A Quality Leadership Institute [PODCAST]

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Quality Leadership Institute TestTalks

Welcome to Episode 93 of TestTalks. In this episode, we'll discuss A Quality Leadership Institute with its founder Anna Royzman and discover how to become a true software testing craftsman while keeping your testing skills up to date.

QualityLeadershipInstituteTestTalks

Do you believe that software testing should be considered a vocation? Are you feeling as though testers get no respect on the job or in college curriculums? Well, Anna Royzman is on a mission to change all that with A Quality Leadership Institute. Her organization’s goal is promoting testing by developing innovative programs for the tech community as well as leadership and educational institutions. Listen and discover how you can help the cause.

Listen to the Audio

In this episode, you'll discover:

  • The difference between testing as a job and as a vocation.
  • Why education is so important for software testers.
  • Should testing be a role or an activity?
  • Tips to improve your software testing efforts
  • How does software testing fits with Agile, and tips to make it work better for you.

[tweet_box design=”box_2″]I believe #testing is a very distinct skill set than #development, and it's a mindset.~@QA_nna [/tweet_box]

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My favorite part of doing these podcasts is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I pull out one question that I like to get your thoughts on.

This week, it is this:

Question: Should teams have a separate tester role or should it just be an activity that is performed by anyone on the team ? Share your answer in the comments below.

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If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, you can do so by clicking here. I'd love to hear from you.

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Read the Full Transcript

 

Joe: Hey, Anna. Welcome to Test Talks.

 

Anna: Hi Joe. Nice to be here.

 

Joe: Awesome. It's great to have you on the show. Before we get into it, though, could you just tell us a little bit more about yourself?

 

Anna: My name is Anna Royzman. I'm a conference organizer. I'm a public speaker. And my career in testing ranges from software test analyst, to QA analyst, to test lead, to QA director, handle functional testing in the company. Different positions at different times.

 

Joe: Awesome. So what really caught my eye is the Quality Leadership Institute. And I believe you started the Quality Leadership Institute. Could you just tell us a little bit more about what the Quality Leadership Institute is all about?

 

Anna: Of course. A Quality Leadership Institute is my long-time dream. I've been thinking about certain inconsistencies that we have in software testing industry. And that is that software testing as a profession has grown so much in the last several years. It become really a professional craft. We have [inaudible 01:03] leaders. We have a lot of studies. We have different techniques. There is a lot of new research coming out, but to the larger industry, it's really an unknown endeavor. So a lot of times, some of the technical leads, business people or maybe, project leads, they don't really know that testing has evolved so much.

 

I think that we need to take the message about the skill testing to a larger community. And that is why I started A Quality Leadership Institute. Another thing is, because it's a professional career, kids in school need to know that there's a choice. So right now there is an education that is pushed on schools, STEM education computer science. And computer science really doesn't include testing as a professional craft. And this is what I want to change. I want to bring testing to schools. I want kids to be aware of it. I want teachers to be aware of this profession, those skill sets, and maybe some kids will be inspired by it, because usually they are. Young kids or kids in school, they are really fascinated by technology. They are fascinated by learning. And this is exactly what testing is all about. So those are two of my projects that I really want to start making changes. I want to change things.

 

Joe: Awesome. It's a great mission. I totally stand behind the vision of the Quality Leadership Institute. How are you helping to advance that particular vision, though, within schools? Are you collaborating with particular schools of programs to create a syllabus of what you could consider what would be helpful?

 

Anna: Yes. That is in plans. Right now I have, I'm collaborating with New York City Department of Education to teach educators on how, what this testing all about, and how to teach it. So this is a workshop that I'm going to start on April 18. And I already have, I have 35 people sign up. So teachers are interested. And once I'm done with that, then the next step would be to create a syllabus for them to take to schools. But I have want first to provide an understanding of what it is. Why testing is important. Why quality is important. And I already have people who are enthusiastic about it.

