Let’s Talk Testing with Paul Holland – Part 3

This segment of Let’s Talk Testing with Paul Holland sheds light on good testing approaches, finding better testers for hire, a tester’s career options, Moolya ’s role in contributing to pro-creating passionate testing minds and Paul’s strongest influences from the software testing world.

Group photo

Paul Holland with team Moolya.

Q: How is Moolya according to you is shaping the future for testers?

A: It’s nice to have the choice of thinking, creative testers as an option for an outsourcing company. The vast majority of companies are available to western companies to do outsourcing it’s a cog in a wheel. It’s not somebody who is actually going to find bugs. It’s someone who can check boxes and that’s not very helpful. Moolya is helping change by offering exploratory, context-driven testing to companies who are looking to outsource. And I know it’s making at least a slight difference. 

Witnessing big outsourcing companies (who are noticing a  demand in exploratory testing) who have been commoditizing testing actually looking at exploratory and trying to do it better is good. But I am also scared that they are going to do their best to commoditize exploratory testing and make it dumber. I think we have a long road ahead of us still.

Q: What is the obvious that happens when two testers, one who is passionate and the other who isn’t, work together?

A: One of the three things will happen:

  • Typically the one who is passionate is frustrated.
  • Probably they will not both change and everything will stay the same.
  • The hopeful one is that the non-passionate tester will get inspired by the passionate tester. And get curious but more often than not what I see is that the passionate gets frustrated almost disillusioned by the dispassionate tester and then probably just goes and works on their own because it’s just too frustrating to work with the non-passionate tester.

I think a lot of people who are not passionate about testing or have worked a lot as a scripted tester are disillusioned with the testing profession. And I think once people are introduced to context-driven testing especially if they have done scripted testing and realize themselves that it isn’t a good way of testing, being at a company like Moolya gets them from being a non-passionate tester to becoming a passionate tester.

Having somebody just tell you that this is a better way of doing it without you realizing it yourself – that tends not to inspire people.

Q: Is there a retirement age for a tester?

A: No. One of our testers is over sixty-five.

Jerry Weinberg was working up till mid-eighties at least he was still talking at conferences when he was in his early eighties and still writing and consulting. No, there is no retirement age as long as you still have your faculties about you there should be no mandatory retirement.

To be honest, except for Jerry I don’t know any testers who are over 65 and who are active in the core group of the Context-Driven Testing community. If one company doesn’t want you, am sure another company will.

Q: How testing career options are changing in the recent times?

A: Typically at least in North America, if you are at a company that doesn’t have a Vice President of testing or a Test Director, the next step would be becoming an independent consultant which is exactly what I did. I did that for the year and a half before I moved to NewYork where I then took on Head of Testing for a consulting company. At private companies, there is not really a career opportunity beyond Test Manager most of the time. But there are companies that if you can work your way in as a Context-Driven Tester and make yourself as a well known CDT am sure they will be more than willing for you to come on as a teacher, consultant or a senior person.

Becoming independent is one thing, but to be able to work independent remotely is another option. There are a lot of companies that are allowing and supporting remote working.

At Medidata, we have Test Engineer 1&2, Senior Test Engineer 1&2, Manager, Senior Manager, Director, Senior Director, and Vice President. There is also the Test Jumper role. Test Jumper 1 is at the Senior Manager level, Test Jumper 2 is at the Director level.

But I don’t think that the titles really matter, it is the freedom that one has in that role that matters.

As long as it’s not QA ;), I don’t assure quality. I can assure you that there are bugs in the code that I missed, but I don’t assure quality.

Q: Testers are persuaded to be developers and/or are not testers by choice. How do we testers change this mindset to find good testers?

A: Typically people who want to be a developer still after they have done a testing role are not going to be really good testers anyway.Because testers and developers approach the problems or bugs in the software very differently. A developer will run tests to show that their software does what it’s supposed to. A tester will run tests to show that it doesn’t and it’s a very different approach. The reason that developers can’t really test their own software effectively, for the most part, is they are being asked to identify the things that they didn’t think of. You have written this code,  now test it in the way you think it will be used. If I thought of that when I wrote the code, it’s a catch 22 there’s no way you can do that. So somebody else needs to come in and test.

Developers when they try to test and for the most part they do confirmatory testing. They test in a way to show that the software works it’s not very helpful. So the goal of the tester is to show how it might not work and how it might fail, the ways that are more important to our customers.

I personally have had good success keeping people who joined my team as a tester with the idea that in a year I will be switched to a developer as testers because once they are exposed to do what testers do, once they see that in action a lot of times they will say I think I enjoy testing. At least in companies like Medidata, testers, and developers get paid the same or at least very similar to each other. If you are at a company that does have a pay gap between the two roles, probably finding a different company is a good idea. And then they’ll say How come we don’t have good testers? It’s because you don’t pay well.

Q: Maybe the weak voice of testers stems from this pay gap!?

A: We need to do a good job of convincing our management that the role of testing being creative, being able to explore software to find bugs that are important is as challenging and important a skill as writing code. In my mind, it’s actually more difficult and I have had a lot of developers agree with me. Because developers have rules and the code works in a particular way and as long as they follow those rules and their logic is ok they can be a good developer.  there is no logic to being a good tester if anything it’s illogical which doesn’t help.

Q: Who is your strongest influence in the testing world?

A: Now it’s probably James Bach and Michael Bolton. Historically, I had no influences at all in the first five years I was testing at least nothing outside of the company. In 2000, I met Ross Collard we talked about testing. In 2003, I met Rob Sabourin, James Bach, Scott Barber. I learned a lot.

Ross was definitely the biggest influence because he introduced me to the community and James. Now that am an instructor of RST, James and Michael clearly have a huge influence on me. So did Cem Kaner, Rob Sabourin, Scott Barber, all of those people. But the biggest ones are James and Ross.

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