Test Automation in the Real World: An Interview with Greg Paskal

In this interview, Greg Paskal, a technology innovator in quality assurance, sits down to discuss standing up and running a QA organization, his book Test Automation in the Real World, and the importance of a healthy company culture.

Jennifer Bonine: All right. We are back with another set of awesome interviews that we're going to have. I have Greg with me. Greg, it's great to have you with me again.

Greg Paskal: Yeah. It's good to be back.

Jennifer Bonine: I know. We've done this before, but ... You guys miss out on our side chat after we turn off the cameras, but, Greg, it sounds like you've had some new, fun life adventures.

Greg Paskal: I have. I have. I just relocated from Dallas after being there, oh, sixteen or seventeen years. Now, I live in the heartland of country music. I live in Nashville now.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh my gosh.

Greg Paskal: But it has a lot more going than just country music. There's all kinds of music that comes out of there, and there's some remarkable technology that comes out of there.

Jennifer Bonine: That's amazing. You made a big life shift. Why don't you tell us about who helped you do that and inspired you to make that shift?

Greg Paskal: Certainly. Well, I had a good friendship with a gentleman there, another couple of common guys that I have known through life, and Kelly started the QA team there a few years ago. Through a common friend, we got introduced, and he and I had been chatting for a number of years. An opportunity came up that they were wanting to bring automation in-house. Through a very strange set of coincidences, if you could consider it that, their recruiter contacted me not knowing that Kelly and I knew one another ...

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, funny.

Greg Paskal: ... and said, "We found this position, and you'd be a great fit for it." I said, "That's ironic, because I know your QA manager," and she had no idea we had had a relationship and knew one another. Through a series of interviews and a visit to Tennessee, we decided to go ahead and make that home and come and lead their automation efforts.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow.

Greg Paskal: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: That's amazing. Kind of a fun turn of events, right?

Greg Paskal: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Different. Now, you gave a session this week then on standing up, right ...

Greg Paskal: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: ... a QA organization and what that looks like. Maybe give us the highlights for some of the folks out there that are struggling with that same thing ...

Greg Paskal: Certainly.

Jennifer Bonine: ... or starting something new.

Greg Paskal: Yeah. Actually, Lee Copeland and I had a talk, oh, probably a year ago or so. He said one of the things that he'd really love to have at STAR is some talks that would help folks that come here that are starting to stand up and run a QA organization from scratch. I started thinking, "Well, I've seen a lot of this happen at a number of companies. What have I learned along the way? What are some things that have worked and have not?" I decided to go ahead and do a presentation on that. Yeah.

That was yesterday. We had a packed house. I loved doing it. It was called "7 Fundamentals of a Successful Test Team." We talked about how some of the first things you want to do is just build in some common knowledge and communication. You want to build some great team dynamics. Then, you need to figure out a basic test strategy, which we built on something called the METS Test Strategy, which should ring a bell for folks that have been in STAR for a while, because it was first introduced at STARWEST in 2003, the first time I came and spoke.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow. Interesting. Very cool. Then, that piece, if someone wasn't at your talk today and wants those seven steps or the keys, just standing up a new testing organization, they're out there going, "Gosh. I really need that," how do they get a hold of you to get information like that?

Greg Paskal: Well, that's a great question. Obviously, the PowerPoint presentation should be available for download, I'm assuming, at STAR at some point. I'll also publish that on a couple of my websites.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, good.

Greg Paskal: I have two of them that you can go to. One of them is called metstesting.com, and from there you'll learn about the METS process, which is a great place to begin thinking about your manual test strategy. That manual test strategy is built in the idea that all test cases can be prioritized from critical, high, medium, and low. It literally started when I was in my very first QA role, and I needed to just do testing in the day in the life of a tester. Out of it came this process which now is actually recognized by ASTQB and taught in their curriculum, and I did a session for them last year, and I've taught here at STAR a number of times.

The other website is called realworldtesting… Excuse me. Yeah. Oh, I'm going to mix it up here, guys: Test Automation in the Real World, or realworldtestautomation.com is actually the URL, and it supplements my book that's called Real World ... I'm going to goof this up, guys. I know. I'll get it here in a minute, so we'll just come back to that. Test Automation in the Real World. That's the name of the book. Anyway, that site will also contain links to these and tools that will help you as you're considering your automation efforts.

Anyway, that's basically the talk. However, that process of building your manual test strategy and then how do you know when's the time to blend it in, and how do you begin to do that? This gives you some tips on how to take METS and let it lead you into some of the first things you should begin to automate.

Jennifer Bonine: Nice. Wow. Great tips out there for folks who are thinking about standing up that organization. Then, since we last talked, obviously you mentioned it, but you wrote a book on Test Automation in the Real World.

Greg Paskal: That's it. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: I'll get it for you.

Greg Paskal: Sure.

Jennifer Bonine: Then, where can people get that? Is it ...

Greg Paskal: It's available on Amazon.

Jennifer Bonine: Of course. Amazon has it ...

Greg Paskal: They have it.

Jennifer Bonine: ... so they can go there if they're interested in finding out more about that.

Greg Paskal: Yes. That's a great place to get it. You can get the ebook there, and you can also get the paperback version, which is brand new. I probably got that in place. I had a lot of people asking for that.

What was really great about writing this book is, actually, I've been automating since the ‘80s, if you can believe that. The first system I automated on was a Mac II, if you can believe that. Way back. I wanted to encapsulate a lot of the things I've learned that have led to successful automation along that way including my journey through the HP tools for the last fifteen, sixteen years. Some of the things I'm learning into the millennium and well, it's ironic that, regardless of these tools, the same problems exist. You're always finding synchronization problems and object identification. You have to have great test management in place and reporting, all of those things. I covered some of those in my book, and I think it's a great place to start.