 

Joe: Awesome. So I guess the first thing that comes to mind is, will there be an opportunity for someone, say someone is really excited about the vision, that they can help promote it within their particular state or town? Is it going to be any sort of programs like that where you can help empower someone to say this is what you need in order to get your particular town or state to really follow this syllabus or learn more about the awareness of software testing and quality?

 

Anna: Oh, absolutely. I just started. I literally started this year. And I'm doing it with NYC public schools now. And eventually I would love to have ambassadors in every city, town of the world. Because we are depending more and more on technology. I think quality of testing becomes really important. People need to understand that it's important. They can demand quality. And in order for us to promote this quality advocacy, we need ambassadors everywhere. I think my vision it should be a global movement eventually. So please contact me if you're interested because I would love to work with you.

 

Joe: I guess since it's called the Quality Leadership Institute, what's your definition of quality? I think everyone seems to have different versions of quality, especially with Agile and DevOps practices. So, I'm just curious to know at a high level, how would you define what quality is?

 

Anna: Oh. It's an interesting question that you ask because what I'm teaching, and I'm teaching that for not just for testers but for cross-functional teams too, because they need to understand what it is. And it really depends. Why does it depend? Depending on the stakeholders understanding of what quality means for them, that's how they find quality of the product that you're developing. And to take into consideration every stakeholders of your product. And those stakeholders could be C- level people. It could be sales. It could be marketing. It could be operations. Your fellow team members are stakeholders, project managers, business people – they all have different needs.

 

And for example, somebody like a person whose in charge of information security. To them quality means that your application is unbreakable, you cannot be hacked. But for operations support, the quality may mean that they don't have 300 calls Monday morning after you added the new release to production. That what quality means to them. So kind of less angry customers at a given time, that's quality. For marketing people, it could be something completely different. So you always need to understand the context in which you talk about the quality. And that is something that I'm educating people about, too.

 

Joe: Do you see going forward in the next coming years as teams start merging into more Agile teams where it's more an activity that needs to be done rather than a role that there are no longer going to be testers? So do you think that there always will be testers that will be needed in order to really understand how to test a certain application?

 

Anna: I believe it's a very distinct skill set, testing, and it's a mindset. And even if you don't have a dedicated tester role, someday you'll need to perform this role at some point in the project no matter what. So you should not deny that the tester role is needed. The second question is, will there be a dedicated professional who is only doing this role? That would be ideal for me, and I'll tell you why in a bit. But I'm seeing that companies try to ignore the role of the tester, and that's also something that I want to change. Because if you don't understand that testing is a separate activity, and a separate skill set, and a separate mindset, and it needs to have strategy, then you're ignoring something really critical for your project.

 

And this sort of education is needed for, as I said, for the larger industry because a lot of companies are experimenting with a new way of how to think. And this is something that I also talk about a lot. Because what happened in Agile, I would say in the early Agile [adoption 08:03], when Agile [manifest 08:05] came up, it was written by developers. [Twelve 08:08] developers came together and they decided that if we remove all the middlemen between us and the customer, we're going to be much better and faster. Well, reality is that, and this is exactly what companies started doing. They started removing all the middlemen. They eliminated designers. They eliminated business analysts. And they eliminated testers. And they say, “well now, developers have all this jack-of-all-trades, and they could do anything because it's just easy”. Well, maybe in some companies it is because they don't really care about quality. But in some companies it's critical.

 

For example, I am from financial industry. Financial industry has an obligation to it's user because it's dealing with their money. And when you deal with somebody's money, you could be fined for the things gone wrong. You're probably not going to remove testing from your dedicated testers, from your team. It's the reality of the situation. Even though I have seen the experiments where they did and then they put it back. Same thing is happening with DevOps right now. Again, somebody has claimed that complete automation will save you, it's not going to happen. And some companies. And this is what companies going to do. They are going to come through these stages, early adoption stage, “Oh. We can do anything stage” and then, “Oops. Something's happening. Oh. We have to put testers back”. And I've seen that, too.

