For this month’s Aries staff interview, we sat down with Amy Burke, Senior QA Engineer. Read our interview with Amy for behind the scenes insights into how Aries’ Quality Assurance team operates and how her role has evolved with the company’s growth over the past quarter-century!
Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been working for Aries? What did you do before joining Aries?
This is my 25th year with the company. Prior to Aries, I worked in the graphic arts department at A.W. Chesterton. Aries hired me in 1994 to scan images into the system for the Neurosurgery CD-ROM product. So much has changed since that time! Editorial Manager did not exist yet, and I was tasked with transferring and building the Embase searchable database from reel to reel tapes. The company has dramatically changed throughout the years and my responsibilities along with it!
What have your roles at Aries been?
In the very earliest days of Aries Systems, I scanned images for full-text projects involving Neurosurgery, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the New England Journal of Medicine. There were quite the interesting images that I had to scan on the old school desktop scanner. As more full-text and online journals came on board, proofing and editing the text/tables/figure captions became part of the job. When Editorial Manager® began to take shape, I worked as an Account Coordinator. This was all before Aries established a formal Client Services department dedicated to customer support. I remember Aries Systems’ Founder, Lyndon Holmes, asking if we could envision working with more than just four journals. Picturing hundreds of journals seemed a little crazy back then, but now we’ve got thousands of journals using EM! I transitioned into fielding more tech support issues and was one of the very first in what became a dedicated QA department.
How have your previous roles helped you in your current position?
Being on board for the development of EM from the very beginning has given me a wealth of knowledge about how the system operates, including all its features and plans for upcoming development as well. As an Account Coordinator for one of the first journals to use EM, American Journal of Kidney Diseases (AJKD), I gained user experience and knowledge of how a journal office runs its workflow for day to day operations. This information is invaluable and has prepared me for handling bug reports in QA because I’m able to determine what might be a “hot button” issue that is going to really throw a wrench into a journal’s work. With this knowledge, I can jump onto issues quickly and get them into the system for an engineer to begin working on a solution ASAP.
Tell me about your department and the people you work most closely with.
QA is a great team-oriented department where we can share areas of our expertise amongst each other. We each test different specifications for the newest features so some of us may have a deeper knowledge of certain areas of the software. If a customer-reported issue comes in, it’s helpful to be able to rely on your colleagues for assistance and details if they are more familiar with that specific area. It also helps to be able to lean across the desk and consult with a coworker about something that seems out of the ordinary to you, and ask if it is something they’ve also noticed and reported.
Describe your typical workday.
On the QA team, we rotate our responsibility for customer reported bugs/issues, so it’s always something different! We also are responsible for testing and troubleshooting the latest features that will be in the future EM and PM releases. This coincides with writing tests to be rolled into our hotfix regression battery of tests, which is also something that we’re always working on as well. There is rarely a dull moment as we’re constantly testing the recently fixed bugs to get them ready to be rolled out to production.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I like that it can be something different each day. It can be very rewarding when you finally put the puzzle pieces together and can map out the steps that a customer may have taken to cause a malfunction in the system. Once we know the recipe, it’s our job to communicate that to the Engineering team so they can fix it. From there, we verify it has been fixed before going out to production for our customers. In addition to troubleshooting, it’s always neat to be able to test the newest software feature. It helps to keep us ahead of the game to try different variations on how a journal may utilize a new feature and to see how we might try and break it. It can be challenging to find the odd loophole or wrong click that wasn’t accounted for in design!
What are you currently reading, listening to, or watching?
I’m a bookworm. My husband will complain that I’m constantly reading – which is true. I’ve always got a pile to read and something like 3 or 4 books going at once. Currently, I’m re-reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer, reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea and always a romance novel or two. In addition to books, I’m a comic buff, too. I’m re-reading Watchmen and watching the series on HBO. It’s super good!
Tell me about some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I have been playing ice hockey for more than 20 years – it’s been a blast! I’m a goalie, and in years past I have competed in the Women’s National championships. I also worked as a volunteer with the women’s professional league doing in-game announcing. A few years ago, I was pressed into service as the emergency back-up goalie on a road trip to Toronto. The coach put me in for the final 15 seconds of a game, so I can boast that I’ve played in a professional women’s hockey game! When Team USA finally beat Canada for the gold in this past winter Olympics, I was so happy for them and their parents! I’d known and been in the locker room with a few of the players competing, so it made it even more special.
My daughter keeps me busy as well. She’s a senior in high school and is a double bass player. I’m always at a jazz combo concert or the school’s performing arts center for orchestra performances. In addition, she’s in the comedy improv group so there’s always some sort of show. It’s a blast and I’ll miss being a band parent/arts mom when she’s off at college next fall!