How did you get involved in tech?
Kind of happenstance through a chain of jobs that eventually led me to working at a small startup where QA testing was part of everyone's job. We launched 4 sites in the 10 months I was there, it was a totally chaotic whirlwind of a time but I found that I really liked testing. I applied for a job doing QA at Refinery29 after that where I've been doing software testing for 4 years now.
I always tell people who are thinking about getting into software engineering but are maybe unsure and don't have hard coding skills yet that QA is a great place to start. It exposes you to all parts of the development lifecycle and you get to work with everyone-- front-end and back-end engineers, UX, product, dev ops, etc.
What did you major in during college?
Communications, which I enjoyed so much! I also studied fashion design for one semester as a freshman. Honestly, I think it's really rare to find a young person who knows what they want to do with their career and can choose a major with confidence. It's very unfair to ask an 18 year old to pick a lane so early in life! But I've learned it's never too late for a change.
Describe a typical work day.
I get to Refinery29 around 9:30 which allows me time to get coffee and respond to emails before my first standup meeting.
At standup, everyone on the dev team that I work with goes through what they worked on yesterday and what they're working on that day. This is a quick 15 minute check-in, but is one of the most important things we do as it keeps us all aligned and gives everyone a chance to raise concerns or ask questions.
From there, I like to check in with the other QA engineers to make sure they have what they need to get work done. If they have questions or need testing guidance, I'll help them before I get into my own work.
Then I'll sign into Github to see what's assigned to me as ready for testing. I stage whatever branch of code I'm ready to test onto a staging stack and go through UAT (user acceptance testing) first, then regression, cross-browser and edge case testing. If things are not working well I'll put together my notes and send the branch of code back to the engineer to more work. If everything passes I tag that branch as ready for release to production.
And of course, throughout the day I have meetings for all kinds of things like planning for new projects, sync ups with the other engineering managers, brainstorms with other departments, etc.
What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part of your job?
As a manager, it's hard to do both hands-on testing and be responsible for a team of people. I hate to ever feel like I'm neglecting someone who reports to me because I know that mentorship is a critical part of feeling supported and successful at work.
The rewarding stuff is when we launch something new. Project launches are really fun because they bring everyone on the team together and we finally get to celebrate the hard work. Refinery29 is 449 people in total but an engineering project launch makes us feel like a scrappy little startup again. That sense of small team accomplishment is really awesome.
What is the best part about working at Refinery29?
Ideas are very welcome. We're a big company but collaboration is easy to make happen. I've worked on side projects with our social and sales teams. I've written for the site. I've illustrated for the site. I've been in videos. It helps keep me from feeling isolated in my role on the engineering team. Just a few days ago I pitched a video idea to one of our producers and we're going to brainstorm more about it next week.
What is your favorite thing about technology and coding?
It keeps my mind sharp. There's always something new to learn or build or test so it keeps me on my toes. It is challenging to a point where I leave work every day feeling smarter than I was at the start of it. QA is especially fun because all changes and new features go through testing so you get exposed to everything. It's a powerful position to be the gatekeeper of all projects.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I do a lot of artsy crafty stuff and love nail art. I paint my nails 2x a week, I find it very therapeutic. I also like to ride my bike and exercise in general. That's really my favorite way to "unplug".
What are four words that you would use to describe yourself?
Determined. Understanding. Strong-willed. Positive!
What is your favorite social media app/website?
I'm probably most active on Twitter (@brittneecann). I think it's the best platform for original thought and I love the real time aspect of it. I like to check it while I'm watching TV (either a scripted series or sports) to see how other people watching the same thing are reacting. I follow a lot of pop culture editors and sports insiders.
Can you tell us more about your zine? http://www.hiphophatesme.com/
Being a woman who loves rap music is hard because a lot of the lyrics are very misogynistic. Hip Hop Hates Me was an art project I did to work through those feelings. I went into it trying to figure out if being a feminist who loves rap music made me a hypocrite of sorts. In Volume 2 I break down where the misogyny in rap stems from, what impact it has on society, how female artists grapple with it, and what our responsibility is as listeners to change the conversation moving forward. I'm very proud of HHHM and hope to do more volumes.
Why do you think more girls should be involved in tech?
Because the best ideas come from diverse teams-- that goes for gender, race, age, etc. Getting more and different perspectives in tech will only result in good things. The ultimate goal is to make it totally unremarkable to be a women in tech. I hope in the future it will just be the norm.
Follow Brittnee on Twitter @brittneecann and follow Refinery29 Innovate @r29innovate ☺️