5 things I learned working in QA Relations

For the last two months, I have been working as interim QA Relations at Mailinator. It isn’t often in our careers that we’re able to have a risk free go at trying something new. But wanting a bit of a gap from leaving my full time testing role to starting my next one, this opportunity was one I had to grasp.

Would I like to do QA/Dev Rel type stuff in future? Was it what I expected it to be? Would I recommend it to others? Read on to find out my honest opinions…

What did QA Rel look like?

Despite being almost 20 years old, Mailinator had never had a QA Rel before. Therefore, this was a great opportunity to evolve and learn from each other as we went along. Alongside weekly meetings with both the wider company and individual 1:1’s with the CEO, I was given a lot of free reign and some loose guidance along the following lines:-

  • Get access to social logins and regularly post interesting stuff
  • Learn more about the product itself
  • Write a blog post or two for the site
  • Give your professional insight as a tester on how to improve the service

Having a team that were enthusiastic and super keen to hear the views of a tester (their key customer) gave me confidence to give my opinion on a lot more areas than I first thought I would. The following things give a flavour of the key activities I got involved in:-

Social Media Stuff

What I did

  • Tweeted and Posted on LinkedIn and Twitter most days of the week
  • Polled users to find out what freebies they prefer
  • Created 6 tutorial video’s for an Essential Guide blog post
  • Penned 4 further blog posts
  • Learned how to use Yoast to improve a posts Readability and SEO scoring
screenshot of Mailinators blog page – all blogs shown were penned by myself

What I learned

Creating a blog for a company is a different ballgame to creating one for yourself. I thought this would be the easiest part of the role, but it was one of the hardest. I learned to give myself plenty of time both to write the initial draft of the blog, improve the copy using the plugin Yoast to get good SEO, accessibility and readability scores. I also took the extra time to insist on getting all posts reviewed by the team. The feedback definitely helped make the blogs better quality and avoid a few clangers!

Also – people really do not like to follow companies on Twitter and LinkedIn. I found it much harder to get “engagement” through the Mailinator account than when I posted as myself.

Testing Stuff

What I did

  • Created a Trello board of new bugs, customer insight and recommendations

This wasn’t part of the brief, but it is actually impossible to spot something that could be better and not feel compelled to be a part of making that happen. My Trello board was shared with the team, and included a lot of annotated screenshots (I use Techsmith’s Snagit – a paid tool but worth every penny).

What I learned

Not everybody loves Trello! There were a few bugs that made their way through the system and were reported by users that I had on the Trello board beforehand. I guess the lesson there is to find better ways to highlight important bugs and find a way to communicate that works for the whole team.

Reviewing Existing, Revealing New Features

What I did

  • Created Mailinator’s first public API in Postman, including a “run in Postman” button to easily get up and running.
Tweet from Kin Lane, API Evangelist, praising the Postman Mailinator Public API Workspace
  • Gave insight and feedback on a new pricing strategy and other features
  • Completed a competitor analysis
  • Created a document identifying 10 ways the company could improve that I debriefed with the CEO

What I learned

This was mostly stuff I hadn’t done before, so trying out new things and getting positive feedback was really rewarding. Sometimes its worth pushing yourself – as long as you’re not BS-ing about your experience beforehand, everything is a learning curve!

Also, at my leaving meeting the lovely CEO Paul said that having someone on board the team that was so enthusiastic about the product being a sounding board for new features meant that there was stuff now baked in to Mailinator that otherwise wouldn’t have been. That’s something I didn’t see coming, but a nice impact.

Also, I love Postman. Tell me something I don’t know. 😉

Working with 3rd Parties

What I did

  • Lined up guest bloggers to continue to provide content in the coming months
  • Coffee with Simon Tomes, community boss at MoT, to talk all things community and ask advice
  • Asked the community for a recommendation and brought on an amazing Tech Writer to improve documentation
  • Liaised with Ministry of Testing Marketing, Sales and Community peeps to understand how they could help Mailinator to improve their interactions with the testing community
  • Arranged for Mailinator to Sponsor a MoT event
  • Liaised with the community and Postman DevRel Sean to further improve the public API collection
  • Worked with the lovely Himanshu at cloud based cross browser testing provider Lambdatest on exploring a possible integration. This involved investigating Lambdatest’s capabilities, asking others in the community what they thought of Lambdatest, and doing a proof of concept to understand how any integration would work. Have to say I was pleasantly surprised by what this platform could do and how positive others were about it – so much so that I used it to do a tech test when applying for a new role.

What I learned

I learned that speaking to other people and forming genuine and positive relationships can be done, and was much easier for me than I thought it would be. (trumpet well and truly blown there Beth!)
I made sure at the start of the assignment with Mailinator that QA Rel was not going to be another word for Sales – an area which I’d be terrible at and which they 100% agreed with – and I definitely think that is an important principle to stick to.

At least 2 of the above 3rd parties have reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in doing further work for their organisation, so this feels like something I did a pretty good job at.

Metrics

What did I do?

Getting before and after data on our social media activity wasn’t part of the role, but I felt like it should be. If for no other reason than to measure my own success.

  • Increased number of Twitter Followers by 112%
  • Increased number of LinkedIn Followers by 554%
  • Increased visitor metrics to Linkedin page by up to 850% (average 200%)

We aren’t talking about huge numbers here – for example we crossed the 1000% followers mark on Twitter a few days before I left. But given Mailinator had been on Twitter for 12 years, I think this was a pretty good milestone!

tweet showing Mailinator congratulating our 1000th follower

What did I learn?

I learned that all of this stuff isn’t really about numbers. I’d sooner have one meaningful conversation with someone than 100 likes to a post. But, over time, they do give trends and they do tell a story. Focus on the macro side of things.

Would you recommend QA/Dev Rel?

In much the same way that since home schooling last year has made me appreciate the teaching profession in a whole new light, I now feel the same way about Developer / QA Relations.

Dipping my toe into this stuff for, lets face it, a very short amount of time, has really made me realise what bloody hard work this stuff is! There is a world of difference between doing this stuff for yourself, and being paid to do it for someone else. It takes a lot more energy than you’d think, even for small stuff like writing a tweet in just the right way.

I think I enjoy talking about products, tools and companies that I genuinely am already passionate about – and Mailinator 100% fitted that category. This made things so much easier, because I didn’t have to fake authenticity.

Would I recommend it? I think perhaps as a side hustle its a fun thing to do. And I’ve met some mega people that I’ll definitely be staying in touch with and hopefully will help out in future. I hope for myself and other testers, I have done a good job at persuading the Mailinator team of the importance of decent swag. But it absolutely made me realise that I missed testing too much, and after working in QA for 15 years, that’s definitely where I want to be. I’m so lucky I had the chance to try this out, and am so grateful to the incredible team at Mailinator for helping make it such a blast.

I start my next adventure tomorrow, with Ada Health, as a Senior Quality Engineer.

LinkedIn Post announcing I am starting a new position

I’m all about the stories, so if you’re reading this because this type of thing is something you’re considering, please get in touch via the contact form or LinkedIn and tell me your tale!

I’m now going to publish this post with no review, second opinion or Yoast. So its back to mediocre blog posts I’m afraid folks, but I think for me, that’s exactly how I like it 😉.

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