Leaders in Tech: Varadaraj Narayanan

Welcome to the next feature of our Leaders in Tech editorial series. Speaking to leaders in the industry to capture their stories, career highs and lows, their trials and successes, their current company and their role, most recent projects, advice to others, and the individuals who they most look up to in the industry.

Today, we talked to Varadaraj Narayanan, P3 Delivery Office Consultant, to find out more about why he joined the tech industry, what his role entails, what are the challenges he faces, and his advice to aspiring engineers and testers.

 

First of all, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your current role?

I am a seeker, who likes to investigate deeper meanings – that includes things in our day-to-day life, software, and spiritual aspects of our existence. I was born and grew up in a Southern Indian family that values quality in every aspect of life.

Currently, I am on a career break, focusing on personal business.

Can you tell me about your journey and how did you get where you are now?

I was introduced to Computers when I was in grade 10 at school, and since then, my passion for computers has been growing. I noticed the IBM logo on the billboards in Wimbledon Tennis matches while watching my favorite tennis stars on TV. I actually wanted to become a Civil Servant in Indian Administrative Services, but I decided to make a career in IT which was booming and thriving, offering more income than a Government job would. I acquired an Advanced Diploma in Computer Engineering, whilst pursuing a Bachelor of Science specializing in Physics & Applied Electronics. To supplement it with a management degree, I got my MBA degree specializing in Information Systems in 2000.

I started off my career as a Trainee-Tester in one of the better-known Software Companies in India at that time, with little knowledge of what Software Testing was all about. I instantly fell in love with the profession, where my inherent ability and fascination to investigate new perspectives for better quality met the requirement of the job. I got certified as a Software Tester by Quality Assurance Institute. I got my first international assignment from one of the Engineering companies in Perth, Australia – to test their Automated Fare Collection systems. This is when great things happened – personally and professionally.

I settled down in wedlock, we got our first child, learned new nuances of testing, led a team of testers, interacted directly with the customers, tested and found many interesting bugs. We introduced A-TDD in our projects, way back in 2004-05, in a way we were pioneers of this technique! (At that time, we did not know it would be called A-TDD). Our approach gave immense confidence in the customers as well as the development teams. After that, I had many assignments internationally – in Canada, USA, Switzerland, and in the United Kingdom of Great Britain – testing various applications in various sectors like Banking, Insurance, and Catalogue Retail, in small to very large Programs, handling small to large test teams, recruiting, mentoring them, and delivering results.

What inspired you to get involved in the IT industry?

Honestly, money – big bucks. Bucks for bugs! But also the opportunity to work with bright minds of the Tech industry, testing robust applications, seeing end-to-end workflows of business functions, being in charge as a Quality gatekeeper.

What is your expertise?

Defect analysis, prevention, ability to see the overall objectives of business requirements, coverage, estimating the effort, planning, executing the plan, commitment, communicating, and delivering real results. I value life, which is time – mine and others. So far, I have come across very few, who manage time as efficiently as I.

I have the ability to conceptualize, visualize the end-to-end picture. I am highly disciplined and super organized. I do not start anything without planning. So, my plans are detailed.

Do you have a favorite part of your job?

I enjoy leading by example, rather, leading by participation – so, I love to be with my team. I love to write meaningful test plans, status reports that communicate real results. I like to raise a performing team, mentor them, and make them enjoy testing too.

What is a typical day for you?

It changes from time to time, especially, my work routine. Personally, I am an early riser. I do all my personal routine very early morning when everyone is sound asleep. I practice Yoga. I organize things and work on the high-priority ones early, and follow a routine for the day. Meetings, teleconferences, commuting, end-of-day routines, everything goes per plan.

What are the challenges you faced during your career?

Many – to be honest. To start with, I started off with no knowledge of testing. Professional ethics and Business requirements most often do not go well together in this field. I felt that pain from my Business managers, whilst standing by my Professional ethics. To date, I do not compromise on my Professional ethics and many Business managers do not like that.

What are you the proudest of in your career so far?

When the Customers appreciated our A-TDD idea; when delivering the dying projects; when the team looks up at me as their well-wisher, inspiration, then their manager; when the projects are delivered on time – as planned. When my wisdom helped in business proposals – winning ones, as well as losing ones.

What have you learned from your experience so far?

Humility. The world is large, and opinions or perspectives are too many. Software has shelf-life, but our experience working with human beings does not. Hence, burning bridges because of being a very upright stickler to business ethics is not really required. There is a lot of dishonesty, politics in the corporate world. It is wise to be prudent in handling big egos than to feel sorry for being heartbroken later on. Nobody is indispensable. We earn to live and we do not live to earn, so, have a clear balance between professional-personal lives.

Do you have any advice for aspiring testers and engineers?

Do not limit to testing only. Build interests in allied disciplines – like coding, design, etc. If possible, have an interest in a second career too. Try to know the bigger picture – within the organization and in the world. Crookedness never helped any.

Finally, do you have a memorable story or anecdote from your experience you would like to share with us?

“Quality is tantamount to Product branding, and Testers can make or break that reputation”

“To err is human, to blame it on a machine – is even more so!”

“Given a chance, anything can fail – is Murphy’s Law. Tester’s job is to find out that chance!”

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”

“Do your best; Prepare for the worst; Leave the rest”

 

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