The People Who Make Distributed Teams Possible: An Interview With Vanessa Pecorari
Blog Post | December 28, 2021

Distributed teams allow business leaders like you to leverage the best IT talent regardless of location. Programmers has worked for over 30 years to maximize the value of distributed teams, decades before many companies transitioned to hybrid work environments. Much of the credit for this success goes to our team members who work every day to enhance communication, gain valuable new skills, and exceed clients’ expectations.

Vanessa Pecorari is a QA analyst at Programmers who joined our company over four years ago. She co-founded a group here called English Time, which further helps IT talent outside of English-speaking countries streamline their communication in the language. We sat down with Vanessa to discuss her background, experience fostering strong communication in distributed teams, and much more.

Programmers: Tell us a bit about your background. Where were you raised, and where do you live now?

Vanessa Pecorari: My parents have been together for more than thirty years, and they’re from two neighboring cities: Matão and Araraquara, both in Brazil’s São Paulo state. My childhood, and, really, my whole life, has been between these two places. We would live in one city, and then, maybe three or four years later, we go to the other. Now, I’m living in Matão, and it’s been great so far!

Programmers: You’ve worked as a QA analyst at Programmers for over four years now. Give us an idea of your unique responsibilities on a scrum team.

Pecorari: Some people believe that a QA only tests a story once the developers finish it. However, that’s not true. In QA, I’m not just at the end of the line saying, “It works!” or “It doesn’t work!”. Being a QA is much more than that. You have to be involved in the entire development process from the very beginning, if possible. You need to attend the meetings, be attentive to messages, and give suggestions. Generally, you need to have good communication within your team and with your client.

Knowing the product and how it’s being developed is really important. That knowledge informs your actions to ensure the team executes the client’s requests. Plus, it is always good to acquire more information about new technologies that can facilitate automated testing and other processes. Utilizing these technologies will get you closer to increasing the quality of testing, making the process easier and even faster.

QA requires you to have a bigger vision of production but, at the same time, you must keep an eye on the details. By combining the macro and micro-level views, you can see what might impact the final product negatively. Being a QA is like being a music conductor. You have to maintain harmony. The devs are the musicians, the users are the audience, hopefully getting what they want, and the QA is between them, making everything work.

Being a QA is like being a music conductor.

Programmers: What is one project at Programmers where you felt like you did a particularly great job serving as a conductor?

Pecorari: We were working with a client in shipping and logistics on a brand-new software, and I thought it was a really great project to be a part of. It was my second project at Programmers, and I got to expand my knowledge on back-ending. The team followed the scrum process well, and I got to be a part of all the meetings.

The developers were really open to my questions and feedback, so I think it was one of my best experiences. I got to play a more active role, ensuring we directly addressed the client’s wants and needs. I didn’t realize at the time how much I was doing that, but afterward, my teammates said I was carrying a lot of the project. I was so happy to hear that!

Programmers: With distributed teams, you’re often long distances away from the client you’re working with. How do you keep communication strong between you and the client despite this?

Pecorari: You have to connect with the person on the other side of the screen. By that, I mean you must understand that there is a person there with feelings, a history, and good and bad days. The more comfortable someone is with you, the better your communication will be despite the distance. In time, by creating that communication, it will feel like you are in the same physical space. You become so comfortable with them, and it is easy to understand each other.

When you show you’re interested in doing your best, it will tell the client that you care about them. It reminds them how you are on the same team and want the same thing. I believe this warm approach is what the client expects, knowing they can trust you to work side by side with them to accomplish anything.

“Being a QA is like being a music conductor. You have to maintain harmony in production. The devs are the musicians, the users are the audience, hopefully getting what they paid for, and the QA is between them, making everything work.”
Vanessa Pecorari, QA analyst at Programmers

Programmers: You collaborate with many people in different specialties and different parts of the world. Do you find this aspect of your career especially rewarding?

Pecorari: Yes, absolutely! In this role, I’ve learned a lot of technical skills, but it’s been especially gratifying to make such wonderful friends along the way and understand more about their cultures. I also love hearing different accents because I believe accents are something special to each person. I love how people talk differently from one another.

I worked with a guy on my first project from India, I believe, and he was the nicest, coolest guy. He was a QA like me, and we talked every day. We had a designated time that we called each other to talk about testing and other things. We also talked about our cultures and what we think about life. It was really great. Sometimes, we would turn on the cameras, and I would see his daughter. It was a cool experience.

