Wednesday, 20 March 2013

5 Questions With Ilari Henrik Aegerter

Next up is Ilari Henrik Aegerter, a tester from Switzerland who has moved on from testing cuckoo-clocks and chocolate to be Manager of Quality Engineering in Europe for Ebay.

1) Congrats on your recent move to eBay - as a tester, what was it about them that attracted you? 

Before I moved to eBay, I worked for a company called Phonak AG. They are the world’s leading producer of hearing aids. I worked there for seven and a half years and basically built up the testing team from scratch. It is a wonderful company and I have only positive thoughts about them. But after a certain amount of years, a position in a company may become a bit too comfortable and new challenges are missing.

I have known my current manager – Michael Palotas - for a while, we both were members of the conference board of Swiss Testing Day and during the collaboration on the organization of the conference we discovered that our views on testing were often matching. Also, on a personal level we always got along well.

Towards the end of 2011, Michael had an open position and he asked me if I was interested. At first, I wasn’t really but decided to nevertheless have a closer look at it. During the following months and after many discussions I got a better insight into what eBay is all about, and – even more importantly – got the impression that within his team there was a real chance to build up something beautiful.

One thing, which makes eBay very attractive for a tester, is that they are the biggest online marketplace on the planet and that comes along with interesting testing challenges. Also, working with a distributed team – my team is located in Zurich, Berlin, Paris and London – makes the work interesting.

But most important: I have a degree of liberty to organize the testing of my team the way I find suitable and this level of trust into what I do is outstanding. Currently I could not imagine a better place to work at.

2) What is your testing background and have you ever been a testing zombie?

Well, I think my story is quite similar to the story of many in testing. I fell into it by coincidence. In my late twenties I decided to go back to the university and studied General Linguistics and Sociology. As a student I did not have major expenses but of course still needed to earn some money.

On the university job board, Phonak AG was looking for somebody to set up operating systems on PCs for three days. I thought: I can certainly do that. That was in 2004 and the three days grew to seven and a half years. The first 3 years I worked as a tester/test engineer and then in 2007 had the chance to become the line manager of 13 testers. In the same year I attended StarEast, where I had my first exposure to James Bach and his tutorial “Exploratory Testing Explained”.

At that time we were following a heavy, detailed test case writing process and the idea of approaching testing problems by the use of exploratory testing convinced me immediately.
However – and now comes the zombie part – I still pursued a program with my testers to have them all certified. I argued for it in a genuine zombie manner: “prove professionalism”, “a common language about testing”, “structured approach” and other horrible non-thinking utterances. Pure business gibberish-talk. 

The most radical change in my views on testing happened on the 4 October 2011 at half past seven in the evening. I attended the StarWest conference in Anaheim and since we wanted to have James Bach as a keynote speaker for the 2012 edition of Swiss Testing Day, I had dinner with him.
He did the Mysterious Spheres exercise with me. It was very tough and I was tremendously challenged by him. I almost fainted, but apparently I navigated through the exercise in a way that pleased James. Ever since we have been in close contact and James still is one of my most important inspirational people in testing.

3) Your recent blog post about Becoming A World Class Tester was great - do you consider yourself a World Class tester? What are your strongest - and weakest - skills?

Thanks, and I want to share the credit to the numerous reviewers of the article. Without the incredibly valuable input of the people in the community the message of the post would have been much weaker. 

The title of the post is /becoming/ a world-class tester, and that is certainly something I pursue. I know many people who are far better testers than I am. (Actually, when I am hiring, these are the people I want to hire) The cool thing about learning is, that you never reach an end. It is a constant journey and I am a happy traveller on that path.

I have been told several times that my strongest skill is the ability to inspire others to become better at what they do. Puzzle solving appears to be another area I am fairly good at.

Although I also studied Software Engineering for two and a half years, I consider myself quite weak at the more technical side of testing. I would not hire myself as an engineer for test automation.

4) You're very active in the online community, what do you get out of it ?

The community supports my thinking. I enjoy having discussions with people in the context-driven community because there is a high concentration of smart people. Smart people are challenging and this challenge helps me to keep up learning something new every day.

I think one should carefully select the people one spends time with. The people around you set the limits of what you may become.

5) What books are you reading at the moment and why ?

Let’s Test 2013 is coming soon and I am in preparation mode for my tutorial and my session about observation and description. I currently read “Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology” by Gary Hatfield. It is a thorough examination on how we perceive the world.

As I am a fond lover of comics, there are always some on my reading list, too. Right now I read “Market Day” by James Sturm. It is the story of a Jewish rug trader and his journey to the market, where he tries to sell his lovingly crafted rugs but is turned away by everybody.

Generally I read for two reasons. First, I enjoy it because reading is seeing somebody else thinking and second, there is a certain smell of new books that I find attractive. That is also the reason why I don’t own a kindle. It just does not smell nice.


srinivas kadiyala said...

Thanks for the Post.

Nice to read and Learn about Henrik.
Its like talking to him directly in an interview.

Anna Gallardo said...

I see myself is some of his observations and that feels good. Great interview, thanks!