October 24, 2023

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How good QA is a lot like producing a TV show, with OSOM's Victor Dutra

The distinction between any old product and a good product can come down to a lot of things, but a primary consideration regardless of vision or market is execution: Ensuring that you actually got what you wanted to build in the first place. And that’s why you need a good QA team. 

Today we’re back in that department, talking to Victor Dutra, one of OSOM’s Senior QA Engineers. 

Nice to speak to you, Vic. Because some of the people who are reading this aren't necessarily familiar with how software development works or, at the very least, how we've structured our systems, can you tell us what your title is and what sort of stuff that means you usually do — startup multitasking aside?

So I am a Senior QA Engineer here at OSOM — almost said Essential. [Laughs.] We’ll be talking about that in a bit. I am responsible for all manual testing for systems and everything that the phone does, pretty much. I'm also responsible across the product lifecycle for continued test suites and test cases run on each release periodically as we get new features out. I make sure everything functions, there aren’t any regressions, and there are no new issues. That’s my job: Making sure that things work. 

The way I fell in love with QA is through editing. I was a film major before I got into software development. And, to me, QA is a lot like editing a film— the software development lifecycle is a lot like building a movie or TV show. You’ve got a treatment and idea, then a script or storyboards, then you build that, and then the editing room is what a QA engineer does. You know the story, and how do you deliver that story? It’s my responsibility to make sure that the “director’s” vision is delivered to the audience. 

That’s a really interesting perspective! I can see that. 

You touched on it briefly, but you were also part of the engineering team at Essential. What was it like coming back to a different company but the same team? How did your time there mesh with your time here? 

Essential was amazing because it was all new to me — I’d never built a phone before. One of the main reasons I wanted to work there was because of Jacin Ferreira, one of my previous managers, who used to work at OSOM as well. I worked for him at a company called Jawbone, which made the first Bluetooth speaker, and we helped put that out. It was my first non-contract QA job. 

Going to Essential was cool — I got to build a phone and work with Andy Rubin. I spent a little time at Google working as a Bluetooth interoperability test engineer. That was the first time I was exposed to the idea of “unlimited resources.” You could get any device you wanted and make sure it was working with the system. And it was a similar situation at Essential; we could do any and all engineering or comparative analyses. 

It was really freeing as a QA engineer, because you don’t get that everywhere you go. We also had a great understanding of what our goals were as a company. And we hired people like Nick Franco, our Head of Camera. I remember the first time I met him, thinking, “this guy’s insane; I don’t know how he’s working so much.” But he was just that hungry — he works so hard because he loves it. 

Things at OSOM are a little different. We run a little more lean, we don’t have that unicorn billion-dollar startup money to play with this time, and I think it’s smart. Our CEO, Jason, really cares about making sure we all succeed, and being cautious and smart with how we utilize our funds is safe. 

Jason was just on a podcast that’s in production now, and he touched on that: We’ve never been in the red as a company. We have always been in the black. Like zero startups do that. We don’t spend frivolously. We spend smart.  

In our last Employee Spotlight post, I got to pick Prabhakar’s brain. I know we all juggle a lot of varied tasks in a startup, but he’s the lead for QA, right? 

Yes, and I think he’s too humble. We all work together to achieve things — it’s the style you have to have when you’re a startup. There has to be delegation, but also cooperation and collaboration. If I’m not careful, he’ll try to do everything himself! He doesn’t shy away from work; none of us do. But he’s a joy to work with, goes a hundred miles an hour, and doesn’t want to put a burden on anybody or the team. So if he can take it on himself, he will. That’s not always healthy, but it does show how much he really cares about the team and the work that he’s doing. 

No one here is afraid of doing great work. I love that about OSOM. 

No sir. 

Because we all end up with our fingers in different pies, what is the most interesting thing you’ve worked on here at OSOM outside of the normal QA process?

Back at Essential, I was considering a career shift closer to product. As a QA engineer, I’m not someone who does a lot of coding, but I’ve always been drawn to the product story — defining it, how it works, and how we deliver it. I got a little taste of that at Essential, but not too much. But in our current state, I’ve been really empowered to be more involved on the product side of things, which has been really cool. That’s not something that QA typically does at most companies, and it makes working at OSOM pretty special. 

I got to work a lot more in Figma and with our UX, helping determine expectations and design. That’s something I’ve always had a passion for, and I’m super thankful for opportunities to explore that here. 

Prabhakar has a specific opinion here, but I am curious about yours: What is the hardest bug you’ve tracked down?

I read his post, and I know all about how tough random reboots are to log. But for me, the hardest has been working on APN issues with non-domestic carriers. It’s such a painful experience, and it’s also so fundamental to a phone — really aggravating. 

We had one issue with this in Saga, but it’s been tracked down and fixed, so that should be included in the next update, pending validation. And I’m happy to deliver that. 

Speaking of, what’s your favorite feature on Saga?

You know, that’s a tough one. I’m going to have to say the upcoming Forge features, though I can only tease those — they aren’t entirely public yet. 

Don’t tease the readers! They bite. 

Outside of that, our camera is my favorite. I really enjoyed working on it as an Essential alumnus. The PH-1 camera experience was received negatively. It didn’t meet our expectations as QA. So, from that perspective, it’s been great working with the camera team and guys like Nick, who genuinely care and listen to feedback. But really, it’s that journey — from Essential to OSOM, and knowing how good our camera is now — that is probably why the camera would be my favorite feature. 

One last question: If you could work on any sort of product, whether that’s as a QA engineer or a product lead or whatever, what would it be? 


Someday, I want to get back into something audio-related. I deeply enjoyed my time at Jawbone — really cut my teeth there. I learned a lot from a lot of really good people, and I’ve carried those relationships. I’ve grown a passion for understanding there. My career was originally very close to film — I started at Sony, then went to TiVo, then Netflix. I tried to stay in that area because I love film and television, so part of me will always want to be in that space. And when I landed at Jawbone, it was like: I don’t really know what I’m doing even though you guys picked me to be here. But Brian Miyakusu, my boss at the time, really instilled confidence in me and pushed me to learn without putting limits on me. I became really passionate about the subject. 

Because of that journey, I would like to get back to working on audio someday. I haven’t touched a Bluetooth sniffer in ages or done any of the stuff I learned there, like digging into Bluetooth protocols — it’s changed so much since then. 

From what I hear, you might get your wish, Vic — but I promised we wouldn’t tease the readers. Thanks for chatting with me! I love QA, it’s the unsung hero of any good product.