This interview with Santhosh Tuppad is part of our series of “Testing Smarter with…” interviews. Our goal with these interviews is to highlight insights and experiences as told by many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

Santhosh Tuppad fell in love with computers when he was 12 and since then his love for computers has increased exponentially. He founded his first startup in 2010 and was part of growing the company to nearly 80 people.

In short, he is a passionate software tester, security researcher, entrepreneur and badass in following his heart come what may!


Santhosh Tuppad

This post includes highlights from our full interview with Santhosh Tuppad. The full interview is long and packed with great thoughts.

Personal Background

Hexawise: What drew you into a career in software testing?

Santhosh: I have loved computers since I was 12. My father enrolled me into a computer course and I got to experience Disk Operating System for the first time where I used computer using command-line terminal and also played Prince Of Persia game. And I was addicted to gaming during this phase.

After my gaming stint, I was introduced to the internet and picked up an addiction for IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Here, I met various hackers and used to communicate with them on various channels which were heavily moderated and were invite only. I had to demonstrate my interest in hacking to these folks to invite me to their channel. My first hack was to hack the dial-up network credentials and use them at my home when the internet shop used to close at night. We used to have Internet Packs at those times in India and I had to pay money to buy those: and I did not have money during my teenage years.

Without much ado, let’s skip to software testing part. After my graduation, I did not know what should I be doing (one thing I knew for sure was, anything that I do has to be with computers as I was passionate). I understood that, I cannot settle for anything which doesn’t synchronize with my heart. I was on the journey of finding which becomes part of me. And finally, I enrolled for the software testing course. And during the course days, I could connect my hacking skills (security testing) to software testing. This part of my life is what I call finding bliss.

And the story continued and I started growing in the industry as a tester, international speaker, participant in conferences across the globe, entrepreneur in software testing, keynote speaker, blogger, author and what not.

Hexawise: If you could write a letter and send it back in time to yourself when you were first getting into software testing, what advice would you include in it?

Santhosh:

Oh my dear soul,

I see that you have found yourself in a country where everyone is pressurized to become something else than they want to be. You identified something crucial and beautiful about yourself, that is you follow your heart with patience and kindness and don’t settle for something that doesn’t make you come alive. Like I know, passion is a variable and it may get boring at times; but being bored is just a temporary phase and an emotion which doesn’t mean your passion is dead. So, be rational and decide for yourself while you are kind to others. Accept yourself and forgive everyone.

You are stepping into what you love and I know you are confident about your journey and you believe in it. That’s beautiful.

It may be easy to fall into routine and get into monotony of things in your career. Nevertheless, you know how to sail through things and get out of them to start fresh or continue in a different path. You can swiftly shift based on your visceral.

Grow by following your visceral feelings and have no regrets. Be good at connecting the dots and growing out of them. The beauty of software testing has not been known by the world so well as of today, so work on your skills and demonstrate them to the world and educate professionals and students about the greatness of software testing. It’s not about you or me or anyone, it’s about next generation testers who could help their next generation and their generation to enjoy the fruit of invention which includes software. Let software make the life beautiful and not buggy.

I know that you know about your journey, but I am just saying.

With love, Your other self


Wedding picture of Gina Enache and Santhosh Tuppad in the temple at Bengaluru, India

Hexawise: What kinds of activities do you enjoy when you’re not at work?

Santhosh: I love meditation forms; talking deeply with a friend sitting on my balcony of my apartment; watching documentaries of various types; and conversations about psychology, life and many other topics with my wife Gina Enache.

I feel that educating customers is the key and it takes more leaders to spread the greatness of exploratory testing style to the world through demonstration.

Views on Software Testing

Hexawise: What do you wish more developers, business analysts, and project managers understood about software testing?

Santhosh: I wish that developers, business analysts and project managers understood that it is not low-skilled job which anyone can do. And also wish more of them learned to collaborate across the teams in order achieve the common goal.

At the same time, I also feel that testers should upskill and demonstrate the value they provide in order to gain credibility from those on other teams. I also wish to see them spending time together instead of just seeing their role as limited. Last, but not least; manage conflicts and work as a team.

Hexawise: What challenges and advantages are there to managing an exploratory based, thinking software tester organization (as you designed Test Insane to be) compared to the still common "checking" style software testing organization.​

Santhosh:

Challenges

  • Not many customers understand how exploratory testing can be valuable. And it’s hard to educate them as well because most of them do not want to hear.
  • Hiring is a bigger problem. In my experience, I have trained new testers or made some testers to unlearn their testing way and I have been successful, but it’s hard to scale in my view in the current world.
  • Pricing is something that customers choose over the skills. It’s sad, but true. Most customers appear to be happy with “checking” style organization because their pricing is good for customers. Value based testing still needs to be understood by customers. However, I have been trying my best to talk about good testing (exploratory skilled testing/technical testing) to business owners at conferences I participate in or speak at.
  • Most of the testers have half-baked knowledge about exploratory testing and yet they call themselves exploratory testing experts. This makes it hard for context-driven leaders to see a scaleable model for exploratory testing. Thanks to Ministry of Testing community which is really spreading a great message to the testing world. I appreciate Rosie Sherry, Richard Bradshaw and every CDT member who are working on scaling it up and spreading the right message to the world.

I feel that educating customers is the key and it takes more leaders to spread the greatness of exploratory testing style to the world through demonstration.

Advantages

  • Starting TestInsane (Exploratory Testing and Check Automation Services Company) has also enabled me to bring in a change and demonstrate to the world the worth of good testing and value-based testing that can be done through the exploratory testing style.
  • Experienced testers who joined TestInsane unlearned the checking style and learned exploratory style testing and they are leaders who spread their knowledge and also are happy with their profession.
  • Customers are happy when they see test coverage and have acknowledged that it helps them to make better informed decisions about shipping or not.
  • Recurring business from customers who saw the value
  • The sense of freedom with responsibilities that my team members have. And this is because they enjoy exploratory testing and they perform amazingly. Freedom has always been great, but it comes with challenges. And one of the challenge is constantly learning and adapting based on the context.

I recommend that organizations hire security specialists because you don’t want to just rely on checklist based testers unless they have mastered hacking and have practiced enough to create a mindset of hacker.

Hexawise: Do you believe security testing for software requires testers that specialize in security testing? Certainly some security testing can be incorporated by most software testers, but does the complexity and constantly evolving nature of software security mean that only specialists can provide sufficient security testing?

Santhosh: This is very context specific question. And I am glad that you mention “Certainly some security testing can be incorporated by most software testers” which is true. Most of the software testers can be “Survival Mode” security testers who follow the checklist or guidelines (The Script Kiddie I mean).

However, what the organization needs for better coverage and deeper security testing is a tester who can be an explorer and find security vulnerabilities like a black-hat hacker. I recommend organizations hire security specialists because you don’t want to just rely on checklist based testers unless they have mastered hacking and have practiced enough to create a mindset of hacker.

I believe strongly that we need better security testers who are not just certified by EC-Council (nowadays, anyone can get this certification), but are known for skills and can show it via demonstration. Even in today’s world, we need security specialists if we are serious about software security. Period.

My articles on various topics of security testing provide additional reading on security testing of software.

Industry Observations / Industry Trends

Hexawise: India is a worldwide center for software testing. What risks do you see to that business going forward? What can testers (or testing companies) in India do to protect their market and gain customers going forward?

Santhosh: In my opinion, I don’t see the risk at all in India for these reasons:

  • Overseas companies who outsource testing are happy with bad testing
  • Customers think automation solves testing problems just because they are blind to good testing and they think - "good testing is automation" - which is incorrect. Like I say, automation is a myth. Automation is just a Ferrari (faster), it doesn't solves testing problems by itself.
  • India has more manpower in terms of engineers. Now, this can be a boon or bane for individuals who were pressurised by society or parents to study engineering. However, India has more engineers and that means more manpower.
  • There is nothing that testers need to do until the customers understand the value of good testing which is value-based instead of running the N number of test cases and showcasing some decorated spreadsheets which speak about good/bad testing.
  • Companies are moving towards automation and artificial intelligence thinking it will solve their problems of testing. A big no. I believe that ideas are driven by the beautiful brain. And people believing the myth of AI and automation is not a risk as long as customers are loving them. In short, customers pay for this and people love to make money without educating the customer.
  • There can be a risk if and only if there is any other country which will gain the traction compared to India and maybe show what is good testing in a bigger proportion. And only then there may be a risk for Indian based companies.

