We continue our series of interviews with remarkable tech professionals we were fortunate to partner with. This tech talk is devoted to VirtaMed, their innovative VR simulators, incredible QA team, approach to software testing and our role in it. We’ll talk with Oana Timis, a senior tester at VirtaMed, discussing test strategy, trends, challenges of working in a fast-paced IT environment, mental health, and more. Stay tuned!
What is VirtaMed?
VirtaMed is a leading provider of surgical simulators for medical education. Their virtual and mixed reality simulators allow physicians and surgeons to shorten the learning curve and hone their skills in a risk-free environment. VirtaMed professionals believe healthcare practitioners should never have to perform a procedure for the first time on a real patient.
VirtaMed offers readily-available simulators in orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, laparoscopy, urology, and custom solutions. During the pandemic, VirtaMed also created simulation software for remote learning to accelerate the acquisition of cognitive skills.
VirtaMed’s patented and award-winning simulators are adopted by hospitals and medical education establishments worldwide.
QAwerk’s contribution to VirtaMed
VirtaMed turned to QAwerk because of our game testing expertise. VirtaMed’s simulators capitalize on Unity’s 3D digital twin technology and integrated haptics to achieve hyperrealistic surgical simulation. Also, the training sessions have game-like mechanics.
Our QA engineers helped VirtaMed complement the efforts of the internal QA team and get an unbiased perspective of their products’ quality. We performed several types of testing, including functional, non-functional, regression, UI, smoke, and negative testing, to ensure decent test coverage and consistently smooth releases of software updates.
With our continuous support, VirtaMed eliminated over 200 bugs and increased the product’s overall appeal. During our partnership, VirtaMed, along with big names like Microsoft, has become a consortium member of the PROFICIENCY project that received CHF 12 mln funding from the Swiss Confederation.
We invited Oana Timis, senior software tester at VirtaMed, to discuss the pros and cons of working in the medtech industry, what it’s like to work as a tester in Switzerland, reasons for her switch from development to testing, and ways to stay productive and healthy while managing several QA teams. Let’s go!
Please introduce yourself. What are your responsibilities?
I’m Oana, a tester, actually a senior tester, but for me, that’s not important. As for my responsibilities at VirtaMed, I’m responsible for LaparoS™, for testing of the LaparoS™ family because we have Gynecology, we have General Surgery, and we have Essential Skills, and many more modules to come.
Other than this, I am also responsible for some Simulation Online products. That’s another team who is creating simulation for our customers that we also have from medtech. But it’s only on iPad or laptop, you don’t need hardware.
And I’m also responsible for Gynecology, where I have a separate team. And for this one, for example, we have embryo transfer, the module for embryo transfer. We have software for intrauterine devices, different types of devices, and ultrasound as well.
Why did you switch from software development to QA?
As a software developer, I did a good job. But it was not like fully 100% software development because as I started on that legacy project, it was more bug fixing, it was COBOL. I mean, I touched code written before I was born. And then, I also had to test and create documentation. I find it interesting, also the testing part of it, yeah. So I said that I would give it a try.
Switching here in Switzerland, I was working as support and that also implied testing because I got data from the client. I had to install everything on my machine or different machines; I was trying to reproduce the problem, find a workaround and send the answer to the client.
And after that I’ve become a team lead, for three years, and I have my team, I have organized them, I had to teach them, and I find it good. Yeah. And now I want to develop in this automation area.
What’s the corporate culture at VirtaMed like?
What can I say? We have offices in the US, China, and here in Switzerland, it’s the headquarters. What I like is that they are really, really nice people, really friendly. Corporate culture? I’m not even sure because I was working so much in this environment in Switzerland.
Where I live, it’s rare that you find a Swiss, you know? But they are really good professionals, they are trying to improve our products, they are trying, of course, to find new clients.They are trying to see what the competition has and to improve. This is really something that we aim for – to offer better products so that the student can better train and become better at doing their jobs.
How do VirtaMed medical training simulators work?