There's a great chapter in there called "How to Hire an Automation Engineer" because lots of folks struggle with, "How do I get the right guy?" This is what I have used and have learned it really gets the right person in house.

Jennifer Bonine: Amazing. Another good tip for folks that are looking to do some hiring too, but you also work for an interesting individual that, people may know the name of that individual as well, probably, right?

Greg Paskal: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: We have a book here.

Greg Paskal: I do. I work for a gentleman named Dave Ramsey, of Ramsey Solutions. It's a really interesting place to work because Dave, this is his picture, and this is a book that I was able to give all of my students in the class yesterday.

Jennifer Bonine: That's awesome.

Greg Paskal: We really wanted to come in a spirit of generosity and give them something that would help them. This book is all about culture and really creating a great company culture. If you don't have it, you need to check this book out. I think you'll find it's a fantastic one. If you are having those challenges of maybe team dynamics that aren't working real good, this book would be a great one to pick up and think about how you can implement the basic principles of it.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow. Yes, because culture is such a big piece ...

Greg Paskal: It is.

Jennifer Bonine: ... for so many people.

Greg Paskal: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: It causes a lot of pain sometimes if you don't know how to adjust or help fix that, right?

Greg Paskal: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: You can have the best processes, the best tools, but, at the end of the day, it's the people and the culture too.

Greg Paskal: It does.

Jennifer Bonine: You've have all of those pieces.

Greg Paskal: That's one of the things we've learned at Ramsey as I've gone through some interview process is we are looking for great culture fits. You can teach a lot of technical skills ...

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Greg Paskal: ... but you can't teach character, and you can't teach these things. Communication skills and things like that are hard, so we really are looking for individuals like that, and you should too as you're building your team. If you've got folks that are divisive or gossips and that kind of thing, it's going to deteriorate a lot of work that you put into building a fantastic team, and they're great things to try to make sure are really strong in your team that you've got those great core skills in place.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Absolutely. I know there was something, again, you guys don't see all that happens on our breaks, but we had also talked about a tool that's available that you guys are testing, so we should maybe talk about what that tool is so people know to go check it out. If they find any bugs, can they email you?

Greg Paskal: Of course. Well, we have a lot of tools in house. I work on a few of them, but the tool we were talking about is called Every Dollar.

Jennifer Bonine: Every Dollar.

Greg Paskal: Part of the philosophy of Dave, again, Dave Ramsey, was that we should have a budget in place and that we want to live within our means. The Every Dollar tool allows you to make a purchase.

Let's say I use my debit card when I go to the supermarket. As soon as I would swipe that card and make that purchase, Every Dollar app is going to pop up and say, "What was this purchase for?" I would say, "This is part of my food allowance." Let's say I had allocated maybe $500 this month for my food allowance. That way, I could stay within my budget.

Or what about entertainment? Maybe I decide that my wife and I, we'd like to go to a couple of movies, and we're going to go out on a couple date nights. I allocate $150, let's say, for just entertainment. When I go to the movie theater, I go ahead and swipe that, and it says, "Hey. You've just purchased $30 in tickets," and I would say, "That goes towards my entertainment budget."

The whole idea is staying within the means of the money that you have budgeted. That's a big tool that we use to help people get out of debt.

Jennifer Bonine: That's amazing. It sounds like exciting new adventures, great new things in store for you, some fun stuff, some tips for the folks out there around ...

Greg Paskal: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: Definitely check out the book on culture. I think culture is so important and should not be overlooked in some of the challenges we face in our organizations and in adopting some new strategies and then also that whole concept of budgeting and keeping track of where you're at and those types of things, also important for all of us. We deal with it every day. Some fun stuff.

Greg Paskal: It seems like I'm hearing more folks talking soft topics this time.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Greg Paskal: Are you starting to notice a little bit of a trend in there?

Jennifer Bonine: I am. Yeah. Yeah.

Greg Paskal: I actually think it's very timely to consider things like entreleadership. By the way, there's a whole conference around this, too, for leaders to come to, but isn't it interesting? I've heard a number of people talk about these soft skill things. I think Dorothy Graham had one. It's just highlighting how important it is that we have these great team dynamics. Out of a healthy team comes healthy testing. Right?

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Greg Paskal: It leads us into creating the great tools and methodologies that lead us to test well.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. It's not just the technical skills, and that's where we're learning, so, another takeaway for the folks out there, it takes a balance of those technical and soft skills, and so brushing up on those and being aware is also important.

Greg Paskal: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: I would have definitely agreed. Well, thanks, Greg, for being here with us.

Greg Paskal: Sure. Love being here.

Jennifer Bonine: It goes so fast. Stay tuned for our next interview coming up.

Greg Paskal: Thank you.

Greg PaskalA technology innovator in quality assurance, Greg Paskal pioneers best practices across tools, techniques, and talents. Exploring existing and new approaches in test automation, Greg enjoys mentoring automation engineers in highly sustainable, maintainable approaches for greater ROI in automation efforts. He authored Test Automation in the Real World, contributed to industry publications such as StickyMinds, and recorded podcasts for TestTalks. Greg has spoken at conferences on his Minimal Essential Testing Strategy, now developed into an iPhone app. He founded the Open Test Technology Forum to encourage collaboration and focus on greater quality across the enterprise. Learn more about Greg at MissionWares.com and GregPaskal.com.

User Comments

1 comment
Greg Paskal's picture

What an honor to speak at StarEast 2017 this year and to do this interview with Jennifer Bonine who always does a great job. The following will help readers find the resources I mentioned in my interview with Jennifer.

November 29, 2017 - 10:37am

About the author

Upcoming Events

Sep 22
Oct 13
Apr 27