What made you a software testing leader?


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We ask leaders in the software testing field some questions.

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What made you a software testing leader?

  1. 1. What made you a leader?
  2. 2. Introduction While creating the leadership issue [10] of The Testing Planet, we approached a number of experts in the testing field. We wanted to find out what makes them tick. What sort of an environment shaped and moulded them? Is leadership an evolutionary step, or an act of will? I can't say that you'll find all of the answers to those specific questions within these pages, but hopefully some of the thinking contained here will inspire and motivate you to take a step forward in your career. Maybe even a step towards leadership. Enjoy! For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 2
  3. 3. Ajay Balamurugadas What made you a leader? There was a time when I did not know what the Home and End keys on the keyboard meant. From someone who did his bachelors in printing technology, it’s an honour to answer this question. It is the passion to have an impact in this industry that drove me to practice daily, learn from every experience, and spend my savings on my learning. The initial two years of hard work has paid off. Thanks to all the leaders who knowingly and unknowingly helped me become a leader. The key is simple: Do not chase money if you are just starting your career. Work on your skills and protect your reputation. Be strong enough to try. If you fail, you'd have learnt the lesson. Keep going. Ajay Balamurugadas is a software tester and recipient of 'Bach Brothers' Testing Legion of Merit' award from James & Jon Bach. Being the co-founder of @weekendtesting, he has facilitated over 100 weekendtesting sessions. Ajay shares his learning on his blog - www.EnjoyTesting.blogspot.com and has written four short books on software testing. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 3
  4. 4. Alan Page What made you a leader? The short answer is one word; Necessity. There's a bit of a self-perpetuating prophecy with leadership. Leaders (or would-be leaders) tend to see well beyond the immediate tasks at hand and see a roadmap of a variety of tasks beyond the immediate needs. With this vision comes the burden of having more work to do than can be accomplished by yourself. At this point, you can either _expect_ people to help you achieve your vision, or you can get them to _want_ to help you. To become a leader, I learned to make the latter choice work. There's a Dwight Eisenhower quote where he says: "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." In my job, I don't manage anyone. But I try to be a leader for my entire organization and for groups and people spanning the company and industry. My role is to figure out what needs to get done, and ensure that team members who want to get the same things done do it. I enjoy this aspect of my job, and leadership (or my best attempt at it) is necessary in order to be successful and make progress. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 4
  5. 5. Alan Page is currently a Principal SDET (yet another fancy name for tester) on the Xbox console team at Microsoft, Alan has previously worked on a variety of Microsoft products including Windows, Windows CE, Internet Explorer, and Office Lync. He also spent some time as Microsoft’s Director of Test Excellence where he developed and ran technical training programs for testers across the company. Alan is edging up on his 20th anniversary of being a software tester. He was the lead author on the book How We Test Software at Microsoft, contributed chapters for Beautiful Testing (Adam Goucher/Tim Riley) on large-scale test automation and Experiences of Test Automation: Case Studies of Software Test Automation (Dorothy Graham/Mark Fewster). You can follow him on his blog - http://angryweasel.com. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 5
  6. 6. Alan Richardson What made you a leader? I've believed in some weird stuff in my life, but when I started in Software Testing, I found it hard to believe that other people believed the things they believed, and couldn't believe they wanted me to believe them too. I mean, and this is just one example, they wanted me to write down all the steps I was going to take before I had ever done them. Insane. And when the obvious thing happened i.e. we couldn't do what we had written because the system didn't quite work the way we thought it had, they were surprised. But we didn't learn, instead we amended all the scripts, then started again, and again, and again. Because that was the 'way testing was done'. Something was rotten with the state of testing and I couldn't abide it. So I lived in a general state of incredulous frustration for a while.  I took local action by changing my process at work, pushing the rules as far as I could (to minimise waste and insanity), and refusing to talk madness when there were perfectly sane ways of talking about what I did. I finally tipped over the edge when I went to a conference. I was in the audience listening to the 'experts' on stage talking nonsense, and ignoring the real world impact of their actions and the obvious consequences of their advice. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 6
  7. 7. I decided to counter this by spouting my own brand of insanity. I began to explain how I perceived the world, the actions I took, and the ways I worked.  Everyone can do this. Just talk about what you do. Think through the problems with what you do; try and improve it; change it. Then talk about what you did and what you learned.  I don't believe in "Thought Leadership". I believe we should Lead by example. Alan Richardson worked his way up through the ranks of the Software Testing Role hierarchy, from Tester to Head of Testing. Despite this he has maintained his hands-on technical skills and still enjoys testing. Alan currently works as an independent consultant, helping people with automation, strategy, and manual exploratory & technical testing. He has created online training for WebDriver, which you can access via Udemy.com, and wrote the book "Selenium Simplified". He blogs on Automation at seleniumsimplified.com and on testing at eviltester.com. You can find details of his conference talks and presentations at compendiumdev.co.uk. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 7
  8. 8. Dorothy Graham What made you a leader? I certainly never set out to become a leader! It still surprises me to find that I am regarded as such. However, I did recently come across a note sent home from my teacher when I was 5 years old – it said something about me showing "leadership qualities" (although she may have just meant that I was rather bossy!). I have always liked being “the centre of attention” (I was the first-born to a highly-regarded minister at a large church, so it seems a natural place to me). I think this is why I enjoy public speaking. Becoming self-employed was a major factor in being able to do what I really wanted in my working life. I'm sure I wouldn't have had as many opportunities otherwise to go to conferences, let alone to speak at them. I have been described as "bold" (which really meant "pushy"). Yes, I was pushy in those days, for example in trying to get to speak at conferences and events. The result of this was that I did get quite a lot of exposure and visibility. I remember how excited I was the first time someone said they had heard of me! My husband is another major factor – he was always very supportive of my work, and eventually took over not only domestic tasks for the family but also doing my accounts and web site, as well as being a great sounding board for ideas. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 8
