Made It! - Testing times for Laura at Sheffield software firm Razor

When a website doesn’t work properly it’s only natural to mash all the keys in frustration and try to make it crash.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 10:37 am

But if it responds promptly to every click then someone like Laura Smythe has done the mashing for you.

Laura, aged 23, is a software tester at Razor in Sheffield. She employs a variety of methods - some subtle, some more direct - to check whether the company’s products work, long before they’re used and abused by a tantrum-prone public.

She said: “I take a piece of software and try to break it. I normally work with a finished product and go to a website like a user would - and click all the buttons as fast as possible.

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The Star's Made It! series celebrates apprentices and first jobs.

“We always say there’s no way we can find all the bugs but the software has to work.”

Especially where real money is involved, such as on retail websites, she adds.

But fun though that is, Laura wants to be a developer and write code, an ambition supported by bosses at the company.

It’s a long way from school where, because Laura was good at maths, the focus was always around getting a job in finance, she says.

Staff at work at Razor. Picture Scott Merrylees

It wasn’t until she was studying maths at Bristol University and made friends on tech courses that she switched on to computer science.

Keen to return to Sheffield, she only had to apply for five jobs before winning a place at Razor - a sign of her skills, a booming sector, a booming company - and the usefulness of maths.

“There was a lot of work on offer in Yorkshire and Sheffield is really good for companies in digital manufacturing.”

The only downside is the lack of women, a ratio Laura is helping to change.

Apprentice Alfie Gibbs. Picture Scott Merrylees

She added: “Don’t be intimidated by the men because they’re not that bad really.”

Razor’s clients include South Staffs Water, financial services business Fleetcor and a FTSE 100 aerospace manufacturer. It also built an app called ‘Market of Mums’ which allows influencers from Towie, Love Island and Corrie to sell baby clothes their offspring have grown out of.

In September, apprentice Alfie Gibbs joined from school.

Razor is at Speedwell Works on Sidney Street. Picture Scott Merrylees

The 17-year-old is a junior software developer writing code, mostly using C#, to create website pages featuring sign-up buttons and chatbots.

He said: “I like the pay, I like to learn on the job. You’re never just working on one thing and the people are all right as well.”

Alfie went to Whittington Green School in Chesterfield and was the only one of his friends to leave education.

“I’m not a fan of lectures. I like to learn by doing.”

Laura Smythe and Alfie Gibbs at Razor software. Picture Scott Merrylees
The City Growth campaign - run in partnership by The Star and the Sheffield city centre Business Improvement District.
Software tester Laura Smythe at Razor software. Picture Scott Merrylees