 

Actually I'm doing. I'm running a conference, and I'll talk about it later. And this conference is for test managers and test leaders. And they will define, they will discuss how quality is being managed in different companies. They will share their experience. And I have very interesting speakers from Spotify, from Etsy, from Johnson & Johnson, from major financial institutions, who will discuss what test management means in more than in the organization because there is a lot of experimentation happening.

 

My view of the role of the tester is that it's changing. It's becoming less of a person who is sitting in their quiet corner and just do testing. They're more of a test strategist and test mentor. And this is something that I think I discovered through my experience and then I start talking about it at the conference. I have a paper. I put a paper on PNSQC in 2014, The Changing Role of Software Tester. And I have several high-level recognized test leaders, [soft 10:53] leaders in the room when I was talking, and Jon Bach was one of them. And he was telling me after that what I talk about really resonates with his experience at eBay as well, and he is a quality evangelist. I believe that this is the role that he's having. And it's very interesting how the role is changing for some of the test professionals.

 

I cannot tell much about the presentations that I'm going to have at my conference on April 27. But some people who I talk to, the people from the companies I mentioned, they told me of this evolution of removing testers, putting testers back, giving testers a new role. And the new role looks like more quality advocacy than it's just performing [like 11:41] test execution.

 

I also think that testing strategy is something that is really necessary for a test professional, whoever they are, and what level they are, it doesn't matter anymore. Because you could be a single tester on a team, and you have to be a test strategist. Because test strategist needs to evolve. You cannot have a test strategy document and leave it. Testing changes. Priorities change. New information being evolved. And you need to change the strategy. And I think those are the most important skills for the testers. And I believe that you need to have a dedicated person for that. That's my belief. You have to have a person who is dedicated to testing strategy and test education.

 

Joe: I definitely see the role of tester changing. And I see more of a tester strategist role, almost do co-reviews of all the different Agile teams, and making sure they have different test in place, boundary tests. They're doing certain types of test. Just because the reality is on a Sprint team there's usually a lot more developers than any sort of tester.

 

Anna: Yes. It's true.

 

Joe: I guess also, though, that bothers me about having a tester role, and I believe we need one is that once I think you define someone as a tester, for some reason, maybe it's just the company I work for, it all of a sudden becomes that person's responsibility for quality in testing and no one else's. And I don't know if it's just because I'm in a very dysfunctional culture or is that something that you've seen? Just curious.

 

Anna: I would say there is a lot of very dysfunctional cultures out there. But yes, I think if people are not responsible for the quality of their work, they want to find somebody to be responsible for that. It's bad. I met people. I go to different conferences, seminars, and I meet people of difference professions within the software industry. So somebody told me that they remove the testers on purpose from their organization so that developers could be more responsible for their [code 13:51]. Sad but true. And I believe that they made a right decision at the time. I'm not sure what's happening now. Maybe they reintroduced testing but maybe in a new role. But it is true that all of a sudden the tester has all that responsibility but no account. Like they have no power but they have responsibility, which is kind of a bad thing. So they cannot influence change in processes, then why would you be responsible for quality when you don't have no power to enforce it?

 

So that is kind of a bad thing. And this is why I think that the tester role should change into more of a strategist role. Advisor role. Because everybody should be involved in testing. And some companies do. Some I've seen developers who are very proud of their skill set, of their profession. And, yes, they do not deliver [binary code 14:50]. But sometimes even project managers or like high-level management enforces this bad thing that is, “well just give us something new and throw it to testers so they can find the bugs and then throw it back at you”. That's not really how you should work. But to some manager that's like, “oh, we'll hire a tester so they will find all your bugs for you”. That's unfortunate but it's true.