  9. 9. In my working life, I have always tried to put my Christian principles into action, and this has been a driving force in many decisions over the years, even though I haven’t always been successful in doing what I should. It is this philosophy for my working life that has led me to do things and interact with people in the way that I do (or try to do). My main purpose in my working life has been to help people through consultancy, training, and presentations even if there was no direct business benefit. This approach gave me some unexpected feedback at one of our early foundation courses. One of the guys on the course thanked me for getting him his first job in testing! This was quite a surprise to me. He had earlier applied for a testing job at one company but was turned down because of his lack of knowledge of testing. The company (who I was doing training for at the time) recommended that he contact me. I only vaguely remember our telephone conversation and sending him copies of articles on testing. After studying them he got a testing job at the next company he went to for an interview. His employer then sent him on our course. I like starting new things, especially those that I believe will benefit software testing in general. I produced the first compilations of testing tools in the UK, first for The National Computing Centre and then four editions of The CAST Report in the 90s. I also helped to get the EuroSTAR conferences started. I remember a meeting where I put in an impassioned plea to the BCS SIGIST committee to take the risk of putting on a full-fledged conference (with SQE's financial under-writing). No one knew whether there would be enough interest or potential to stage a conference on such an "obscure topic" as software testing! Fortunately, it was very successful, as we all now know. I helped to start qualifications for software testers, first as a member of the ISEB Software Testing Board, and then on the working party that wrote the first ISTQB Foundation Syllabus. I believe that this has helped a lot of testers by removing a “bottom layer of ignorance” about software testing. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 9
  10. 10. Many of these initiatives took a lot of effort, but I have been happy to volunteer my time for causes that I believe in, and I have always had enough paid work to survive. Writing books comes into this category too; although there may be some financial recompense, it isn’t like writing Harry Potter books! I have a passion for quality and always do the best that I can. I try to give credit where it is due. There are so many people with great ideas about testing; I like to use good ideas wherever I find them and always try to credit the person who gave me that idea or slide. When reviewing other people’s work, I try to identify good things as well as problem areas. I believe in cooperating with people, even competitors, and don’t believe in “kick-backs”. I am also not afraid to defend ideas even if they are not popular or the “accepted wisdom” of the day. The latest example of this is the prevailing view that testers should [all] become programmers – I don’t agree! If someone disagrees with me, I want to listen to them to find out what they really think, and I am happy to change my mind about things when I learn something new! I have also tried not to take myself too seriously; I’m very thankful for the wonderful experiences I’ve had in my career, but take it as a gift rather than being down to me. In the end, you cannot make yourself a leader – a leader is someone who other people are willing to follow, so it is other people who make leaders – and I would like to thank them! Dorothy Graham has been in software testing for 40 years, and is co-author of 4 books: Software Inspection, Software Test Automation, Foundations of Software Testing and Experiences of Test Automation. Dot was programme chair for EuroSTAR 2009 as well as the first EuroSTAR in 1993. She has been on the boards of conferences and publications in For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 10
  11. 11. software testing. She was a founder member of the ISEB Software Testing Board and was a member of the working party that developed the ISTQB Foundation Syllabus. She was awarded the European Excellence Award in Software Testing in 1999 and the first ISTQB Excellence Award in 2012. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 11
  12. 12. James Bach and Michael Bolton Leadership Interview Some time ago now, our intrepid Testing Planet reporters managed to track down James Bach and Michael Bolton and wrestle them into agreeing to an interview. With hindsight though, coercing them into the interview wasn’t in any way the difficult part. Since as we all know, they both love to talk testing! No, the difficult part was transcribing and editing down the interview from the original eleven thousand words into the “honest” final product you see below. Here’s James and Michael on leadership, as you’ve never read them before. Enjoy! Simon Knight:  Thanks James and Michael for agreeing to do the interview. James Bach:  No problem, I saw your tweet saying that you were nervous. Simon:  Well, a little bit. I have this kind of nervous anticipation about your responses to our questions. Neither of you are exactly known for being shrinking violets. James:  I've been thinking all morning about these questions. They're so fascinating and there's so many possibilities that it's very hard to choose what to say so I really appreciate these questions. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 12
  13. 13. Michael Bolton: And on the flip side of that; don't worry because, this is really important for a tester to recognize: you're often put in situations where you might feel intimidated. Simon:  You obviously both travel all over the world inspiring and training testers, speaking on testing related subjects at meetups and conferences. Can you tell us where you both are at the moment and what you've been doing over the last week or so? James:  I'm on Orcas Island in Washington State in the United States. I've been getting ready for the first online rapid testing intensive. It starts on Monday. I've been writing the second part of my article about the rise of intellectual software testing in India. Michael:  This past week I was at a client site in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where it was between minus 30 degrees and minus 25 degrees for most of the week. When I was at the airport, I and realized that the airplanes that I was looking at were most likely going way further north than where we were, to really unforgiving conditions. That led to rumination on how incredible technology can be when we really put our minds to it. The airline business is really amazing. In North America, on the major airlines, there has not been a loss of life due to anything to do with the airlines inside an airplane or outside of it, with one exception where a plane went off the runway and hit someone on the ground. Not a single loss of life in 11 years. That's on the order of 40 million takeoffs and landings. People can do amazing things when they use feedback. That was the big lesson of the airline industry – how they've used testing and how they've used retrospective evaluation and forensics and tuning the system to get this incredible safety record. Simon: Your names, James, Michael, are pretty much synonymous with leadership within the software testing field. We'd like to hear about how you came to be in the positions of influence and leadership that you are today. I wondered if you'd like to tell For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 13
