HTW Students visiting Zalando Technology

by Christian Rochow - 24 Apr 2014

Some weeks ago, a small group of 20 business informatics students from the HTW Berlin visited Zalando at the technology office to catch a glimpse of the daily business behind the scenes.

Unfortunately – or luckily for the young women, it was impossible to introduce every single technology team to the students. As we wanted to make this day as exciting and interesting as possible the agenda was split. In the morning three main areas of technology were presented: Jan Mußler from Platform/Software team talked about our platform and the basic setup of our system. Product Manager Katarina Matthes showed, how product management at Zalando Technology works. I myself work in QA and gave an overview about the quality assurance and its themes.

Jan Mußler presenting the platform structure

Both Product management and Testing were about to be enlarged later in the practical part in the afternoon. But before this, the visitors were guided through the office. They looked very surprised as they left the tight corridors of the main building and entered the huge open space office on the second floor. Everything that makes our work fast and flexible could be seen:

  • Dynamic interacting teams without physical boundaries
  • Active control of our system by live monitoring
  • Open and unproblematic communication
  • State-of-the-art equipment.

Once all questions regarding team structure, processes and working hours were answered, we went back towards "home base" - the Technology Mentoring Area, which usually is used to train our new colleagues. In the meantime a tasty lunch was prepared and the lunch break was a good opportunity to share the impressions between students and Zalando-manias who joined in to answer questions.

After the lunch we started the practical part of the day. Main theme was the test of catalog pages. While four students got the chance to test new product pages within the Userlab, all others worked in small groups on the following tasks:

  • Definition of test cases to verify catalog pages on their functionality
  • Monitor and review the Userlab goup
  • Examine and discuss the new product layouts

During testing, the students were asked to create test cases for certain functionalities of different catalog pages, like filters or sorting. Here they noticed, that it was not that easy to find the correct test cases, which have a single result. They also learned, that using negative tests - the testing for wrong entries and causing errors - is important, too. With writing test cases the students even were able to use our test management tool "TestLink".

The Userlab was more about visual evaluating new catalog page functionalities. Four students volunteered to act as test persons. On parallel another group was built to act as observer. In a separate room next door to the Userlab they watched the eye movements on a monitor and the comments of the participants to review it afterwards. So they got a first glimpse of how such usability tests are done.

Another group had the opportunity to see a new navigation element that was in product development at this time. The students of this focus group first evaluated the new feature independently of each other and wrote as both as positive as negative impressions on small cards. Those cards were presented to the Product Managers afterwards. By sticking the cards onto a board, clustering of possible achievements or failures of the feature is visible. This methodology made it possible to get uninfluenced thoughts of each participant.

The day was almost over when in the end everyone met in the Mentoring Area again and a small conclusion of the day was made and some giveaways were handed to the students. Some learnings were taken from the usablity tests: our product management was able to convert the students' feedback into changes on the design of the navigation elements. The last task came from the professor: Every student got some homework to do. That's how a student's life is - you can have a great day outside the campus, but in the end you have to write a report :-)

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