The Future of Testing and the Individual Tester: An Interview with Julie Gardiner

In this interview, Julie Gardiner, product management director at CA Technologies, explains the changing role of testing and the individual tester within the software industry. She talks about how testers need to come together as a community and the importance of challenging our thinking.

Jennifer Bonine: As promised, we are back with more interviews. I'm very excited that Julie's here with me today. Julie, it's so good to see you again.

Julie Gardiner: It's wonderful to see you. How're you doing?

Jennifer Bonine: Very good. And you?

Julie Gardiner: Good. Yeah, good. Thank you.

Jennifer Bonine: Now, you have a fun adventure that you're on now. Right? I heard you work for a new company.

Julie Gardiner: I do. I work for CA Technologies now, and I've also moved into the product management space as opposed to the engineering space. But they still let me influence the engineering side in terms of quality as well, which is great. I get the best of both worlds.

Jennifer Bonine: That's amazing. What a great space to be in. Now, from your perspective being at CA, and where you guys are going from a direction perspective, we talked to Alex [Martins] yesterday.

Julie Gardiner: Oh, great.

Jennifer Bonine: You must know Alex, who's here.

Julie Gardiner: I know him a little bit—so I've only been at CA six weeks.

Jennifer Bonine: Six weeks. He's fairly new too, though.

Julie Gardiner: Oh, okay.

Jennifer Bonine: He's only about a year old, so he's a newbie too. We talked to him a little bit about the direction and where things are going. Now, for you as a product manager, what are you seeing right now in terms of how your customers want to interact with companies like CA and what they're looking for?

Julie Gardiner: Yeah. I think it's really nice to be on the other side of the fence in some ways, because ... and I've experienced the pain that our testers go through, so I think being in the position where I can actually influence the tools to make them complementary to what they need, and also even set some of the direction. I've got a couple of exciting ideas to put into a couple of our products, which I can't tell you about at the moment. I think that I'm always thinking about the tester in mind, in terms of the QA.

Jennifer Bonine: What do they need?

Julie Gardiner: Exactly. What do they need? What's their problems? What's their challenges? If the products aren't quite aligned into what's really needed, then how can we make that better? The thing about CA is we have such a plethora of tools that go across board from Raleigh, our central, all the way through to operations, and making this seamless is going to be a great, exciting thing. If you put that to the tester's perspective, that's what they need. They want all these tools, whatever tools they use, whether it's open source, commercial, to be seamless in terms of the process. They're using the best of their time for the things that they do well, which is in their brains.

Jennifer Bonine: Exactly. Absolutely. That's so important. What I loved ... as I mentioned, we talked to Alex yesterday, and what I love about CA and what I just heard you say, so on point, same message around where you guys are going as an organization and really bringing people who have felt the pain, who have lived it. Right? I mean, you've been the head of testing.

Julie Gardiner: I've got lots of pain.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. You've been in that pain and had to live it, just like all of you out there. You now have a technology company and a software company who said, "We really want to bring that in and bring those experienced people who know what it's like to be all of you and bring that into our products."

Julie Gardiner: Exactly that. Exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: Which is amazing. That should make people out there feel good about, when you choose a company like that, that they have your best interest at heart, and these people have been you and have had the pain.

Julie Gardiner: What I've also found, as well, so I've spoken to a few customers, many on the phone, and they start talking about, "This tiny little thing, if you could do this for us, then this is what's actually happening." I go, "Oh, my gosh, yeah. I understand that completely." It's not just about what I want. It's also what our customers want, but that I can also understand the reason why they're actually asking for it.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and it makes sense—

Julie Gardiner: It's all about the why. I'm all about the why.

Jennifer Bonine: All about the why. We should talk about, too, some of the things besides the work and the stuff you're doing with CA. There was this concept, I know you've done this at different keynotes and sessions, and just talking about, what is the role of the tester? Where is testing going? The school of all schools. Maybe explain that a little bit to folks who haven't heard that term, who haven't seen some of those. And you should check out Julie's keynotes that are out there that talk about that a little bit more. No pressure. Go look at those now, because you'll want to know. Tell us about the school of all schools and what can happen sometimes in a particular industry, and where people go around thought process.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah. I'll start with the role of the tester. I know Bart [Knaack] and Paul [Carvalho] were talking about chickens. Well, if you're in the ideal world and you know about the story of the pig and the chicken, I think the tester should be pigs, not chickens. We need to be fully committed to making this thing work. Traditionally, we've actually been at the end of a software lifecycle. We've stayed there. We have fillers that we can influence. We are the enablers of quality, and we need to actually get out of that test perspective and actually go across the board because all of those horrible, little things that irritate us all at the end, it will be worth it. Believe you me, you can influence and you can make a difference. That's my little pitch initially.

I think that we should be the coach, mentors, and trainers and help the dev guys, help product managers, help BAs create great products and things that we need in order to do our job well. Also, get that feedback loop from live as well.

We're also seeing the change in the industry, as you know, in terms of there is a lot ... a main difference between testing and checking. Checking are things that we have to do, but they can be automated. That's a little after the time we take in terms of our regression testing. Concentrate on what testers do best, which is using their brains, using those critical thinking skills, using those techniques that we can teach and the reasons for using them and why. Also, we all need to learn from one another, and I'm finding in the industry that we're having these labels being put on people. It's like, "Well, you're a certification person and you're an analyst school and you're in the factory school and you're in the context-driven school. I will stay in my area of my groups and my peers." But what a waste.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. What a waste.