  14. 14. us about your journeys, where you started, your software testing and leadership career as it were. Did you always have a kind of leadership mantle as an objective or a goal, or is it just something you grew into organically? James:   For me, yes, I always had a leadership sense. My first conscious memory of that is when I was five. I decided that I was not going to follow my mother's instructions anymore, and I didn't. She had no idea what was happening or why. I don't know why I decided that either. I know that I felt like I had to make my own decisions and control my own life, and I became very, very hard to live with after that. So, eventually after I decided I wasn't going to do homework and I decided that I was going to assert my rights under the United States Constitution not to be a slave, which is all about the 13th Amendment, which I discovered when I was 12 years old, I was thrown out of my house when I was 14 and I lived alone after that and life was wonderful. Once I was on my own, I started losing my anger. I still have some of that, but I used to be very angry when I was a kid. But then as soon as I got my own ground and started being an independent adult, and got legally emancipated when I was 16, I started growing into my attitude. I went into management training once I started working at Apple Computer, and that helped tremendously. For me, I was just always directed toward, "Let me decide for myself what to do. Don't tell me what to do," and this was very important to me from a very young age. Simon:  You've spoken a lot about anger, James. Do you feel as though that has in some way been a driving force for you? James:   A little bit because I'm not mostly angry anymore. I just have a little spark of that in me. What it does for me productively is it gets me out of traps. I'm willing to gnaw my own leg off to get out of a trap. For instance, I was only there for For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 14
  15. 15. six months at the last job I held before I started my own company. I had gotten a $30,000 signon bonus which I would just be able to keep if I stayed for two years. But I quit after six months. It took me seven years to pay back the $30,000 signon bonus. But I HAD to quit. There was no question about it. I had to because it was a question of integrity. I was being asked to sacrifice my reputation and my integrity because somebody in the company wanted to bill hours doing something that was simply exploiting the ignorance of a client. I just can’t be a part of that. That would have been a difficult decision for a normal person. But for me it was an easy decision because I know that if I let myself get too angry, I'll begin to damage the scenery around me. I cannot allow that to happen. I’ve never been arrested and I never will be—because I know my limitations. My fear of my own anger keeps me carefully away from situations that less passionate people are willing to endure for years and years. Michael:  It's a very tough question for me. Unlike James, I don't see myself as a terribly angry person. Although, I have to admit to a sense of frustration sometimes when people don’t say what they mean and mean what they say. I was a tester from as early an age as I can think of. I was always testing ideas and trying to evaluate what I thought of them. When I became a programmer in 1987 or 1988, I realized the extent to which I had to test my own stuff and to which I had to think extremely critically about how my clients would be using the software I was writing. I had to understand what they did and how they did it. It was not abstract. I was close to them. I realized the extents and limitations of what they were able to do with computers because computers were relatively new things. In fact, at that time just a few people in the office had a computer, and we were only just starting to install a network. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 15
  16. 16. In a way I was lucky because I had to learn how to test, I had to learn how to be selfcritical, and I was getting instant feedback when I screwed up. In terms of leadership, I stumbled into that, I think, more than anything else because I found myself in the presence of leaders who encouraged me to talk about what my experience was, and who encouraged me to be critical of what they said. Jerry Weinberg, in his writing says at some point, "A leader is somebody who is in the process of creating an environment in which everyone is empowered." And I realized that the people around me who were my leaders, people who I consider as mentors or inspirations, they were creating that kind of environment. When I became aware of that I found it easier and easier to do that for other people—when I’m on my game, at least. So I take immense delight in the number of people who have found my stuff interesting and who, in turn, have presented us all with interesting things to say. Simon:  I imagine that the people that created that environment for you in those early days have probably changed over the years and I wonder whether you still have people like that around you and whether that's still important to you. James:  Well, that's very, very important. The people around you, the people who are your leaders are always important. Right now I'm struggling because I had a falling out with someone important to me: Cem Kaner. Now I have to replace the role that Cem filled for me in my life. That's important. I don't feel as productive and powerful as I otherwise would unless I can find a way to replace Cem with someone who will tell me what he thinks is the truth, no matter what he thinks I want to hear. I do that for Michael, and Michael does that for me. I just need more of that, preferably from an older man, because it’s easier for me to listen. Michael:  I observe one other thing too, which is that there are people ahead of me in my career, and there are people who are parallel to me in the stages of our careers, and there are people who are younger than I am, newer to the craft. The very newest For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 16
  17. 17. people in the scene can become leaders immediately by challenging me, by helping me to see things from a different perspective. I think my oldest colleague in this business is Jerry Weinberg and he's still a valuable source of inspiration and correction. In turn, I'm getting it from people who've only been a tester for a year or two and those people are challenging the way I think too. What they’re doing is leadership. Simon:  Has there been a kind of defining moment in terms of your testing career, a point at which things really fell into place, where you had some kind of an epiphany, or realized that actually you were to some degree fulfilling your life's mission or destiny by being on the path that you were on? James: It was six years ago when it really came clear to me what my calling is, what my professional life, and to a large extent my whole life is really about. It's not testing and it's not programming. I thought for a while maybe it was about teaching testing. Then it turned out it wasn't even really that. The thing that I discovered for myself is that what I do is help unite people with their own genius that has been alienated from them by the educational system that they grew up in. In other words, I was teaching one day and I realized that most of what I do when I teach is to try to convince people that they actually are smart enough, and they actually have more skills than they think they have. And when that happens, moments when I feel that someone has realized that in class, are moments that just give me all the vitamins and energy that I need to live. If I could just get that feeling and not work, I would just stay in bed and mainline that feeling all day. Michael:  That's hilarious James. Do you remember the occasion of us first meeting? For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 17
