The Future of the Software Testing Profession: An Interview with Mike Sowers

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, STAREAST keynote speaker Mike Sowers digs into the changing nature of testing. He talks about whether the profession is dying out and details the impact innovations like wearables and mobile have on the craft.

Josiah Renaudin: Today I'm joined by Mike Sowers, who will be presenting a keynote at STAREAST on the future of the software testing profession. Mike, thank you very much for joining us.

Michael Sowers: Hello, Josiah, great to be with you.

Josiah Renaudin: All right, first could you tell us just a bit about your experience in the industry?

Michael Sowers: Yeah, sure. I started my career in the Midwest at a company called NCR Corporation; actually, as a co-op student, and then I had the opportunity to learn about hardware and software engineering there and also systems testing. So from that foundation, I really contributed in several different roles, from test lead right up fortunately through senior vice-president of QA and test with many companies, such as the Digital Equipment Corporation, Cadence Design Systems, Fidelity Investments, and a few others.

Luckily, I had some great mentors and coaches and leaders along the way; spent a few years in consulting in software testing and got some experience sitting in the CIO seat from an IT perspective, and now I've got the opportunity to continue to get feedback to the testing community through my dual role here at TechWell, as both the CIO and senior consultant and instructor in software testing.

Josiah Renaudin: Just from that, you can tell you have a very rich, deep background in testing, so I'm actually going to start with a big question. Is testing, as a profession, dying? If not, has it significantly diminished from when you started in the industry?

Michael Sowers: Yeah, that's a great question; probably the million-dollar question, that none of us have a crystal ball about, Josiah. But we had the opportunity to pose that question to our testing community recently, and that's the topic of my upcoming keynote at STARWEST at 2015, so I'm excited about that. I'm excited that everyone has responded and engaged in that discussion.

The data thus far from our community indicates that although the testing profession is not going to see their demise anytime soon, that there are significant factors, of course, that are driving change in the testing profession—factors such as mobile, embedded, wearables, big data, and so forth. I don't think the significance of testing is going to diminish, but most likely needs to continue to be transformed.

Josiah Renaudin: Absolutely, and you also pose the thought that testing could be the most important aspect of software development, citing the growing risk of failure, which a lot of that has to do with how expansive mobile has become. And there's more than just failure; it's higher stakes. What do you think has caused this increased risk?

Michael Sowers: Yeah, I think probably one word, and that's complexity. Of course, Moore's Law is still at work: the fact that our computing power is doubling every eighteen to twenty-four months. That allows us to drive mega-innovation in every dimension, in every industry, of course, that we're seeing. More toys for big boys and girls, you know what they say?

Josiah Renaudin: Yes.

Michael Sowers: Right, and of course, the smaller, faster footprint in our system adds complexity and anytime you add complexity, you add risk; thus, the need for much more comprehensive testing earlier and concurrent in our hardware and software in the system development lifecycles.

Josiah Renaudin: You were talking earlier about wearables and mobile and all these new innovations that change the industry. With the change of what we're working on, the people have to change with it. What skills do most testers lack now that they will need in order to succeed in the future?

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