 

And then what I think should happen is that the testers should, they should be more proactive in defining their roles and responsibilities. That's another thing that they teach at the conference is the tester have to explain their value, and they have to explain to the team what exactly are their skill sets, and where they can help the team to deliver a better value product. And testers do not have that. It's a block in our industry, testing industry. Testers don't know how to explain their worth, and their unique perspectives to the teams. And if you're being quiet then things are going to be thrown at you. You have to be able, you need to be able to push back. But in order to push back, you need to understand what is really, why you're there on the team. What can you do to make it better. Not just, “well, I'm everybody kind of janitor. So I'm going to clean up things after you”. That's not good.

 

Even though some people, I've seen people they perceive themselves as somebody like, “oh those, you know, developers. They are little kids, and I'm taking care of them because I'm their mommy”. That's, I've seen that. And I don't think this is the right thing to do in a situation that we're at, that our, because of Agile, their tester so being better defined but also the amount of testers is shrinking. They are, a lot of companies want tester to do something else now. And you need to fight back. But you need to be proactive. You cannot just say, “oh no. It's happening to me”. You have to know that it's coming. You have to understand what is being developed right now as it subtly shifts in the industry of software development itself.

 

And there is a lot of new developments. And one of them is Dave Snowden. He's a social scientist. And he created this model called Cynefin. And Cynefin explains the complexity of your environment. And the complexity of your environment really drives your decisions. And if you're in a very complex environment that means that there is no best practices for you, because there is conflicting things that can be equally true in a complex environment, and nobody understands the whole system. You have to create different practices.

 

And it's not but for some reasons the managers think that, “oh, it's like, you know, piece of cake. I can understand what I'm doing”. It's not true. They do not understand what they're doing. Because they do not, they cannot predict the outcomes of the complex environment. And because of that, a lot of experimentation that is happening in the software development field now, is just an experimentation. It's not a done deal. So I'm seeing that, “oh, Agile. Everybody is not Agile so we know how to do it”. No, you don't. “Everybody is doing DevOps. Of course, it's a piece of cake”. No, it's not. And because every company is experimenting with it. It's not a practice that all of a sudden saves you from any mistakes because it cannot.

 

So this understanding, testers should have this understanding. The complex environment is an environment of uncertainty. You don't know what's evolving. You need to experiment. You need to explore. And that's what testers do by default, I would say. They deal with uncertainty every day, and they are comfortable with it. So they should lead the way for organizations to understand the environment they're in. That's what I want testers to be honestly. That's my bold dream. I want testers to lead the way because they understand the uncertainty and the risks much better because of their profession. It's the nature of their profession to understand certain things.

 

Joe: Great point. I definitely agree. So what skills do you think a tester should have in this type of environment?

 

Anna: For example, one of the skills that testers should have is to understand how to use automation. And I have been a customer of automation. I've been a manager so the automation specialist created those suites for me. Because I know when I need automation in what capacity. For example, there is one thing about automation that if it's not working when you need it to work, then it's not useful for you. So all this time that people spend on automation, if it's not working a day before release, when the last code change is happening, and this is usually the case, because somebody already promised the date, and now you have to push all your fixes on the last day. That's when you need automation the most. That is when you, automation can help you to elevate certain elements that you would not find otherwise.

 

Because manual testing really, exploratory testing can help a lot but when you're crunched for time, then you need automation. And at this time if the automation specialist tells you, “oh, but they need to, well, it's not working”. This is it. It's like you have to travel and the car is not there for you, so you cannot reach to the [inaudible 20:41]. So it's like that. The tools should not just work how you want them but they need to work when you want them. And that's part of your strategy. So for testers this is really, they have to understand how the tools are being used. And why the tools are being used.

 

But I have seen, for example, test automation team is not reporting in to testers. Then they can just do whatever they do for their own sake, and that's not right. So that is one of the reasons I feel that testers should be elevated to a strategist position. And I do define, actually when I define the role of changing the role of software testing, I call it a quality leader. Because I feel that this person should have a quality strategy for the team. It's not just to test the software. It's also to be part of the decision-making process when the new feature is being introduced, when the design is being introduced. You have to be part of that. You have to see. You probably know your domain much better than developers. And you have to be there. And you say, “well, that may not fit with the existing workflow”. Because only you know this. And testers should be there.