  18. 18. James:  Yeah, I remember something about it. Michael:  What I remember about it was this. I walked up to you and you were sitting down outside of a conference room where you had just given a talk and you were holding court. A bunch of people were coming up to you and introducing themselves and asking questions. When it was my turn, I said, "Hi, James. I'm Michael Bolton," and you said (without pausing in the whole string of words), "Oh hi Michael. Cem’s told me a lot about you. What's the hardest thing about teaching software testing for you?" And my reaction was (thought bubble), "Uh, fine, thank you. And you?" So I stumbled over that. I said, "Uh... Uh... The hardest thing I find for me, James, is helping people to understand that they have the capability to understand anything,” (I was inspired by James Burke and the Connections series [You can find links to the entire series here: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/james-burke-connections/], he says that at the end of the series,) “if they get a good explanation for it and if they practice it.” To me the hardest thing is connecting people with that inner genius. It's fascinating to me that a few years later you identified that as your life's goal and your life's work, because it's mine too. Helena Jeret-Mäe:  If you could name three leaders you respect, then can you name characteristics that they have in common and that make them great leaders in your opinion? James:  Yes. I am burning to answer that question. Michael, you go first. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 18
  19. 19. Michael:  Cem inspired me in 1996 when I attended a class that he gave at Quarterdeck. At that time I was a program manager and I realized while taking the class how important testing had been to me previously as a career, and how important it was to me in general. That was a career moment for me - seeing Cem in action and seeing him teach people. Also I was introduced to James through Cem. He said to me, "You’ve got to meet this guy", and in 2001 I did. James said, "You haven't been to any of Jerry Weinberg's conferences or workshops or seminars? Dude; you’ve got to get on to one of those!" Now, there are other people along the way who have been very important. Ross Collard gave me my first job as a testing teacher. He recruited me to teach his class in 1999 or so. That was really an important thing for me too. Helena: What about their characteristics that they share? Michael: Each one of those four people has a very different style, so they share that they’re unique, which underscores the idea that you don't have to have a particular style to lead and inspire people. Each of those people is absolutely committed to learning and studying their craft. Each one is welcoming of new people and new ideas, and each one absolutely encourages people to exercise that as well. In a radically different style, I would say, each of them challenges people, and does so in a way that doesn't compromise your own person. My identity is not attacked or challenged when James challenges or attacks one of my ideas, and the same is true of the other three as well. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 19
  20. 20. James:  I think I would have to say Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise is at the top of my list. He was actually a role model for me from a very young age, and when I started as manager, I tried to be just like him even though he's fictional. Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt are also very important role models for me. What these people have in common is at least four big things, which explain and guide me. One is that they are externally unconstrained by an arbitrary authority. They feel in themselves, or they act as if they feel that they have freedom to make the decisions that need to be made and do what they need to do regardless of what anyone thinks. They're internally constrained, however, by a code of honor and logic. There is logic to their actions. They're not just arbitrary hedonists who are pleasing themselves in whatever they do. This code of honor and logic forces them to do certain things by an internal dynamic. Also, each of them embodies an attractive and humane purpose, and each of them is nagged by doubt. I think those four things are really important. I have my internal code of honor and logic. I have to tell the truth as I know it. I have to avoid misinforming people. I need to help them as best I can within the constraints of integrity. But I do have an attractive and humane purpose. I want to make the world a better place in terms of testing, and in other ways too, and I am nagged by doubt. Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt were men man of action. Churchill also wrote a bunch of books, and was an accomplished artist and thinker. Roosevelt was a man of letters as well. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 20
  21. 21. I don't know if Captain Kirk ever wrote a book. I suspect he didn't, but he was certainly a man of action and thought. I was strongly influenced by trying to craft a similar kind of fusion between the idea of acting, meaning taking action, and thinking and considering because I'm an intellectual. Helena:   Can you explain some more about the doubts that nag you? James:  What nags me internally is my simulations of these people, and also all of my training as a philosopher. One of the things you definitely get out of philosophy is that nothing can ever be totally settled in all ways at all times for all people. There's always an open question. Philosophy is never closed. It's funny because another one of my heroes in leadership is Ludwig Wittgenstein, who when he was young said that he had finished philosophy. He had solved all the problems we're solving in philosophy. Then later in his life he said, "Oh, forget that. I was wrong." He contradicted himself and I really admire that about him. Even someone as arrogant as Ludwig Wittgenstein had been nagged by doubt. I just loved that. It's an internal process where I'm constantly thinking maybe I'm wrong, and I have to keep reproving my internal theorems of honor and logic within me. I feel that it is important to challenge people on ethical matters. I think it's important to judge people in your professional community. I think the folks who say, "Oh, you shouldn't judge," are making the world a worse place. I think that we need leaders who will say, "Hey, I am calling all of you to a higher standard than you're currently following. Come, look what I'm doing. Isn't what I'm doing something that you want to do too? Don't you want to have the self respect that I have? Let's do better, guys!" I believe in human kindness. It's important to me. But what's more important to me professionally is to have integrity of thought. That you do not compromise even if people are annoyed when you keep saying things they don't like to hear. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 21
  22. 22. Michael:  Ethics contradict each other sometimes. I have an ethical principle that says I shouldn't be mean to people and I shouldn't appear to be mean to people. I've also got an ethical principle that contradicts that, which is that when somebody is saying something that I think is damaging or unhelpful to the craft, then I have to call them on it. Sometimes people perceive that as me being mean. I have a further ethical principle, which says I have to question both of the previous ethical principals lest I compromise one form of integrity for another form of integrity. It is a very difficult thing, and I am always shocked and saddened to find out that because of my propensity to challenge people’s ideas, people find me challenging, if you will. Sometimes people feel intimidated by that, which is the farthest thing from my desire. I don't want them to feel like that at all. James:  You know, that's an important thing that you said, Michael. I think that is the one thing, if I were to reduce leadership to something that is the central hub, the axle that I revolve around constantly, you just said it. In true leadership, you're always behaving out of your own internal dynamic. You're doing what you have to do. You're expressing what you are, not what you think other people want you to be, not what you think other people can accept. When people say to me "You were so mean to that person. Why did you do that?" Sometimes I shrug and go, "If it seems mean, then I feel bad about that, but I wouldn't change it because it's true. It's what I really am and what I really feel." It's honest and honesty trumps everything else. If I lose a friend over it, that’s terrible, but it still feels right to me. Maybe I can become a better person over time, and I'll say what I tried to say in a better way and it won't be something that hurts peoples’ feelings. But I can only be the leader that I am, right NOW. Be the person that you are, and never try to copy or simulate something that you're not. As soon as you do that, you're no longer a leader. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 22
