Ivan Barajas Vargas of MuukTest: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is a new paradigm for doing things in your industry, it is in it’s early phases; get comfortable being uncomfortable during this transition.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ivan Barajas Vargas.

During the 15 years that Ivan Barajas Vargas worked in QA and test automation, he realized that testing was slow and required an army of QAs to get it automated. In 2019, he and Renan Ugalde founded MuukTest, an AI-powered solution that effortlessly automates software testing in days instead of years. Since being part of top startup accelerators like MassChallenge and TechStars, MuukTest received grants from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, as well as being included in Google for Startups’ Latino Founders Fund for 2023, among other grants.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Myjourney began in the year 2000 when I decided to study Computer Science. Back then, I liked math and physics, but making a living as a physicist in Mexico seemed very hard, so the next best thing was to study engineering.

As I was deciding between electrical engineering and computer science, there were very few computer scientists, and the Internet was gaining popularity fast. When I used the Internet for the first time, I was hooked and decided I wanted to become a programmer and learn all about computers.

Also, I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My family and relatives owned grocery stores, which taught me about entrepreneurship early on. Despite doing well in corporate jobs, I always wanted to become an entrepreneur.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What truly sets MuukTest apart is our strategic approach to Quality Assurance (QA). While many in the industry focus solely on automating tests, we believe in automating the right tests at the right time, prioritizing quality over quantity.

This mindset is exemplified by our commitment to achieving full coverage in our software testing process. Rather than automating tests for the sake of it, we aim to cover all aspects of QA. This dedication to quality has resonated with our dozens of customers, who appreciate the value we bring beyond mere automation. They recognize the difference our approach makes, as it ensures that their software is thoroughly tested and reliable.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I will better mention which traits I aspire to have, and these apply to everyone around me: my wife, family, cofounder, teammates, investors, etc (including me!).

1 — Fairness: Fairness is not easy in a world convoluted by incentives and egos. However, I strive to assess every situation from different perspectives to understand it better and drive a ‘fair’ decision-making process.

2 — Compassion: Another tough one. I understand compassion as understanding others’ situations and making a determination in their best interest, which doesn’t mean going in the direction of their thinking.

3 — Have fun as possible: enjoy work, enjoy life, enjoy.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

It’s great to see how AI has evolved within the industry in recent years. Since our initial discussions about MuukTest back in 2018, followed by prototyping in 2019, and finally rolling out the first usable application in 2020, our focus has always been on using AI to automate QA. This has kept us ahead of the trend. Since then, a couple of companies have been trying to automate testing using AI, but few have achieved significant success. We are in the right direction to do it.

Although the idea of AI in testing has been around for a decade or more, the current acceleration of AI adoption is driving this disruption faster than ever before. Fortunately, we’re ahead of the curve, embracing AI early on has given us a head start over many others.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

What’s interesting about AI is that there are many models available beyond the mainstream ones we often hear about. These days, the NLP and GPT models are very popular.

However, what is truly interesting is the vast array of models. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all technology. Many different technologies can be employed, and we are still to see which technologies or which models will ultimately have the greatest impact.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

I believe that the pivotal moments we witnessed weren’t exclusive to our sector, but they were tools accessible to every industry.

Several pivotal moments stand out for me. The first was observing Google’s journey of integrating various AI models to improve their search engine and other projects over the years. Witnessing their progress, especially through projects like AlphaGo and others, showed the versatility of AI and its potential to get tangible results. This realization gave me confidence that the tools could be used to solve any problem, including those in the QA industry.

A most recent pivotal moment is OpenAI’s work with GPT. However, it was Google’s ability to commercialize AI-based products and tackle complex challenges with AI that truly inspired me.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

In terms of our workforce, our focus is on raising awareness about the power of these new AI tools. We frequently discuss AI because it’s at the core of what we do, but we also talk about the power of using other AI tools to make ourselves more efficient.

For example, we have a hackathon, our Muukathon, in which a couple of projects used GPT for specific tasks.

