Welcome to the fifth instalment of Meet Your Maker Q&A! Meet Your Maker is a series of behind-the-scenes videos and blogs that illustrate the wide range of in-house skillsets used to design and manufacture our market-leading broadcast technology whilst exploring the amazing people behind Calrec.

This week we had the pleasure of speaking with Calrec’s Senior Product Test Engineer, Maria Mitchell about her role, Calrec’s robust product testing procedures and how the in-house team are able to quickly adapt to changing environments and industry needs.

1. What is your role with Calrec and what does it entail?

I’m a Senior Product Test Engineer, which involves helping to coordinate the product test team by planning strategies for testing all aspects and features of a new software release. I also take part in the day-to-day testing and keep in close contact with other departments to maintain good communication and provide feedback and information to all the people involved in a project.

2. What does the Product Test department do, and why is it important?

We work closely with Calrec’s many software developers to test drive features and updates for existing Calrec consoles, or new consoles and products that are not yet released. It’s our job to catch any potential issues early on and report them back to developers so that our software is of the highest quality before it goes out to our customers.

It’s one of the benefits of having multiple teams working in tandem under the same roof – customers can trust the reliability of the product and it lives up to their expectations. We always view the software from a user’s perspective and give suggestions and feedback to the Product Management team so that we can continue to make our products more user friendly.

3. How many people are on the team? How important is it to talk to other teams in the organisation?

Currently there are five full-time product test engineers. Every year we also take on two placement students from universities, who by the end of their time with us are fully integrated into the team. Often, they come back to work for Calrec when they graduate!

Communication is essential to every project and we keep in close contact with product managers to ensure features are working as they’ve specified. Working alongside the developers helps them to understand any issues that arise, and we can also learn from them about methods to dig deeper into the software to assist with bug reporting.

4. What are the biggest challenges when testing new software?

In the very early stages of development, the software often isn’t in a fully functional state, or it may be missing certain aspects, so we have to use some initiative and problem-solving skills to make sure the major problems are identified and reported. We often assist developers in their investigations into bugs, so it’s important to know how best to gather the information they need.

We also use automated testing to help us to quickly run through a set series of tests that can feed back issues to developers before any software changes make it into an official build. This helps to get the software to a higher standard much more efficiently than if we were to manually run through all our test scripts after a build is complete.

5. What are the challenges of working with multiple software revisions?

It’s vital to make sure that if we upgrade a console from an older version to a newer version, the existing features are not unintentionally affected or broken by any changes made in the new software. We take great care to thoroughly test console upgrades in-house before software goes out the door so we can catch potential problems in the upgrade procedure.

6. How does the wider broadcast environment influence development?

It influences development in every way! As a company, we listen to feedback from customers about how they use our features and take into consideration requests that they might have for new features.

These are usually passed on to us from Product Managers and it gives us, as testers, a better idea of what areas are most important to our customers in their day-to-day use of our consoles. Broadcast is a fast-moving industry and it’s important to be flexible; one of the benefits of our teams working so closely with each other in the one location is that we can quickly adapt to changing environments.

7. How has the rise of IP affected how you work? What have you done to help ensure Calrec is across wider IP developments?

It has affected how we work a great deal; as a team, we’ve had to make sure we keep up with the changing technology and we have our own in-house IP specialist who provides support and consultancy for the design, development and delivery of Calrec’s IP-based networking solutions, as well as delivering training. We make sure we are active in webinars, and we have a programme of online training courses to ensure we keep up with changes in the industry.

While we still use Hydra2 for networking our existing consoles, when we are testing Calrec’s IP-based consoles, such as Type R, we’ve had to update our usual methods for areas like discoverability and reliability. We’ve had to adapt and update our testing strategies to cover a whole range of new software features that are completely based around using AoIP, such as Calrec Connect.

Missed our previous Meet Your Maker Q&As?

Take a look at the following:

First Instalment of Meet Your Maker with Gareth Frimston, Product Manager
Second Instalment of Meet Your Maker with Darren Silcock, Lead Customer Support Engineer
Third Instalment of Meet Your Maker with Sally Baines, Production Manager
Fourth Instalment of Meet Your Maker with Andrew Munt, Software Manager

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