  23. 23. Michael:   We are, all of us, many things simultaneously, and sometimes one dominates the other for a time. The hard part I have about that is that I can't be a better person retroactively, right? If I’ve screwed up, I can’t go back. I can try to make amends and do better next time, perhaps, but unfortunately time only flows in one direction—so far as we experience it anyway. James:  So you've got to forgive yourself, and forgiveness is another quality of leadership, I think. Helena: How do you consciously work on yourself to become a leader? What have you done and what resources have you turned to? James: Every disturbing event that happens, every time things don't go how I want them to go, I have to think about that. The best class that I ever took in my life on any subject is a class called "Problem Solving Leadership" by Jerry Weinberg. What that got me to look at, and I'm so grateful that it did, is how much influence that I actually can have in a chaotic situation among a bunch of strangers. The answer is not much. So what I learned to do through conscious effort is that when I'm in a situation where I've got a bunch of people I want to influence, and they don't know me very well, and I have no established role with them, the first thing that I do is I do not try to influence them at all. If I want to maximize my influence, I need to not try to step in and take charge. I need to not try to tame the lion right away. I just need to be there near the lion, and later on opportunities to influence will present themselves at my feet. I realized that this related to all the things that I was trying to do at work at the time, and I feel like it made me a better leader. That's why a lot of my leadership style is, I shrug and say, "I'm going to go this way; I'm going to do this." Whatever the rest of you guys want to do is up to you, but I'm going to do this. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 23
  24. 24. Michael:   There are things that come to us that can change us and we need to pay attention to those things. In other words, one of the aspects of a great leader is how welcome he or she is to getting information about their leadership. That's why leadership is kind of a dance in that sense. It's like a conversation. In a conversation, there is no one speaker and there is no one listener. If you look at the dynamics of the conversation, the roles and the rules are always changing; they're always in flux. As Derrick de Kerckhove put it [Quoted from the 1988 3 part radio series “Ideas: The Medium and the Message” from CBC], "The conversation is not in what either one of them is saying, it's what's happening between them." Leadership is a relationship like that. It's something where leadership is being passed from one person to another, sometimes so rapidly that we don't even notice it happening. It might be helpful if we did. James:  If you're talking thought leadership, that's one perspective. Another perspective is tactical leadership, like leadership on a project where you have some authorities or responsibility and you have to get people to go with you. So I think it's important for us to know what kind of leadership we're talking about. That's a different kind of leadership from where you're standing up for something and you're embodying an ethic and if the other person doesn't get it you shrug and you move on. That's a very different type of leadership situation than something where you have a disagreement with the person but you can't fire them. You have to work with them and so you've got to use a really different leadership strategy. Simon: I wanted to ask you both whether there was ever an occasion when maybe you felt as though you'd failed in terms of your leadership, or you'd failed the testing community in some way, and how you overcame that? For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 24
  25. 25. James:  What kind of failure do you want to talk about? I feel like a candy store of failure. I nearly shut down manufacturing for a short time at Apple Computer in 1989. How about that? I was taking a tour of the factory and I was making jokes about everything I saw (“Hey where are the guys with the whips?” and things like that) and the workers were overhearing my jokes as I walked around with the tour group. They were terribly offended, apparently. I didn't realize what I represented to those people. They thought I was making fun of them and they thought that I was one of these "yahoos" from Corporate who don't do real work. The thing is that I had no idea what the social dynamics were. I had no idea that there would be any sensitivity between the manufacturing part of Apple and what you might call the creative part of Apple. I was told that by the end of the tour, there were angry clumps of factory workers in my wake, around the facility, muttering about those jerks on the tour, saying, "We're not going to take this anymore." Their management tracked down what building we came from, but they didn't know who in the tour group was making all these offensive comments, so they put flyers up all around our building about the incident, asking that the guilty party step forward. That situation was created by a failure of empathy and a failure to understand certain basic social forces in corporate life. In leadership, you need to master those things. Michael:  Rather than a single incident, I would prefer to identify an ongoing pattern, because there are so many instances of it, and they're all little. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 25
  26. 26. It's more like an organization that defers all the Sev1 bugs and says, "Well, that's OK, because they're actually only Sev2. In fact, they're not even Sev2, they're Sev3." I guess my favorite example is that I persistently fail to give other people the lead in terms of leadership. Helena:  Why is that? Michael: Thickheadedness, for one thing. It’s hard for feedback that gets through to me, through my thick skin and ears plugged with earwax, eyes coated with morning sleep, and a general thickness of skull. I’ve got a terrific memory for facts, but I consistently fail to remember all the things I'm supposed to remember about how to help people in classes, how to let them experience things, rather than telling them about it. My principal weakness is, I don't pay attention to my weaknesses and work on them enough. Simon:  Being aware of your own deficiencies, your own idiosyncrasies, those are key skills for a tester. Do you have any recommendations as to how we can become more aware of those things? James:  Well, you've got to cultivate assertive, strongminded colleagues. Michael:  Sympathetic, too. James:  Well, that's what cultivation means. If sympathetic didn't matter, just go up to any stranger, and poke them and they'll poke you back. The idea is you need to develop respect for people in a relationship, with people so that you feel like even though you're going to say things that are going to sound harsh, I believe that you actually care about me. You're not just doing this because you like spraying graffiti on the sides of walls. This is one of my pet peeves with regard to socalled leadership in For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 26