So you start the simulator, it’s a computer game basically. You start the machine and then you start the case. It’s quite easy to follow; it’s not complicated. You start the program and then you pick up a case and then you are basically guided, you are instructed what to do. Yes, of course, you have to know how to seize the instruments, how to insert the instruments, and how to operate with both hands. In the beginning, it’s quite so.
What is really important is that there are some nice tutorials on YouTube from doctors who explain how to hold the laparoscope. Because a normal person will just turn it and turn it, and then you lose the horizon, you don’t know where you are anymore.
So the first thing that you have to do when you begin with LaparoS™, because we have other simulators, is to know how to handle the camera. And then the other instruments, they come, they are not complicated. But the camera is the most tricky one – you push it too hard, and you enter into the organs, and it’s not good then.
But other than this, they are quite easy. We all did this laparoscopic intervention so we know what that means. But I think this is the good part because it’s easy to understand; it’s easy to learn using this. It’s not complicated.
What are pros and cons of working in the medtech industry?
As a tester, in my case I found being in three teams, I’m having a lot of work, but that’s also a plus. Maybe you lose, because I was quite technical before. I could set up some virtual machines. I knew the insides of the software for the previous company. I had to go into the configs and restart.
And here I don’t do that anymore. I’m testing, manually testing. You lose a bit of technical background. If you’re an IT person, if you’re an IT graduate, and you want to work in this sphere, you lose a bit, I’d say contact with the real world and what’s happening. Because we had an issue, we had to google it all. You’re more active working in other types of projects than these ones.
Who is responsible for innovating at VirtaMed?
All, we can also innovate, me. If I have an idea, they are really happy to hear it. All of us are responsible for bringing ideas into practice for work.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up at 5.30. I do my gymnastics for 20 minutes, then I take a shower, and then at six or ten past six I start my laptop at home and write in our chat, ‘Good morning’. Then I check my emails, my QC for LaparoS™ or QCs for other projects, and I set up the day. For example, I check, of course, if you or Anna (PM and QA engineer) have questions, I answer them, assign tickets. And then I drive my son to crafts and then I drive to the office. And then I’m starting the simulator when I’m working for LaparoS™, I install the latest build, I open my QC, and I start working on that. It’s like this.
How do you recharge after an eventful day?
I work 80% actually, and on Fridays I am always off but of course for you I’m available. If I can answer a question, I answer. It’s not a problem. I’m not doing anything, I’m with a small child at home.
Doing sports. Even when I’m working in the office, after work I go to the gym for one hour or something and I come back home. Yeah, it’s like this. And when I’m working from home, I run around the lake. For me, this is important to keep my mental state. I find that I’m quite an optimistic person.
Of course, sometimes, I mean, I had stress with Gynecology 1.1. It was a lot of work and for two weeks I had to push a bit. But after that, I just took the day after easier, and then I went for a run. This kind of stuff.
What makes an effective test strategy?
First of all, you have to understand the product you’re testing. This is really important. And after this, you have to have good test cases, especially for regression. And I’m really happy that we managed to do this for LaparoS™.
And of course, the team is important. Sometimes you have questions and you are not able to answer them, but you find somebody in the team who can answer them. So, this is the strategy – invest time in knowing the product, invest time in writing test cases, and invest time in maintaining the test cases.
What results have you attained with QAwerk?
Most importantly, Anna delivered super work. I’m happy with that. She did this regression testing, she did really well, and she worked a lot. She helped improve our product, discovering problems not in the last week but during the whole development process.
QAwerk is based in Ukraine. Your first thoughts on russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It was really really…I didn’t discuss it but my grandparents experienced the war, the second one; my parents – communism. I said maybe my generation is going to have a normal life. Because we’re not millionaires, we’re just normal people and maybe I can enjoy this being as a normal person, my family will stay healthy, you know, this kind of stuff. But this bullshit happened and I really couldn’t believe it.
Did the war affect QAwerk’s ability to deliver?
No, I wouldn’t say that. Of course, we are not having that kind of project with such a deadline you need to deliver up to. I was really flexible and we had this agreement that Anna is also working flexible.
