By @SimonCocking, great interview with Christopher Clements  who is speaking at the Quest for Quality event in Dublin, October 4th and 5th. The event, hosted byComtrade Digital Services, will examine software testing in the platform economy world. Buy tickets here.

A Tester’s Journey: Back to our Roots

Testing has changed over the years. Speaking through the lens of my career to date, this talk will explain the journey I have taken that has encompassed different stages of testing and what it meant at that time. Explaining through stories how my view of testing changed as my career progressed and how I have developed into ‘an empathetic tester’. This talk will further seek to explain why empathetic testing is critical to the testing craft flourishing, in an age where the world has become increasingly complex. Users aren’t buying products to break them; they are buying them to solve a problem for themselves in their daily lives. That is making feature testing and specialised testing in general, increasingly obsolete. Testing should be focused on a human centred mind-set, quite simply ‘behaviour never lies’ and viewing things from the user’s perspective helps to enable understanding, tapping into the emotions of the user, their trust, their feelings, their outlook. We change perspective every day, thus embracing empathy. If we view the world from the user’s perspective, that’s being empathetic to their outlook. That requires imagination and therefore understanding. To empathise with the user and building that into the testing approach. I will also endeavour to explain how this empathetic form of testing HAS ALWAYS BEEN THERE. It has just never been utilised due to ‘shiny toys’ such as automation, tooling, testing through the lifecycle, etc. Embracing the empathetic tester within us, will take us back to our roots.

1 min pitch for what you are working on at the moment

At present I am a Delivery Lead focusing on blockchain within PwC UK. We are actively producing not only blockchain platforms, but other innovative products for a mixture of Financial Services (FS) and non-FS clients. My role involves working closely with clients, engaging in Design Thinking methodologies to properly explore and understand the problem and help clients work towards a solution.

Today, people get caught up in hype, especially within the technology and solution space. They don’t invest enough time in the problem space to fully understand their issue and motivation for solving it. Once they immerse in their problem, the solution becomes so much clearer. I try to help clients work to that approach.

That covers my 9-5 but I like to wisely spend my 5-9. I was one of the founders of the NI Testers meetup which is a monthly event run here in Northern Ireland with a mission to learn, collaborate, listen and contribute thoughts in a safe environment whilst carrying out some exploratory testing. I am also involved in Catalyst NI’s ‘Connect Shapers’ program under their 4th Industrial Revolution umbrella which invites people who have demonstrated passion in their field and a restless curiosity to find answers to the biggest questions facing society. Both of these are hugely rewarding.

How was the last 12 months? What worked well, what didn’t move as quickly as you would have liked?

We have been busy essentially trying to kickstart the equivalent of a new business in building out the PwC blockchain and digital delivery capability. That has taken up the majority of my time. Getting out and placing myself in positions outside my comfort zone in front of clients, running workshops, understanding different industries and their issues, whiteboarding solutions. This has appealed to the ‘hungry for learning’ side of me and has been hugely rewarding. Helping kick off the NI Testers meetup has also been a source of great satisfaction, I’m extremely lucky to be involved with a lot of talented individuals in this space and it is a thriving community that we are all proud of.

A source of disappointment though has come from growing that community. When speaking with a lot of these fantastic testers and admiring their skill-set and mindset, you hear stories about companies that are still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to their testing approach. There are still companies today who promote it as a second class career and place limited scope on the testing discipline. That has lead to the talk I’m giving which I hope, through explaining my career, shows the journey from these dark ages to a more enlightened future.

What are your plans for the future?

Although I have moved out of testing from a day to day perspective (although I get my regular fixes through the Session Based Testing charters we run within the team), I want to stay involved in some perspective. The NI Testers meetup helps with that so I want to continue to build that out.

From an immediate career perspective, I’m enjoying the more holistic Delivery Lead aspect and want to continue building my knowledge in this area. Having worked on a number of high profile projects in the past 12 months, it does give me a great buzz to see things come to fruition. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge (and they are a challenge!) of overseeing something from idea to product. I genuinely believe the 18 years in the testing field and adoption of knowing when to ‘focus and de-focus’, has helped me to zone in on issues, help solve them whilst retaining sight of the bigger picture. I would never rule out a return to testing in some guise, but for now I’m enjoying the role I have.

What will you be talking about at Quest for Quality?

I have been in testing for more than 18 years and worked in both start-ups and enterprise organisations. I have seen a lot in that time from the very bad to the very good, the sheer frustration to the immense satisfaction. My talk is based on explaining that journey through a number of stories that reflect how I started thinking testing was one thing and how it is now based on thinking something totally different. How I thought testing was about having to satisfy ‘x=y type’ requirements and through experience, I now realise it’s about observing and understanding user behaviour and solving user problems. However, this has always been there from day 1, the problem is most of us in our testing journey and me in particular, didn’t get that and get swayed by new toys and tools that distract us from what we are there to do. I’m hoping my talk will help testers realise that earlier.

Quest for quality conference comes to Dublin, 4-5 October 2017

What inspired you to attend?

I was speaking with a fellow co-organiser of the NI Testers meetup and she said this was a great event and it was coming to Dublin. I felt I had an interesting story to tell and so I submitted a talk. As well as the added advantage of it being in the country, it also means we can build relationships and friendships with many liked minded people within the testing community (near and far). There is always a great buzz around conferences that you don’t get at other events and meetups.

Which influencers and websites do you follow to keep up to date with the latest developments?

As mentioned, we have a local meetup that has a collaboration group and we share a lot of experiences and snippets on that medium, various articles as well as being a great place for sharing ideas and opinions on things we are working on in our daily jobs. I follow the likes of Rikard Edgren, as well as the House of Test group. Generally I love following Simon Sinek, Charlie Kim and Sir Ken Robinson on Twitter and their websites. I’m also a huge fan of the TED daily talks, Stanford eCorner Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (regulars for my commute to work) and ‘An Irishman abroad’ podcasts. Finding a great team is a rare commodity and something to be treasured if you ever do, I am hugely fortunate that I have and as such I learn as much by listening and debating with them on many topics.

How can people find out more about what you are working on?

People can go to the PwC blockchain website and see what we do. They can also check out some of the things we have done on my Linkedin and Twitter accounts. People should also check out the NI Testers meetup site as well as the NI Testers youtube channel.

What rules do you live by?

The most important thing is to do what you love. As Simon Sinek says ‘‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion”. If you aren’t doing this, it’s time to start.

In addition, never stop educating yourself, move yourself out of your comfort zone regularly are things you should try to abide by.

What is your view of downtime?

I have an amazing wife and young family and it’s great to spend time with them and watching my boys grow. To watch their approach on things is amazing, they never stop being curious and testers can learn so much from children. I also love to spend time building lego, I find it very relaxing building structures and again enjoying that feeling of building something from nothing (ideate -> product).

How DevOps is done by Top Performers, Andreas Grabner speaking at Quest for Quality, Oct 4/5th


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