  27. 27. the testing and especially in the agile world. It seems to me, that they are not people gathering around tough thinkers who are going to challenge them. Instead they are gathering around themselves people who share a philosophy which is that no one should ever speak ill of anyone else or their ideas. That is the suspicion that I have about a lot of the people who seem to be recognized as leaders. But it's like you said Michael, we are many things, we have contradictions in us and nobody is perfect. Michael:  One of my weaknesses is in seeking approval of people I respect without seeking their disapproval as much as I might. Another is in fact seeking the approval of people I don't really respect, and ignoring their disapproval. James:  I have to add something about myself. I already said that I have this idea that I have to tell the truth and I don't care who I offend and all of that. What's also true is that there are a thousand ways to say something and there might be 900 better ways to say it than the way I happen to choose. I could actually get across the idea I wanted to get across perhaps without upsetting people, and yet I don't choose one of those methods. That's something that bothers me about myself. One of the things I try to do in my classes is to find somebody in the class who has the opposite style from me, and make sure I do my best to make them understand that to be a great tester, they don't have to copy my style. They can have a soft, mouselike voice and still be a powerful tester without getting into the kind of arguments that I enjoy getting into. Simon:  Michael, you're chairing the EuroSTAR conference this year. Can we expect big things? Michael:  As the program chair, you get to decide the themes and the content of the conference. It's a lot like holding a party for several hundred of your friends. I want to create the kind of environment where my friends will have the best time possible. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 27
  28. 28. To a great degree, that involves my friends constructing the environment that they want. That means getting out of the way of what people want to do and supporting them in the things that they want to do. I get very excited about certain kinds of ideas and certain kinds of people, and some of those people are not day to day members of our community. Some of those people are going to bring new epiphanies to us, so I'm really excited about that. I hope that other people will be, too. I'm really thrilled with where we're going with the theme of the conference, which is questioning testing, and with the people we'll have delivering keynotes. I'm also excited to read the submissions from people who are going to be doing other kinds of presentations, too. I'm jazzed. Simon:  Just to close off, if you would summarize your leadership philosophy in a sentence what would it be? James:  "To thine own self be true." Michael:  My sentence is "Create environments where everybody gets to lead, where everybody is empowered." For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 28
  29. 29. James Christie What made you a leader? It's always been in my nature to question and challenge; to wonder if things could be different and better. Even at primary school I had a reputation for asking difficult questions. My spell as a computer auditor was a wonderfully eye-opening experience. It taught me many lessons, but mainly that the problems of IT were rarely technical; they were almost always human and organisational. I learnt to look at the bigger picture to try and understand why and how things were going wrong. The important point was that I stepped outside and saw IT from the perspective of people who regarded us as very expensive providers of a service that was of variable quality. Stepping outside and looking back in helps you see everything differently. Once you accept that things are wrong and that there are better ways to work it becomes hard to go back and do the same old rubbish, however attractive the money might be. I love writing and I love communicating ideas. As a self-employed consultant the easiest way to make myself visible is to keep writing and hope that people want to read and listen. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 29
  30. 30. I'm not one of the thought leaders. I'm still just the 10-year-old boy trying to make sense of the world and asking awkward questions. It's my nature. I couldn't really be any different. James Christie is a software testing consultant based in Perth, Scotland. His website is http://clarotesting.com/ and blog is http://clarotesting.wordpress.com/. With 27 years commercial IT experience. In addition to testing, James has worked in information security management, project management, IT audit, systems analysis and programming. This experience has been largely in financial services, but has covered a wide range of clients, throughout the UK, and also in Finland. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 30
  31. 31. Jonathan Kohl What made you a leader? People made me a leader - they nominated me internally when I worked in an organization. They asked me to lead and to help with strategy on projects, to help adapt processes and develop policy, and asked me to speak up on ethical issues. I didn't just talk, but I worked hard so that my work could stand up to scrutiny. I also worked to improve my skills, constantly. I still do today. That internal, project experience resonated with leaders in the public space, who asked me to share my experiences at conferences and in articles. Early on, they even offered to collaborate with me, which was a huge credibility boost. Once I started sharing publicly, people came up to me with questions and asked for advice, or simply to brainstorm with me as they were facing problems in their own organizations. I did consulting work - short-term and on projects for a while. Again, I poured a lot of effort into my work, and let my work do the talking for me. As much as I could, I channelled my ideas into action. Then I was asked to teach. As a trainer, I studied adult education and instructional design theory. I spent time with other trainers and learned how to teach someone else's curriculum. Eventually, I developed my own from scratch, and I tried to do better each time. Was my work helping? Did I learn from mistakes, and more importantly, from the people who were asking me to lead them? Was I providing what they needed, not just what they asked for? For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 31
  32. 32. I was then asked to advise local startups. Could I bring my education, experience and expertise to the table to help them as they planned to raise money, to create product lines and to organize and co-ordinate their efforts? Now, I have a mix of leadership responsibilities. There is the public side of my career - writing, and speaking, and training. There is the confidential, short-term consulting work, which is high pressure, but also highly rewarding. There is the mentoring and the hands-on project work. Different people in different roles, different organizations and different parts of the world have different expectations. The demands can be difficult, and I have to work hard to learn new skills and be consistent in how I work. However, there is enormous joy that I feel through vicarious pride. When someone I have helped succeeds because I took the time to help them, it makes it all worthwhile. Leadership is a responsibility I take very seriously, and it weighs heavily on me. Everything I say or put into the public space has a potential impact, and that can be good or bad. I take it very seriously. As long as people put me in that position, and I feel capable and qualified, I will do my best to lead with them. When they revoke it, it will be time for me to do something else. Jonathan Kohl is an internationally recognized consultant, technical leader, and popular speaker based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The founder and principal consultant of Kohl Concepts, Inc., Jonathan assists teams with testing, helps companies define and implement their ideas in products, coaches practitioners as they develop software on teams, and works with leaders to help them define and implement their strategic visions. As a thought leader in mobile application testing—with a newly published book Tap Into Mobile Application Testing, Jonathan develops policy and strategy, helps teams adjust to methodology changes, and actively works with teams to deliver the best possible products. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 32