I also remember a great time I had working with a group of Latinos. I don’t recall where they were from, maybe Colombia or Mexico. Our meetings were in English, but sometimes they would speak Spanish amongst themselves. And I was so excited to hear them talk in Spanish because I love the language. I wish I knew more Spanish, but I’ve never attended a Spanish class, unfortunately.

Right now, I’m on a project where we have a developer from Poland. She lives in the United States, but she’s originally from Poland. She’s a lot of fun to work with and get to know better. I think it’s awesome to have this experience and meet all these people that I wouldn’t have a chance to talk to if I wasn’t here.

English Time

Programmers: You co-founded a group at Programmers called English Time. Can you tell us a bit about this program? What is it, and how does it bridge the gap between non-native English speakers and American clients?

Pecorari: Yes! I run English Time with Henrique and Guilherme. They are the kindest guys in my life nowadays. They make my job a lot easier by just being themselves. We went from strangers to coworkers to friends, and I’m so grateful for that. Since our friendship is so easy, it reflects a lot on English Time.

The goal of English Time is to learn English and practice the language in a fun environment. It’s one hour a week during which we can get together with friendly coworkers to speak English and have some fun while learning. I like to say it’s a safe environment where you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes and being yourself. We are there to grow together. I know I’ve learned a lot since I co-founded English Time.

We have people from many different places in the group, including native English speakers. One of those native speakers is our teacher, Mike, who gives us valuable lessons and answers our questions. To make a development analogy, English Time is like the testing environment, and later you go to production, which is when you speak English with international clients daily. Having a chance to fine-tune English skills enhances the communication quality later between teams and their clients.

Programmers: One thing I learned while attending English Time is that you have an expansive knowledge of American pop culture. So, I’m sorry, but this question will be a bit difficult: What is your favorite American movie, musician, and television show?

Pecorari: Yeah, I think this is the hardest question! My mind works like a Comic-Con. If you could go through my mind, it would be a Comic-Con full of movies, tv shows, video games, and songs.

In terms of my favorite movie, I think my friends would expect something different from me, like a superhero movie or Star Wars or Harry Potter. But I have to say that my favorite movie is A Walk to Remember, based on a Nicholas Sparks book. I didn’t read the book, but the movie is great. Don’t get me wrong, I love DC and Marvel a lot. I love their movies. Still, A Walk to Remember has a warm, special place in my heart.

When it comes to music, I don’t necessarily have a favorite band or song. But I would have to pick Katy Perry as my favorite singer because I relate to her. I like her message, how she wants to make the world better, how nice she is with people and her fans, and how she cares about humanity. It’s not just the songs I love, it’s also her personality, so it’s the whole package.

In terms of TV shows, people that know me well would kill me if I didn’t say The Flash. I’m a strong The Flash stan! Grant Gustin, who is the star of The Flash, used to exchange messages on Twitter with me, and he even gave me a shoutout in some videos before he was famous. The Flash has my heart because of him but also because, when I started to learn more about the character, I realized how cool he is as a superhero.

Programmers: You mentioned video games. Any ones in particular you want to quickly shout out?

Pecorari: I loved playing video games as a kid, and when I got older, I bought a PS3 and played The Last of Us. That game tugged at my heart so hard, and I love it so much. I have the action figures and t-shirts. I’m a huge fan. And I’m excited about the tv show; maybe it will become my new favorite series (besides The Flash, of course)!

I also love the sequel, The Last of Us Part II. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I appreciated all the different representation in that game, such as a strong female lead and LGBTQ+ characters, so I think it was a really great game.

Programmers: Speaking of strong female representation, I noticed you advocate for the message #testlikeagirl on LinkedIn and other platforms. Can you give us an idea of what this message means to you?

Pecorari: As a woman, I know how hard the world can be on us and how we often need to prove ourselves two, three, or four times more than men. At my college, I was a part of a tech group with about ten guys, and I was the only girl there. At that time, the technology field had a mindset of “It’s a man’s world.” At a different company that I interviewed with, the interviewer said to me, “Oh, we’re looking for a guy because girls are too emotional to deal with.”

I know things are changing and thank goodness for that. But when I say, “test like a girl,” I want women to see it and to know that this field is for them, too. I want them to know that women can be part of QA, there are more of us here, and we can be anywhere we want. As women QAs, we can test nicely, we can test gloriously, we can test with excellent quality, and that’s all a part of “testing like a girl.” That’s who we are, and I am super proud of it.