Interview of a tester #2 – Thierry Gerbeau

Interview of a tester #2 – Thierry Gerbeau

Let’s continue our series interviewing French testers. The second one to get involved in the game by accepting to answer our questions is Thierry Gerbeau, currently Lead QA at A Little Market (Etsy France), the e-commerce platform for independent resellers of handmade goods.

Who are you, what are you doing, where are you working?


I have been working for as Quality Manager for almost 4 years.

How would you describe your work to a 6-year-old?

The doctor asks a lot of questions before knowing what medication he should give to people who come to see him. Our job is to ask a lot of questions to people who work with computers to help them working better with.

Looking back, and if you were to start your tester career again, what advice would you give?

To get started, get closer to a community of testers as quickly as possible. You will gain valuable time and you will have solid support that will give you the courage to ask questions, challenge your ideas, try and make new decisions in your company and in your future jobs. Never stop learning, allow yourself time to do it. Learn by exchanging ideas, explaining to others, writing. For the future, expand your fields of expertise by being curious, look at other sectors of activity that will come to help you in your job as a tester (cognitive science, UX, quality in aviation, how to reduce risks in medicine, …). Create a library of links, images, articles, books on which you can come back regularly and share your references/sources with your colleagues.

Tell us an anecdote about your life as a tester … (good or bad time, bug incredibly hard to reproduce or analyze…)

When I arrived at ALM, bugs were not prioritized at all. The CTO (then responsible for the dispatch of the bugs) became overwhelmed under Jira tickets. We have set a risk matrix that gives us better visibility on the priorities of bug fixes. Even if it is only a model by definition with its own limitations, the ranking of bugs by risk has greatly improved the daily life of the teams.

The hardest part of the bug investigation is that after spending several days tracking a problem to understand and reproduce it, sometimes we do not intend to fix it. Indeed, quality and bugs have a social dimension and must be discussed with the different stakeholders. Quality is value to someone who matters.

What makes you cringe when it comes to misconceptions about testing?

The link between an undetected error and the systematic use of automated tests. “We failed detecting a bug in production, we certainly need automated tests to detect it next time. We should add a new functional test.”

What you will need to be concerned by is the value you are giving to your team. Time matters too. What is the perfect time to give feedbacks. Be skeptical on everything but don’t be an enemy, you work for your team not against.

What challenges do you face as a tester in a software product team? How do you overcome them?

Learn new tools and adapt to the needs of my team (eg right now learning Nightwatch.js). Know how to communicate tactfully (especially to announce “bad” news). Be constant in ones work and build a solid reputation as a good tester. Be accurate. Test the big picture (functional, performance, secure, useful, usable, successful).
Try new things and iterate, learn from experiments, make retrospectives.

Do you have models, people inspiring you (testers or not)?

James Bach, Michael Bolton, Gojko Adzic, …

How do you keep learning?

  • You really do not have to limit yourself to the community of testers, although obviously it is very useful. Get info wherever you can find it. Recently, I came across a book “Usability Testing of Medical Devices” that is rich in information that can be useful for our usability testing in software.
  • The dojo – Ministry of testing
  • Discussion with people on Meetups
  • MOOC, Coursera, etc…
  • YouTube
  • Books
  • Twitter
  • Ministry Of Testing’s Slack

Cite one or more tools now essentials to you?

The most important one is located between your 2 ears. A critical state of mind you need to practice constantly. A good observing and listening. A thirst for learning new things (related or not to topics that can advance your team): what makes you the most disconcerted can often be a good starting point for learning a new thing. The test tools are numerous but depend on the context of your company, never be alone choosing a tool, talk with your team.

What revolution must the testers prepare themselves for?

This is no news, but the testers are not highlighted enough in teams and often there is a ratio of power between developers and testers. James Bach speaks of living together in a “villa” in which there will be a good harmony. In our case, the agreement between the developer and the tester is good, but that is not enough. To do his job a tester must use his critical mind as soon as possible. We came too late in the process of delivering software features. Go to user research meeting. Listen to your customers. Take notes. Collect data. Challenge assumptions, ask questions about every hypothesis. Work with the Product Manager and the Product Owner. Add value as soon as possible and make people realize it. Skills and reputation matters.

Challenge the big picture, our job as a tester does not stop at functional tests. The real challenge for me is to show that our critical spirit is a formidable force that is sharpened constantly and that is the best co-driver when we leave on unexplored trails with our team. We (testers) are the future of testing. 

Thank you Thierry. Do not hesitate to comment if you want to continue the debate on one of the subjects. We will have another guest in the upcoming weeks.

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