Welcome to the first Q&A of 2017! 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 month’s guest is Richard Bradshaw, known to many as Friendly Tester.
Richard is an experienced tester, consultant and generally a friendly guy. He shares his passion for testing through consulting, training and giving presentation on a variety of topics related to testing. He is a fan of automation that supports testing. With over 10 years testing experience, he has a lot of insights into the world of testing and software development. Richard is a very active member of the testing community, and is currently the FriendlyBoss at The Ministry of Testing. Richard blogs at thefriendlytester.co.uk and tweets as @FriendlyTester. He is also the creator of the YouTube channel, Whiteboard Testing.
First of all Richard, 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?
It’s all things Ministry of Testing for me at the moment. Organising several TestBash conferences and starting to focus on The Dojo a lot more, The Dojo being an e-learning platform dedicated to testing. MoT aside though, I’ve started writing a book!
I’ve been talking a lot about automation the last few years, and feel its time to try and collate those thoughts into something more explicit and concrete, plus I feel there aren’t many recent good books on the topic. It’s off to a slow start as I’m currently travelling around Australia, but hopefully we start to gain traction soon. I’m finding it very challenging, but very enjoyable, when I find the time!
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?
I feel it would have to be a conversation on test cases. I use to be adamant that all my skill was in writing them, and that’s why I found all the valuable information I did. I use to blitz through writing and executing test cases, being rather proud of the fact I could, but even more so that I was finding bugs and other interesting pieces of info. I thought all the things I was doing, were because of the test case. I now know better. Having said that, I feel I also knew at the time, but I didn’t know how to talk about it. So, I would have a good conversation with myself about Exploratory Testing, and how it was skills associated to that, that were finding the majority of the good information, not the fact that I’d spent ages working on cases, and I was ‘executing them’.
I would encourage myself to spend some time testing free, just let yourself be free Richard, let your mind take over, follow it, trust it, enjoy the journey. Instead of chasing X test cases a day.
When you look back at your career so far, what do you consider to be the highlight(s)?
It may sound soppy. Discovering the community. For the first 6 years of my career, I had no idea people got together to talk testing, that there were forums on it, that people had written about it.
I’ve only known about the community for four years, and I feel it’s given me so much. It’s opened me up to a wealth of knowledge, enabled me to meet some fantastic people. Importantly, it’s allowed me to give something back too, and it turns out I have interesting things to give back, which I didn’t believe at the time, however now I firmly believe that everyone has something to offer. On top of that it would have to be conference achievements. I’ve presented at the majority of the big conferences, done several tutorials at them, and had the honour of keynoting at two events this year. I love the buzz of the stage.
I’m also very proud of Whiteboard Testing, a YouTube dedicated to sub 10 minute videos on topics related to testing.
When you think back to these highlights, what were the most important lessons you learned?
To think back… to reflect… to have regular mini retrospectives with myself. It can be very difficult to make connections to experiences in real time, to really pinpoint those important moments in your learning. I often found myself being rather shallow with my thinking on testing and my own behaviours and experiences. If something worked once, it was perfect! If it seems to make sense, and it did the job, move on. I don’t do that anymore. I find time to reflect, to really study my own behaviour but also importantly the approaches I took. Did I really understand the context I was in? Did I just get lucky? Why did that work? Why was that conversation so much easier than others I’ve had with that person? These are the kind of questions I like to ask myself.
I’m also a big believer that there is no ‘right’, no ‘best’ when it comes to software development. There is context, and the more we understand our context(s) the easier I find it to do my job, and be effective in teams and companies.
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’m not sure I can, but I did really enjoy the exchange I saw on Twitter recently regarding Tesla. Someone tweeted Elon Musk about how people were parking all day at super charge stations, which was meaning people were unable to charge, or being forced to wait around, and this person suggested people were doing it for free parking. He responded to the tweet saying he’ll investigate it. 6 days later all Teslas were updated with a new version of the software that meant you would be charged $0.40 for every minute parked at the charger once your car was fully charged. You can read more here.
Being listened to by a company I feel is incredibly important to the perception of quality. Especially on social media, which is ever increasing in popularity. But to be listened to, and have a result delivered to in 6 days, impressed me
What do you think is the most common misconception about testing?
I imagine a lot of people would be expecting me to talk about automation here, and I could, but I think there is a step before that, which leads to what I could talk about in the context of automation. But for me, I think it’s ‘seeing testing as just checking against the requirements’. There is still a strong emphasis in some testing curriculum on techniques around requirements. I’ve had conversations with testers who state they’re unable to test without them, then you watch them test, and see them performing tests that have nothing to do with the requirements. You ask them about it, and you’ll get a response along the lines of; ‘I just thought I’d give it a go’. I know, because I’ve visited them, but some companies still test like so… happy path on the requirement, a few negative paths, ‘it works!’, next feature. I’m not saying they’re not important, but for me, they point me in a direction, I’ll explore in that direction then until the teams feels we have enough information to make an informed decision.
And now, the Jeopardy section. I’ll provide you with some answers and ask you to give me the questions…
What is incredibly subjective, yet often labelled as definitive?
What is not dead?
What is it that many professional testers don’t know how to talk about?
Lastly, the ‘Pass it on’ section. The question posed by last month’s participant, Michele Playfair, was:
“There’s a lot of debate about certification in the testing space. If you were to devise a way to certify or otherwise identify good testers, what would that look like?”
I feel Michele is trying to get a glimpse into some of the work I’m currently doing! So, we’re trying to tackle this problem at MoT. While I won’t reveal the finer details, I feel we need to look at what developers are doing. A lot of developers looking to get noticed now have their own GitHub page or equivalent, so why don’t we have something for testers? Such as ‘here is how I tested X’. Then when done in a social / community context, members of the community are encouraged to help the student reflect on their work. Perhaps praise aspects of it, and question others.
We still have the problem of how those individuals show the value of such work to potential employers. My thoughts are that things need to be very transparent. So, I see you took course X with instructor Y. Potential employers should able, when given permission / access, go look over the work done in course X. Can find information on Y, who are they, are they reputable, respected, does them saying someone is good at X have any value?
And finally, what question would you like to pose for next month’s participant?
I’m particularly fascinated with the potential of AI and smart algorithms. What potential usages do you see for AI in the context of testing?
I’d like to thank Richard for taking some time out during his travels around Australia to take part in Q&A… see you next time!