Here are the risks for a tester anywhere around the globe if they fall into any categories mentioned below (not just India):

  • Falling into the phase of monotony and routine where there is no new learning.
  • Believing that, “If I stick to this company for long time, then I will have job security” (We do not know when things change in this rapidly changing and evolving industry).
  • Not getting to the depth of a problem and also not practicing thinking skills like lateral thinking, critical thinking, cognitive thinking etcetera.
  • Not spending money and time on credible conferences and workshops
  • Not adapting to the new learning and also being rigid by saying I cannot adapt.
  • Lack of passion. There is only survival with lack of passion. If a tester wants their work to be great and satisfying, passion is must. Or else they can only survive and not enjoy what they do. The solution to lack of passion problem could be, creating a passion for the profession by learning OR identifying a passion even if it’s any other profession (This is a context-based advice).

Hexawise: Have you seen a particularly effective process where the software testing team was integrated into the feedback from a deployed software application (getting feedback from users on problems, exploring issues the software noted as possible bugs...)? What was so effective about that instance?

Santhosh: The answer to this is available in this interview in the “Staying Current / Learning” section of the full interview.

The effective thing about that was, both developers and testers got access to the bugs that really matter. And once the fixes started rolling based on the feedback analyzer tool where feedback from users were being used in order to test better, there was improvement in terms of page views, time spent on page and also orders were checked out smoothly and quickly. The company started getting more orders (eCommerce platform) while they had great positive feedback and the when measured monthly feedback statistics, the negative feedback eventually reduced which spoke about “the effectiveness” of using the feedback from users and accommodating in the testing practice for better.

Working closely with programmers/developers is one of the beauties of an effective team. And Agile to me just means human values and these values have to be incorporated in the team. I believe there has to be great training in the companies/teams about conflict management, communication, motivation, solving problems etcetera in order to power up the teams to perform better and deliver better products to the world thereby helping the business move forward.

Staying Current / Learning

Hexawise: What do you look for when hiring software testers? What suggestions do you have for those looking to advance in their in software testing career?

Santhosh: In my experience, I have hired testers based on their attitude only. And some times, I have hired them only for their skills. I have had my own lessons and I have some checklist or guidelines that I follow in order to good testers with mixed ingredients of attitude. Well, the attitude is a tricky part because unlike WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors, humans are not really WYSIWYG. It’s the perception during the interview that one carries about attitude. And attitude during the interview maybe based on best interest of the candidate to get hired. Most of the times it’s manipulation of the attitude which will fade away in months or days or years. I repeat, hiring is really a tricky situation and one can learn only through experiences and eventually grow with good hiring methods.

What do I look for based on my learning experiences in hiring?

  • Technical testing skills - My highest priority is for this. For example: If I am hiring for web application testing, I interview them concepts like web browser rendering engine, developer tools usage, tampering POST requests via Network tab, about HTTP headers and why are they important, depth knowledge about cookies, session management, their unique ideas to test web application and providing them with my own custom buggy web application that I have developed in order to analyse their skills hands-on and finally understand if a candidate can be a better fit for my team. (Note: This example is for a fresh candidate or someone who is 1 to 2 year experienced in web application testing). I would like to say that, I knew more about web browsers, sessions, cookies, tampering, hacking (thanks to my love for hacking when I was 16 and it’s been more than a decade being a security tester. Now, you know how passion is important if you want to do something great and well.
  • Attitude - This has been tricky for me and I am still learning how to hire based on attitude. Based on my experiments, I love to have discussions with the candidate and have transparency and also in the journey, speak like friends because those are the times the candidate opens up and feels comfortable.
  • Knowing the short-term plan of a candidate - Now, this is a checklist to see if I can have a good hire. Nevertheless, I need to see how a candidate performs in real environment once hired. In my experience, both these environments differ very well based on the context. It’s just like a web application or a software performance after being deployed to production/live environment.

Hexawise: What software testing-related books would you recommend should be on a tester’s bookshelf? What blogs would you recommend should be included in a software tester's RSS feed reader?

Santhosh: The first book I shall recommend is “Lessons learned in software testing” by James Bach, Bret Pettichord and Cem Kaner.

Here is the list of books that I love in testing,

  • Testing Computer Software by Cem Kaner
  • The Black Swan - By Nasim Taleb
  • General Systems Thinking by Jerry Weinberg
  • AmIaBug.com - Online Book by Robert Sabourin
  • Showing Up - Book by Olaf Lewitz and Christine Neidhardt
  • The Psychology of Software Testing - By John Stevenson
  • The Web Application Hacker's Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws - By Dafydd Stuttard and Marcus Pinto (for security testing aspirants)
  • The design of everyday things - By Don Norman
  • And many more books. (follow me on twitter if you need any specific book suggestion as I cannot flood this post with so many books)

Blogs that I follow and recommend for a tester:

Hexawise: Have you incorporated a new testing idea into your testing practices in the last year? Will you continue using it? Why? / Why not?

Santhosh:

The problem statement: When I was working at Tesco on a testing engagement, I happened to see that Tesco website had a feedback form with rating system, checkbox options and radio buttons which is used to collect feedback from its users. As part of my testing activity, I love to speak to cross-functional teams in an organization and extract the information that can help me test better.

So, looking at the feedback forms I wanted to know how is this feedback processed by the test team in order to improvise their testing by learning from users feedback. I approached the Test Manager and asked him, “Hey! Are we looking into the feedback from users so that we can improve our testing practices?” to which his response was, “Santhosh, that’s a very good question I hear for the first time and sadly we do not use it because there are thousands of feedback responses and we are confused on what to focus on. Only our customer support looks into it to address the issues and we don’t really use the feedback system to learn and better our testing”.

The Solution: In a week’s time, I along with my friend developed a feedback analysis system (a web based application) which could consume the feedback in a *.txt format and then reveal the feedback in organized and intelligent way. Basically, the application we developed sorted the information in a readable format and categorized the feedback.

The surprising factor was, developers also started to use the tool as they cared about the quality of their code. This was an amazing success of how cross-functional teams can work together and develop something to achieve a desired common goal.

Since then, I personally work on developing such tools along with my programmer friends in order to do better testing. This phase I call as, “Success by collaboration and being creative”.

See the full interview for screenshots of the tool they developed and more information.

Profile


Gina Enache (my wife) and I in Germany

Santhosh Tuppad fell in love with computers when he was 12 and since then his love for computers has increased exponentially. After his graduation (Santhosh puts it this way, “Somehow, I graduated” J), he worked as software tester in one of the organization in India and he quit because he was bored with the work he was doing. After that, he started his first startup in 2010 and was part of growing the company to nearly 80 people. Alas! He got bored again in his first startup and also he was not happy. He made a choice to quit and started his second startup. He is going to start his next startup soon. He says, “Getting bored is a sign of something new to be started and it excites me”.

In short, he is a passionate software tester, security researcher (Started as unethical hacker and transformed to ethical hacker for good), entrepreneur and badass in following his heart / visceral come what may!

Social Media Contacts: Twitter: @santhoshst

LinkedIn: Santhosh Tuppad

Facebook: santhosh.tuppad

Skype: santhosh.s.tuppad

Related: Testing Smarter with James Bach - Testing Smarter with Ajay Balamurugadas - Testing Smarter with Alan Page

By: John Hunter on Sep 25, 2017

Categories: Career, Exploratory Testing, Interview, Testing Smarter with...

Hexawise is hiring a senior consultant to help our clients improve their software testing processes and results.

Job description

Your mission will be to help Hexawise’s clients achieve dramatic improvements to their software testing efficiency and effectiveness. To do so, you will be providing consulting, training, and implementation support services to ensure that our customers are successfully achieving their business objectives using our test optimization and test automation SaaS solutions and are progressively expanding their usage of our tools.

Your testing expertise will make you uniquely qualified to share best practices and recommendations with existing and target customers. Your customer expertise will make you uniquely qualified to advocate on behalf of Hexawise customers and influence internal strategy and provide leadership to the overall activities of Hexawise’s professional services.

Your job will encompass a diverse set of responsibilities. You will be a highly valued member of the Hexawise team, reporting directly to the CEO.

