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From customer service to testing. A five year journey at Powershop

API, Xcode, Java, specs… these are all words that five years ago I would have looked at you like you were speaking a foreign language if you had mentioned them in a conversation. Specs is another word for glasses and Java is coffee right? I wouldn’t have been wrong but since then I have learnt that Java is also a language that you can write code in and specs are a way of testing this code.

When I started at Powershop I was 19 years old and fresh out of high school. I started around the time New Zealand’s ‘What’s my number’ campaign was launched and as a result the call center was lucky to get their list of tickets (inbound emails from customers), below 100 at any moment in time. It was pretty crazy. A week after I started I was on the phones and taking calls.

My first job was making sure that ICP’s (Installation Control Points) were added to sign ups and that they were for the correct property… actually easier said than done. Do you know how many number 5 Queen Street’s there are in New Zealand?!

After this I soon progressed on to taking calls from customers about absolutely anything related to their account or electricity in general. When you get thrown in the deep end you learn and pick up things pretty darn quick.

I clearly remember one phone call that I had with a customer in Christchurch. He wanted to know why it was so much cheaper for Genesis to offer them power then it was for Powershop. I quite confidently told him that it was because Genesis owned a generation plant down there so it was cheaper for them to offer power to Christchurch. I got off the phone pretty pleased with how I had answered the call to see the faces of my Manager and Team Leader; expressions were a mix of admiration and complete bewilderment. I had managed to completely sell my theory to the customer so that they entirely believed it, I even had my Manager and Team Leader believing it for a while, unfortunately my theory was 100% false.

During my time in the call center I was involved in training on the ‘Part 10’ project (an industry wide change that meant trawling through all of our metering data) and I became the mobile app expert.

The training I did involved having new Call Center Representative’s (CSR’s) on a dual headset with me listening in on calls so that they could be exposed to customer interactions early, without having the pressure of having to know the answer to every single question. In our seating arrangements there would be a mix of experienced and new staff. This helped make sure that the newbies were getting as much exposure to calls with customers as possible while still having backup readily available if they had any queries or needed us to jump into a call to help them out a bit.

18 months after starting at Powershop I took four months maternity leave to have my daughter. When I came back to work it was such an easy process and my manager was really accommodating allowing me to come back part time and ease back into full time. While I was working part time I would also work some hours from home. This is how my involvement in the Part 10 project came around. Part 10 was a change that the Electricity Authority had initiated and every retailer had to go through. The main goal for Part 10 was to ensure that the metering information was consistent. We had to compare the information that we had about an ICP with the information that the metering company told us we should have. If there were any discrepancies we then had to work with the metering company to work out why the data was different (read HUGE spreadsheets!). This project provided a different element to my work in the Call center and gave me a wider knowledge of the admin tool and how other teams used it compared to the CSRs.

In August 2013 the Powershop Mobile app for iOS was released to the Apple App Store, a few weeks later the Android app went live too. Leading up to this release I had been given the opportunity to go through the app and do a little bit of testing whenever I had time available. When the app launched I was involved in taking care of the training for the Call center staff and became the Mobile app “expert” for escalated queries that the CSRs weren’t too sure about. It was this exposure and involvement that lead me to the idea of testing and I found that I was actually quite good at it. By good I mean there were A LOT of issues that I managed to find, much to the annoyance of the mobile developers . Soon enough a position came up on the Powershop Testing team and thinking “what the hell” I applied. Somehow I managed to secure the job and here I am!

As well as testing we are also given opportunities to learn other things. We have ‘Hack days’ once a month that provides the Delivery team with two days to pitch and work on a project of their choosing with the idea that they use new technology or learn new languages. As long as you are learning then you can pretty much work on anything. Over a few of these hack days I have been able to take the time and have a dabble with writing Ruby. I have learnt how to write automated tests for iOS and my name can also be found amongst the Powershop codebase for the admin interface, something that I never would have imagined five years ago when I walked through the Powershop doors for the first time.

Powershop is very family orientated and this allows me to commute to Wellington three days a week and work in our Masterton office the other two days (close to home). This flexibility makes it easier to balance work with having a young family and getting to spend time at home with my partner and daughter. There have even been times when I have brought my daughter to work with me and had her sleeping under my desk, much to the astonishment of my colleagues.

After two years testing for Powershop I am now an Intermediate Tester and have learnt so much about the mechanics of the interface that the customer sees, what the CSR’s use, the mobile app and software delivery in general. I love the chances that I have been given at Powershop to grow, I have now moved on from the mobile team to a Production support team. This is providing a new and different kind of challenge where my knowledge of Powershop, it’s processes and the electricity industry across both New Zealand and Australia will be put to the test and increase tenfold. The support and encouragement that I have experienced so far makes me excited to see what my future at Powershop holds and what new opportunities may come up.