After Julien, Thierry and Stéphanie, Maria Kedemo from Sweden is the fourth tester to kindly answer our questions.
Who are you, what are you doing, where are you working?
I have just started my own company as a freelancer. It was quite a tough decision. There are a few risks associated to it and also some new skills to be acquired to run a company. However I find it very exciting and I am embracing my new challenge.
Being a freelance offers me a freedom where I can be my own boss and decide over my future. I will focus mainly on software testing but with my experiences from different practices in software development I can also offer a broader service where training and coaching is something I am very passionate about. I am looking to get a balance between consultancy assignments and training sessions.
I currently have an interesting assignment at IKEA in Sweden where I am part of a very important e-commerce program. Though I have a formal title I focus on using my experience and skills to help IKEA transform their ways of working to become agile and deliver their solution a lot quicker than done today. My focus is on how testing fits in this transformation but since testing is only one part of software development I make sure to question the entire process and not only test related problems.
I am also active in the testing community. My current focus is on providing value as an elected board member of Association Software Testing (AST) which is a non-profit organisation who views software testing as a cognitively complex activity that requires critical thinking, effective communication, and rapid self-directed learning. I am also the program chair for CAST 2018 which is a conference that have been organised every year since 2006 by AST.
Since I will be very busy this year with AST and my new company I currently only have one conference (Romanian Testing Days) where I will be doing a Keynote called Testing through time and space.
Looking back, and if you were to start again as a tester, what advice would you give?
I wish I would have found the testing community a lot earlier than I did. I have had so much support and guidance from the context driven testing community and now other testing and development communities as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to approach new people. Most people are very helpful. Though each problem is different I have found it very useful to discuss particular testing related issues or software development problems with my peers from all over the world to gain new insights.
How would you describe your work to a 6-year-old?
I describe my work as someone who helps people in IT to make valuable software, products that people wants to use and that they like. I describe how I get people together and talk to each other. Software development is actually more about the people than the technology. But I also try to explain my job as someone who teaches and help people to learn and become better to spot problems in software. The easiest way to describe to a 6-year old is actually to sit together and explore a product and talk about potential bugs. We would talk about, why is it bug or why isn’t it a bug. I believe that true testing skills must be demonstrated through practice.
If you were to recruit a tester, what would you look for in a candidate for this role?
When recruiting a tester I have looked into communication skills, both written and spoken. We often forget that software is created to solve people’s problems or help people with something. It’s a complex process because people have different needs. Communicating why you are testing something and why something in the product might be a problem (a bug) requires great communication skills. Social skills are required to understand people and what their needs are.
I have also been looking for how testers approach a problem. When I have recruited testers, the interview always consists of a conversation and practical exercises focused around testing. I do expect testers to both understand logical reasoning and lateral thinking. Many people seem to think that testing either requires to think “out of the box” or vertical thinking, but you need both.
I have also been looking for an eagerness to learn and to reflect and improve their skills. This is however harder to identify in an interview. The exercises might show some of that ability. I rarely focus on what tools the person have experienced or what technology the person is familiar with because the mindset is more important. If you are quick to learn and understand you can always learn new tools or languages etc.
The context of recruiting does matter though. If I’d recruit for a short-term contract it might be more important to know the specific tool or technology used in that assignment.
Tell us an anecdote of your life as a tester (good or bad time, incredibly hard bug to reproduce or analyse…)
There is one particular episode which I am very proud of. Many years ago I worked as a test manager in a project where we were supposed to integrate a 3rd party system with my client’s product. The approach used was a typical waterfall and requirements written in Word were sent back and forth in between the client and the supplier who sat in a different time zone. Time was ticking but it was very important to get an approval ton the requirements. Once that was in place development could start. I can’t remember exactly the frequency of the deliveries but when they happened we never got what we wanted. Bug reports were sent back and forth and when the bugs were fixed they were not what my client expected, or new bugs were introduced. In addition bugs were fixed here and there based on what the supplier thought was important. The process was very slow and as all projects we had a deadline to reach.
I suggested something very bold at that time. It might have seemed obvious for many but it was new to my client. I suggested that I together with one of our developers went to work on site with the supplier. After some heavy convincing we went to the supplier’s office to work together. By running exploratory testing sessions together with the supplier we could help them understand what was important to us as client. By participating in the bug-fix sessions we could help them prioritise and cluster their bug-fixes. By doing this we managed to reach the deadline we were aiming for. This was a great experience. Funny enough Agile was never mentioned in this way of working. To be honest I don’t even think I was aware of the methodology then but how to get the project working was common sense to me.
What drives you crazy in the common misconceptions about testing?
It’s strange how many misconceptions about testing still exists. One which drives me crazy is a more general one about testing where it is seen as assuring quality. Testing can’t assure quality. It gives you information about how the system you are testing might or might not work.
The second thing that drives me equally crazy are the misconceptions around exploratory testing where many people think it is ad-hoc and unstructured. These two misconceptions are something I have to explain daily.
Do you have models, people inspiring you (testers or not)?
I have many people inspiring me in different areas and levels. I actually don’t want to list anyone because I might miss someone. In fact most people have something which inspires. It might be their braveness or persistency or their ability to communicate to mention a few different things.
How do you keep learning?
I read blogs and articles, I watch different talks and I am part of many different social media where I get both inspiration and the ability to chat with peers.
Cite one or more tools that have become essential to you?
A few tools I often use are greenshot, liceCap, Xmind, post-its and my words (my language).
Thanks Maria. Do not hesitate to comment if you want to continue the debate on one of the subjects. We will soon have another guest interview.