  33. 33. Karen N Johnson What made you a leader? 1) Doing what I love. As trite as it sounds when you work in a field that you love, then work isn't "work". 2) Continue learning, be willing to change and adapt. I've seen technologies (as well as companies and people) come and go, staying flexible and continuing to learn is essential. 3) Seeking and having a variety of experiences. I've sought a variety of work and had experiences with medical devices to e-commerce from business intelligence to mobile and more. Variety makes it new and broadens my background and perspective. 4) Communication. From a leadership point of view, I've learned to "speak up" and grown comfortable talking with a wide range of audiences from senior executives to an array of technical staff; being able to communicate is more important than it may seem. You can be a rock star tester but you have to be able to talk to people and listen. It took years of experience and continual practice but learning about storytelling and making presentations has helped greatly. I'm now comfortable and confident to talk to a group in a range of settings (from formal to daily unplanned settings) and it shows. But I never want to get so confident that I get arrogant - like most skills there is a continuum - from too shy to too arrogant. Staying accessible means more people will talk and share with me which of course fosters more learning. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 33
  34. 34. Karen N. Johnson is a software test consultant. She is frequent speaker at conferences. Karen is a contributing author to the book, Beautiful Testing by O’Reilly publishers. She has published numerous articles and blogs about her experiences with software testing. She is the co-founder of the WREST workshop, more information on WREST can be found at: http:// www.wrestworkshop.com/Home.html. Visit her website at: http://www.karennjohnson.com. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 34
  35. 35. Markus Gärtner What made you a leader? Being an introvert, my preferences early went for things I can do quite easily. That includes writing, reading, and bringing my thoughts down for others to read as in blogs, articles, and occasionally even books. That said, I started early to read a lot of blogs, read a lot of mailing lists, and over time contributing to the larger community. Over time I digested most of the thoughts of other thought-leaders, and continued to work on my own knowledge whenever possible. In early 2009, Brian Marick wrote two blog entries on getting invited to speak. (http:// www.exampler.com/blog/2009/02/04/getting-invited-to-speak-part-1/, http:// www.exampler.com/blog/2009/02/05/getting-invited-to-speak-part-2/) Those two inspired me on one hand, though "repeating what others say" still feels wrong - at least for me. I think the biggest boost was finding a mentor in Matt Heusser, and challenging each other over Skype and mail on various testing topics. A lot of the discussions we had, and still have, inspired a lot of great blog entries, articles, and sometimes even book ideas. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 35
  36. 36. Finally, on a more abstract level, I think you have to try different things, see what works best for you, what provides you with energy to keep going, and do just that. Find out what you can do very well, and do just that. Over time people will start to follow. Markus Gärtner works as a testing programmer, trainer, coach, and consultant with it-agile GmbH, Hamburg, Germany. Markus, author of ATDD by Example - A Practical Guide to Acceptance Test-Driven Development, a student of the work of Jerry Weinberg, founded the German Agile Testing and Exploratory workshop in 2011. He is a black-belt instructor in the Miagi-Do school of Software Testing and contributes to the Softwerkskammer, the Germany Software Craftsmanship movement. Markus regularly presents at Agile and testing conferences all over the globe, as well as dedicating himself to writing about testing, foremost in an Agile context. He maintains a personal blog at http://www.shino.de/blog. He teaches ATDD and context-driven testing to customers in the Agile world. He has taught ATDD to testers with a non-technical background, and he has test-infected programmers in several domains. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 36
  37. 37. Matt Archer What made you a leader? Wow, what a tricky question to answer.  What made me, me?  When I proofread the paragraphs that follow, I noticed that parts of them sound like a blubbering Oscar acceptance speech.   I'm OK with that.  It fits well with what I believe heavily shapes a person, and that is other people. When I started my working life, I was fortunate to quickly find myself surrounded by some very smart people.  Many of them I still consider to be some of the smartest people I know.  Instant role models and mentors emerged.  I distinctly remember working as part of a team where I was in the minority of people who hadn't written a book about their specialist subject.  Being in the presence of people who had thought that deeply about a particular subject had an inspiring effect.  Not to mention a huge boost in knowledge. Over this same period I was exposed to countless practices, techniques and methods.  Some I still occasionally use and others have fallen out of favour, either with me personally or with the industry at large.  It’s not really a great surprise; practices, techniques and methods tend to be transient things.  In contrast, something that I can never see going out of fashion is mashing different ideas together to solve complex problems.  This is something I have always enjoyed, not just in relation to software testing, but other areas of life too. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 37
  38. 38. It is difficult to say for sure, but I suspect my enjoyment of combining different ideas together to solve different problems has been a driving factor behind many of the things that I do, things that when you dig under the surface are about discovering fresh ideas, refining existing beliefs or more often than not, a combination of both.  My blog is a good example.  One of the main reasons that I write about software testing is to help me focus my thoughts, but once a post is published the thing I look forward to most is other people’s comments and suggestions.  Speaking at events and delivering training courses have similar dual benefits.  In these situations, people often assume that it is the audience who receive all the new ideas, but I always come away with new perspectives myself, regardless of the size or nature of the audience. Of course, new ideas are nothing without an opportunity to turn them into reality.  It is difficult to attribute specific parts of my knowledge to individual teams and projects, but what I can confidently say is that I am never learning more than when I am actually testing.  For this reason I must say a big thank you to all of the companies that have ever employed me and all of the testers that I have worked alongside. Matt Archer has dedicated his career to software testing, working as a consultant, trainer, writer, conference speaker and practitioner. He first worked as an agile tester in 2003 when he joined an Extreme Programming (XP) team that built software for the energy and petrochemical industry. Since then Matt has held testing positions at over 25 companies that span the retail, government, telecommunication, finance and media sectors. A passionate advocate for agile software development, Matt has helped manual testers adopt agile practices in teams as small as two, scaling to departments of hundreds. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 38
