Inspiring Quality Through Innovation: The Pearson Quality Quest 2018


How can one be innovative and maintain a high standard of quality in whatever is being developed? Answering this question was Sanjeewa Senarath – Head of Quality Engineering at Pearson Lanka welcoming everyone to the Pearson Quality Quest 2018.

Sanjeewa explained that the Pearson Quality Quest 2018 is not just a conference. Rather, It’s an opportunity for Pearson to collaborate with university students. Further, it’s also an opportunity for Pearson to build their team, and bring a lot of capabilities to the surface.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Sanjeewa Senarat addressing the audience at the Pearson Quality Quest 2018

To be an engineer, one must have knowledge in Science and Mathematics. To be innovative, you need to use the knowledge of science and mathematics to solve problems around you. Trends such as AI, IoT, serverless architectures all challenge developers to have shorter testing cycles. So rather than testing the product separately, the goal is to develop a solution and test it all in one, giving the end user a fully functioning problem free product.

Why Quality Engineering?

Following Sanjeewa’s session, we had Dennis Stetzel – Vice President, Global Hosting and Cloud Operations at Pearson on stage. In order to change the world through education, Pearson has embarked on a journey of digital transformation. Dennis emphasized that “We take responsibility for changing the world.”

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Dennis Stetzel addressing the audience

So Why quality engineering? Well at its core, it’s up to everyone at Pearson to make sure that those with barriers to education have access to education and also access to the right materials to high-quality education as well.

“This is the best event I’ve ever seen”

This was the opening line of Anura De Alwis – General Manager of Pearson Lanka. Anura expressed his gratitude to those organizing the Pearson Quality Quest 2018. He emphasized that this was all made possible with a limited budget.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Anura De Alwis addressing the audience

Anura then went on to talk about service. “Our bread and butter is service”, Anura explained. We have to market our brand and do so in an innovative manner. We have to be innovative in whatever that we do. Anura explained that even if you have a chance of failing, it’s still better to go ahead and do the innovation than hold back because of fear. Even if you fail, take it up as a learning experience and be better the next time.

How one man revolutionized the transportation system

This was a prime example of innovation that Rohan Jayaweera – Country General Manager – Sri Lanka and Maldives at Palo Alto Networks was here to talk about for his keynote address. Remember Henry Ford? Rohan started off by talking about the New York in the 1800s and how Henry Ford revolutionized the transportation system.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Henry Ford and the Model T which was the firs affordable automobile (Image Credits: Germanamur

Back then, New York was slated to only be in operation for about 40-50 years. This was because transport then relied on animals. Ford, in case you didn’t already know, developed and manufactured the first automobile that was affordable to middle-class Americans. This, in turn, caused an uproar in terms of traditional transportation methods.

So what is Innovation?

Well, to answer that, Rohan explained the difference between invention, improvement, and innovation. Whilst invention is creating something new, improvement is streamlining that process. In contrast, innovation is something that you can articulate a commercial value to a product.

For example, if a company streamlines their software by optimizing their code lines, the client won’t really care about it unless he/she can gain a benefit from it. But, if the company can create a new method to help out a client, with better results or the same results in a faster time, that would be an innovation.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Rohan Jayaweera addressing the audience

Rohan went on to explain that a challenge for innovation in organizations is their culture. Certain companies might show an adverse reaction to doing things differently to the way they have been doing it.  Drawing from his experience at Google, Rohan spoke about Google’s 9 Notions of innovation. These are 9 points that showcase how Google retains their innovative edge over their competition.

Consequently, Rohan also emphasized that just because it worked for Google, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. You need to get something that works for you. Rohan listed down a number of examples of how innovation has disrupted traditional methods of performing tasks. These included buying music (traditional CDs vs Apple Music and Spotify), buying video content (DVDs vs watching content on Netflix etc.). and even booking accommodation (booking a room at Hilton vs finding accommodation via Airbnb). “Basically “Innovation is everywhere.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Buying music CDs vs streaming it online is a good example of how innovation has taken place (Image Credits: Windows Central)

How does innovation change the world? “Very slowly”, Rohan explained. He went on to say that at its initial stages, an innovative trend will be slow at first. Then as more and more people discover and use it, it will pick up really fast.