I firmly believe that AI can be used to make us more efficient in every task we do in the company. It can have an impact on marketing, operations, and sales, not just on the product that we are working on. So we approach the use of AI from two perspectives: firstly, its implementation to solve QA challenges, which is integral to our work; and secondly, its integration into our processes and daily operations to improve our overall efficiency,

The most valuable skills in the AI future will be decision-making, data interpretation, and building strong mental models.

It’s crucial to create strong mental models of what “good” looks like because we will be able to use AI for many things, and they will create things that seem to be right but may not be right. As we have seen, AI technologies like ChatGPT, DALL-E, and Gemini can make unacceptable mistakes.

In the end, humans remain responsible for guiding AI and ensuring that the input data is accurate and relevant — garbage in, garbage out, right? We need good data and asking the right questions to get good outputs. The other essential thing is analyzing the outcomes to curate the answers and ensure they’re right. Therefore, we must understand what ‘good’ entails for any AI we intend to use.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

The biggest challenge for everyone is changing their mindset to use these AI tools efficiently instead of learning some specific skills. The biggest challenge is having the right mindset and understanding that AI will maximize what we can do rather than do everything for us.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

In the QA and test automation industry, ethical considerations may be related to reducing the need for QA engineers.

Our approach is that AI tools will maximize what someone can do and enable anyone to do more, regardless of their skills.

For example, in test automation, a good manual QA struggles to get the technical skills to do automate tests. We are approaching this ethical consideration by giving possibilities for someone who is not technical to do a technical job. So, instead of seeing AI as a tool that takes job opportunities from current QAs, we see it as a tool that enhances what QAs can do, expanding their possibilities.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

1 . Embrace AI. You don´t need to be against it, ignore it, or be scared of it; you need to embrace it.

2 . Stay informed. Learn what is going on in your industry and what are the possibilities.

3 . Capitalize on progress. Build on top of the progress made in AI and align your strategies with its direction.

4 . Anticipate future trends: As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “Skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

5 . Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is a new paradigm for doing things in your industry, it is in it’s early phases; get comfortable being uncomfortable during this transition.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

A common misconception is that AI will be able to do all the testing and all the QA. And no, that’s a misconception because you always need a smart human to make good use of the AI.

So, AI won’t take over and do everything for QA engineers or software developers regarding quality, but it will accelerate what can be done. You still need a skilled engineer or coworker who understands the tool and the AI because the AI won’t do everything, at least not 100% right.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Actually, I have a folder in Google Photos for famous quotes, and it changes over time. It depends on the stage of my life and maybe even the stage of the year.

One of my favorites is a stoic saying by Marcus Aurelius: “If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it.” I like it a lot.

Another one is a Zen quote that says, “Essence is at ease.” It always puts everything into perspective for me. When things start getting crazy, it brings me back to a peaceful zone.

“Direction over speed” by Shane Parrish from Farnam Street is one of my favorites, too. It helps you focus and continue making progress regardless of the speed. If you can put speed, that’s great, but direction is the most important thing, and you will get somewhere.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

My work can be defined into 3 main things, and they keep me up at night all the time.

  1. Setting up the vision. Where are we going to land? How do I ensure that everyone understands where we are driving towards so we can drive together?
  2. Raising the bar — on the team and myself. Everyone is raising the bar so we can be 1% better every day and keep growing.
  3. The culture. Observing the culture, figuring out how it is developing, and trying to have some stewardship or a saying on how it develops in MuukTest to ensure a healthy culture.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe the most good that anyone can have is peace. I would start a movement of self-knowledge, a self-learning movement related to understanding more about ourselves and the world. Hence, we would be more at peace, and that peace would impact the peace and happiness of everyone else.

It sounds like a religious movement, but it doesn’t have to be religious. It may be more spiritual, but in the end, it’s about self-knowledge about life and how things are.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Follow me and MuukTest, my company on LinkedIn here:

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.