A man smiles while standing against a wall with his arms crossed. The wall is segmented into different shades of a blue gradient.
Patrick Garvey. Image: Workhuman

What it’s like to use automation in the workplace

4 Aug 2023

Workhuman’s Patrick Garvey speaks to SiliconRepublic.com about his work with automation in quality assurance and how the tech has developed over the years.

Automation is becoming ever-present in the workplace as the technology continues to improve and develop over time. As the tech becomes more widely adopted, so does the belief that automation and AI will have significant effects on the working world going forward.

So prevalent is the topic of automation in the working world that we at SiliconRepublic.com focused on the topic during Automation Week, where we spoke to various professionals working in the automation space about their day-to-day.

But how does automation really affect the way one works? And how has the sector changed over time?

To find out, we spoke to Patrick Garvey, a quality assurance (QA) automation engineer at Workhuman, who has been working in automation for over a decade.

“Working as a QA automation engineer, automation tools allow me to improve the efficiency of the QA process within the development team.”

The automation tools in question include Playwright and RestTemplate, which Garvey says the team uses to execute a “large quantity of tests against the latest deployment every night before anyone has even started their working day”.

“Then, once the workday starts, our engineers already have an idea of how healthy the latest build is and know if their attention is required”.

Garvey states that with continued dedication to automation, their projects are able to “scale more reliably”.

As well as working on new applications, Garvey stresses the importance of maintaining one’s existing automation set-up. “Maintaining and expanding the existing automated test suite allows the team to progress with developing new application features, knowing that past work items are still being tested and monitored regularly,” he says, adding that as the test suite grows, more and more tests can be run than would be possible manually.

“Knowing that a certain level of tests run automatically also frees up a lot of time for manual QA engineers.”

Along with the benefits of more work output and time-saving, Garvey says that automation tools can also help his team to identify and fix defects quicker.

“When an automated test runs and fails overnight, the engineer is notified as soon as they come online the following morning,” he said.

“The reports generated from the automated test details the exact steps that were taken to generate the error, the error that was thrown, and the changes that were applied which likely caused the error.”

The particular tool that Garvey and his team use for dealing with defects and issues is called Allure, which Garvey says can be configured to be as detailed or vague as the user wishes. “These reports also provide a historical view of your environment status. It can highlight areas with regular or recurring issues that might require investment.”

‘Processes and applications change and evolve over time, so to must your automation’

Automation over the years

As we’re speaking to someone with 11 years of experience in automation, we ask Garvey about how the sector has changed over the years. He says that there have been so many changes that we could spend an entire day talking about it.

Instead, Garvey summarises it with a few major points, such as how the range and availability of tools to automate the QA process has “exploded” in recent years, as well as how numerous solutions are now available if one wishes to automate the testing of web apps, mobile apps and APIs.

“Where once most companies followed the same templated framework of tools for automating test cases, nowadays each company can have its own unique set up for whatever suits their product best.”

One area that Garvey says automation has become a major part of is continuous integration and continuous delivery/deployment (CI/CD), which he says is a result of the migration to cloud in the last decade.

“With changes to applications being deployed to production at a much faster rate nowadays, adequate automation is required to ensure regression.

“Thanks to cloud environments, each team now tends to have access to their own development environments that they can modify and deploy multiple times a day.”

In relation to the QA sector, Garvey says that one of the big topics at the moment is the move to ‘shift left’, which is encouraging testing to happen in an earlier stage of the development lifecycle.

“In terms of automated testing,” he says, “there are multiple ways in which this can be achieved such as having the developers themselves write a portion of the automated tests, developing new features with automation in mind or finalising requirements early in the cycle.

“All options come with a cost but the benefit being that a greater level of automated testing is achieved earlier in a features lifecycle.”

Three automation tips

Due to Garvey’s extensive experience in automation, we ask if he has any tips for someone beginning a career in the sector.

The first piece of advice he gives was to “investigate what tools are out there”, saying that it’s good to know the differences between many of the tools available and what ones would outperform others in certain scenarios.

“Just because a tool is popular, does not mean it’s the best fit for your needs.”

Another tip from Garvey is to “prioritise what you automate”, explaining that you won’t be able to automate everything so it’s important to “spend your time wisely on automating what will give you the biggest returns”.

“There’s no point spending a week automating a process that will only be in place for a month.”

Finally, Garvey says that maintaining your existing automation is “just as important as automating new processes”.

“Processes and applications change and evolve over time, so to must your automation.”

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Colin Ryan
By Colin Ryan

Colin Ryan has worked as a copywriter/copyeditor with Silicon Republic since January 2023. Coming from a background in creative media and technology, Colin has previously worked as a researcher and camera operator. He enjoys watching films, listening to music, and befriending every dog he meets.

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