Is there a reason to fear war-associated risks?
No. And actually I had a conversation with other companies and they were also working with Ukrainians in testing. I don’t think this is an issue.
How did VirtaMed support Ukraine?
Right in the beginning it was a fund, so we raised money for Ukraine. It was shortly after the invasion. All over Switzerland they were organizing this kind of fundraising.
What was most valuable in this cooperation?
I like our meetings. It’s a good collaboration; it’s a good mood and it’s optimistic.
Whom would you recommend QAwerk and why?
I think you’re competent, of course, friendly, and efficient. Yes, you’re good testers, so why not?
Do you have any tips for aspiring tech leaders?
I think that is something you also learn because I was working alone more or less until I reached this support team in Switzerland. Then I had to communicate with people and the people were developers, most of them were developers. And sometimes they were difficult, and I had to find the right moment, you know?
Some of them were in a good mood, some of them were grumpy all the time. If you find your way to that person, I mean, I’m not saying to lie to them, but still to understand them. That’s the most important, try to understand the person, the man or the woman, not the position, not the tester or developer. Try to understand that person because it’s like your …not family, but still so close.
At the time I was working 100% there, I didn’t see my daughter so often, but I saw my colleagues. So you have to establish a friendship within the person’s limits. But in development, most of them are so good. When they’re stressed, they can explode, but when you understand the person, then it’s good. And be polite. I cannot be arrogant with people, even with a cleaning lady. I cannot go and say, ‘Oh, you’re a cleaning lady’. Because I had really great conversations with the cleaning lady. Don’t be arrogant, they’re all people who do their best, right?
Are women still underrepresented in tech?
I mean, women from Western Europe, maybe yes. Women for Eastern Europe – no. I have so many colleagues, a niece of mine is a developer now. For us, it was this competition between boys and girls in the school as well. Sorry, we were good at math and physics, so that’s why we followed this path.
So here I don’t know. There are only a few ladies who are doing this. This is true for the west, but for the east – no way.
What’s one QA trend that excites you?
For me what is really, really important to have is automated tests. There are these trends with building tests and then coding. But in our company, it’s not going to happen. So this is crucial for me that we do our best and we automate as many as we can so that once per week we can run this nightly and we see if something is broken or not.
Because our colleagues are great, they are so good, but they mess up things sometimes. And I cannot even yell because they recognize, ‘I did this’, and now we have to do some 100 cases again and they are so innocent and you can see them (shrugging face). Maybe they are new to this. For sure, now we have them experienced. But we had Kenny and Ryan inexperienced, so of course they make mistakes. But they also repair, it’s not a problem.
But still with tests we can find bugs earlier so we don’t have these bad surprises. So this is the trend I actually want to invest my time in.
Any words of inspiration for tech career pursuers?
I think it’s a way to remain young. Our domain, it’s always changing. There’s always something new coming. And the people are also nice, most of them. You can always improve yourself. Now, for example, working from home is also quite attractive, right? I think it’s a good domain. Of course if you’re a banker, then (laughs). But it keeps you young, it keeps you fresh in your mind, it gives you things to think about. I’m not a person who is doing this, for example, bla-bla-bla or literature. I bet it’s something I cannot do.
But solving a problem, a task or creating test cases, and I’m not talking about the test cases we have. There are also a lot more complicated cases, more mathematical test cases, in this way. Scripting languages are cool to learn too, this Python, there are so many now.
What is your favorite quote?
Mens sana in corpore sano. That means a healthy mind in a healthy body. This is something that guides my life.
Work with Ukraine
Companies like VirtaMed prove that continuing business with IT services agencies like QAwerk is possible and reasonable even during the war. When there’s a will, there’s a way, and Ukrainians have a firm will to work because that’s our opportunity to keep our country’s economy going and support our defenders.
If you’re looking for a meaningful way to support the average Ukrainian, consider hiring an IT vendor from Ukraine. This way, you’ll create job opportunities for people who stay here and who spend their money on local sellers and donate to the Ukrainian army.
Stand with Ukraine by working with Ukraine!