Responsibilities: Existing Clients

  • Develop strong operational relationships with clients’ project teams and stakeholders to maximize customer satisfaction and seek additional service opportunities.
  • Provide training and implementation support during initial product implementation followed by project-specific consulting, and ongoing adoption support.
  • Contribute to increase revenue throughout the post-sales lifecycle: increase product utilization; identify and close new consulting business within existing accounts; and minimize churn.
  • Offer guidance to clients during launches of new products, features, and/or service offerings.
  • Lead project-specific consulting engagements, and provide test optimization and test automation guidance to Hexawise implementation initiatives.
  • Return important customer insights to the Hexawise team, with the goal of influencing internal strategy and securing the success of our customers.

Responsibilities: Target Clients

  • Clearly explain the benefits and limitations of combinatorial test design to potential customers using language and concepts relevant to their context by drawing upon your own “been there, done that” experiences of having successfully introduced combinatorial test design methods in similar situations.
  • Develop tailored rollout strategies which include integration of Hexawise Optimize and Hexawise Automate into client processes.
  • Define and present comprehensive training and consulting proposals that will enhance Hexawise adoption and keep customer churn extremely low.


Matt Dengler in Japan
Pictured: Matt Dengler, a Hexawise consultant who recently traveled to Japan to help an insurance client design more thorough sets of software tests.

Requirements:

  • 3-5 years of experience with software testing, preferably with an IT consulting firm or a large financial services organization
  • Ability to master the functional capabilities, methodology, and use cases of Hexawise solutions in order to advise customers and promote best practices
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills, with the ability to persuasively communicate recommendations, thoughtfully answer tough questions, effectively champion customer needs, and overcome organizational inertia
  • Industry acumen, with knowledge of current software testing trends and an ability to converse with customers at a detailed level on pertinent issues and challenges and describe to clients where Hexawise fits into the competitive landscape of software testing solutions
  • Ability to travel regularly (likely to be no more than 40%)
  • You must be eligible to legally work in the USA.
  • Working from our offices in Durham, NC would be highly preferable. We might consider remote working arrangements for an exceptional candidate based in the USA.

Learn more about the position and apply.

By: John Hunter on Aug 23, 2017

Categories: Career, Customer Success, Hexawise, Software Testing

Mind maps are an effective way to gather information quickly and organization those ideas. For software testing they provide a great tool to share test plans with product owners and testers in an easy to comprehend manner. The visual clarity of mind maps display content in a usable manner.


Hexawise allows you to import and export mind maps. So you can brainstrom ideas together (users, business analysts, product owners, testers, managers...) and agree on the imporant items to test. And then you can import the mind map into Hexawise and it will generate an optimized test plan with efficient combinatorial coverage (enhanced pairwise testing to test the performance of the software interactions between parameters and parameter values).

You can even use mind maps to edit and maintain your test plans: see Hexawise training explanation of how to use the editable mind maps to edit your plan.

image showing mind map edit screen for airplane ticket reservation in Hexawise


Image of the edit screen for the mind map for an airplane ticket reservation system (the first Hexawise sample plan - you can view the plan in your Hexawise account and experiment with the mind map feature).


Related: Mind Maps: What, Why and How - Create a Risk-based Testing Plan With Extra Coverage on Higher Priority Areas - Automatically Generating Expected Results for Tests Using Hexawise

By: John Hunter on Aug 1, 2017

Categories: Combinatorial Software Testing, Hexawise, Hexawise tips, Software Testing, Testing Strategies

This interview with Katrina Clokie is part of the Hexawise “Testing Smarter with…” software testing interview series. Our goal with these interviews is to highlight insights and experiences as told by many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

photo of Katrina Clokie

Katrina Clokie


Katrina Clokie leads a team of around 100 testers as a Test Practice Manager in Wellington, New Zealand. Katrina is an active contributor to the international testing community as the founder and editor of Testing Trapeze magazine, a co-founder of the WeTest New Zealand testing community, a mentor with Speak Easy, an international conference speaker, frequent blogger and tweeter.

Personal Background

Hexawise: Do your friends and relatives understand what you do? How do you explain it to them?

Katrina: Honestly, I don't think they understand what I do. But I think that's common for most people who work in IT. Fortunately my husband is a software developer, so I can have work-related conversations with him and he understands. But otherwise, I usually avoid talking about the details of my work with my friends and relatives.

Hexawise: Related post by Katrina: How I explain software testing to people who don't work in IT.

Hexawise: Failures can often lead to interesting lessons learned. Do you have any noteworthy failure stories that you’d be willing to share?

Katrina: In the first role where I was involved in testing, before I had the word 'tester' in my job title, I was part of team that released a piece of software in a mobile phone network that had a serious bug in it. I had completed the installation and pre-release testing of the network in a South American country. After returning to New Zealand, a member of the public found a loophole that allowed multiple account top-ups with a single prepaid voucher code. It quickly went viral, and my team came under a lot of pressure to find and fix the problem as within 36 hours the mobile network operator was losing significant amounts of revenue.

The root cause of the issue turned out to be a race condition that we fixed by changing the order of our voucher recharge workflow. The experience was an eye-opener for me. It made me a lot more wary as a tester, and more willing to think of the ways that a system could be misused. It was a hard way to learn the dangers of being too confirmatory by only sticking to known error scenarios. On future projects I tried to be more creative in my testing.

Views on Software Testing

Hexawise: In How do you hire a junior tester you state "I am looking to create testing teams with complementary individual strengths that mean we are collectively strong."

I appreciate your focus on the importance of building a team that works rather than focusing on making every person have the same skills. Why do you think organizations so rarely focus on creating a strong team?

Katrina: I think that organisations who use agile principles for software development often focus on creating strong delivery teams. Recruitment activities are for product-oriented teams rather than discipline-oriented teams.

From my experience, the role I occupy is unusual in that I have influence in hiring of testers across the entire test competency of my organisation. I am fortunate that the people who are managing testers day-to-day are willing to take my input in their hiring decisions, and that I can drive the broader vision for testing. Without this oversight, particularly in agile organisations where there may only be one or two testers in a cross-functional team, it can be difficult to create meaningful diversity within a discipline.

The experience was an eye-opener for me. It made me a lot more wary as a tester, and more willing to think of the ways that a system could be misused. It was a hard way to learn the dangers of being too confirmatory by only sticking to known error scenarios. On future projects I tried to be more creative in my testing.

Hexawise: Please describe a view or opinion about software testing that you have changed your mind about in the last few years? What caused you to change your mind?

Katrina: I regularly change my mind. If you work in an industry that is constantly evolving, then I think you have to have that flexibility. Here are a couple of examples of people who challenged my way of thinking in the past 12 months. Both are sharing details of the evolution of their role.

Jesse Alford works at Pivotal in the US. He spoke at CAST2016 on the topic "Against a Harmful Divide: Testing as the lifeblood of development" sharing a really interesting perspective on the "we don't need testers" phenomenon.

Sally Goble works at The Guardian in the UK. She spoke at Pipeline Conf 2016 on the topic "So what do you do if you don't do testing?" which, again, is a real experience report on a significant change in the role of the tester.

Industry Observations / Industry Trends

Hexawise: Your post, Test Manager vs. Test Coach, echoes Dee Hock's quote: "If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled 'subordinates,' then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny." Do you have hope the testing community will gain more leaders, managers and coaches that focus on helping the team instead of directing the team?

Katrina: Yes. But I don't think that helping a team and directing a team are mutually exclusive. In the post that you reference where I contrast the manager and coach roles, I wanted to create a polarity to emphasis the differences. As evidenced in the comments section, the reality is a lot murkier.

I am often surprised by the rich conversation that happens when you take the time to ask people for their opinions. I always learn things that I would have liked to have known sooner. If you're a manager you may think that you have an open door policy, but there is more to learn when you seek out information rather than wait for it to come to you.

Hexawise: There has been a rapid increase in workers telecommuting in the last 10 years. And software testers do this even more than most other professions. In your post, Finding the vibe of a dispersed team, you discuss ideas on how to succeed at managing disperse teams. What other advice can you share on creating successful teams spread across different locations?

Katrina: I found it extremely difficult to work remotely as a coach. So much of my role is in face-to-face interaction, which the tools for remote working didn't support to a level that I was happy with. For testers though, it seems to be more of an option. If someone were to ask me for advice, I would refer them to Alister Scott or Neil Studd, who I think are both currently working as testers in distributed teams.