Julie Gardiner: When you start to put labels on people, it becomes divisive. We should actually come together as a community, rather than ... and learn about one another and just being respectful of that and just saying, "There is an opportunity for me to learn off every single one." Not just in testing, in other industries as well, whether it's psychology or physics or whatever. I just think it'd be a real shame if we only stay in our own little pockets of communities.

The school of all schools was an idea I suggested about saying, "Everyone's welcome. We want to learn off one another. There's going to be no judgment. We can have a constructive discussion without it becoming personal." If you'd like to join the school of all schools, there is, so you can sign up and you can become a member and see how much of a demand there is out there. There are 300,000 of you out there in terms of the testing world, so we should be signing up and saying that we want to learn off one another.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and be part of all those communities. Some of you out there may see this, right? You'll see different articles, different approaches, different blogs, different people. Right? It's okay if people have different opinions, but we should all be, I think, that thirst for knowledge and curious.

Julie Gardiner: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: Right? Instead of saying, "Oh, no. I don't do that," I think I would challenge all of us to say, "Well, why don't I do that? Why do you do it that way?" And gain that knowledge and insight and information.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah, and how could this possibly be of use to me? Just because you're doing it this way doesn't mean to say it's the only way to do it currently. Everyone wants to improve whatever they're doing, so maybe if you'll actually listen to all of it and then try and see if it would work. If it doesn't, then at least you've learned something as well at the same time.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Well, and you've challenged your thinking. Right? It's good for all of us to challenge our thinking, and I think that's one of the nice things that I enjoy about being here at the conferences and talking to the different individuals, is taking another perspective on something and hearing where they're at and what they're thinking as the industry evolves and technology evolves and change comes.

Julie Gardiner: Exactly. Exactly. I think we all have to help another and respond as quickly as we possibly can, because this automation isn't going to go away. Far from it, we're going to embrace it a lot more. Also, it's then, "Okay, well, how can we use our skills in the best way across the lifecycle to help people do better things better and create great products for our customers?"

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Absolutely. Now, if people have been interested, Julie, and say, "I love this," obviously the school of all schools is one place they can find you. If they can't find you there, now, at CA, what products are you ... what piece of that are you responsible for?

Julie Gardiner: I'd like to try and influence all of it, but I've only been there six weeks, so give me some time. I'm mainly responsible for a product called test data management. I am really, really passionate about getting the right test environments and also the right test data associated with it. I'm also working very closely with another product manager, Jonathon Wright, who's looking after our requirements designer, which is a modeling tool and a test case creation tool.

You can actually do some test dating there, but I have, previous to coming to CA, I was head of test for an implementation for a bank in the UK. Test data is an incredibly difficult thing to actually resolve, especially when you want to get environments that are realistic representatives. Trying to create these accounts where people have been in arrears for sixty days and things, you can't do it as well with automation. Having the tool access data management, you can actually take what's within the production—I can't say the word—sanitize the data so that you can't trace it back to a natural individual, but you still have those conditions that would help you do your testing. Then, you can choose what particular prerequisite you need select that data to introduce it. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: That's amazing. Scrubbing that data. There's a lot of industries where you need to do that, right? In the medical field, where you need to take off any personal identifying information for claims information or patient information. Obviously in banking and finance, lots of industries. One of the themes I've heard from a lot of people, like you said, is this area of test data management and how to solve that challenge. It's pretty exciting just hearing that someone like you now is responsible for helping drive that direction, as well as, obviously, the other products at CA, but really in that space to solve that challenge that some of you, I know, are probably facing as well.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah. I have felt your pain.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Julie Gardiner: I'm there to try and give you, create tool that's acutely going to help you with that. Any other feedback that anyone else has about any tools, I'd love to hear about it. I just want to see if we can plug them into the CA data set.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Well, this is great. Now, all of you who use those CA products that may have some feedback, you have a good advocate here in Julie. I would encourage you to use her. Poor Julie, you're going to get 2,000 emails.

Julie Gardiner: Oh, no, please. I want as much as—

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. How do they find you, Julie, if they want to say, "Julie, I have something I need to tell you."

Julie Gardiner: My email address is [email protected]. My Twitter handle is @cheekytester. If you want to contact me and do a DM that way, then you're more than welcome as well.

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect. You guys, I encourage you, reach out to Julie. She's a great reference and resource for all of you out there, not just on these topics, but a leader in the industry. So good to talk to Julie.

Julie Gardiner: She's always my favorite.

Jennifer Bonine: Around her leadership and where she's been, she always has good advice, so I encourage you to reach out to Julie. Thanks, Julie, for being here with me today.

Julie Gardiner: Thank you, Jennifer. It's been a pleasure.

Jennifer Bonine: Hang in with us. We have more interviews coming.

Julie GardinerJulie Gardiner is a pragmatic, practical, and people-driven leader, specializing in testing, agile, and quality. An enthusiastic and passionate speaker, her presentations worldwide come from real-world experiences in her more than twenty-five years in the industry. As product management director at CA Technologies, Julie is able to influence software quality in tools and products that are meaningful to the testing domain. Previously Julie was head of testing and implementation for a well-known UK bank, and director of digital engineering and TQA for a consulting company.

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