Interview with Michael Larsen

Michael Larsen retired from a career as a rock and roll singer to pursue software testing full time at Cisco Systems in 1992. Larsen has worked for/with a broad array of technologies and industries including virtual machine software, capacitance touch devices, video game development and distributed database and web applications.

For the better part of his career spanning 18 years, Larsen has found himself in the role of being the “Army of One” or “The Lone Tester” more often than not. This unique view point, along with ideas and advocacy regarding continuous education and learning/re-learning for testers, is frequently the grist of the mill for TESTHEAD

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Getting Feedback as a Software Tester

To start with, I think getting feedback as a Software Tester is very important.

In general, I think it’s great to solicit feedback to see what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing so well and what you could just stop doing altogether.

A man from our office gave us a presentation on personal radars and how to be awesomer, then asked specifically for feedback after the presentation and then again in an email the next day- thanking us for our time. Good stuff. No ambiguity involved. If there was anything that I think he could’ve done better, I had a green light to let him know. And what he did well? I made sure to tell him what I thought regarding that too. And you know what?! I did it Toastmaster Stylz! That’s right. The CRC approach- Commendation, Recommendation, Commendation.

I think that learning is a very important part of being a software tester.

You need to learn:

  • How to adapt
  • How to get along with people
  • How to get your message across
  • How to interpret information
  • How to experiment with different technologies

Among many other things.

OK so I’m of the opinion that to a certain extent, people are aware of what they’re capable of and what they’re good/weak at. But then, that opinion of yourself -chances are- is  not perfect. Maybe you place too much emphasis on certain weaknesses or overlook some weaknesses or maybe you underestimate the value of one of your strengths.

Therefore, because of that – getting feedback is very important.

But how does this tie in exactly to being a software tester? You might ask.

Since testing is a constantly learning journey throughout your career, I think it’s important to make sure you’re on the right track sooner rather than later. Why should you have to wait until performance review time to get that feedback when you could just have a conversation?

Now I’m going to guide you through two scenarios where I think it’d be appropriate to seek feedback:

a) Regarding your communication skills
Say, as a software tester, you’ve been having difficulty convincing other people in your team to see things from your point of view. Either the defects you are raising are being ignored (i.e. you didn’t provide enough information in the defect) or people are asking you about things that you have already covered (i.e. they don’t understand what you mean when you talk).

Asking for feedback, specifically on how to deal with situations like this, could really help.

b) Regarding your test estimation
So your test lead/manager asks you, how long will it take to write these test cases/ execute these tests/ finish testing this part of the functionality… Umm.. Ahhh.. 4 days? Yep. 4 days sounds about right.

4 days later – you’re not done. Go and ask not only for feedback on this area – but advice too.

Assuming testing timeframes get increasingly squeezed, I think knowing exactly what you can accomplish in a limited timeframe is very useful not just for you – but the person you report to as well.

Tell me, what do you think is the value in asking for feedback as a software tester?

Interview with Nadine Henderson

Nadine is responsible for Assurity’s HR, recruitment and graduate recruitment. She plays a key role in helping to drive the company into its next stage of growth.
Her strong background in IT recruitment – she worked as HR Manager at Intergen for three years – gives her the knowledge and know-how to recruit the best people in New Zealand

1. What do you like about working in IT?
While I don\’t officially work in IT, I do work in the IT industry and I really like enjoy that I get to work with people that have passion that oozes for what they do!  The people tend to be very clever, and like minded in that they have a natural tendency to what to know more, do better, get their hands dirty (so to speak!).   The IT professionals I work with are different to other professionals, and not in the stereotypical way!
2. What do you look for in a software tester?
The things mentioned above!  I love seeing people that love what they do, they almost have a spark in their eye when you ask about a particular tool/project/methodology – so having that enthusiasm and passion for testing is great to see.
Communication and client facing skills are extremely important in any consultancy.  Our employees are representing the company out on client site, so its essential that they do it well and to a high standard.
We also want people that have ambitions to develop their careers, training and development is something we encourage, so having people that naturally want to do this means we can work alongside them to reach their goals.
Culture fit is a biggie at our work – to have this means people should tick all the boxes mentioned above for starters.  They should get along well with others in the workplace and want to get involved in our many extra activities offers (e.g Toastmasters, Social engagements, Learning groups etc).
3. When you were at uni, did you see yourself working as the People and Culture Advisor at a Software Testing Consultancy?
Not in my wildest dreams!  I had no idea what I wanted my career to be when going through Uni, and I kind of fell into IT recruitment before also moving into the HR/People and Culture side of things.  Very happy with how things have panned out though!
4. Where do you see software testing heading in 5 years?
Probably somewhere we haven\’t even thought of yet!  But in the shorter term, say the next 2 – 3 years, I think Agile/Lean will start becoming a lot more common practise in Testing.
5. What’s the coolest thing you’ve learnt since you started at Assurity?
That I work for a company that isn’t just awesome at what it does, but a company that delivers on what it promises and that caring for its staff isn’t just a ‘catch phase’ they throw around, its something they live and breathe.