Staying Current / Learning

Hexawise: What blogs would you recommend should be included in a software tester's RSS feed reader?

Katrina: It's worth checking out the Testing Bits that Matt Hutchison compiles each week on the Testing Curator Blog. It's a good way to keep up-to-date with what's happening in the community and discover new voices. Similarly you can subscribe to the Ministry of Testing Feed via RSS, but I find the content a little more variable as there's no active moderation.

A prolific blogger who I really admire is Maaret Pyhäjärvi of Finland. Her blog, A Seasoned Tester's Crystal Ball, is full of practical advice and insights. A few others that I read whenever I spot a new post are:

Hexawise: Organizations often have exit interviews to learn from those leaving the organization. In your post, Stay Interviews for Testers, you suggest interviewing those testers staying in your organization. What have been some surprising ideas you have learned from using stay interviews?

Katrina: I'm unwilling to give specific examples here, but I will say that I am often surprised by the rich conversation that happens when you take the time to ask people for their opinions. I always learn things that I would have liked to have known sooner. If you're a manager you may think that you have an open door policy, but there is more to learn when you seek out information rather than wait for it to come to you.

Profile

Katrina Clokie leads a team of around 100 testers as a Test Practice Manager in Wellington, New Zealand. Katrina is an active contributor to the international testing community as the founder and editor of Testing Trapeze magazine, a co-founder of the WeTest New Zealand testing community, a mentor with Speak Easy, an international conference speaker, frequent blogger and tweeter. Her complete professional profile is available on LinkedIn.

Blog: Katrina the Tester

Twitter: @katrina_tester

Book: A Practical Guide to Testing in DevOps

Related interviews: Testing Smarter with Mike Bland - Testing Smarter with Ajay Balamurugadas - Testing Smarter with Dorothy Graham

By: John Hunter on Jul 5, 2017

Categories: Testing Smarter with..., Interview

This interview with Angie Jones is part of the Hexawise “Testing Smarter with…” software testing interview series. Our goal with these interviews is to highlight insights and experiences as told by many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

photo of Angie Jones
Angie Jones

Angie Jones is a Senior Software Engineer in Test at Twitter who has developed automation strategies and frameworks for countless software products. Angie shares her wealth of knowledge by speaking and teaching at software conferences all over the world and leading tech workshops for young girls through Black Girls Code.

Personal Background

Hexawise: Wow! You’re everywhere. Conference presentations around the globe at a break-neck pace. How’d that happen, exactly?

Angie: Ha ha. I’ve been doing test automation for quite some time. In early 2016, I attended a testing conference and didn’t learn much of anything new. It wasn’t a knock on the conference, but it was a wake up call for me.

I also interviewed people for automation roles quite often and found it was extremely hard to find people that were on the same level as my team. I realized that I have something to contribute and should be working to advance the industry in any small way that I can.

Diversity is also something that’s extremely important to me, so I thought being a black female on the stages of white male dominated conferences could also be my way of shaking up the game a little bit.

Actually, seeing a black woman announced as a speaker at a tech conference on Twitter was something that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t something I’d seen before. The conference was Write/Speak/Code, an event that empowers women to become thought leaders by writing blogs, speaking at conferences, and contributing to open source software! It was exactly what I needed. I attended and it absolutely changed my life. In less than 6 months after that conference, I’d become an international speaker and was being invited to keynote across the world. It all happened so fast...it was crazy!

Hexawise: You have helped Black Girls Code and TechGirlz work to provide girls the opportunity to learn to code. Do those efforts leave you with hope that the future is in good hands?

Angie: You know, I set out to inspire young girls, but every time I work with them I’m the one who leaves totally inspired and renewed. The girls are so smart and innovative! I give them a little push and they end up creating things that totally blow me away. The idea is to plant the seed. I wasn’t exposed to technology much as a young girl and had no idea that computer programming was even a career option. I almost missed my calling because of that. I don’t want our industry to miss out the next Tech Rock Star because she didn’t know about us.

The greatest businesses are ones that observe how their customers are misusing their products/services and adapt accordingly to make it easier for them to do what it is that they want to do, and still gain the benefit of the product/service.

Hexawise: Recently you moved from the Raleigh-Durham area (home to Hexawise, among other technology companies) to San Francisco and took a new role at Twitter. How did that come about? What is your new job?

Angie: Yes, I’m so excited about this new opportunity at Twitter! I told myself that my next role was going to be something fun and cutting edge. Twitter is just that! I love the platform, I love the innovative culture, and I love the possibilities for growth. I’m working on critical automation tasks and helping to drive automation efforts related to revenue...so ads and live video.

Hexawise: Have you gained a new insight into some aspect of software testing from your work at Twitter that you can share? You haven't been at Twitter long but sometimes in a new environment people are especially alert and gain insights that others may not notice.

Angie: When I have the privilege of choosing the work I'll be doing, I lean towards companies who understand the need for both a Tester and an Automation Engineer. Twitter gets that, which played a big role in my decision to accept this position. I, along with a few other industry leaders, have been preaching for a while now that we don't necessarily need all testers writing automation, but with the complexity of today's applications, testers do need to be technical in order to do a thorough job.

At Twitter, I've now seen just how true that is. I'm working with top notch testers who aren't programmers but they understand the intricate plumbing of our systems and are capable of digging into the guts of the application to ensure all pieces are working as they should. This requires quite a bit of technical acumen yet very little coding. I'll further explore this in my keynotes this Fall at Targeting Quality (Canada), and Agile Testing Days (Germany).

Views on Software Testing

Hexawise: Your article BDD Without the Three Amigos: Maybe Talking To Yourself Isn't So Bad is really thought provoking. In it, you acknowledge that Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) “done right” includes the 3 amigos, but you go on to explore what happens in situations when BA’s and Developers aren’t wiling to “play ball”. You suggest that you have seen testers gain significant value on their own by using BDD. Testers, for example, can create Gherkin feature files with clear “Given / When / Then” instructions that enable rapid creation of executable test scripts.

Angie: Yeah, we often make these hard fast rules and try to force everyone to follow them. Whenever someone “misuses” a practice, all hell breaks loose on the internet. I’ve consulted with a lot of teams and came to realize that these teams are not naive. They realize that they are using the approach differently than it was intended to be used. However, they’ve made it work for them. The greatest businesses are ones that observe how their customers are misusing their products/services and adapt accordingly to make it easier for them to do what it is that they want to do, and still gain the benefit of the product/service. To that point, Matt Wynne, co-founder of Cucumber BDD, actually read this piece and realized that there was more he could do in the industry to push for collaboration from the other amigos.

In a fast-paced software delivery model, automation is definitely needed, but many companies make the mistake of thinking it’s a replacement for testing... Automation should be used as a tool... a technique to enhance testing efforts.

Hexawise: What testing practice(s) do you most wish the software testing community would embrace?

Angie: That’s an easy one...Automation. But there’s definitely some education needed around this, which is why I write and speak on topics in this space. In a fast-paced software delivery model, automation is definitely needed, but many companies make the mistake of thinking it’s a replacement for testing. Anytime I’ve seen companies take this approach, the quality of their product has greatly suffered. Automation should be used as a tool... a technique to enhance testing efforts.

Hexawise: In your presentation at the 2016 SeleniumConf UK conference, you explore "How to Get Automation Included in Your Definition of Done." In that talk you discuss the idea that automation is useful but also that not all tests should be automated. How should a test team go about determining what software tests should be automated?

Angie: Ha ha. That’s a talk in and of itself. Actually, I’m going to give that talk at STPCon in the Fall of 2017. I get asked this question all the time, and it’s such a tricky thing to nail down. That’s because it’s highly contextual to the needs of the business. To do this topic any justice, I plan to explore several case studies in the STPCon talk and demonstrate how context plays such an essential part in answering this question correctly.

Industry Observations / Industry Trends

Hexawise: What trends do you foresee impacting the software testing community in the next 5 to 10 years?

Angie: With the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, the systems that we test are going to become a lot more complex. This will require an evolution of testing. Our roles will become even more technical, and yet also require a healthy balance of humanity. The scenarios realized by these smart systems will require thorough testing and solid judgment. Software testing will look a lot different in 10 years, but will be extremely exciting!

