As a prequel to the Let’s Test conference in May, I interviewed some of the European context-driven testers. Today we have Henrik Andersson from the House of Test with us who also co-organized the conference.
Markus Gärtner: Hi Henrik, could you please introduce yourself? Who are you? What do you do for work?
Henrik Andersson: I’m Henrik, one of the many great testers we have here in Sweden. I have been involved in testing since the late nineties and over these years in a wide variety of businesses. I’m a student of Jerry Weinberg’s work and taken his Problem Solving Leadership training (PSL) and a returning participant to the Amplifying Your Effectiveness conference (AYE).
In 2008 i co-founded House of Test, a consultancy and outsourcing based in Sweden, Denmark and Shanghai, China. We are a company that is driven by the context-driven testing principles. Today House of Test consists of ten sharp testers and I’m acting as the CEO but still do lots of testing in parallel. I mostly provide coaching in Exploratory Testing, Session Based Test Management (SBTM) and Agile transitioning.
Besides this I’m one of the guys setting up Europe’s first Context-Driven Test Conference, Let´s Test, that will take place in Stockholm in May. This will be a really awesome event gathering the European context-driven testing community to get to know each other better and to learn from our peers.
Markus Gärtner: How have you crossed the path of context-driven testing?
Henrik Andersson: This was a while back. It started out that I read something about ET in the beginning of 2000, but then I did not know better so I just dismissed it. But somewhere around 2006/2007 I invited James Bach to Sweden to do his Rapid Software Testing course and this was the first time I met James. I had the opportunity to spend some time with James and I think we had some really nice and colorful discussions. During our time together I found that we shared lots of views on testing. James invited me over to CAST in 2007 and also to participate at the WHET3 peer workshop in Seattle. It was after this week of meeting all great people and sharing all experiences that I got involved in the Context-Driven testing community, I found my playground. Since then I have been an active member of this community where I get challenged and can challenge others and for me this also is a great way to learn. Today I have many close friends in this community that I highly value and we always have lots of fun when we meet. James has during these years always been a great mentor to me.
Markus Gärtner: How do you apply context-driven testing at your workplace?
Henrik Andersson: This is my foundation and my preferred way of working. As a consultant it is important to quickly be able to understand my client’s context and problems and not to push a simple “turn key best practice” solution on them. I use the context-driven principles to find great ways to contribute value to my clients. In practice it helps me going in with an open mind and not being afraid to ask questions. It brings value to the ones I work with since I seek the root cause of a problem and finding a suited solution. Not just grabbing the oversimplified easy to like solution. I have previously worked at a company that push their “best practice” on every client they meet. I have seen and felt very ashamed of the damage that does and I’m done with that crap. Context-driven testing is to me not only about the seven principles it also includes honesty, integrity and openness towards the work I do. To be able to stand tall when the boat starts to rock.
Markus Gärtner: I could draw the conclusion that you consider context-driven testing to be a “best practice” in itself. I am quite sure that you disagree with me, but where do you see the difference?
Henrik Andersson: As you expect I strongly disagree with that statement. To me a best practice is context independent, it is the one best way to perform something under any circumstances, it will always work.
Context-driven testing is not a specific procedure or a technique of doing things. It is an approach that consists of a set of principles that there are million different ways to apply depending on your context.
In the first two principles we recognize that there are good and appropriate practices under specific context. In contrast to a best practice that claims to have the best way to do testing, we seek to do the best testing possible under the conditions we have. To me that is a huge difference.
Markus Gärtner: Honesty, integrity and openness towards the work you do – how do you help testers (maybe even programmers?) to stand on their own? Can you give us a brief insight into your coaching work?
Henrik Andersson: Many testers have a “I just do what they told me” attitude. I do not believe this reflects specially flattering on them. I help testers, developers, managers and teams to take responsibility of the work they do. Again it is much about awareness, I help them find their preferred ways of doing their work. I help people to be proud of the work they do and to strive towards mastery. When someone asks them why they did the work the way they did they shall be aware of this and be able to tell a good story of why this is an appropriate way of doing it. My coaching is focusing on the persons in the team and the collaboration between them. It is important for an effective team to become greater than the sum of its individuals. I work much by asking them questions to help them reflect on why they do the way they do and if there is another way in which they rather could do it. I also point them to different resources that they can access for free to get inspiration and learning. So each can put themselves in the driver seat of their own personal development and not be dependent on what the company decides to provide them. My goal is that the teams I work with will have fun when doing great and valuable work.
