Vineet Wadhwa is a Quality Assurance Engineer at Evernote, leading the QA efforts for our desktop platforms: Mac, Windows, and Windows 8. He’s been busy lately, as the developer teams are preparing for the release of a major update to the Mac app of Evernote as well as the first Windows 8 product. Here’s how he manages.
How do you manage QA here at Evernote?
Evernote now supports 10+ different platforms, and we have a total of 8 different applications. Even when we’re not looking at a major update or new release, we ship out a new beta about once a week. It takes a team effort to ensure that each product is working as expected on each platform.
We go to great lengths to ensure that our users can access and edit the their notes with a consistent experience, on whatever platform they happen to be using at the time. In other words, coordination is a big part of the job. With a growing QA team here in Redwood City, the QA leads for each product or platform make an effort to all meet regularly to keep each other up to date, and demonstrate the new updates to the products they are responsible for.
We also have two offshore QA teams, in China & Vietnam. They perform testing on a daily basis using our internal builds. It has been tremendously beneficial to have the assistance of these teams and to have full test coverage for our latest builds across a variety of different operating systems. Testing is done around the clock.
I coordinate the daily tasks for these teams. I provide the scenarios to be covered in testing, give demonstrations and answer questions, provide general guidance on our release priorities, and structure how the testing time should be divided for that day. Every morning, I review the results of the offshore testing, go over any bugs that have been filed, and verify that our test plans are accurate and up to date.
For Windows and Mac, on average we have a beta release almost every week, which is distributed via the Evernote User Forums. I am still astonished at the level and quality of feedback that so many of our loyal users provide on the forums. I’ve never heard of a product or worked for a company that has such a technically savvy community of users dedicated to helping fellow users make the best use of Evernote.
What are the big challenges?
It’s hard to hire people with good backgrounds in Windows. With QA, we want people who have experience with the Windows versions over the years. It’s also hard to find people who have leadership experience working with remote teams.
Culturally, it’s hard to find someone who can move as fast as we do here, with the beta releases every week. Before I worked here, I was used to releasing a beta about every six months.
What’s the craziest bug you’ve found?
I vividly remember the day earlier this year when I walked up to our lead Windows developer, and said “Pete, I’ve got to show you what might be the craziest bug I’ve ever seen.”
I should preface this story by saying that this was a beta release and only a total of two users were affected by this crazy bug, one of whom was a fellow Evernote employee. Basically what had happened was that there was a conflict between Evernote and a graphics driver on a specific model of the IBM Thinkpad. It was so severe that when the user searched for text within a note, and clicked on another note, their entire screen would start flickering on and off. It would eventually turn to a black screen and the only way to proceed was to manually power the laptop on and off.
At a glance, this seemed more like a hardware defect or a virus, rather than a compatibility issue with the graphics card adapter. But within a day, our development team had implemented a fix, which we then immediately sent to that user who was affected.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
I get a feeling of satisfaction when it comes time for me to sign off on a public release, knowing that this build has been thoroughly tested by all three of our QA teams located all across the world. I can have the confidence that what we are shipping provides a stable experience for our users, and preserves all of their personal data during the software upgrade process.
I also enjoy collaborating with project management and development teams that are so passionate about the work they are doing. Being in an environment of people who all genuinely love the product they are helping to create is very satisfying.
People like to help and mentor each other out here. I think that’s very specific to the culture of Silicon Valley.
So I love working here. The people are really cool and smart. I love the products we are creating, and the mentality behind the company — the philosophy of creating software for ourselves.
What’s your background? Who’s your biggest mentor?
I did three and a half years studying I.T., and pretty much two months before graduation, I shifted. I ended up completing my bachelor’s in psychology, and some time after returning to the I.T. industry, I decided to finish a master’s in psychology as well. Years later, I started on a Ph.D. in organizational leadership, but when I joined Evernote I dropped it. There was no time for both.
My mentor is my dad, Vivek Wadhwa. He’s very involved in the startup world, and mentoring people. He transitioned from startups to education and research. He recently joined the Singularity University. He’s involved in so many things I don’t keep up any more.
What’s your favorite Evernote feature?
I’m a huge fan of our Web clippers. I used to manually store my web clippings and URLs all over the place, and never had a system to keep this organized. Our web clippers (in the Evernote clients and in the browser plug-in Clearly) can clip part or all of a webpage. Recently we’ve added support for automatically suggesting tags or notebooks to be added to a clip, which makes it extremely easy and fast to save for later.
How do you use Evernote?
I rely on Evernote for a lot: taking meeting notes, editing my daily to-do list, storing receipts and email confirmations, clipping web pages, and probably a dozen other uses as well. Since I started using Evernote, I’d estimate that I’ve eliminated 90% of the paperwork that I used to keep stored at home in my filing cabinets. Everything is scanned and digitized now, and available in Evernote, fully OCR’d. I love being able to take a picture of business card or advertisement on the go, and be able to later pull this up just by entering a few characters of text.
Vineet was interviewed and photographed by Rafe Needleman, author of Evernote’s Opportunity Notes blog.