Hexawise: Do you see organizations integrating software testers into the software development process (as compared to those instances where the first time software testers are involved is when software is delivered to be tested)? Do you believe more integration of software testers throughout the software development and maintenance process would be useful as software testing evolves?

Angie: I’ve already seen a huge improvement in integrating software testers into the development process with the embracing of agile practices. Quality is no longer solely owned by testers. Developers are testing their features before check-in, and testers are present throughout the entire process, essentially offering insight as early as the requirements phase. This has been essential as teams are adopting continuous integration and deployment processes. Time is of the essence, and the earlier we can avoid/find/correct mistakes, the better!

Hexawise: For those who are not used to involving testers early in the software development process, how would you describe the benefits to the business of involving software testers early in the process?

Angie: By involving testers early in the software development process, the team is able to identify and correct assumptions. This essentially eliminates potential bugs before production even begins. Testers bring in a breadth of knowledge about the application as a whole and how the individual components work together. Testers also serve as a customer advocate, ensuring that their goals are being considered. So, while the team is discussing a potential feature, the tester is advocating for the customer and also calling out how this can affect existing features in the system.

I sat in a design meeting recently and watched the tester poke holes in the proposed design and call out omissions that would cost us millions of dollars. The developers left that meeting with a list of requirements and considerations that they had missed. That's beyond valuable.

Staying Current / Learning

Hexawise: How do you stay current on improvements in software testing practices?

Angie: I read a ton. I’m subscribed to several blogs, and I use Twitter to find new ones all the time. People are always creating new tools or approaches to solve interesting problems and I try to absorb as much of it as I can.

I don’t limit myself to testing blogs. I also read development blogs and tech news sites to stay up to date with trends in the software industry as a whole. This helps me think past my current role and prepare myself for the future as well.

I’ve already seen a huge improvement in integrating software testers into the development process with the embracing of agile practices. Quality is no longer owned by testers. Developers are testing their features before check-in, and testers are present throughout the entire process, essentially offering insight as early as the requirements phases.

Hexawise: You have presented at and attended many technology conferences. What advice do you have for people attending software conferences so that they can get more out of the experience?

Angie: It’s so funny how people tend to flock towards topics they are familiar with. They end up sitting there nodding in agreement with everything the speaker says, sharing their own experiences during Q&A, and leaving thinking that was such a great talk. However, did they learn anything new?

I try to attend talks that will address an unsolved problem that I have, or is in an area that I know very little about. These are the talks where I gain the most insight and can bring something of value back to my job.

Also, be sure to network! You won’t remember everything that people said during their talks, but leaving with a catalog of names and contact information of not just the speakers, but attendees as well, is gold! I often hit problems and I recall meeting someone a year ago at a conference who talked about this very problem during the cocktail hour. Because I networked with them, I feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help.

Hexawise: What blogs would you recommend should be included in a software tester's RSS feed reader?

Angie: Fortunately, Ministry of Testing has an aggregated feed that I use all the time. It consists of more than 500 testing blogs! It’s my morning newspaper.

Profile

Angie Jones is a Senior Software Engineer in Test at Twitter who has developed automation strategies and frameworks for countless software products. As a Master Inventor, she is known for her innovative and out-of-the-box thinking style which has resulted in more than 20 patented inventions in the US and China.

Angie shares her wealth of knowledge by speaking and teaching at software conferences all over the world and leading tech workshops for young girls through Black Girls Code.

Links

Blog: Angie Jones

Twitter: @techgirl1908

Read previous Testing Smarter with... interviews: Testing Smarter with Alan Page - Testing Smarter with Dorothy Graham - Testing Smarter with Mike Bland

Subscribe to the RSS feed for the Hexawise software testing blog.

By: John Hunter and Justin Hunter on Jun 14, 2017

Categories: Interview, Interesting People , Software Testing, Testing Smarter with...

Kathleen Poulsen of Fidelity Investments gave a presentation at STAREAST 2017 sharing her experience using Hexawise to improve their software testing performance. Watch a 10 minute video with highlights of that talk:

We didn't really have what I'd call a scientific methodology to approaching the tests...

Our regression test suites were continuously expanding... We found there was a repition of tests.

We had 3 different projects that I will talk about that I feel like combinatorial or pairwise testing was the key to answering all of those problems.

Hexawise allows you to harness the power of combinatorial software testing with test plans designed to provide thourogh testing of interaction impacts on the software being testing. Hexawise provides more coverage with fewer tests.

All the teams that are using Hexawise can use that same file, they can talk to each other. [Another] thing I liked about Hexawise was the coverage chart... I go back to my business partners and say I am not running these tests. If they are important to you I add them back in with the click of a button. I love that... it was a game changer for me.

Using the Hexawise exporting options

the tests that we produced were converted into the given then when type scenarios automatically and when they are exported into excel you can use them to drive the Sellenium test automation framework. No additional work from us involved.

Using Hexawise's ability to create highly optimized test plans Fidelity was able to greatly reduce the number of tests while also greatly improving coverage.

We were able to reduce from 12,000 tests down to 600.

This type of result sounds amazing, and it is. But it is also what we find consisently from clients over and over. There are certain things people just cannot do well and designing test plans to cover incredible large numbers of interactions between test values and conditions is one of those things. Using highly optimized alogorithms to create test plans to cover these interactions in order to reliably create software customers will love is key. This also frees people to do what they do best.

Kathleen also discussed the significant improvement in communication within Fidelity that was brought about by using Hexawise.

The common language has become the test plan that comes out of Hexawise today.

Improving communiction is an area many organization see as important but finding concrete ways to achieve better communication is often difficult. We have designed Hexwise to aid the communication between stakeholders, including: software developers, software testers, product owners, help desk support staff and senior management.

The simplicity of this tool along with the way you can enter your parameters using the mind map tool, getting that coverage chart automatically out of it, having it export your data into a pretty commonly usable format - those are things that were teribly important to me. They gave me real value... I love that.

I can accomodate many differnt types of testing. We are testing at the class method level, at the services interface level, at the UI level...

Related: 84% of Software Defects Found in Production Could Have Been Found Using Pairwise Testing - Create a Risk-based Testing Plan With Extra Coverage on Higher Priority Areas - 2 Minute Introduction to Hexawise Software Testing Solution

By: John Hunter on Jun 9, 2017

Categories: Combinatorial Software Testing, Combinatorial Testing, Efficiency, Hexawise, Hexawise test case generating tool, Multi-variate Testing, Pairwise Software Testing, Pairwise Testing, Recommended Tool, Software Testing, Software Testing Presentations, Software Testing Efficiency, Testing Case Studies, User Experience

This interview with Matt Heusser is part of the Hexawise “Testing Smarter with…” software testing interview series. Our goal with these interviews is to highlight insights and experiences as told by many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

Matt Heusser
Matt Heusser

Matt Heusser is a software craftsman with a deep background in software delivery and testing.

In 2014, Matt received the Most Influential Agile-Test Professional Award at Agile Testing Days in Potsdam, Germany.

Personal Background

Hexawise: If you could write a letter and send it back in time to yourself when you were first getting into software testing, what advice would you include in it?

Matt: My advice would be to trust your instincts and experiences more than what you read in books or online. Often the advice I read in books and online seemed vapid (shallow), or simplistic, or I felt it "just wouldn't work here." Eventually I realized that a lot of it (this was the testing advice of the 1990's) wasn't working well most places.

Today we have better advice. The time from research to publish is short, and there is a lot less "loss" in the system. Still, what works for Google and Microsoft might not work for your 20 person company, and what works for that cool, 100% physically distributed, 40 person software company might not work for your 2,000 employee insurance company. Take it with a grain of salt, trust your instincts - but always keep exploring and experimenting.

Hexawise: Which person or people have had the greatest influence on your understanding and practice of software testing?

Matt: It's hard to come up with a list of influences, but Cem Kaner, James Bach, Ken Pier, Brian Marick, Johanna Rothman, Lee Copeland, Jerry Weinberg, Kent Beck, and Ron Jeffries all come to mind.

Hexawise: What one or two software testing-related experiences have you found to be most personally satisfying in your career?

Matt: I remember once we wanted to get a insurance data extract out on a friday, but it had to be right. Serious students of testing will tell me you can never know that it is right - but non-serious student customers don't know that. I had about a half a day. The change was to one field, and we had the results in a database table. The table-to-file and the file transfer we had confidence in; the change, not so much. So I wrote my own computer program to loop through every current member in the insurance plan, over four hundred thousand, calculate the expected result, and compare them.

