Testing Insights and Other Thoughts from 2017

Posted Dec 20th, 2017

As the 2017 testing conference season wraps up, I want to reflect on some key things that I have learned throughout this year. Though I did not get to attend all of the testing conferences that I wanted to, the Internet (and recorded talks!) made it much easier for me and my introverted self to get a lot out of the discussions about software testing that took place in 2017, and bring some new testing insights into my work.

So, without further ado, here are the testing insights I gained in 2017...

Testing Insight 1: Look before you leap—Understand the goal of your automated tests

I was honored to speak at the Selenium Conferences in Austin and Berlin this year. SeConf Austin was a highlight for me. I got to spend some time with Angie Jones, and hear her talk “The Build That Cried Broken: Building Trust in Your Continuous Integration Tests” (you can watch it here at https://youtu.be/VotJqV4n8ig). I always love relatable talks and personal stories, and Angie has mastered weaving stories and tying in valuable lessons on automation.

I won’t rehash the entire talk here, because you should watch it, but one point that really resonated with me was understanding your end goal in automation. While I think this is an important testing insight, I have seen it overlooked time and time again. So often I have heard, “Well, we just need to automate and have a full regression suite.” But why? What is the business question I am trying to answer by writing a test or creating a suite? In the case of automated tests in Continuous Integration, you are probably looking for fast feedback. Is the product still in healthy shape? Really explore WHY we are writing anything. Automation is expensive. Think long-term, and ensure your automation is in line with the goal and answers your business question.

There are so many other amazing bits of information in Angie’s talk, but the above has been the most important to me in 2017 as we consider our suite design. (It also felt really great to know that my teams were in lockstep with her thoughts!)

Testing Insight 2: Know your values—Ethics are more critical than ever

This particular talk came to my attention as I was looking into information and thoughts on ethics in software. I wish I had been able to go to Nordic Testing Days, but luckily for me, Fiona Charles’ keynote, “10 Commandments for Ethical Software Testers” was available to watch (https://youtu.be/aQHt4Pao2Vs)

I was roped in when she said, “I get paid to tell the truth.” She had me thinking of what our central values are, and that they are critical in a world where we could be pressured to lie. (Have you read about the Volkswagen emissions scandal?) I also did not know that the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) existed, much less had a Code of Ethics (which was adopted by the Association for Software Testing).

The key point standing out to me is that “computing professionals must attempt to ensure that the products of their efforts will be used in socially responsible ways, will meet social needs, and will avoid harmful effects to health and welfare.”

While not necessarily specific to testers per se, we, as testers, are incredibly good at asking questions. As we work with our teams to design and deliver features, are we asking the questions around how what we build could be used to harm others, whether directly or indirectly? Are we asking, “How could someone use this to harm others?” As Fiona Charles states, “We have to know what is the worst our software could do.” An exercise I like to do for exploratory testing is to think of the worst headline I could read related to the feature I was working on. How do we build our feature to prevent that from happening? How do we react?

I think Mina Markham summed it up best for me at Write Speak Code…

Do all the good I can,
For all the people I can,
In all the ways I can,
For as long as I can.

In everything I do, in life, testing, or beyond—am I living by that?

Testing Insight 3: Whole team value > whole team quality

Thanks again to the Internet, I was able to watch a talk by Alex Schladebeck—someone I respect immensely. She gave a fantastic talk called “Whole Team Quality: In the Same Boat or Up the Creek?” (https://youtu.be/nS6H7Ja5LWQ) at Agile and Automation Days in Poland.

This talk related to me and my day-to-day, and so many of the conversations that I have had recently. I also particularly loved her dive into the persona- and context-based team, but one thing that really grabbed me was the reminder that whether writing code, asking questions, writing a test, or being a product owner, everything we do, we are doing it for the customer. We aren’t doing it to follow a process. If what we do is not valued, why are we doing it? Talk about value as a team.

Go forth and conference!

I am an introvert. That means that conferences exhaust me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love them! There isn’t enough time and money for me to attend all that I want, but I’m so thankful for the people who record the conferences and provide their content for those that cannot make it.

But why do I love conferences? I don’t go to get step-by-step instruction. Conferences aren’t a great resource for that, because each company is different, each product is different, and what works for one may not work for all. If you want to learn the mechanics of something new, you’re better off referring to documentation or written instructional material.

I go to testing conferences because I love getting testing insights and ideas from a talk, then going back home and experimenting with them. I also love the testing community I have joined, and the friends I have made. We bounce ideas off of each other, and I am always learning. It’s so important to get new perspectives, and conferences (whether you actually go to them or simply catch talks online) are a great way to do this.

Ashley Hunsberger is a Quality Architect at Blackboard, Inc. and co-founder of Quality Element. She’s passionate about making an impact in education and loves coaching team members in product and client-focused quality practices. Most recently, she has focused on test strategy implementation and training, development process efficiencies, and preaching Test Driven Development to anyone that will listen. In her downtime, she loves to travel, read, quilt, hike, and spend time with her family. Join us at SauceCon to meet Ashley and other testing experts who will be speaking! 

Written by

Ashley Hunsberger