being done at the company. My career goals as well as the technology in the works at Audible were very well aligned with the position I was offered, making it clear to me that this would be a great fit.

What are you responsible for as an engineer at your company?

QA is a comprehensive system development lifecycle experience. It includes, but is not limited to the following: Performing analysis of UX requirements, and developing test plans, test scenarios, and test cases to cover overall functionality of the system; performing automated testing of the Audible website and app, Audible on Amazon, and Audible Alexa; developing automation frameworks that enhance QA efficiency and robustness; and working closely with the development, business and product teams throughout feature and product launches.

What does a normal day in your job look like?

Audible has an agile working environment, and so at the beginning of a quarter, we come together as a team to set up goals for the following three months. A typical working day starts with scrum meetings, working closely with developers and product teams on upcoming launches. In addition, we spend a good chunk of time in automation of new test scenarios and ensuring that new features are not breaking any existing functionality during integration testing.

What are the primary technologies that you use for tooling and development?

At Audible, we use the most cutting-edge tools and technologies for our day-to-day work. A majority of these are designed and developed in-house. In QA, some of the technologies we use include Java, Selenium, and Test NG, among others.

How is the engineering team structured?

Our QA organization is global. We have teams in New Jersey, Boston, and India, to name a few. Our work flows are structured around the different platforms and surfaces that Audible can be used on. At a high level, we have three different teams in the QA organization that each specialize in a particular area: Audible desktop/mobile web and Audible expansion to new countries; Audible apps, which includes Android, iOS and Apple Watch; and Audible on Amazon, including the website, app, and Alexa.

What is the software development process at Audible?

Building software systems is a complex task that involves collaboration across the company. Audible does market research to identify the market opportunity before kicking off an initiative and coming up with the product requirements. Once we have a good understanding of product requirements, we move on to the design and implementation phase. In parallel, as a solid understanding of the solution is formed, QA starts writing a test strategy, a test plan, and test scenarios. Stakeholders sign-off on the test plan and scenarios before QA starts actual testing.

The next step is verification and validation, where QA makes sure that software meets the specification. During this phase, QA does regular bug triages with developers and product teams. At the end, QA provides sign-off, confirming that the feature or product is good to launch. After it is deployed, different teams monitor metrics to see if the feature is matching expectations and develop hypotheses for improvements.

What skills are essential to succeeding as an engineer at Audible?

There are a few skills that I believe really help in succeeding as a QAE at Audible, including a good understanding or background in computer science fundamentals and strong organizational skills, with a demonstrated ability to track multiple test executions simultaneously and synthesize results. It’s important to understand and analyze business requirements, and have experience in working with development and business teams to communicate problem impacts. You need to be able to thrive in an ambiguous environment where change is the only constant. And lastly, have a passion for software testing and quality.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

I am currently part of the Audible International Expansion team. Exposure to new products and constantly learning new things on this team excites and inspires me a lot. My zeal to learn new tools, technologies, and products always keeps me going. I believe learning should never stop. Given the level of competition and challenges businesses face nowadays, it becomes imperative to constantly reinvent yourself by accumulating all useful information that comes along the way.

What other teams or types of people do you interact with on a regular basis?

Since Audible is an agile working environment, we are always working on some features and product launches. Apart from my team, I work closely with developers, product-based teams, user experience design teams, and technical program managers to make sure we have successful launches. It is truly a collaborative culture where teams work cross functionally daily.

What do you value most about Audible's company culture? What sets it apart from other places you’ve worked?

In all my years of experience, I have found the Audible culture to be one of the most positive and professional. Its mission and values are well articulated and communicated around the organization and it’s lived by leaders and employees at every level. Transparency is key at Audible, and leaders are always visible and accessible. Work is always a priority, but they always manage to mix in fun ways for employees to mingle and get together for personal and professional development activities. Audible values work-life integration and allows the flexibility to make work work for you.

What advice do you have for engineers applying to jobs at your company?

Always look forward to learning new things, be patient, and have fun in the work. QAE at Audible is fun. We have a culture that fosters belonging and supports continuous learning. It’s a positive working environment and we’re always inspiring one another to evolve and contribute our full potential.