Break Through Your Major Testing Barriers: An Interview with Jared Richardson


In this interview, Jared Richardson, the principal consultant at Agile Artisans, explains how to take charge of your testing career. He details why most testers hit a development wall, how to learn new skills while you're on the job, and how the rest of the team can benefit.

Josiah Renaudin: Welcome back to another TechWell Interview. Today I am joined by Jared Richardson, the principal consultant at Agile Artisans and a keynote speaker at this year's STARWEST event. Jared, how are you doing today?

Jared Richardson: Doing great. Good to talk to you again.

Josiah Renaudin: Yeah, good to talk to you again, too. Before we really dig into the content of your keynote, can you just give us a refresher on our experience in the industry?

Jared Richardson: Oh, gosh. Sold my first program back in 1991, beautiful little CBIT with so many memory leaks it made a grown man cry. Got involved with Small Talk. Came up through Java, was one of the second public signatories of the Agile Manifesto. Got a phone call when the authors were writing it saying, "Hey, you got to get in on this." Started the local agile user group here in Raleigh Durham, North Carolina, back in '07. We just passed 1,800 members. One of the, if not the largest agile user group in the world, I believe. Definitely the largest one on last time I checked. Working with Andy Hunt these days, one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto on a new agile methodology, the GROWS Method, so that's keeping me busy. I pay the bills as a coach and speak to conferences from to time, as I'll be doing in Anaheim.

Josiah Renaudin: Absolutely. We always try to evolve as testers or as any member of a software team, but I was reading through your abstract and you were talking about these certain walls that testers hit. Why is it that so many testers hit a personal development wall and fail to get past the required training they need?

Jared Richardson: I think most organizations, most teams, they get stuck in the short-term delivery trap. It's, "Oh my gosh, this is what's going on, we have to work this problem, we have to work this release, we have to solve this," and they're so busy working individually as a team and as a company that nobody ever looks up. I came into work with one team, almost a decade ago. Thirty testers, and people are constantly fighting fires, putting out fires, fixing problems. Good people doing good work. They were so busy with their heads down, they had never heard of something like continuous integration. I, instead of helping them, took a step back and put in a CI, you know it's cruise control back in the day.

Several senior members of the team complained bitterly to me and to my manager that I was not sitting beside them and clicking through test scripts. A few months later, when the CI system was up and running, and running automated tests and automated test suites and eliminated a lot of the work people were doing every single day and freed them up to actually do bigger picture work, their minds were blown. We get so busy getting stuff done we forget it's not, I don't know the highest good is not to do the work in front of us efficiently, it's to do the right work.

I think that's why we end up hitting a wall. We're so busy working, we're so busy doing what we're asked to do and then one day we turn around and the industry is moved past us. The problem with most corporations today is quite often, they'll say you know what, the industry's moved past you, have a nice day, and they'll outsource your job, they'll lay you off. They'll hire somebody with the right skill set. While I believe it's much more cost-effective to train as you go, I don't know that you can always trust your employer to do that and that puts the responsibility squarely on your own back to drive forward on a day-by-day basis.

Now we're moving over to the keynote material, right? It's intentional experimentation as a way to keep your skills cutting edge, to bring in new technology, and to make your job easier. To leverage what you know and to make sure you’re more effective. On the one hand, it's great for your company, it's great for your team, but it future-proofs your skill set because you're always, I say always, right, weekly, you’re spending time, some part of that week, trying something new. Maybe it will fit, maybe it won't. Maybe it will be a good fit for the next project. If you're taking a few hours each week, you're going to be the one that knows all the cool new tool kits, you’re going to know the new tool directions, you're going to know how to automate this script. You'll become invaluable. I'm talking a long time.


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