Be QA Today – How Does a Project that Teaches People with Disabilities To Test Software Work?

Our colleague, Oleksii Zaichenko, is one of the co-organizers of the Be QA Today project, which aims to teach people with disabilities to test software. After speaking with Oleksii, we learned more about the project, how it works, and why you should try your hand at Be QA Today as a lecturer and or mentor.

Q: How did this all begin? How did the idea to create Be QA Today come about?

Oleksii: This project was created to help people. The idea first surfaced while spending time in a cafe and all of a sudden after only a couple of hours the project’s actualization had already begun. This is probably a very typical story of how projects like this often start. Be QA Today is a project that helps people with physical disabilities acquire software testing skills and find internship jobs in IT companies or receive freelance orders. 

Marina Shevchenko, Sasha Maydanyuk and Yulya Resenchuk are the project’s initiators. Later, Sasha Kovaleva and Vladimir Glushkov also joined the team. As Sasha Kovaleva had been my colleague for a long time (we worked together in the training center Softengi), she quickly invited me to join Be QA Today. I happily accepted her offer, as I enjoy being useful and even though the project lasts the entire summer, I made this decision without any hesitation or second thoughts.

Q: How does it work? How long does the training take, how many students do you enroll, and what’s the program?

Oleksii: This year, the course will begin again. Last year, the program was quite complicated, so this time, we’ve decided to change it completely and concentrate our studies on the basics of testing. Training will last 3 months – there will be offline classes with home tasks twice a week and several online classes, mostly English lessons.

Our course is completely offline because one of the goals of Be QA Today is to help people with disabilities socialize. The reason why we strive for this is very simple – disabled people (speaking mostly about wheelchair users and people with cerebral palsy), unfortunately, rarely go out and spend most of their time at home, since there’s practically none of the necessary infrastructure for people with disabilities in Ukraine. 

Needless to say about people with disabilities, if a person without a disability can break their leg while walking the cratered pavements and stepping over 1-meter high curbs. At the same time, the favorite type of car in this country is a crossover (why would it? :)). 

We are very grateful to consolidation companies for their financial assistance, which gives us the opportunity to organize the transportation for students from other Ukrainian cities to Kyiv as well as provide transportation within the city throughout the studying process.

The search for accommodation and transportation for students is another story. There are several different aspects of this issue. 

For example, the apartments must be specially equipped for people with disabilities, which is usually hard to come by in our city. However, we haven’t come across any major challenges, because most of the students came with companions. Yet, if they had to live and commute on their own, it would be difficult to find apartments with ramps and all suitable conditions for the independent stay of a wheelchair user in Kyiv.

Q: How do you select students and mentors?

Oleksii: Let’s start with the fact that Be QA Today cooperates with AIC (Association of Inclusive Country) and Julia Resenchuk, who is the president of the fund, in addition to many other duties is also a co-organizer of our course. We select students in several stages. Those wishing to receive training, leave an application on our website. After that, they have to film a 1-minute video, where they explain why they want to be part of the project. Next, they pass 2 rounds of interviews – the first one with Julia, in which candidates are asked questions regarding their needs and expectations, and the second with one of the members of our team (people who actually work in the field of testing) who will make the final decision about the candidate. 

The project is completely free of charge for students, so it is very important for us to see the motivation of a person and their willingness to invest the time and effort into learning. This year, at least an average level of English is one of the selection criteria, because we are interested in the future employment of our students. We also clarify whether candidates can devote enough time to studying throughout the entire course, as we all need to have clear expectations and an understanding of how much time the process will take. 

Last year, we didn’t select mentors and lecturers externally, these were people from our internal community and we all knew each other personally. This year, our core team remains the same, but we have plans to expand the circle of lecturers and mentors. To understand the experience and level of competence of the potential lecturer/mentor for our project, we’ll conduct brief interviews. 

We are interested in improving the quality of Be QA Today services, therefore, we are meticulous about our image and reputation. We take full responsibility for the students that we graduate and vouch for them as for qualified professionals, which is why we are so serious about selecting the right teachers for the course. 

Q: What are the results of the first year of the Be QA Today project?

Oleksii: We had a group of 16 people, of these 10 graduated, and 6 of them are now employed by top IT companies in Ukraine. The remaining 4 students don’t work in testing for several reasons: some of them have changed their mind or have personal reasons, while the rest were afraid to quit their current jobs. 

The students who didn’t complete the course, unfortunately, weren’t able to cope with the tasks. But still, we are glad that we met them and they had the opportunity to dive into the learning environment. One of our students with cerebral palsy had to commute from Obukhiv to Kyiv to attend lessons. I have no idea how difficult it was in his situation – making such a long trip on public transportation twice a week was extremely complex, but he did it with a positive attitude. 

When we informed him that he would not receive a course attainment certificate due to his poor results, he asked for permission to continue attending the classes until the end of the course. He really liked the process of learning, communicating with other people, and the opportunity to be in a constant flow of events in a friendly environment. It was a very important prototypical case for us because apart from the educational objective, we also aim to help people with disabilities socialize and create an inclusive society, which is why we organized an offline course.

Q: What are the project goals of this year?

Oleksii: To provide our students with a solid knowledge base, we have changed the program completely, shifting our focus to the basics of testing. We’ll repeat certain topics twice so that everyone can both fully understand and utilize them. Our goal is to graduate and employ all of our students this year. 

But we understand that it’s impossible to do everything perfectly and we can’t predict the future. Perhaps, there will be a few students who won’t be able to complete the training for different reasons, but we’ll try our best to help them reach this goal. After all, you can’t achieve success without a few failures along the way.

Q: How can someone get involved or help with the project?

Oleksii: We are always open to all kinds of partnerships with different companies – financial assistance, help with equipment and space (hosting), information consulting. We are also always looking for new lecturers and mentors. 

If you become a lecturer or a mentor, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to devote a ton of time to this process. Mentors can help check student’s homework or get involved with different discussions via Skype. We always seek to improve our program, so any ideas are welcome.

Q: What positive experiences can you gain from being a mentor?

Oleksii: I’ll tell you about my personal experience. As you move up the career ladder and become a team leader, you find yourself with the desire and motivation to teach your team something new – be it a tool or a switch from manual testing to automated testing. 

Each person is unique, so there’s no universal training program that will be perfect for everyone. Therefore, a team leader needs to find individual approaches for each team member to understand the best way to train them. So during the mentoring process, you will develop skills that help you both: identify individual approaches to teaching each person on your team and build an efficient training process. And in general, it helps in all aspects of communication and team building. 

I always ask myself the question: “What will I leave behind?” – this is what pushes me to do the right thing without seeking any benefit for myself. And, to my surprise, there are enough like-minded people to build projects like ours. 🙂   

Humans are progressing because we are able to pass on our experiences and knowledge, multiplying them each time – this is what differentiates us from primates. It’s also the reason why we don’t draw on the walls in order to convey certain information, but instead, distribute data via a screen share with a large number of people simultaneously regardless of the time zone. 

Therefore, I believe that sharing knowledge and gathered experience will always be important, necessary, and simply the right thing to do. This is the key to the further development of mankind.

Photo: Be QA Today

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