Breakpoint 2021 is a 2-day virtual summit on software quality. We're bringing speakers—dev, QA and open source experts—to talk about how the best engineering teams ship quality software at scale.

Erika Chestnut is fun, quirky, clever, sassy, and extremely passionate about nurturing teams and individuals. Erika’s leadership style starts and stops with relationships. With over 20 years of experience in the tech industry—from application development to spinning up new quality departments—Erika has learned to lead with grace, patience and a little bit of snarky humor. Her mission is to help people lead from a more compassionate space to build teams that are engaged, empowered and excited.

Can you tell us about your role at Calendly?

I lead the Quality Engineering team at Calendly, where I help cultivate a quality mindset throughout the company and grow the QA team technically and professionally.

Is there a favorite project/side project in testing/tech you’ve worked on recently?

I've been working with my team to define our Quality Maturity model—coming up with our North Star—and getting clear about what world-class quality looks like in our organization.

This has been especially fun because we're looking up and out. We're reaching for the stars and defining what awesome is for us—then bringing it back down to create a path towards that. Calendly is growing rapidly and we have a chance to build a strong Quality Engineering practice that will scale as the company does.

Can you give us a sneak-peek into your session for Breakpoint 2021?

Manual testing is about the customer perspective, which is the heart of the business. In this talk, we'll discuss how manual testers bring the heart of the business (customer perspective) to technical conversations. You'll learn about the 3 Rs - to resurrect, reclaim and redefine manual testing, in your organization.

What are the top leadership strategies that need to be adopted to keep the momentum going, especially in the remote working scenario?

Today's leaders need to focus on the whole person (and their families). We need to give space for interruptions from children, pets, neighbors—you name it. In looking at the whole person, we are recognizing that there may be external stressors that are impacting their day-to-day activities, even more so now.

How can we, as leaders, support them? What things can we do to reduce the burden? It could be as simple as acknowledging to that team member that we see them. We see their juggling and we are here to talk, listen or help in any way we can. Leaders today have to start with the whole ‘human’ and lead with more grace and patience.

Do you have any interesting stories from your childhood that inspired you to take up work in tech?

I actually wanted to be a lawyer when I was a kid. Tech, and especially Quality, came into the picture much later. In fact, I started out as a developer and was happily growing in my career when I moved into leadership and took more interest in Quality (though I guess it was more complaint than interest). As a result, the leaders in the organization thought I would be a good prospect to start their QA organization since I had such "strong" feelings about the lack of Quality. Good for me...because I haven't looked back!

What advice would you give to the women who are trying to grow in the tech space?

Don't shrink yourself. Be your biggest, brightest self in every room and in every conversation.