A man for the community, from the community- A tête-à-tête with Manoj Kumar, our VP-Developer Relations
Posted On: July 21, 2022
8 Min Read
Manoj Kumar is a photographer, biking enthusiast, traveler, and a lot of other things. To put it mildly, he is an explorer at heart. If something catches his fancy, he’ll dig deep and will emerge with new insights or experiences.
It was this very nature that got him interested in Selenium, a popular testing framework, at the start of his career. Today, almost a decade and a half later, Manoj Kumar is one of the most well-known faces in the close-knit testing community for his contributions to Selenium, Appium, and other frameworks, and languages. He is also a popular conference speaker.
We are super proud to welcome Manoj Kumar as VP-Developer Relations at LambdaTest.
Team LambdaTest sat down with Manoj after a month of his joining, to talk about his professional journey, Selenium, developer relations, and everything else in between!
Back in the day..
Manoj still vividly remembers his train journey from Bangalore to Chennai after his three-month induction at the Bangalore office of the services giant Wipro. He was telling his friend that he desperately wanted to get into programming but all his training was done on a testing tool called QTP, an off-the-shelf testing tool. He was in no way inclined towards working on that same tool in his full-time role.
“I used to develop mobile apps on Java 2, Micro Edition (J2ME). Also, I used to program on Visual Basic to create an attendance management system. I was interested in making things work and solving pain points. I found it to be very satisfying,” said Manoj.
Manoj told his onboarding manager that he wanted to get into something that involved programming. After a bit of search, his manager offered him a chance to try out a role that gave him a chance to explore the best of both worlds.
“They put me in a testing role after searching for a few projects and then my manager told me—this is a development role, you come in. My first task was to evaluate Selenium and do a PoC on the Selenium RC framework,” said Manoj.
And thus it began..
Manoj had to figure Selenium out all by himself. His only companion was the internet because no one really knew much about the then-new technology. This was way back in 2010 and his job was to evaluate tools to do web automation on.
“My task was to do a PoC. I was evaluating Selenium and Sahi. No one knew Selenium. I started looking around Stack overflow, documentation, etc. I came to a point where I was doing interesting stuff and I could no longer find answers online,” said Manoj.
That’s when he decided to directly go to the source– the creators of Selenium. Manoj had gotten to know of this Internet Relay Channel through which he could get in touch with Simon Stewart, Jason Huggins, and other early contributors to the Selenium project.
“They were kind and down to earth. I didn’t know that they were so approachable. That’s how my association with Selenium started,” said Manoj.
Soon, it came to a point where Manoj would look forward to forum chats more than checking his work emails. One thing led to another and he was soon contributing to the documentation and code.
“I remember asking why the answers to a few questions weren’t in the documentation. Simon was like why don’t you contribute. I didn’t know what to say, I was stunned. My first contribution was on Selenium 2 and what it was all about. I was so happy about the fact that what I was doing was helping millions of testers around the world. It felt so satisfying,” recollected Manoj.
Organizing and presenting at conferences all across the world soon started. And the rest as they say is history.
Manoj has presented papers across 12+ countries. He is also part of the project leadership committee for Selenium and has contributed to various libraries and frameworks like ngWebDriver, Protractor (“Google shared goodies”, he gleefully adds), and Serenity in the automated testing ecosystem. Manoj is also an accessibility practitioner and is a voluntary member of the W3C ACT-R group.
The professional journey
While Manoj was deep into Selenium, his professional life also took off. At Wipro, he got to work with clients across domains like media and retail. His most memorable project was with Apple.
“This was 2009, not many folks had done automation for mac. Understanding it was really challenging. I worked on the account for two and a half years. It has been one of my best experiences ever,” said Manoj.
He soon got a chance to go to Sydney through Wipro and subsequently shifted to work at Insurance Australia Group (IAG), a multinational insurance company.
Manoj was responsible for release management, development of BDD framework, implementation of Selenium Grid infrastructure running in Docker, and implementation of automated mobile solution setup using XCUITest, among other tasks.
“I got to do a lot of work on accessibility testing at IAG. We brought an automated way for accessibility testing. It was groundbreaking work. I got a lot of speaking engagements, thanks to my work there. At IAG, I understood how people from different cultures work, how they maintain their work-life balance, and all that. But my biggest learning was my work around accessibility testing,” said Manoj.
Soon, Applitools came his way. With Applitools, he got to experience building things from the ground up. He was one of the earliest hires for the APAC region and he was now doing more than just coding.
“Applitools was already a big deal in the US and Europe before they opened shop in APAC. All my life, I had been a coder and was building products, but at Applitools, I got to do the selling and the business side of things as well. I did pre-sales, and evangelism and I also got to learn a lot about AI,” said Manoj.
Throughout his professional career, his contribution to open source has been the common thread. And it all led him to the ‘home’ of Selenium.
Manoj’s final stop before joining LambdaTest was the famed global technology company Thoughtworks. For many reasons, Thoughtworks has always been on Manoj’s radar.
Selenium has its roots in Thoughtworks, his idol Martin Fowler is a legend from ThoughtWorks and his friends had been telling him stories about how awesome Thoughtworks was. Manoj co-led the quality practice for India. He worked with clients across APAC, and SEA in sectors like healthcare, retail, and banking.
“I could connect a lot with Thoughtworks. It was Selenium’s home. I used to follow their tech a lot. They’ve done ground-breaking tech innovation. ThoughtWorks was the place, I transitioned from being a quality leader to becoming a tech leader,” said Manoj.
A step into LambdaTest
As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”
From being a coder who was reluctant to work on an off-the-shelf testing tool, to diving into Selenium, to working with big clients on their digital transformation, selling software, doing evangelism, and being an active community member, it has been quite a ride and that ride has now led him to his role at LambdaTest.
“I love this quote on DevRel from the famed community builder Mary Thengvall — ‘To the company, I represent the community. To the community, I represent the company’. It is the best of both worlds. It is about finding the balance,” said Manoj. “See, we are building a product that our customers will use every day, so they’ll have feedback. I can relay it to the engineering team, and I can also evangelize our products and mission to the community.”
Manoj has his task cut out. LambdaTest has always deeply believed and has gained immensely thanks to open source efforts. Manoj’s role will ensure we have an insider who knows what the community wants and how we can address it. He will also handle the open source office and will act as a sounding board for the engineering teams given his deep knowledge and expertise of the space.
Our mission to build cutting-edge test execution products that the community and enterprises need has indeed found a champion.
Welcome aboard, Manoj!
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