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Breaking Illusions To Save Customers’ Time

Jason Sattler

05.07.18 4 min. read

To commemorate F-Secure’s 30th year of innovation, we’re profiling 30 of our fellows from our more than 25 offices around the globe.

Creating great software doesn’t just have to be about what you know. For Maaret Pyhäjärvi, it’s about working together to learn from your next mistake.

As Senior Manager of F-Secure’s Windows end-points R&D, R&D PSB & Business Suite, she and her team of exploratory testers work side by side with programmers to make our solutions “awesome.” But that doesn’t mean she spends her days shining false rays of sunshine everywhere.

“I like to think of tester’s job as breaking illusions,” she says.

This requires her to compare the wishful thinking and her colleagues with the empirical evidence to maximize “limited headspace” and reveal what works and what doesn’t so customers don’t have to waste their time doing the testers’ job. And that combination of development and exploratory testing is her secret sauce of awesomeness.

“Exploratory testers are primarily thinkers who look at products we’re building as their external imagination,” she says.

To her, “curiosity and active learning” are the foundation of what makes a great exploratory tester. But what is really required to shape this unique skill is time — lots and lots of time both testing and being coached or supported by your associates.

Fortunately, her job allows her to shift her focus, balancing her team’s priorities with a commitment to professional development.

“The first manager I had at F-Secure told me my job is 20-60% hands-on testing, 20-60% helping others to do testing and whatever I felt is beneficial to the company,” she said. “I still believe this is how I manage my workdays and there’s always some little improvement project going on around our continuous releases.”

Without the proper time to learn the art, everyone and everything, including the products, suffer.

“Sometimes people don’t understand what testing is about and how wonderful it is, and in many organizations — not ours! — people are managed with metrics that change the work to be less joyful and learning focused,” she said.

This leads to people leaving the career, before they recognize what’s possible both from themselves and testing.

Maaret understands what it’s like to be stifled in the early stages of a career.

She discovered a love of programming as teenager when her allergies put her in the hospital. But she also found that studying programming in college cured her of much of her affection for the field and some unhelpful male colleagues cured her of the rest.

Luckily, she “discovered I was superbly great at finding problems and understanding things we did not yet understand” and became a tester. Now, she not only helps make F-Secure products awesome, she speaks at about 20 international conferences around the world. If you have a conversation about exploratory testing in Finland, chances are her name will come up.

Testing not only delights her instinct for inquiry, it allows her to utilize the skills she picked up as she learned as a programmer.

“Back in school I was taught a concept of triangulation in figuring out what is real and what is an illusion,” she said. “The idea is that you confirm with three sources. What the programmers here say they intended to do is one source, and what they really did check into the codebase is another source. Using what was created is the third.”

By combining these sources, she provides the Fellows she works with something even better than input—timely input.

“Everyone hates to hear two weeks later something they did isn’t working, and picking it up again,” she said. “Whereas learning there was trouble right away — or even better, as we are doing it together — we almost forget there was trouble in the first place.”

That’s how she helps break illusions without wounding inspiration.

Knowing you’re going to make mistakes is much easier when you know you’ll have help to fix them. Maaret’s job is to help make F-Secure’s products better and she’s been assisted her by people who preach the benefits of collaboration. It’s a virtue she lives in her daily work and by teaching the unique collaborative art of “mob programming.”

In her first stint at F-Secure in 2001, she had a boss who changed her life by teaching her how to organize her work and trusting her to deliver. A consulting agreement prevented her from taking a full-time gig but years later, she became one of the many Fellows who came back to work at our Helsinki headquarters for a second time.

“I absolutely love it here.”

And what it is about this company she loves most?

“People,” she says. “We’re in this together.”

And check out our open positions if you want to join Maaret and the hundreds of other great fellows fighting to keep internet users safe from online threats.

Jason Sattler

05.07.18 4 min. read


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