148: Foundations of Modern Software Testing with Rex Black

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Rex Black Test Talks

Rex Black, the founder of RBCS, author of more than 13 books and one of the first testing thought leaders I ever began following way back in the 90’s joins us in this episode of TestTalks. Rex shares a bunch of tips and tricks to help you improve your testing efforts.

About Rex Black

Rex Black

With 35 years of software and systems engineering experience, Rex Black is President of RBCS , a testing leader, providing consulting, training, and expert services. RBCS has over 100 clients on six continents, spanning all areas of software and system development, from embedded systems to gaming software to banking and insurance to pharmaceuticals to defense systems. He has worked with clients from small start-ups to Fortune 20 global enterprises. He has experience helping clients apply testing best practices in a wide variety of development life cycles, including Kanban, Scrum, DevOps, Waterfall, and Spiral.

Rex is the most prolific author practicing in the field of software testing today, having written fourteen books and dozens of articles over the last 20 years. He is past President of the ISTQB and of the ASTQB, a co-author of many of the ISTQB syllabi, and Chair of the Agile Working Group, the Advanced Test Manager Working Group, and the Expert Test Manager Working Group.

Quotes & Insights from this Test Talk

  • One of the interesting things that's happening, and it's been happening for awhile, is the adoption of more formal approaches to testing by industries that have traditionally not been formal. So, for example, I do a lot of work lately with gaming companies. And you might think, “Wow, really? Formalized testing on a gaming?” Yep, sure enough. I mean with money, comes a level of seriousness, and gaming is now apparently an even bigger business than the movie business, which is one of America's biggest exports. Apparently gaming is now even bigger than that. So, what we're seeing is a real maturing of the testing process with the more serious gaming companies.
  • So, it's interesting that from a point of view of how the testing is done, you know, it has to be very different. But how you measure it, how you measure the process, the same stuff applies. So, for example, this company I was working with earlier this year, one of the metrics that I was looking at, a few of the metrics I were looking at were coming straight out of their bug tracking system. So, we were looking at things like, “Hey, what's your backlog? What's the closure period? The time from discovery to resolution of bugs on average? What's your severity distributions? What are your distributions by area of the game and does that appear to make sense?” So it's interesting when you get into the process, there's a lot of things that are similar. 
  • You know, so if I have to get up and stand in front of a crowd of 500 people every year, and say things that are completely obvious, I'll do that until they stop happening. You know? I mean, seriously, every year I can go into at least one organization and find an instance where they're making one of those mistakes that I talk about in that presentation.Another classic is the taking the testing pyramid literally. All right, so I go into organizations and they'll be like, “Well, you know, we have 57,252 automated unit tests, and we've got 372 automated system tests, so we're perfectly on target for the test pyramid,” and I'm like, “Are you kidding me? Are you actually comparing numbers that have entirely different units? I mean, do you do comparisons of temperature based on some Celsius readings and some Fahrenheit readings?” You know? So, it's an obvious thing, again. But I think people tend to do dumb things with metrics, and they may be obvious but they still do them.
  • So, obviously I spend a fair amount of my own fallen tear time working with the ISTQB and the ASTQB defining the certification program, and so I think there's value to it. I think the way that it's been approached within the ISTQB is particularly helpful, where it's not just a once and done, but there is a whole career path that's mapped out there. As you start with the foundation level, and then move up to advanced, and ultimately expert levels, and there's branches on the side for specialization. So, it supports the different types of things that a tester needs from a knowledge and skills point of view at the appropriate points in their career. I think the program's been designed well, in that it's designed to scale. People have some objections to multiple choice exams, but the thing about a multiple choice exam is that you can offer that at a reasonable price to people around the world, and it scales very well
  • My one piece of actionable advice would be — the best way to improve … would be to set and meet skills growth targets every quarter, I would say would be my piece of advice. Learn something new that's important to your career. So, for example, if you're a Black-box tester and you don't know how to program, in the next three months learn how to write scripts; and then the three months after that learn how to program. So, I'd say that's probably the most important thing, as things continue to evolve it's going to be important to keep up.


Connect with Rex Black

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