 

But what I have seen that they are not but the role is changing that it's essential for them to be at the beginning of the project not at the end of the project.

 

Joe: You've mentioned a few times conferences. And I'm on the Quality Leadership Institute website right now. And there is a link called Test Masters Academy Program and Sponsorship. Is that the conferences that you've mentioned?

 

Anna: Yes. As part of my professional development goal, I feel that testers and test leaders, and people who do not have testers but they are developing software products, they have to have a good, modern education involved testing and quality. No matter who you are, you have to understand what you're dealing with. So I created Test Masters Academy with this goal. Test Masters Academy is one of the projects of A Quality Leadership Institute. And it really fits the same goal to be a quality advocate, and introduce the quality advocacy through really innovative good education for all sorts of professions and people.

 

My Spring program includes a conference and master classes. And I'll talk a little bit about that. So my conference is called the First Annual Test Leadership Congress because I believe that people who are coming to that conference, they are not just listeners. They come in with their experience. They are representatives of their own companies. So I want to have an open conversation about certain trends and the practices in test leadership. So the goal of the topic of our First Test Leadership Congress is test management agility. I call it test management agility because I strong believe that test strategy and test management should happen. Even though I have seen a lot of companies how they try to eliminate it from their processes but they eliminate the roles but you cannot eliminate the test management. It's a discipline that needs to be managed.

 

So different companies do it in a different ways. And I invited test leaders and people who represent test management in some sort of the way from different companies who are [soft 24:50] leaders in, for example, cultural change as Spotify, to talk about how they manage quality there because they have a very interesting approach. I don't know if you like aware of like they created guilds and tribes, and they're trying to change the culture and they're trying to change the industry in a way. So they are [soft 25:12] leaders in that. And of course, it's very interesting how they deal with it.

 

Then I invited people from Etsy. They are pioneers in DevOps. They've been doing DevOps before everybody, like before it became mainstream. So they already experimented with different ways of like removing testers, putting testers back, giving them different roles. Now they have a very interesting role and I want people to hear about how Etsy is dealing with continues delivery and managing quality within this environment.

 

And then I have a manager from different other areas. My keynote speaker is Fiona Charles. And Fiona has proven the record. She's one of the pioneers in our industry that she has a proven record of the quality management, test management in large organizations, in large institutions. And I would really love for people to hear what she has to say because she is really on top of what's going on right now with the industry. This conference is on April 27 in New York. And if you go to A Quality Leadership Institute you can see the link or you can go to testmastersacademy.org, and this is where the information is there.

 

Accompanying the conference, I invited people that I know and I'm a speaker, and I'm known in my industry, and I know other good experts in the area of software testing. And I invited them to give master classes. And those master classes are ranging from test automation and different levels of test automation because for some people it's just the beginning. They need to understand the concept to really deep like testing code was called deep levels. I have selected classes on the very important and critical skills that software testers and software test leaders have to have right now. Like in this day and age in 2016.

 

And while there is general all communication on managing difficult conversations and learning how to say no because for testers it's a really important skill managing difficult conversations specifically when you're being blamed for the quality of your product. Or “why didn't you do it in time? How much time it's going to take? Oh, well you're keeping the release from like putting in production so you're bottle necking”. All those difficult conversations. And “why didn't catch it before it went to production”. All these different conversations should be happening and as testers need to know how to do those conversations. They need to practice those skills.

 

I also am doing a class on Agile testing practices and test design within the Agile environment. And what is different in Agile environment is that you have to understand what's going on in Agile in order to not be, I would say a bottle neck. You cannot take your existing perceptions on what testers do in general, and put it into a general environment because it's not good. I've been a manager for a long time. So I've seen resumes where people say, “well I'm accustomed to an Agile environment and in Agile team”. And I say, “so what do you do”, and they say, “well, I write test cases and I execute those cases on the last day”. And I'm like that's really not a [inaudible 28:46] tester on the Agile team, because quality is the responsibility for everyone. So you have to be doing something different. And this is what I teach. This is my workshop.