We found a small bug in the requirements; an edge case that was ambiguous. The programmer and I had interpreted the requirements in different ways that were both arguably correct. The "differ" program I wrote found the case, the customer explained that either was acceptance - and we shipped!

Views on Software Testing

Hexawise: What do you wish more developers, business analysts, and project managers understood about software testing?

Matt: A decade ago, when I went to the Google Test Automation Conference, one of the speakers said that automation was better because it was "repeatable." I almost stood up and asked aloud "so what?"

Every build of the software different. If the software is different, if the risk picture has changed, if we have some idea of what tests we ran before and how valid they might be on this build - why would we ever test the exact same way?

Software isn't an assembly line. Every build is different. The way we test it can be different, but I certainly don't see a ton of value in spending extra money to make sure we test things the exact same every time.

Turns out you don't need to remove the friction from handoffs. Often, you're better served to make communication cheaper and getting good at collaboration.

Hexawise: Can you describe a view or opinion about software testing that you have changed your mind about in the last few years? What caused you to change your mind?

Matt: It's going back a bit, but in graduate school, I wrote a paper "On the optimization of physically distributed requirements, development, test, operations, and management development groups" The body of the paper was considerably shorter than the title - the body was "You're Screwed."

At the time, the literature suggested that communication costs were high, so we needed get everything right prior to "the handoff." We needed to get every document, every bit of code, everything complete, consistent, correct, unambiguous, before "the handoff."

I knew that trick never worked, and thought the fix was co-location.

Then I learned about agile/XP, which was still focused on co-location - still, part of XP was making communication, collaboration, and change cheaper. Then I worked at Socialtext, where my co-workers were all over the world - Ingy took a skiing vacation in France, skiing during the day and working core hours at night. And it was far more productive than any other job I had ever had.

Turns out you don't need to remove the friction from handoffs. Often, you're better served to make communication cheaper and getting good at collaboration.

Hexawise: You have written about the benefits of lean thinking in software testing. What advantages do organizations gain when they adopt a lean thinking view of software testing?

Matt: You know that thing that happens, where you can't do your job because you filed a ticket and it will take the DBA's a week to add a column to a table, so you can't do your job, for a week?

Or whatever else it is? Right now I've got a contractor billing on my team with no laptop. He'll have it nine days after he started ... if we're lucky.

Typically, when a company goes to lean thinking, that kind of stuff stops happening.

Industry Observations / Industry Trends

Hexawise: Do you have specific suggestions for testers working within an organization using agile or lean software development methods?

Matt: It's hard to come up with examples without context, but generally, I'd start by looking at the delays we have in our job and the amount of multitasking. Be sure to include failure demand - things that should be reasonably expected to work the first time, but took a round of fixes. Often you'll find what should take an hour is taking you a week.

Hexawise: What do you see as the most powerful trends in the software testing field over the last 5 to 10 years? What trends do you believe will be the most powerful over the next 5 to 10 years?

Matt: The past ten years? Test-Driven Development, Continuous Integration, REST APIs that can be tested at the integration level, Virtualization, Lightweight Virtualization.

The next five? The promise of continuous delivery might just be realized. I realize that sounds like a lot of technical stuff, and I'm a process and people guy. The challenges of the next few years will be all skill, people and process.

Hexawise: There is still a widespread belief in fairly mechanistic software testing (checking) by some of those using software testing. Lean thinking, exploratory testing, etc. encourage engaging the minds of software testers. Are you optimistic about the prospects for tapping more of the potential software testers have going forward?

Matt: Oh yes. That's what I hope the next five or ten years are all about.

You know that thing that happens, where you can't do your job because you filed a ticket and it will take the DBA's a week to add a column to a table, so you can't do your job, for a week? ... Typically, when a company goes to lean thinking, that kind of stuff stops happening.

Hexawise: Have you seen a particularly effective process where the software testing team was integrated into the feedback from a deployed software application (getting feedback from users on problems, exploring issues the software noted as possible bugs...)? What was so effective about that instance?

Matt: My preference is for cross-functional delivery teams, so I get a little down on the term "test team", but yes, I have seen delivery teams where customer feedback was part of the process. One team that Justin Rhorman and I worked with managed a fortune 500 retail website; they had a process that periodically popped-up requests for feedback. The testers worked through these in a rotation, summarizing them, reporting them to management and working with management.

I think that worked well because of the rotation - no single bottleneck. If multiple testers observed the same feedback independently week over week, it was harder to dismiss.

Staying Current / Learning

Hexawise: You have spoken at many conferences. What advice do you have for people attending software conferences so that they can get more out of the experience?

Matt: Try to come up with three things to do on Monday that justify the investment. These things should be entirely within your power to do. They should not require training, a team-level change in process, particular learning time, purchase of tools or hiring of consultants. Things you can just do - that you will not ask permission for. (Your boss probably doesn't know what you do anyway.)

Then do it and tell the team about it. If you want to write a trip report, it should be a one-pager, and describe what you are doing, not what you heard.

Hexawise: What software testing-related books would you recommend should be on a tester’s bookshelf? What blogs would you recommend should be included in a software tester's RSS feed reader?

Matt: I don't read blogs like I used to, instead I follow twitter and click on interesting links. A few weeks ago I wrote an article on 28 testers to follow on twitter that might be a good place to start.

As for books, I'd say How To Reduce the Cost of Software Testing, Lee Copeland's A Practitioner's Guide to Software Test Design, Lessons Learned in Software Testing and Jez Humble's Continuous Delivery book (the writing is a bit tough but it's worth it). I'd also suggest some non-testing books, like Out Of The Crisis by Deming, Peter Drucker on Management, and Taleb's Black Swan book.

Hexawise: We share an interest in seeing lean thinking concepts be adopted by software testers. How would you suggest someone interested in learning more about lean thinking in software testing do so?

Matt: You could try a google search for "heusser lean" and see what it returns, seriously I've written a lot. Here are two older articles that I think cover the start of it Applying lean concepts to software testing and The secrets of successful Lean software testing.

Profile

Matt Heusser is a software craftsman with a deep background in software delivery and testing. After earning his undergraduate degree in Math with a concentration in computer science in 1997, Matt began his career as a programmer, writing code in C, perl, PL/SQL, and Visual C++. Along the way, Matt was the initial organizer of Grand Rapids Perl User's Group ("Perlmongers"), earned a master's degree in CIS from Grand Valley State University, taught IS part time at night at Calvin College, and served as the initial lead organizer of the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference.

After leaving Priority Health, a Health Insurance Company, in 2008, Matt went on to become a member of the technical staff at Socialtext, the world's first wiki company, where he worked with Audrey Tang, Ingy DotNet, and Dan Bricklin, the creator of the Spreadsheet, to help build a web-based spreadsheet/wiki that predated google docs. The test framework Matt worked on at Socialtext, WikiQTests, is documented as a case study (chapter 16) of O'Reilly's book "Beautiful Testing."

Matt left Socialtext in 2011 to become a full-time consultant. Since that time he reviewed Robert C. Martin's books "Clean Code", "The Clean Coder" (for which he wrote the preface) and "Clean Architecture." In 2014, Matt received the Most Influential Agile-Test Professional Award at Agile Testing Days in Potsdam, Germany.

Links

Blog: Creative Chaos

Twitter: @mheusser

Previous Testing Smarter with... interviews: Testing Smarter with Rikard Edgren - Testing Smarter with James Bach - Testing Smarter with Michael Bolton

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By: John Hunter on May 23, 2017

Categories: Testing Smarter with..., Software Testing, Lean, Agile

Hexawise is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of the STAREAST Testing Conference in Orlando, Florida this week. We are particularly excited to be co-presenting with Fidelity Investments on the benefits of combinatorial test design.

Kathleen Poulsen, Lead Software Engineer in Test will talk about how Fidelity adopted combinatorial test design with Hexawise as a standard across testing groups. Case studies from two Fidelity projects (services testing and front-end integration) will examine the measurably improved test coverage and efficiency achieved with this approach.

Update: watch the presenation online


Kathleen Poulsen, Fidelity Investments


We will also continue our Testing Smarter series, with interviews from the conference and an evening event featuring short talks by some of the conference speakers and “Testing Smarter” interviewees like Dorothy Graham and Michael Bolton.

