Q&A with Katrina Clokie

Welcome to this month’s Q&A. Each month we catch up with someone (from the testing community or beyond) with an interest in quality in software development and technology.

Some guests you may know well, and others might be less familiar. I hope you will learn something new about each of them, and something new from each of them. Each will bring their own perspectives and insights on quality and testing.

The format will be the same each time:

  • a little information about this month’s guest and what they are currently up to
  • some questions for them to answer
  • some answers for them to question (the ‘Jeopardy’ section where I will provide the answer and ask the interviewee to give me the question)
  • finally, the ‘Pass it on’ section with a question from last month’s participant and the opportunity to pose a question for next month’s guest

 


This time we are joined by Katrina Clokie. Katrina serves a team of about 30 testers as a Testing Coach in Wellington, New Zealand. She is an active contributor to the international testing community as the editor of Testing Trapeze magazine, a mentor with Speak Easy, a co-founder of her local testing MeetUp WeTest Workshops, an international conference speaker, and a frequent blogger and tweeter.

You can read much more from Katrina by visiting http://katrinatester.blogspot.com where you will find a wealth of excellent articles and resources related to testing.

First of all Katrina, would you like to tell us about anything interesting you’ve been involved in recently, any exciting upcoming ventures, or just what you are working on at the moment?

Recently I co-organised the WeTest conferences in New Zealand. We had almost 300 testers, across two different cities, participate in a one-day conference that featured both local and international speakers. I was proud of how smoothly the events ran and the very positive feedback that we’ve received from them.

In my role as a Testing Coach at the Bank of New Zealand, I’ve recently been working on improving our release test approach and completed one-on-one “stay interviews” with each of our permanent testers, which is something I’m planning to write about soon.

If you encountered a version of yourself from earlier in your career, and talked about how you approach your work, what would you disagree on?

The biggest shift has been in how I control the work that I’m involved in. I used to hold on to things very tightly. I felt that I was the only person capable of completing work to the standard that I required, which was an exhausting position to hold and obviously, in retrospect, a false one. I believe my delegation skills have improved significantly over the years, to a point where I can now let people take hold of things that are a stretch for them and offer my support. Giving people space to learn, and opportunity to fail, is something that I wasn’t comfortable with a few years ago.

When you look back at your career so far, what do you consider to be the highlight(s)?

The moments that stick out are mostly travel-related. I’ve been part of installing and testing mobile phone networks in Malaysia and Uruguay. I’ve spoken at testing conferences in New York, Bangalore and Estonia. I love being part of an industry that allows me to travel as a professional, which is a completely different experience to travel as a tourist.

Closer to home, I am really proud of my work to create a community of testers in New Zealand. WeTest, which I co-organise with Aaron Hodder and Shirley Tricker, now reaches over 1,500 testers. We also recently published our 17th edition of Testing Trapeze, a software testing magazine for Australia & New Zealand, which I founded in January 2014.

When you think back to these highlights, what were the most important lessons you learned?

The opportunities overseas taught me about how I function under pressure in extremely stressful environments. I learned about where my limits are, and what signals to watch out for that indicate when I may be taking on too much. It’s now been over a decade since I did a 16 hour work day!

The community work has taught me that most people will say ‘yes’ if you ask them for something specific and make it very clear that you’ll offer them support to achieve. I very rarely encounter people who refuse to speak at WeTest or write for Testing Trapeze when I ask them to step forward. It’s really rewarding to be part of creating that environment for others.

When you consider technology and software development around the world, can you pick out an example of an organisation who really focus and deliver on quality?

I thought about this for a while, and an organisation doesn’t come to mind. However, a lot of testers who I admire did. I think I look more to individuals than to organisations when I consider how delivery of quality technology is evolving. I stay up-to-date mostly by reading articles online and attending conferences. A few people who I have been influenced by recently are Maaret Pyhäjärvi, Jesse Alford, Anne-Marie Charrett, Nicholas Carr, Sarah Mei, Dan Ashby, Shirley Tricker, Kate Falanga, Parimala Hariprasad and Stephen Janaway.

What do you think is the most common misconception about testing?

In recent years, the idea that testing is a role and not an activity. If you’re not a tester, you can still do testing. The other discussion I still have frequently is about the place of automation. I often use James Lynday’s explanation of ‘Why exploration has a place in any strategy‘ and Paul Holland’s article on ‘Hitting the pothole of trying to automate everything


And now, the Jeopardy section. I’ll provide you with some answers and ask you to give me the questions…

Quality

In the 1930s Harold MacKintosh changed the way that boxed chocolates were manufactured and sold. Which street is now the world’s number one selling boxed chocolate assortment and is exported to over 50 countries?

Testing

When checking whether a microphone is broadcasting correctly, which word might a person speak then count to three?


Lastly, the ‘Pass it on’ section. The question posed by last month’s guest, Matt Robson was “Some are concerned about doctrinal tribalism within testing and feel that it threatens the cohesion of the community. Are you concerned about this?”

Yes. I’ve shared my thoughts on the context-driven testing community specifically through my blog: ‘A community discussion’ and ‘The context driven testing community

And finally, can you please frame a question for next month’s guest?

I’d like their opinion on a question that I was asked recently: “If we removed a tester from the team, would quality go down?”


Many thanks to Katrina for taking the time to participate in Q&A. See you next time!


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