Q&A with Jean Ann Harrison

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 Jean Ann Harrison. Jean Ann has been in the Software Testing and Quality Assurance field for almost 2 decades, including 10 years as a mobile software tester. She is a globally recognized a mobile testing software specialist, mentor, trainer, writer, and public speaker.

Jean Ann’s software testing experience covers various industry domains including medical diagnostic tools, surgical tools, healthcare facilities and insurance, law enforcement, publishing, and the film industry.

Jean Ann is a consistent speaker at various software testing conferences. She actively mentors, conducts training and workshop sessions, publishes webinars, participates in podcasts, reviews and contributes to several books.

You can follow Jean Ann on Twitter here: @JA_Harrison


Hi Jean Ann and welcome to Q&A. 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?

As I recently joined Thales Avionics, I am putting my focus on learning how the many pieces of software integrate with the operating system and hardware for a passenger on a plane. The complexities of the integration as well as maintaining compliance to FAA regulations is quite a challenge.

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?

My younger, less experienced self put focus on one entity whether it was understanding hardware only, operating system or software, and not understanding how an entire system works including understanding the inter-dependencies.  11 years ago, when I first started testing mobile device software, I started to see how important it is to take the time to learn how the hardware and operating system conditions affect software behaviour.  This understanding grew as I tested a couple of mobile medical devices and then experiencing the dependencies when testing apps on smartphones and tablets.

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

To be recognized for hard work and invited to speak at testing conferences, to be able to interact with such talented testers and to be invited to contribute to articles, webinars and to books.  I’ve also been asked to technically review a few books on mobile testing by highly respected testing consultants. Finally, I was asked to contribute a chapter to a book written by Eran Kinsbrunner of Perfecto Mobile.  The book is called: “The Digital Quality Handbook: Guide for Achieving Continuous Quality in a DevOps Reality.”  The recognition over the years is truly the culmination of many hours of hard work and I’m so honoured to have gained a reputation to helping others reach beyond their testing goals.

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

Collaborating with other testers outside of my own company has helped me to realize, 1) I’m not alone 2) It’s okay to be passionate about testing and there are likeminded people in the testing community  3) Learning from others with different points of view is quite valuable.

When you consider the many organisations around the world involved in developing software and technology, is there an example of one which stands out for you as having a focus on quality?

My current organization, Thales Avionics as we’re putting focus on process to be consistent and compliant with regulations. Compliance is extremely important because if the system doesn’t meet the highest quality, the result could be catastrophic.  Understanding to focus on the integration of hardware, operating system and software inter-dependencies and balance with following regulations is a massive challenge but one I personally relish.  Thales has shown how serious the corporation takes quality on all levels.  This is very exciting to me as I feel each and every employee will have direct impact in the products.

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

No matter what, implement automation without taking the time to plan out what should automated and what can be manually tested.  The idea of automating every test is ridiculous yet many companies and managers feel this is their goal.  They are missing out opportunities to learn more about the software behaviour as part of a whole system not just the software functionality.

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

Quality

What is… the importance in documenting the planning out of the testing activities?

Testing

What is… the activity done to learn the limitations and boundaries of the software build?

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

“What does “Testing Community” mean to you as a test professional? How has it helped you and how have you helped the community or intend to help?”

Testing Community means to me having the ability to collaborate with others who have different points of view from mine and being able to be inspired by other perspectives in order to generate new testing ideas/concepts.

Continuous inspiration from others has given me new ways to look at my own testing.  I have shared my stories in hopes of helping others to try different types of test ideas in their own testing world.

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

What do you feel is the most important non-technical testing skill to have/obtain/apply to your testing activities?


Many thanks to Jean Ann for taking the time to participate in Q&A… see you next time!


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