Markus Gärtner: What inspired you to set up Let’s Test in 2012? I heard some rumors about a EuroCAST, but that never made it. What drove you to organize this event?
Henrik Andersson: The idea of setting up a conference was born during a SWET peer conference about a year ago. I think it was Tobbe Ryber who brought this up late one evening and we were many that had have the same thoughts. Our drive is that most test conferences in Europe have the same format, have you been to a few you have been to them all. Also they do not facilitate the conferring part of the word conference. We wanted to set up a conference that would thrill us to attend and involve both speakers and attendees in the sharing of experiences.
Several initiatives and smaller groups of context-driven testers are forming in different places in Europe and we want to set up a conference that helps building relations and a community in Europe. This is why Let´s Test is let up like a camp where conference, lodging and meals are included in the conference fee. We will stay at the same place and be together for the whole three days. We will also have lots of fun arrangements during the evenings.
At CAST in Seattle last summer we announced that there was going to be a context-driven conference in Europe. This took a greater spin than we expected and lots of people were excited. Soon the name EuroCAST started to spread, however it was neither we nor AST (Association for Software Testing) who started that. Let´s Test is not arranged by AST (who arrange CAST) but we are supported and sponsored by AST and they for sure are our friends and Let´s Test supports the AST mission.
Markus Gärtner: There are more and more voices coming up about the bad shape of software testing in general. Ben Kelly for example has a talk on “The Testing Dead” in the programme. What can we do to help the “Testing Dead” become alive again from your perspective?
Henrik Andersson: I´m glad you mention Ben, he is putting up a good fight against the testing dead.
I think we need to work from two ways here.
We need to strangle the demand for zombie testers. We can do this by getting more involved and helping HR and the lower to middle management that hires tester. We need to wake up the people who are in a position to hire testers. Way too few actually test the tester during an interview. Firstly they need help to be aware of what skills they are looking for and secondly they need help to be better prepared on how to evaluate the skills of a tester.
The other front we need to work from is to inspire the one next to us instead if dying with him. Sadly, I still think we who are “alive” are the minority and I have seen too many inspired testers coming into a new environment and slowly turning into testing dead by their surroundings. We who are alive need to find ways and connections so we can inspire each others so our lights doesn’t go out. That way we will have the energy and drive to go the match against the testing dead. To do this is a very energy draining activity because we have to repeat ourselves so many times to so many people. It is not only the never ending repletion that is draining, it is also that we always have to start from the basics of testing. It is a bit sad that we yet not are past this.
One thing is to fight the big battle by making your voice heard to many people but as important is to do the everyday fighting by being an example and role model at your workplace by doing great testing and to help and inspire others to do the same.
But also be realistic you can’t wake every dead, spend your energy wisely on those there is hope for.
Markus Gärtner: What are your prospects on the European Testing community after Let’s Test? What do you expect to happen? What do you hope?
Henrik Andersson: My hope is that after the conference our context-driven community in Europe gets a bit more united and that we know each other closer on a personal level. I hope that we see more exchanges between groups in different countries and that Let´s Test is only the first in many initiatives to get us all together and become tighter as a community.
Markus Gärtner: If you wrote a letter to yourself 15 years ago, what would you write in it? What would you tell yourself, if you could go back?
Henrik Andersson: Sorry mate, this will be a boring answer. I would not write much. I’m quite happy with the life I have lived and the decisions I made. I guess I would have given myself some recommendations on which stocks to buy and when to sell them. :)
Markus Gärtner: Consider time travelling is now possible. You can pick whether to go to the future and see what the (testing) life will look like in 20, 100 or 1000 years. Or you could go back 20, 30, maybe 40 years in time, and change anything you liked. What would you do? Take a sneak peek, or changing the world?
Henrik Andersson: Hehe, I now realize that I would be able to give a much better answer to this if I were a Sci-fi lover and spent my time fantasying about these things.
I think I would go to the future but not more than 20 years just before retirement just to see if the testing dead won the game. If so then I would bail out of this profession right away.
Markus Gärtner: Oh, then I’m glad that we don’t seem to have a sneak peek at the testing dead so soon, so you will maybe stay another 20 years with us. Thanks for your answers and your time. Looking forward to meet you at Let’s Test in May.