Quality Week 2019
Every year, we gather everyone who works in Quality Engineering positions across Unity for a week of learning, sharing and socializing. This January, 110 QA folks from our offices around the world flew to sunny Sweden and huddled up at a nice snow-covered beach hotel. The theme of this internal mini conference was “Our Quality Mission at Unity”. Read on to find what we mean by “quality”, and what we learned during that week.
For the first presentation on Monday, VP Quality Thomas Petersen talked about the nature of quality taking inspiration from both 3-star Michelin kitchens, mechanical precision watchmaking, and astronomy equipment. It ultimately led back to the mission statement for Unity QA: Provide expertise and implementation support, for all aspects of quality, that results in increased organizational knowhow and increasingly higher quality product. A bit of a mouthful but if you unpack it this single sentence contains everything that we aspire to in our QA work:
- “Provide expertise” is about being an expert. Both in terms of craft, product and subject matter knowledge.
- “Implementation support” is about supporting development through the actions of both self and others. Accelerating the achievement of shippable quality to quote our own Alan Page.
- “All aspects of quality” is about considering all dimensions of quality, not just functional correctness. It includes, but isn’t limited to, fit for purpose and non-functional aspects like performance, maintainability, and usability.
- “Increased organizational knowhow” is about making the organization smarter. Being a force multiplier for the people around you.
“Increasingly higher quality product” should be self-explanatory. But it’s also about building feedback loops into our process. Seeking out new knowledge and learning from mistakes.
Following Thomas’ opening keynote was Alan Page’s presentation on Leading a Quality Culture. In order to consistently deliver a quality product, a quality culture is key. It’s about broadening the scope of our efforts beyond testing the individual features we’re developing and looking at the process and context in which it is made. As QA, we do not own quality. But we should be drivers of a quality culture. Alan has identified eight attributes of a quality culture:
- Testing Breadth
- Quality and Test Ownership
- Technical Debt and Maintenance
- Code Quality and Tools
- Customer Data Analysis
- Development Approach
- Learning & Improvement
- Leadership Emphasis
This topic is worthy of a blog post of its own, but if you’re interested you can also check out this episode of the A/B Testing Podcast where Alan elaborates on the attributes with his co-host Brent Jensen. But the point is that sustained delivery of quality requires a certain level of maturity in all these eight categories.
During the quality week, we had three concurrent tracks on most days. Among the topics were technical deep dives like an HDRP workshop, a Unity Editor Test Framework workshop and a presentation on the new Memory Profiler that was shipped in 2018.3. But there were also more general purpose QA topics like Finding Allies in Testing, a Motivation and Impact on Others workshop, and a Kanban board-game workshop.
We had three sessions throughout the week where people could come up and give a 10-minute lightning talk on a topic of their own choosing. Something cool and/or useful for others.
We were also fortunate to have guest speakers from other parts of the Unity organization. Ciaran O’Connor from Enterprise Support gave an entertaining account of the life a Developer Relations Manager.
Peter Andreasen from our Sample Game team (makers of FPS Sample) gave a historic account of working with QA and game engines. We had Carlos Rincon from Release Management do a workshop on how to get a feature into a release and we had Chris Pacey from Sustained Engineering give a presentation on what they do.
One of the most successful sessions was actually an improvised Q&A session about the Package Manager. One of the things that getting everyone together in one place allowed us to do.
Customer Day: Tough love
Wednesday was “Customer Day” – by most participant’s account the highlight of the week. We had invited six Enterprise Customers to give talks: Adam Kapos (Yousician), Alexander Siemer-Schmetzke (Innogames), Daniel Doubleday (Wooga), Srđa Štetić Kozić and Aleksandar Tešić (Nordeus), Ricky Taylor and Tim Page (Well Played Games) and Basil Fierz (VirtaMed). At the end of the day, each customer did a workshop where we could ask questions about their projects and project setup.
While all of them made a point of mentioning that they liked Unity, this was definitely some tough love. Hearing about their pain points was, well, painful. But at the same time, it was very enlightening. We’re already well aware of upgrading issues, problems with Asset Bundles, UI, Profiling, working with large teams, crashes … But one of the things that were an eye-opener for many of us was the fact that Unity needs to not just work, it needs to fit into the automation frameworks and build pipelines of all the teams that use the editor. We also took note of the fact that the lifespan of even a small mobile game with an online component can be three, five or even up to ten years.
Fortunately, a lot of the feedback was actionable. There was a certain satisfaction in letting the participating users know that a lot of the pain points were actually addressed in upcoming releases. In some ways, this felt like a micro-Unite. More than once while a customer would describe a problem, another would put their hand up and say that they had actually solved that problem.
We owe a huge thank you to all the customers who participated.
We learned a lot from both customer presentations and internal session, but even more from talking to colleagues between sessions and in the evenings. Perhaps the most valuable benefit of a week like this is the connections it creates between people. Especially in a company like Unity with offices all across the globe. It was an opportunity to hang out, socialize, play games and have fun with people you only know from their Slack profile picture and video conferencing.
Are you passionate about quality? Join us! You can see more than a hundred open positions at careers.unity.com.