What it's really like to be a QA engineer at Uptake

Andreas Rekdal

Working for one of Chicago’s fastest-growing startups comes with a lot of perks, but for Catherine Phee, one of them stands out above the rest.

“I love breaking applications, which is my day-to-day job here,” she said. “And the people around me are very talented and humble.”

As a QA manager, Phee is responsible for ensuring that Uptake’s new products and features work as planned, and that companies can trust the insights they’re garnering from its platform. We spoke with her about what that role entails, what makes Uptake’s QA team different from other teams she has worked for in the past and what it’s been like to go from 100 to 800 employees in just over two years.

What is Uptake?

Uptake is building a monitoring platform that helps big industries leverage and understand their data, as well as what they can do with it. For example, we’ve worked with rail companies as well as with Caterpillar and Berkshire Hathaway to understand when a piece of machinery or a train is at risk of breaking down, and when to perform maintenance in order to avoid failures.

What is your role there?

I work with the teams delivering new products and features to our customers. My job is to ensure that we deliver new features very quickly while at the same time ensuring that the code we push every day is of high quality, and that new features don’t disrupt our current products.

In many companies I worked for before, the quality department was not included in the development process. At Uptake, because safety is our number one goal, discussions about quality and about how to test a product happen very early on.

How did you end up applying for a job at Uptake?

A former coworker of mine joined Uptake about two and a half years ago. They sold me on the idea of building a safety monitoring platform for rail because I love to travel.

What is the most interesting technological challenge your team is working on?

Keeping up with the different technologies we work on and reducing manual testing efforts in favor of automation. The more we automate, the more quickly we can give feedback to our developers. And each month, a new tool will pop up, at which point we always evaluate whether it’s a good tool for our team.

You’ve seen the company grow quite a bit. What’s that been like?

It’s been a rollercoaster. When I joined, there were less than 100 people here. Now we’re at about 800. New people are coming every two weeks, and they always bring new eyes on a project, which we love.

How would you describe your team’s culture?

We’re very open, and very diverse. In terms of skillsets, we have manual testers, automation testers and performance experts. There’s also a lot of women at Uptake, and it’s been really great to see the company pushing for that. We are also pretty direct with each other, providing a lot of critical feedback and taking it from there.

What do you look for when you hire for your team?

What we look for is people who have a passion for developing great products for the end user, not only for themselves. We also want people who can communicate across different teams, and who are open to feedback. And positivity, because work is fun here.


Image via Uptake. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

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