Cash register abuser
Randy Adair, 47, Retail Store Solutions Test Manager, IBM, Research Triangle Park, N.C.
By Jenny Mero, Fortune reporter

(Fortune Magazine) -- I have a computer-science degree, but I always knew I didn't want to write code. Software can be somewhat nebulous; hardware testing is fun. As a tester I can break things. I have to be creative. I work with any product that has a function in a retail space, from bars on cruise ships to sports arenas. So that includes cash registers, printer displays, and standalone kiosks. IBM started its retail division in 1972, and I've been with the company for 25 years. I see the stuff I test every time I go shopping.

Think of everything a retail system has to go through - pounding, spills, and drops. We drop cash registers to simulate what a delivery guy might accidentally do. We also have a shaker table that vibrates and simulates a minor earthquake. The components have to stay in place. There are other tests we use, like the Big Gulp, where we drop 32 ounces of liquid onto the cash register. We know someone will do that by accident. Afterward we take it apart and check it.

We also bake and freeze our units to simulate shipping conditions. Imagine that the delivery truck's AC breaks down in the middle of Texas during the summer; the truck could reach a temperature of 140 degrees. After baking registers we wait four hours and then freeze them at minus 40 degrees to mimic a stalled truck in the middle of winter in Russia. A couple of years ago a store using our equipment had its roof blown off by a hurricane. Our service guys went out to help the store get the equipment running. They poured the water out of the machines and let them sit in the sun for three days. Once they were plugged in, they worked.  Top of page