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Promoting Diversity in IT: Czechitas Digital Academy

Vojtech Barta< Vojtech Barta June 23, 2021

My name is Vojtech Barta, I have been in the area of software testing for 14 years, it is my work, my hobby, my passion.

I am fascinated by the fact, that it is still a kind of young discipline that evolves rapidly and we are still learning and improving. On the other hand, I am a bit frustrated, that testing is often misunderstood and we often forgot about the basics…and what is a better way to go back to basics than to teach about them? Even better, teach women outside IT about it. I strongly believe that diversity brings a lot of benefits and we all have to actively support it, otherwise, our craft will suffer. We need a new perspective, opinions, empathy, etc. And that is why I joined Czechitas as a lector. 

Czechitas is a non-profit organization made up of women and men who all share one common goal – to increase diversity in the world of IT and to fight for a higher level of digital proficiency among women and others in the new generation.

Test Academy

Digital Academy is the most advanced piece of Czechitas portfolio, but it still aims at beginners – women who do not work in IT but would love to go deep into the topic. There are different academies in Czechitas, but one is focused on my beloved Software testing, and that is where my story at Czechitas starts and it is a theme of this blog post.

I will start at the end. Spring Test Academy just ended a week ago and it was amazing. About 30 amazing women were eager to learn and grow. I think they succeeded. Do you want proof? Five of them found a job as software testers even during the academy. I believe many others will find jobs soon.

But not only they were learning. I also learned a lot. To be honest, the most I’ve learned in the last few years. 

Scope of the Academy

So back to Academy, and this time let’s start from the beginning. Digital Academy is an intensive three-month course. When I say intensive, I really mean it and I believe all our absolvents would confirm it, but just to give you an idea:

  • A lesson every Tuesday and Thursday 5:30 – 8:30 PM
  • A lesson every Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM
  • Self-studying and homework between these lessons
  • Carrier workshops focused on CV creation, interviews, social media etc. (usually once in 2 weeks)
  • Mentoring open hours with QAs/Testers from local companies sharing their experience – every Friday evening
  • Online tours around local IT companies
  • Many open lectures focused for example on Exploratory testing or Performance testing
  • 1-day test hackathon at the end
  • Quite a challenging test to pass

The typical profile of the student

  • Usually Full-time employee
  • Many of them are full-time moms

It was a challenge to design a course that would really cover the topic of software testing in three months with a goal to prepare students for a real job. I think we balanced theory and practical well including topics like

  • Agile software development principles
  • What is quality and why it has to be the whole team responsibility
  • Basics of testing and test disciplines
  • Basics of test automation
  • Tooling like Jira, Git, etc.
  • Bug reporting
  • Soft skills
  • And many others

Vendavo’s Footprint in the Academy

The beauty of a non-profit organization is that it connects all kinds of people united by the passion for their work when all are eager to share their knowledge and experience. We built a great lector team in Ostrava, five people who want to invest a huge share of their free time in something they strongly believe in. Two of us were from Vendavo: me and Robin Weiss.

Moreover, Jana Badurova was a member of a jury for Hackathon and it was a great use of our volunteer time that Vendavo supports.

As I said a few minutes ago, testing is often misunderstood and downgraded to monkey-like repetitive tasks of boring verification – not delivering too much value. Not this time. In the Vendavo QA team, we all share the belief that testing is much more, and that was the main message we wanted to share with everybody. Testing is not a role anymore, it an activity when the whole team is responsible for quality; our goal as software testers, or QA if you wish, is to be ambassadors of quality within our teams. We have to focus on defect prevention and prioritize it over bug hunting at the end. Simply to say, when a bug is already there, it is too late.  

COVID Times

How was it to do and Academy during COVID times? Harder. We would love to be in a real classroom with the students, it would be much easier, et cetera. The main downside of the online environment was the social aspect, and I admire all participants for not losing their motivation. But each coin has two sides, so there were also some benefits

  • We had students from all over the CZ, some of them were even joining from Great Britain, Canary Islands, and other places. 
  • Participants learned a lot about the virtual way of working (Zoom, Google Docs, and so on) and we all know these skills are more and more important.
  • All of the sessions were recorded so students had much more material to learn from.

Summary

What a ride it was. I was really surprised by how much students learned during these three months. Some of them are literally ready to start their career in IT, and I am pleased we were part of it and I am really proud of them and Czechitas. 

We are all looking forward to future cooperation between Vendavo and Czechitas.