  39. 39. Matt Heusser What made you a leader? Quite frankly, in many companies, the behaviours that get people rewarded and promoted to leadership roles are actually followership. And, from contributor to line level, that's fine, as far as it goes -- in many ways, effective leadership means you need at least the skills, and the discipline, to be obedient at appropriate times. The problem comes when that is the only behaviour that matters, even at the higher level. In those cases, we get cultures that tend to look a bit like the aristocratic court of an old French King -- since things of substance are not debated, life devolves into a popularity contest (one of the things that amazes me about the popular kids in high school was not that they were different, but how similar they were. After all, the first trick to be on the inside of a social contest is to not stick out). My journey to leadership started, then, a different way. I stuck out, and people started following me. In my mind, that's the real differentiator of leadership. Not titles, not an impressive resume, not graduation from the right school, or even having the CEO put his arm around you, and point, and say "when I'm not here, this man is me!" None of those things can make you a leader, not really. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 39
  40. 40. What makes a leader is having other people follow. Otherwise, you're just some guy taking a walk. A member of the board of directors of the Association for Software Testing, Matthew Heusser is a contributing editor for STQA magazine and lead editor for "How To Reduce the Cost of Software Testing" (Taylor and Francis, 2011). Currently the principal consultant for Excelon Development, you can learn more about Matt at www.xndev.com or follow him on twitter @mheusser. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 40
  41. 41. Seth Eliot What made you a leader? I am still figuring it out. And I think even if I make VP (and yes Microsoft is one of the few tech companies to have software quality folks at VP level positions) then I will still be figuring it out. As I look back at each stage in my career I can reflect on different things I learned and did to gain respect in technical or people leadership. And also quite a few things I failed to do or did poorly that lost respect. In the very early days, as an individual contributor and newbie to the software quality field, the most important thing was doing the task in front of you and doing it well. Now this is always going to be important at all levels, but back then it was not only necessary, but nearly sufficient for success. In those days I recall a development manager joking in a release meeting that the only way they were going to ship was if they sent me on a vacation so I would stop finding bugs. Back then it was a source of pride (well, and still is) but now I know that was a sign of a troubled development process lacking quality. My merely continuing to break their stuff was fun, but insufficient to produce a quality product. Later as a people manager, having both recalled my own experience and seen others’ experiences of being randomized by disparate requests and the “emergency” of the day, decided that I would protect my group at all costs. I ran those “trains” on time, product launched when it was supposed to, and my team was generally happy. But many of my peers and some of my For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 41
  42. 42. management not so much. After hearing “no” from me so many times I was thought of as a pessimist…certainly not a leadership trait. So it took years but I learned that leadership is both getting involved and involving other people.. using the many layers of the team (across, up and down, across groups) to deliver the right product. Now I find myself at a stage in my career where I am afforded the honor of teaching and sharing practices across Microsoft and across the industry. If I can change things for the better for a few folks, then I consider this good leadership. But as always, the next thing to learn about leadership will be just around the corner. Seth Eliot is Senior Knowledge Engineer for Microsoft Test Excellence focusing on driving best practices for services and cloud development and testing across the company. He previously was Senior Test Manager, most recently for the team solving exabyte storage and data processing challenges for Bing, and before that enabling developers to innovate by testing new ideas quickly with users “in production” with the Microsoft Experimentation Platform (http://exp-platform.com). Testing in Production (TiP), software processes, cloud computing, and other topics are ruminated upon at Seth’s blog at http://bit.ly/seth_qa and on Twitter (@setheliot). Prior to Microsoft, Seth applied his experience at delivering high quality software services at Amazon.com where he led the Digital QA team to release Amazon MP3 download, Amazon Instant Video Streaming, and Kindle Services. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 42
  43. 43. Tony Bruce What made you a leader? I'm not sure I am a leader, at least I've never thought of myself that way. Sometimes I see things that are missing/decisions need to be made/something needs to be said/something needs to be done and I used to wait for somebody else to do it. In some cases I waited for a very long time for things to happen and in a lot of cases nothing happened. Don't wait. Go for it, do it yourself. Don't constrain yourself, there a plenty of people around who will try do that for you. Seth Godin wrote a book about getting started and doing things: http://dancedwiththetester.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/short- book-review-poke-box-seth-godin.html If you're umming and ahhing about anything it's worth a read. One of the things that got me moving is perspective on fear and embarrassment. I take the view that there are apparently over 7 billion people in the world. I am one. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 43
  44. 44. A lot of those people do not have pleasant lives. They live in fear and have problems that I will never be able to wrap my head and would never be able to handle. I am very fortunate; I have the basics like clean water and much, much more. If my biggest fear is embarrassing myself through things like speaking out and I let the fear of embarrassment stop me then I am an idiot and need to realise how lucky I am. We all have something to offer and share and we call help others so offer, share and help where you can. Tony Bruce is a professional, experienced, constantly learning, coaching and teaching agile team member who specialises in Testing and people. He has worked in various industries with organisations such as Channel 4, Ernst & Young, LMAX and The Children's Society. He is an active member of the Testing community, he hosts the London Tester Gathering and speaks at conferences all over the world. And in case his accent has you confused, it’s 1-part Aussie, 1-part English and 1-part American. For more information visit: www.softwaretestingclub.com | www.thetestingplanet.com ! ! 44