Katja Obring; The Avid Reader.

Katja Obring; The Avid Reader.

Katja Obring is one of our amazing speakers for #Q4Q2019 conference, we had a small Q&A session with her, read all about it here.

Thanks for indulging us Katja, help us and our amazing delegates e-meet you. Tell us about ‘you’, how your software testing journey started;

“My way into software testing was not straightforward. Before joining the high tech world, I worked as a chef to pay the bills, and with an independent theater production as director’s assistant.

When I realized that this prevented me from ever socializing outside of work, I started looking for work with slightly less insane hours, and found an opportunity in the virtual world of Second Life, which was just before they started to make headlines. There I started as a customer support representative, before making the move into QA.

When I’m not staring at a computer I probably do something fibre related, like knitting or spinning yarn or weaving or sewing, and I volunteer as treasurer for my local Weavers, Spinners and Dyers guild.

The one thing that’s been constant in my life though has been reading, and I devour fiction (generally crime or urban fantasy) just as well as books and audio books on Philosophy, Sociology, Economy, Psychology and Psychiatry. I used to hate listening to books, but now I have a long commute and it’s a perfect start to the day to listen to something interesting while knitting a shawl or a jumper – living in the north of England one can never have too many of those!

A year ago I found myself in a difficult spot, despite the fact that I genuinely love what I do I worked in an environment that didn’t hold the same values I do, and it got pretty depressing. One day I handed in my resignation and took a couple of weeks to ponder my options. Eventually, I ended up on the phone having the first genuinely enjoyable phone screening of my career, and after that one thing led to another and now I’m working for a great company with a culture I can get behind, and with colleagues who are smart, driven and kind.

It’s not been all milk and honey, of course – I knew nothing about the work as a consultant when I joined, and that was a learning curve. A bit of trivia on the side – when people describe difficult learning as a “steep learning curve” they’re getting it wrong – a steep learning curve is what you want, because it means you’re getting to your goal quickly, a flat learning curve however visualizes no or very little progress in your learning.

I’ve also had to quickly brush up on my coding skills – we do work in a very devops-y way, and that means the vast majority of our testing is automated to free up mind space for thinking about what we really need to test, and what we want to achieve with our testing.

Of course my expertise in HOW to test things is still valuable, and I’m involved with defining process and improving delivery execution.

I’m keen to continue building my coding chops, and I really enjoy thinking about testing entire systems as opposed to just one bit of functionality. And of course this leads straight into AI and applications around that. As a company, we already work in that field in a few areas, mostly big data, and that’s something I want to learn more about.

Infinity Works is a company with a very flat hierarchy, where I’d like to continue to be involved in driving the D&I work that’s been going on over the last year, as that’s a topic near and dear to my heart.

The talk I’ll present at Q4Q is about how to frame your thinking in a way that negative events are not catastrophic, but become opportunities to improve and grow, and apply that to testing. 
It was inspired by a book I read, and this idea that we’re doing risk assessment wrong by trying to figure out what the negative event will be and fortifying against it. It really grabbed my imagination. As a tester, risk assessment is part of my daily life, and making decisions what to test, how to test and how deep to go are a huge part of what I do on a day to day basis. So reading that I’d got it all wrong (or had I?) was interesting and inspiring.

I believe AI is going to change our lives in ways we don’t anticipate yet, and it’s clearly the most exciting thing happening in software development at the moment. And while there are quite a few applications popping up utilizing AI to help testing, I have heard very little about TESTING the AI itself. There are some obvious challenges around that – how do you test something when expected results by the very nature of the application will be fluent? – and some not so obvious challenges, like how do make sure compassion and respect for diverse users is built into your application?

I am really looking forward to hearing thoughts around that, and have conversations with other professionals asking these questions!

I don’t really spend much time on social media, so most of my inspiration comes from podcasts and books.

Some of the podcasts I enjoy are The good life project, Revisionist History, 99% Invisible and Freakonomics. If you’re into the more gruesome stuff, Dr. Death and Dirty John are great, and I’ve just finished The Man in The Window which is really more about a societal issue than a serial rapist and killer.

Some of the books I’ve found thought provoking recently are (of course!) Anti-Fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, the works of Kahnemann and Dan Ariely.

Current reading is Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, and commute listen is White Fragility by Robin Diangelo.

I am on LinkedIn, and do have a Twitter account at @kokori, but truth be told I’m not great on social media. Starting a professional blog has been on my list for a while now, but shockingly my days refuse to grow more than 24 hours!

Infinity Works, the company I work for has a blog at – where we blog about engineering stuff but also some of the D&I, culture and events we work on.

Testing in the AI sphere is something I haven’t heard much about yet, and I’m really looking forward to hearing about how other professionals approach this.”