So what is quality, really?

For starters, Rohan explained that that quality is a very subjective area. What one person defines as being of high quality might not tick all the boxes in. So how can you define quality? Well, one way you can define it is to expand your reference points. This would give you a better understanding of what exactly is out there and how and what you can learn from it.

Rohan also explained that Iteration is everything. The more you do something, the more familiar you get with it and the more you see how you can improve yourself. In addition to improving yourself, you should also reward your achievements to stay motivated. In conclusion, Rohan emphasized that “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission”.

Learning about Quality Assurance and Quality Testing

Following Rohan’s keynote address, we had Teresa Jacobs – Vice President of Global Software Quality Engineering at Pearson on stage. Teresa’s session revolved around the difference between quality assurance and quality testing. She started off by explaining that her department deals with testing apps to make sure that they work as they are supposed to with no hiccups.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Teresa Jacobs addressing the audience

Teresa then went on to talk about the differences between Quality Assurance and Quality Engineering. Whilst the former deals with the overall process of ensuring a final product meets specified requirements, the latter deals with defining, maintaining and improving that system.

From there, Teresa went on to explain some of the methods they carry out to find bugs in apps and products that they have developed. In order to help the team, a number of bots have also been developed to carry out automatic testing. In fact, Teresa emphasized that you can save almost 50% of your testing time if you automate your testing procedure.

Fostering Innovation with Quality

The next session at the Pearson Quality Quest 2018 was a panel discussion. The panel consisted of Malik Ahamadeen – Director/CEO of MAS Linea NXT, Subuki Shihabdeen – Head of Enterprise Architecture at Pearson Lanka along with Rohan Jayaweera and Teresa Jacobs. Rohan recalled his earlier points about the differences between invention, innovation, and improvement. Malik added to this that even though Innovation is frequently used, funding for innovation is the issue.

Most often, when someone has an innovative idea, they lack the funding to see it through. So they resort to taking their ideas abroad and selling it off to another company. Malik emphasized that if local innovators can be funded, they would be a great asset to the country’s economy. Malik also added that with regard to the brain drain in Sri Lanka, if we can incentivize the thinkers in SL, we can get them to stick around as well.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
The Panel discussion at the Pearson Quality Quest 2018

Just how important is quality in the entire process of innovation? According to Teresa, it is very important. Rohan added to this by explaining that “Innovation makes you believe that you can change the world”.

Malik explained that one of the biggest struggles that MAS faces is getting students from universities and starting from scratch in building their confidence in building a product. The students are so accustomed to following instructions, that when they are given the freedom to do their own thing, they are unable to carry it out.

A question asked by a member of the audience was how to measure how innovative a person is. Answering this was Rohan by saying that “it’s subjective”. An innovation idea or solution will only be recognized only after its done. Similarly, innovation means you will fail more than you succeed. With a few more questions directed towards the panelists, the panel discussion at the Pearson Quality Quest 2018 came to an end.

Why do people fail?

The last speech at the Pearson Quality Quest 2018 was by Dr. Dushar Dayarathna – Senior lecturer at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. Dr. Dushar started off by talking about the current trends in millennials and how they work.

For example, if you want to encourage baby boomers to work harder, you have to motivate them. This is achieved by giving them job security. Further, you also need to financially incentivize them.

Pearson Quality Quest 2018
Dr. Dushar Dayarathna addressing the audience

Dr. Dushar then went on to talk about a number of examples of innovation. One example was Nick Vujicic. In case you didn’t know, Nick Vujicic was born with a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all 4 limbs. Despite the disorder, Nick lives a very positive life, is married and has 4 children as well.

Similarly, Dr. Dushar used examples of both humans such as Dr. Tererai Trent and also nature, such as a bird who catches fish in the water using a piece of bread and also wild crows in Japan who use the movement of traffic to break open the shells of nuts. Dr. Dushar also spoke about the Icarus paradox. Using the tale of Icarus, he explained how an individual can be blinded by success and not see the danger in front of you.

That wrapped up the Pearson Quality Quest 2018

With awards being handed out for the winners of the contests organized for the preliminary events of the Pearson Quality Quest 2018 and the vote of thanks, the Pearson Quality Quest 2018 came to an end.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here