If you plan to go to #StarEAST, please visit us at Booth #19 to talk about “Testing Smarter” with Hexawise. While you’re there, register for a chance to win a free Amazon Echo. You will also find us sponsoring the Wednesday evening reception in the Expo Hall.

If you can’t make it to Orlando (we’re sorry!) you can still check out conference keynotes and industry presentations via the Virtual Conference.

Hexawise is famously easy-to-use yet powerful software test design tool with an enthusiastic following. More than 100 of the Fortune 500 to improve software test design and reduce defects. Hope to see you at StarEAST in Orlando.

Happy Testing!

Also follow us on Twitter @Hexawise.

By: John Hunter on May 8, 2017

Categories: Hexawise, Testing Smarter with...

This interview with Ajay Balamurugadas is part of the Hexawise “Testing Smarter with…” software testing interview series. Our goal with these interviews is to highlight insights and experiences as told by many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

Ajay considers being inducted into the 'Bach Brothers' Testing Legion of Merit, presenting his keynote at CAST 2015 and attending Problem Solving Leadership workshop by Jerry Weinberg and Esther Derby to be his biggest achievements to this date.

His contributions to the software testing community include co-founding Weekend Testing and Test Maniac. His short books are popular with many testers for the practical, ready to use tips.


Ajay Balamurugadas

Personal Background

Hexawise: I like the Weekend Testing concept that you helped bring into existence. What gave you the idea to do so? What were you trying to accomplish? How is it working?

Ajay: Thank you. I wanted to practice software testing and had the first online paired testing session with Parimala Hariprasad (@Curioustester). It was fun learning about a new tool. Next weekend, Sharath Byregowda (@Sharathb), Manoj Nair and myself tested for two hours. That night, we decided that this could be even more fun and enriching if more folks joined us. We then opened the forum to the public on August 15th (Indian Independence Day), 2009. Regarding the aspirations, I never knew that this would grow as big as it has grown today.

With more than 300 sessions spread over India, Americas, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, the forum seems to have connected many testers and helped them hone their skills across different approaches, techniques, tools and products. Thanks to so many volunteers and facilitators who have jumped in at various stages of this journey and helped Weekend Testing evolve over the years.

We are still having the sessions during the weekends, the frequency has reduced to one or two per month. To be honest, testers need not wait for a session to participate in a weekend testing session. They can pickup any session report, timebox their testing activity for an hour and then compare their report with other testers' reports.

Hexawise: If you could write a letter and send it back in time to yourself when you were first getting into software testing, what advice would you include in it?

Ajay:

  • Focus on the basics
  • Spend money on learning
  • Take care of health

Hexawise: What kinds of activities do you enjoy when you’re not at work?

Ajay: I love playing and watching cricket other than reading books. I and my wife (@AbiTheTester) enjoy going to the mall, watch a movie, eat ice cream and play a video game of bike racing.

I have come to the realization that agile teams are one of the ideal places for a skilled software tester. With so little time, emphasis on finding critical information early and in a crisp manner is necessary. Who, other than a skilled tester can switch contexts, interact with multiple stakeholders, think critically and add value to the teams?

Hexawise: What one or two software testing-related experiences have you found to be most personally satisfying in your career?

Ajay: I am thankful to many software testing mentors who have helped me grow personally and professionally. Knowing so many testers at a professional and personal level is in itself a satisfying moment for me.

Attending Problem Solving Leadership with Jerry Weinberg, Esther Derby and so many testers from different countries, presenting a keynote at CAST 2015, receiving the "Bach Brothers Testing Legion of Merit" award, helping Fiberlink (now acquired by IBM) adopt mind maps are some of the moments that make me think that I must have done something right in my testing career.

I certainly celebrate every small moment that has taught me - for example I cherish the moment when parents of a tester called me and thanked me for helping their son get a job in software testing.

Views on Software Testing

Hexawise: Can you describe a view or opinion about software testing that you have changed your mind about in the last few years? What caused you to change your mind?

Ajay: My immaturity at the start of my career made me repel automation. I always thought that it was the skill of the testers that is more important than the tools. Later, I realized that there are many activities that would be done better if they were automated. So, I started to shift my focus on learning to automate and here I am evangelising Sahi Pro - The Tester's Web Automation Tool.

Hexawise: What testing practice(s) do you most wish the software testing community would embrace?

Ajay: These are a few practices that I would like the whole software testing community to think about, not necessarily embrace:

  • Spend more time interacting with the application under test than with documents, processes that have little value for the customer.
  • Learning to test well is a long journey. Do not accept shortcuts like 2 days workshops as __the__ solution to your learning. They accelerate your learning, highlight the probable mistakes you can do and give you a learning path.
  • Trying to get everyone on the team to learn everything is a sure recipe for killing motivation. Get people with complementary skills as part of one team and see how they create magic.

To be convincing, you might have to work on your reputation first. Work on it. People most of the times say "No" until they are convinced. Once you highlight the benefits of pairing and collaboration, people will listen.

Industry Observations / Industry Trends

Hexawise: Do you have specific suggestions for testers working within an organization using agile software development methods?

Ajay: Gel with the team members and at the same time, do not forget your core skill: Testing - Providing information about the quality of the product and project to stakeholders who matter.

I have come to the realization that agile teams are an ideal place for a skilled software tester. With so little time, emphasis on finding critical information early and in a crisp manner is necessary. Who, other than a skilled tester can switch contexts, interact with multiple stakeholders, think critically and add value to the teams?

Hexawise: Do you have suggestions for how testers can be more effective if they are isolated from the software developers (either by practice in the organization or by geography)?

Ajay: If it is by practice, talk to the managers and see why it is the case. To be convincing, you might have to work on your reputation first. Work on it. People most of the times say "No" until they are convinced. Once you highlight the benefits of pairing and collaboration, people will listen. If they still don't listen, maybe its time to change teams or company.

If the distance is because of the location, it is easy to solve. How would you collaborate if your best friend was from a different city? You will find ways to get in touch. Today, there are multiple tools that help you have that seamless experience. Make use of those tools. At the end of the day, everyone is a human being. The moment we consider everyone as a human being and not as someone who has a developer/manager/tester role, most of the problems would just disappear.

Check out my book - 50+ tips to improve tester-programmer relationship which will help your learn how you can improve the relationship.


Communication tips graphic from Ajay's book

Hexawise: "Whenever you need to test the best combinations out of all possible combinations, I recommend Hexawise. It can help you create data quickly and in a format that you can directly use. Very cool tool. Use it to see the power of Hexawise." How did you learn about Hexawise. How does it help you?

Ajay: That was quite long back and I think I might not change the statement even now, though maybe I would edit it to say:

"Whenever you need to provide effective test coverage for multiple parameter combinations, I recommend Hexawise. It can help you create test plans quickly and in a format that you can directly use. Very cool tool. Use it to see the power of Hexawise."

Many testers use tools without understanding why they have to use the tool. Someone who understands the technique of combinatorial testing, will appreciate the ease of use Hexawise provides.

I learned about Hexawise through the Twitter world of #testing . There have been multiple instances in my testing career where I have helped the teams reduce the number of test cases with the help of Hexawise.

Staying Current / Learning

Hexawise: You have blogged about your career journey in software testing several times. What tips do you have for those looking to deepen their knowledge of software testing and move forward their careers?

Ajay: Many testers don't seem to have a learning path at all and that is sad. I really appreciate those who take time to get better at their craft. Today, we don't have shortage of sources of knowledge. People just have to spend time and dedicate themselves to learning.

Realize that there is a lot to learn. Pick what you want to learn, carefully. You will face challenges and you need to be motivated throughout the journey to excel in learning the subject. Set time limits, take help of mentors, take it slow if needed.

Each person has their own style of learning - some like it hands-on, some read books, some watch videos. Know your style and keep measuring your learning quotient - are you happy learning the subject. As long as you are happy learning it, continue or else modify the plan to suit your needs.

I am focusing on 1-2 quality criteria per year and have started with Security and Automation for the last few months. I am loving the journey and wish others too good luck in their journey. At this moment, I am reminded of the different pathways Katrina Clokie has blogged about.


Mind map of his learning by Ajay


Hexawise: What advice do you have for people attending software conferences so that they can get more out of the experience?

