Blog Post / May 15, 2019 / Industry Voices

From QA to Culinary School: My Journey to SevenRooms

by Bianca McLaren
Bianca McLaren

A Seat at the Table: Interview with a SevenRooms Team Member

Name: Anthony Romano

Title: Senior QA Lead

Team: Product

Favorite NYC Restaurant: Marea

Best Hidden Gem: ROVE in Forest Hills, NY

Favorite Restaurant Tech Tool: Chamber vacuum

Childhood Dream Job: Video game creator

If you’d told me back in college that one day I’d be able to combine my love of cooking and a culinary school degree with QA testing to work at a restaurant reservation software company, I would have said you were crazy.

While attending CUNY - College of Staten Island, I got my first taste of working in hospitality as a host and cashier at a Hilton in Woodbridge, New Jersey. While there, I realized how much I loved cooking and being in the kitchen, even though, at the time, I wasn’t any good at it. Getting to see the inner workings of the restaurant business from a front of house perspective really opened my eyes to what a career in that industry could look like.

However, after graduating from college with a degree in Computer Science, I threw hospitality into the back of my mind, taking a job as a QA software tester with a company that promised to provide training for all entry-level employees. It was an offer I couldn’t pass up. While working there, I got more interested in food and began cooking for fun for friends and family whenever my full-time job allowed.  

While working in QA consulting and after getting out of a long-term relationship, my then coworker (now wife), said I should go to culinary school to keep myself busy doing something I loved: cooking. I applied and was accepted to a 9-month program at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in NYC, continuing to work at my full-time day job, while going to class three times a week.

Sleep was a constant challenge, as I’d go from working 8:30am-5:00pm doing QA consulting, to 6:00-10:00pm in school, and then have to travel back to Staten Island, where I was living at the time. This was all while volunteering at the James Beard Foundation’s Beard House on the weekends AND holding down an externship at the 1-Michelin-star restaurant, Musket Room, for 24 hours a week. To say I was busy is an understatement!

Throughout all of this, what got me most excited to wake up each morning, despite the sleep deprivation, was knowing that there was something new I was going to learn every day -- a new cooking technique, a dish from a far-off destination or how to use the latest and greatest restaurant tech gadget.

While working in hospitality, I learned that success is 100% aligned with your attitude. I went in with no experience, but I knew how to talk to people, and that made a world of difference. It’s about the ‘yes’ instead of the ‘no,’ about recognizing and understanding someone else’s perspective and meeting them there.

Throughout all of this, I realized that the reason cooking felt so natural to me is that QA testing and cooking correlate closely, and I had a natural affinity for both. In QA, there are so many different aspects of a testing pipeline to follow. While software is getting developed, there are individual parts to inspect to make sure that each one feeds in nicely to the larger product without any kinks. The same applies to cooking and working in a kitchen. When you're plating a dish, you have to ensure each component that needs to be prepared ahead of time is complete, as well as finishing any ingredients which require cooking so that they are ready at the same time. That’s exactly what QA is -- juggling multiple pieces all at once to make a whole, complete product.   

I found this job accidentally, having worked with SevenRooms’ VP of Product Ray Mandaro at a previous company. My wife saw that he’d posted on Linkedin looking for a full stack software engineer, and saw there was also a junior QA role available. I wasn’t ready to leave my existing job at the time, but reached out jokingly saying that if he ever was hiring for a senior QA role to let me know. One lunch with Ray later, where he showed me the platform in action, and I was sold. This company was all my passions wrapped in a bundle and tied with a bow. It felt serendipitous!

The future of this company gets me very excited. We’re evolving and adapting. We’re starting trends and setting a new industry standard. We’re trying to right wrongs. If you’re served something at a restaurant and it’s not right or doesn’t taste good, they’ll take it back. We do the same thing. We take it, fix it and serve it back to our clients in a way that’s better than they could ever have imagined. That’s what gets me excited to come into work every day.    

Interested in joining the SevenRooms team? Check out our careers page for open roles. To learn more about SevenRooms’ platform, request a demo today.

About the Author

Bianca McLaren

Bianca McLaren is the Senior Manager, Brand Marketing at SevenRooms, where she heads up brand awareness, communications and event programming. Based at New York HQ, she's always on the hunt for the best sushi in the city.

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