Interviews: Chris Davies
This is the eighteenth post in the 2016 FastMail Advent Calendar. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow.
Today, we're talking to Chris Davies, the QA engineer who helps keep FastMail the best and fastest email platform out there!
Name: Chris Davies
Time working for FM: 3 years in January
What I work on
I'm the primary Quality Assurance (QA) engineer. Functionality testing is my top priority, though I have expertise in a range of other areas. A lot of what I've worked on since coming here has been functionality testing of new features, reporting on the difference between what we thought we made and what we actually made. One of the biggest projects i've worked on so far was the launch of our Calendar.
Also, as we add more features and developers, I've been overseeing more robust automation tools, both in-house and on our open source projects. Check out Cyrus.works for more details on the open source work.
How did you get involved with FastMail?
I worked in the UK for Sonus, Sophos and Symantec, doing functionality and performance testing. My previous company announced a massive restructure, where my department was closed. The same day, my landlord told me he was selling the house I was renting. I had often thought I might want to move abroad at some point, so I looked around, and found a cheap flight to Melbourne.
As a FastMail customer living nearby, I was excited to come in and talk to them. After working here for a few months on a working holiday visa, I began the process of getting a permanent visa. After some mishaps, including thinking I had been denied and nearly returning to the UK, my permanent visa came through. It started on Australia Day, which is a massive holiday here. It's like a giant sporting event, with only one team – Australia.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve worked on this year?
Improving the account creation and billing screens. This has helped staff and customers. It used to be quite confusing to set up new accounts, even for people who had been working here a long time, so now it's much more streamlined.
What’s your favorite FastMail feature?
I love the speed, definitely. I also love the keyboard shortcuts, which is really speed for processing. At the beginning of the day, I can have quite a lot of email. With keyboard shortcuts, it can take seconds to go through it all. With just two keys - J to jump over a message I want to deal with later & Y to archive the ones I'm done with - I can clear mail very quickly.
What do you like to do outside of work?
In October I did my first marathon. Training takes up a surprising amount of time. I've just signed up for next year's race and am hoping to beat my previous time and recover faster.
I have a pet rabbit, Ninja. It's good having a pet when you're away from family, and rabbits are a great city pet.
I love to travel. Every year for the last 4 years, I've done a trip for my birthday. The first time, I decided at the last minute to take a trip to Singapore.... so last minute that I needed to renew my passport that morning, and boarded a flight that evening. For 30, I'm planning a trip to South America.
I also spend a lot of time on Instagram. Is that a hobby?
What’s your favorite or most used piece of technology?
An app called Prisma. It uses AI to create artwork!
What’s your preferred mobile platform?
At the moment it's Android, but I think it might change. Google's newest release, the Pixel, is the same price as an iPhone. Because of system updates, I don't want any non-Google Android device, but with the same price and no data harvesting, my next phone might be iOS.
What other companies, people or projects inspire you in your work?
As a tester, Digital Ocean wows me. The speed with which you can provision the systems you want is really impressive.
I have two programmable lights that I use for monitoring, M Thing Blink and the Blink Stick. They both have programmable LEDs that you can use to visually notify you for anything you want. Anyone who can program in almost any language can make it notify you in any color. They're cheap and extremely flexible.
What are you listening to / watching these days?
I'm watching Suits on Netflix, but only half of season 5 is there. I've been waiting for a while now, so I hope Netflix gets the rest soon.
I listen to a lot of Spotify, though not just one artist. Rik has convinced me to be a Spotify friend, but there's a lot of shame in my music collection, so I don't know if I want anyone else to see! (Editor's note: There is no reason to be embarrassed by listening to a lot of Eighties music.)
Any FastMail staffers you want to brag on?
Marc has made the biggest contribution for me getting things done. Before we had Marc, our test network wasn't very robust. I designed a network of all the things I thought we needed, and Marc puts it together for me. With his experience, I can have an idea, and he can implement it very very quickly.
David and Michelle are both very nice to talk to, just about life or my rabbit. I don't really work with them technically, but they are the people who make FastMail feel really warm and welcoming to me.
Neil is so good at what he does. He's fast and, most importantly as a tester, he gets me answers really really quickly.
Can I just say everyone? Everyone here is really amazing, and they make it a lovely place to work.
What are you proudest of in your work?
As a QA person, you always find ways to do things better. So when you're done, you are always analyzing your own process, and wanting to improve. So I would say not getting too stuck on what I've done or taking myself too seriously – there's always another chance to do better. I'm also proud of the fact that I keep going on things. Lots of testing isn't necessarily fun or glamorous or exciting, but keeping at it is what gets you a great product.
One last question.... What's your favorite animal?
Nowadays, it would have to be the rabbit! The quokka is also interesting and kind of weird. If I didn't have a rabbit, I would pick that.
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