Ajay: Make notes, connect with the speakers even after the conference, do not sit with your team members in the conference, make new friends and spend time talking to people rather than spending your whole time inside at the talks. I created a mind map for anyone attending EuroSTAR 2011. It looks like the points apply even today.

Hexawise: What software testing-related books would you recommend should be on a tester’s bookshelf? What blogs would you recommend should be included in a software tester's RSS feed reader?

Ajay: There are many books that can be part of a tester's bookshelf (Huib Schoots' list). Check out those books which will help you achieve your immediate goals. My books can also be found here.

For blogs, check out the Ministry of Testing's testing feed everyday. You can also follow @JorisMeerts on Twitter.

Profile

Ajay considers being inducted into the 'Bach Brothers' Testing Legion of Merit, presenting his keynote at CAST 2015 and attending Problem Solving Leadership workshop by Jerry Weinberg and Esther Derby to be his biggest achievements to this date. He is also happy at the number of testers who have been influenced positively in interactions with him.

He started his career as a software tester and he continues to be a hands-on software tester along with training new testers, presenting at conferences, conducting workshops and sharing his thoughts through his blog and tweets.

Ajay started with testing standalone desktop applications and soon moved on to web applications and mobile applications. His journey was boosted by co-founding Weekend Testing, Test Maniac. His short books are popular with many testers for the practical, ready to use tips.

photo of Abinaya and Balamurugadas Ajay
Abinaya (his wife) and Balamurugadas Ajay

Links

Website: Test With Ajay

Blog: Enjoy Testing

Twitter: @ajay184f

By: John Hunter on May 1, 2017

Categories: Interview, Testing Smarter with..., Software Testing

This interview with Hans Buwalda is part of the Hexawise “Testing Smarter with…” software testing interview series. Our goal with these interviews is to highlight insights and experiences as told by many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.


Hans Buwalda

Hans has gained experience as a developer, manager, and principal consultant for companies and organizations worldwide. His approaches to testing—action-based testing and soap opera testing—have helped a variety of customers achieve scalable and maintainable solutions for large and complex testing challenges.

Personal Background

Hexawise: What drew you into a career in software testing?

Hans: It was "accidental". I worked as a management consultant in my home country, the Netherlands and was sent on an assignment to a major customer. They had serious problems with both test design and automation. In particular it was difficult to involve the (very busy) domain experts, and the automation was virtually impossible to keep current. Using keywords turned out to solve both these problems, and I have been pioneering that ever since with the Action Based Testing Method.

Hexawise: You were an early pioneer and key contributor to the keyword-driven test automation framework which has stood the test of time and is widely adopted in the industry. What drove you and other early keyword-driven framework pioneers to create it and advocate for its broader adoption?

Hans: I believe the two main drivers for using keywords are readability for non-technical people, and long-term maintainability of the tests. I think my core message is not as much the keywords themselves, but more the importance of test design in achieving those goals. Without a good modularized organization of tests keywords will fail, and so will for example Behavior-Driven Development (BDD). To say it even stronger: the worst automation projects I have seen were keyword projects.

Hexawise: What one or two software testing-related experiences have you found to be most personally satisfying in your career?

Hans: I like it when people are successful. In my world that means being able to leverage automation to achieve better quality at a faster pace. Two of my colleagues recently showed me how they were able to help a company in the oil industry reduce time needed for testing dramatically (more than twenty times).

A nice detail there was that those tests were for equipment workflows, and did not involve any User Interface (UI). It is a common misunderstanding that keyword automation is for testing via the UI, but it can work just as well for non-UI testing, like Internet of Things (IoT), services, games, telecommunication, embedded software, etc..

Views on Software Testing

Hexawise: What testing practice(s) do you most wish the software testing community would embrace?

Hans: I believe that with Agile, DevOps and service oriented architectures, we're well on our way. Agile allows for good cooperation between the Quality Assurance (QA), developers, product owners, domain experts and stakeholders. DevOps allows testing to be incorporated into the build and deploy pipelines. And service oriented architectures gives more ways to test than just through the UI.

scalability in automation is not as much a technical challenge as it is a test design challenge. This gives a bit of a paradox: test designers influence the automation success, but are not developers, and do not necessarily have affinity with engineering concepts like structured programming and refactoring, which in turn are key elements of good maintainable automation.

Hexawise: Can you describe a view or opinion about software testing that you have that many or most smart experienced software testers probably disagree with? What led you to this belief?

Hans: "Disagree" is a big word. But I do like to focus on one particular area that many others tend not to address that much: It is my observation over the years that scalability in automation is not as much a technical challenge as it is a test design challenge. This gives a bit of a paradox: test designers influence the automation success, but are not developers, and do not necessarily have affinity with engineering concepts like structured programming and refactoring, which in turn are key elements of good maintainable automation. There are some more elements that can influence automation success, like "testability" of the application under test: to what extend is an application friendly to testing and automation.

Hexawise: You have extensive experience with automated testing. What interesting anecdotes would you be able to share about some of your earliest experiences automating tests?

Hans: An early experience was the very first project where action words (my term for keywords) were used. It was for a major screen trading system, and before I came in a substantial amount of tests had been created with record and playback. When I say that you can probably guess the upcoming/impending disaster... The development team made a slight change in a lay-out of the main screen and virtually all tests stopped working because of it. It was in the early days and people weren't expecting such problems.

Industry Observations / Industry Trends

Hexawise: One of my (Justin’s) favorite software testing articles of all time is “Soap Opera Testing.” What experiences led you to write it and why do you think it struck a chord with so many testers and managers?

Hans: Thanks for the kind note. It was based on a major project in a large financial institution. The project included re-architecting of all systems, and getting ready for the year 2000. Proper testing was essential, but the tests also needed to be developed and fully automated in a very short amount of time.

To get this done I introduced an approach based on real life stories from the every day practice of real users and good test design (test modules, keywords) to support successful automation. I guess the method appeals to teams and managers because it is an efficient way to translate domain knowledge into, aggressive, test cases, and to get them automated quickly as well.

I believe the two main drivers for using keywords are readability for non-technical people, and long-term maintainability of the tests. I think my core message is not as much the keywords themselves, but more the importance of test design in achieving those goals.

Hexawise: Large companies often discount the importance of software testing. What advice do you have for software testers to help their organizations understand the importance of expecting more from the software testing efforts in the organization?

Hans: You have to be serious about your craft. Know testing techniques, engineering principles and the domain of an application you're testing. Your attitude is important too. Be aggressive to the system under test, but cooperative as member of a team. Second, always keep an eye on the business side.

You should not be testing because you have read somewhere that testing is important. Testing costs time and money and there must be business reasons to invest in it. Not testing saves money, but also introduces risks that can cost money later on. Saving money and losing money are business considerations that well managed large companies tend to take very seriously.

You, or your QA management, must be ready to explain the value of their testing, and automation.

Staying Current / Learning

Hexawise: I see that you’ll be presenting at the StarEast conference in May. What could you share with us about those topics? What gave you the idea to talk about them?

Hans: I'm doing two tutorials, one on Better Test Design for Great Test Automation. The other focuses on what makes automated testing scalable. The classes are based on real-world experiences from various projects I’ve done, across many industries. With the many recent developments like cloud and DevOps, automation is constantly evolving, so it is fun to discuss about them.

Hexawise: How do you stay current on improvements in software testing practices; or how would you suggest testers stay current?

Hans: Reading, attending conferences and webinars and hands-on practice still work well. Don’t despair when current developments can be overwhelming. Concentrate on what you need, and be curious.

Profile

Hans Buwalda has been working with information technology since his high school years. In his career, Hans has gained experience as a developer, manager, and principal consultant for companies and organizations worldwide. He was a pioneer of the keyword approach to testing and automation, now widely used throughout the industry. His approaches to testing—action-based testing and soap opera testing—have helped a variety of customers achieve scalable and maintainable solutions for large and complex testing challenges. Hans is a frequent speaker at conferences and other events and is lead author of Integrated Test Design and Automation.

Links

Web site: Happy Tester

Twitter: @hansbuwalda

Previous Testing Smarter with... interviews: Testing Smarter with Mike Bland - Testing Smarter with Dorothy Graham - James Bach

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By: John Hunter and Justin Hunter on Apr 17, 2017

Categories: Interview, Software Testing, Testing Smarter with...