 

And also we have workshops for people to introduce them to testing. So I really want to count those master classes not just the testers but also people, developers who do not have testers. Project managers, who need to understand what they're dealing with when they deal with testers. They need to understand test language better. So it's really all inclusive program that I introduce to kind of help the industry with the right education. This is really my goal. I am saying that we have a lot of test education but some of that is really not what you need to perform your job well. And I compiled the program which really helps you.

 

Joe: Awesome. I'm looking at the syllabus right now. It's in the master classes. It looks like a great line up. Everyone should check it out that's listening. Okay, Anna. Before we go, is there one piece of actual advice you can give someone to improve their quality testing initiatives? And let us know the best way to find or contact you.

 

Anna: So you can contact me through the A Quality Leadership Institute. I am also QA_nna on Twitter. The advice that I would give to improve quality initiatives at your work. Be proficient with new terms and new practices, emergent practices that are coming into the software development field. Usually testers QA are not involved when the company decides to reorganize because of like they introduce SAFe, they introduce Agile, they introduce DevOps, they introduce Lean, Kanban, whatever. You have to be on top of that. You have to initiate that.

 

One of the things that I did at my former job is that, and I kind of did it in a way of a little bit revolutionary. I removed my testers from the Sprint because I started noticing that they are bottle necks. So developers kind of throw those things at them, and they are in Sprint, and all of a sudden everybody had finished their work, and the testers had all the work to do. And I said, “well, this is wrong”. So I'm removing the testers from the Sprint. And I created the Kanban work for them because I said the testers have different task everyday. And you cannot predict in two weeks what the tester will do tomorrow. It's not like development. Even development cannot predict what they do in two weeks even though they tried. In Agile, they kind of tried but cannot.

 

So one of the interesting developments right now in the software [soft 31:29] leadership is that instead of having a two week Sprint, sometimes you have spikes. The spikes is a definition of experiment phase, when you need to discover something unknown. I notice that a lot of people, a lot of teams and teams have to hit with them because when you estimate something unknown then you start to discover that. And then you say, “oh, I don't know this information. Oh, I need to try this” or “I need to find out more requirements about that”. And that you cannot estimate that. But when times come to implement this feature and you understand that, “oh I need to do today as a research on it”, then you feel guilty. And you shouldn't because it's part of the process of discovery of the unknowns.

 

Now I mentioned Dave Snowden before with Cynefin. And he created, I believe it's an Agile Alliance project. Him, Esther Derby, and Ray Arell created a scheme of dynamic life cycles. What they are saying is instead of having two week Sprints, when you need to have a spike like to do some research or maybe to do some testing on something, accept it as in safe-fail experiments, which means that you need to do several experiments at once and the parallel to discover certain thing, whatever would work, whatever would not. And it should be one of two things that you dedicate to the discovery. And that should be on your springboard, and usually it's not.

 

So what is happening is some people look at the [burndown 33:13] chart. And it's supposed to be in this nice little steepness but it's usually not. It's usually like a skyline. And people feel upset that “oh, we're probably not doing Agile right”. It's not true. You are but you are faced with the unknowns, and you have to incorporate it in your process. So when I discovered that Dave Snowden already have created something that can explain what exactly I did, I was very relieved. Because then I can take it to my team and explain to them why I'm doing that. I have the freedom to experiment but I didn't know exactly what I'm doing. And then I realized that “oh, I was doing experiments”. And when people try to say, “Anna, explain your process. Can you document and write it down”, I say, “I cannot because it will change tomorrow”. Experimenting is something that is coming our way. And it's become an accepted way of doing development.

 

So testers have to be on top of those development in a [soft 34:18] leadership. We have to speak the language. We have to be part of the decision-making process. So that to me is a message to testers. You learn what is going on in your industry right now. Don't just wait for somebody to tell it to you because they will not probably tell you the truth.

 

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