Q&A with Nicola Owen

Welcome to Q&A! Each month we catch up with someone from the testing community or beyond, to talk about testing and quality in the world of technology and software development.

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

Our guest this month is Nicola Owen. Nicola works as a Test Consultant for House of Test, and can be found on Twitter @NicolaO55. You can also read Nicola’s blogs here.

First of all Nicola, 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?

In terms of what I have been working on in my 9-5 job, I’m currently on a new web project for IKEA.

But outside of those hours, I’m working on building a (hopefully helpful) site for people moving to Sweden which gives more details on the paperwork etc. needed when you move to Sweden for work and then later need to extend your visa, also collecting and organising language resources so people can learn Swedish faster and lastly, ideas on how to meet people and make friends in Sweden. Currently just building the base pages for my site and doing a lot of research into the topic.

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?

We would disagree on test cases and the amount of value they add to projects. Early on when I had to test cases, I was actually pretty proud of how I could power through lots of test cases, both in writing and executing them.  Looking back, I think I saw test cases in a better light because of how naive and inexperienced I was, and also because I thought I was a pretty good test case writer/executor.

Nowadays I think test cases are pretty limiting – they limit your time, but more importantly I think they limit your thinking. I think writing and executing test cases means you’re forced to think a certain way and are more likely to be just checking.

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

Being able to speak at conferences. I find it incredibly humbling knowing the conference committee has enough faith in me to say something of value to the conference attendees.

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

  1. That your opinion of yourself can differ to others’ opinions of you. Even though I’ve been in testing for 5 years, have worked in various industries and projects, have spoken at conferences etc. when I look in the mirror I still see the same tester that started out in a Graduate Programme 5 years ago. I’m still having trouble seeing the person in the mirror and the person who speaks at conferences as the same person.
  2. That the message you wish to get across, and the takeaways the audience gets can be two different things. Judging by blog posts that are written (which refer to my talks) and questions asked by the audience, I find it interesting to see which parts of my talks “stick” more with the audience than 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’m not sure if this piece of technology “really focussed and delivered on quality”, but for me it just worked.

I used the BNZ YouMoney app when I was still living in NZ and it properly met my mobile banking needs. It did what I wanted and it was intuitive.

Also, I miss it 😦 I wouldn’t mind if my bank in Sweden implemented something similar…..

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

That it’s boring.

Yes it can be boring if you are limited and forced to do testing a certain way. But it doesn’t mean that testing is boring. I think it just means that your work circumstances has made testing boring.

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


What is value to someone who matters?


What is learning about the SUT then communicating what you find to help people make well-informed decisions?

Lastly, the ‘Pass it on’ section. The question posed last time out, by David Greenlees was:

“Can you measure quality, and if so, how? ”

I wouldn’t say you can “measure quality”. High number of test cases passed or low number of bugs found, in my books, does not necessarily indicate high quality. They are just numbers to me.

But I think there are some ways where you can get a good indication as to whether or not it’s there (and the extent of that quality) e.g. how busy is your customer support centre, where do you “lose” people in a process (e.g. online shopping, or people just browsing your website).

And finally, what question would you like to pose for next month’s participant?

Have you ever been in a situation where the testability was poor? If so, what did you do about it? If not, what made you think the testability of the product was good?

Thank you to Nicola for taking the time to answer participate in Q&A… see you next time!

2 thoughts on “Q&A with Nicola Owen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s