Welcome to the next feature of our Leaders in Tech editorial series. Speaking to leaders in the industry to capture their stories, career highs and lows, their trials and successes, their current company and their role, most recent projects, advice to others, and the individuals who they most look up to in the industry.
Today, we talked to Rhys Evans, Senior QA & Test Manager at O2 (Telefónica UK), to find out more about why he joined the tech industry, what his role entails, what are the challenges he faces, and his advice to aspiring engineers and testers.
Could you introduce yourself and your current role?
My name is Rhys Evans and I am a Senior QA and Test Manager at Virgin Media O2. I was part of the O2 QA and Testing team prior to the joint venture and I am now accountable for our CTO and Network Expansion portfolio within CIO.
Can you tell me about your journey?
My background is predominantly within cellular rollout (2G, 3G, 4G & 5G); what we refer to in the industry as Special Project deliveries. This is when the usual network demands cannot be met from the macro network. In my previous role, I was responsible for deploying to areas where the density of people outweighed the demand of the traditional cellular network. Places such as Stadiums, Shopping Centres, and Transport Hubs.
I’ve been with O2 for just over 10 years now and I’ve been working in the QA and Testing team for 18 months. I moved out of the Network Delivery team and joined as a QA & Test Manager under an internal talent mobility programme before being promoted to a Senior QA & Test Manager 6 months into the position.
What inspired you to get involved in the IT industry?
What inspired me to get into IT was solving problems, working with people, and the pace of change. No two days are the same, which keeps it exciting, and I really like that.
I love working collaboratively with my team, as we continue our transformational journey which will be pivotal as we continue our transition towards a digital way of life.
What do you like about working in Testing & QA?
The thing I like about Testing is being on the sharp end of the delivery cycle. As we’re moving more into an agile way of working across IT and Telco, testing is so important and we must ensure that design, development, and testing teams are totally unified. Testing cannot be the last consideration right before a crucial go live or product launch. We are moving more into a DevOps way of working, for this to be successful we need to ensure quality is measured and its importance is embedded from the start and continually reviewed against agreed quality criteria throughout continuous testing cycles.
Do you have a favourite part of your job?
The favourite part of my job is working with others and helping them to develop! There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing an individual who has potential and helping them thrive and make the most out of the situation and deliver an amazing piece of work.
According to you, what makes a leader in the industry?
A good leader in the industry or in life, in general, is someone who leads by example, is transparent with their team, and, from a QA and Test perspective, ensures quality is appropriately represented and at the forefront of business-impacting decisions.
What are some of the challenges you faced during your career?
We’re still in the relatively early days of the joint venture and bringing two industry-leading teams of Virgin Media together with O2. This has created a plethora of opportunities and provided insight into how the two former organisations operate. We’re looking at the way in which either side of the former business operates and taking the best of both to form a new way of working.
The good news is that we’ve got a great team and everybody is working together. By aligning our strategic direction, we have begun our journey to be the champion within the industry. It’s not just about us, it’s about our wider stakeholders and suppliers too.
What are you the proudest of in your career so far?
My career highlight is from my previous role where I worked to bring improved connectivity to the temporary Nightingale Hospitals and other NHS locations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The improved connectivity we provided was critical in ensuring machinery and medical equipment remained connected and kept customers in touch with loved ones during their time of isolation. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of because it impacted and continues to impact everybody globally.
I’m also proud of my promotion from QA & Test Manager to Senior QA & Test Manager within six months in the role. I am thankful to everyone in my team that has enabled me to grow and succeed in this area. I’m also pleased to have a permanent team back as this is where I get the most value in my job: helping other people develop and flourish.
What have you learned from your experience so far?
We are on a journey as an IT and Telco company and as an industry, I think there are many opportunities for us to improve. We hear a lot of talk in the market about artificial intelligence and machine learning and how it’s going to shape the future of digital. The reality is that it’s only as good as the information that it’s learning from, we must ensure the data we are using is completely representative or we risk making erroneous decisions due to inaccurate source data.
So, as an industry, we need to look where are our opportunities to grow and where we’re going to add value as opposed to doing something for the sake of doing something. I want to see the value and the efficiency above all.
What are you aiming for in the future?
I want to continue my development journey as an individual. I guess my ultimate goal is to get to C-suite in the IT and telco space, but every day is a learning day in this industry! I’ve got a career and personal development plan; I love what I do and my company supports me from a career and development perspective. But I guess that’s ultimately where I want to go!
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring testers?
My advice would be to take every opportunity that is presented in front of you and if there isn’t any, go out and talk to people and open those doors. I guarantee if you can get somebody’s time, there will be value and opportunities. Don’t solely focus on the thing you think you need to do to make the next step, take on new learning experiences and try things. Nobody’s journey is perfect and straight.
That’s one thing I’ve always stood by: if I’m adding value, and there is a benefit to me, my peers, and the business, then it’s worth doing. So, take every opportunity and absorb as much as you can. It will only help you in the future!
Don’t underestimate the value that you can add, everyone can bring a fresh perspective to any situation and that is an advantage so use it!