Thursday, 28 March 2013

5 Questions With Rob Lambert

When I was working out who to ask, one person had to be Rob Lambert. I've known him online for a while, first through his Testing Revolution and then his Social Tester site and also with his work on the Software Testing Club before finally getting to meet him at Tester Gatherings.

( He's recruiting - when I was looking for a job I was very tempted but could not turn down Atomic Object and a move to Michigan. If you're reading this and looking for a move - check out his posting )

1) What happened to "The Testing Revolution" ? Was anyone sent to the guillotine or did you decide that being social was nicer than being revolutionary ?

The Testing Revolution was quietly squashed when I became more involved in the day to day running and creating of content at the Software Testing Club. I think with the Testing Club involvement I found what I had been searching for; a group of people doing something differently and challenging the norms. 

Since I've not been involved behind the scenes with the Software Testing Club I've been starting to get all revolutionary again. Watch this space.

Being social and sociable does seem to lead to interesting outcomes, cool projects and connections with interesting people so I'll stay on this route rather than declaring outright revolution. The Testing Revolution was a great name though!

2) Finding great testers to join you seems to be hard. Are you just really picky or is there a lack of talent out there ? Why do you think this is ?

Great question. It's no secret that we are finding it hard to find outstanding talent and I think there are a number of factors at play.

Firstly, we have the bar set very high. Our recruitment and interview process is pretty tough as we're looking for the best people to join us to support our growth and deliver amazing products. The application process itself puts the emphasis on filtering out those who just want a job from those who want a career and of course, want to work at NewVoiceMedia. 

Secondly, we operate in a way that means the testing we do is mostly exploratory and there really aren't that many testers available who know much about exploratory testing, why it can be very powerful and how to improve their own practice of it. I suspect there are a great many testers who are excellent exploratory testers, they maybe just don't label it, notice it or acknowledge it as a skill.

Thirdly, we are in an area of the United Kingdom where there are five major cities with hundreds of companies all competing for a dwindling number of appropriate candidates. At a recent recruitment fair I got to meet several of these companies and they too are struggling to find candidates.

Fourthly, there appears to be very few testers coming through to the job market who have a well rounded set of skills above and beyond testing (i.e. communication skills, intuition, commercial awareness etc). There are no schools, colleges or universities in the UK that teach testing as a career option. There are very few businesses and companies that promote testing as a career to be rivalled with development; hence testing appears to be treated with less respect often leaving testers in these companies feeling undervalued and disheartened and unwilling to improve their skills and prospects. This has an impact on the industry at a national level; there simply aren't that many people improving their skills.

As such there seems to be fewer people coming in to testing. There are also fewer companies and people creating hotspots of amazing talent that then disperse within the community to further spread the skills and interest in testing to other companies (and hence people).

I don't appear to be alone in my struggle to recruit testers; many people I know in the community are looking for testers but cannot find them. 

However, it's easy for me to sit here typing away about the problems but what this community really needs is a solution to this. That's much harder to find although there are pockets of training, mentoring and career building going on. The challenge is growing this training and mentoring to a larger scale and with more momentum without falling in to the trap of standardisation and certification.

I'm working hard in my spare time on this problem and will hopefully have some ideas to bring to the community in the next few months.

3) Do you do any hands-on testing yourself ? If not, do you miss it and what is your time spent doing ?

I don't do a great deal of hands on testing at work anymore. I do indeed miss it and I do occasionally start an exploratory session and get cracking. 

My time at work is mostly spent doing test strategy, product documentation, line management (of testers, developers and scrum masters), agile coaching, research in to testing techniques/approaches and team planning (budgets, recruitment etc)

Saying that, in my spare time outside of work I do voluntary exploratory testing for ICT4D (information and communication technologies for development) organizations who often lack the budget for testing, yet are building life changing (and in some cases - life saving) products. This helps to keep my skills sharp and I'm doing some good for the ICT4D community.

{Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) refers to the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the fields of socioeconomic development, international development and human rights.} - Wikipedia (

4) Your company moved from 8 month releases to weekly ( congrats ! )  - what's the next challenge for you ?

The next challenge for us is to grow the development team whilst maintaining the agility, frequent releases and continued focus on delivering great products to our customers. The company is growing quickly and with that growth will come some challenges around deployment, communication and process. 

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

I'm a prolific reader of books and typically get through a couple of books a week; sometimes more if I'm researching for a book or article. I also tend to have a number of books on the go at once.

At the moment I'm reading:

The Power of Small - It's a great book about focussing on the small things in life like truly listening to your co-workers, paying attention to small problems and being present in your day to day life. 

An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington - The TV series was hilarious and so is the book. This is my light hearted reading to stop my head exploding.

How to Get A Grip by Matthew Kimberley- This is a hilarious book; it's basically a no holds bar self-help book. Genius. 

Man Watching by Desmond Morris - This is a classic book on human behavior which I originally studied at University. I'm re-reading it again for an upcoming book I'm writing. Lots of good insights in to how people communicate verbally and non-verbally.

Team Geek by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman - Really good book on being a geek and having to work with other people. I've learned so much from this book so far in terms of both my own behavior and that of others in the team.

Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson- This may sound like a mamby pamby self help book but I observed a few years back that I'd become negative about a lot of things; it's a trait I often see with testers. I think we can still be skeptical and critical whilst still being positive - hence I'm reading around the subject.

Confidence Plan by Sarah Litvinoff - A great book for those who want to boost their confidence in a number of areas. One of the areas I could do with a confidence boost is in my presentation skills. This book is good at putting a lot of the daily challenges and the big things (like presentations) in to perspective. 

Scaling Lean and Agile Development by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde  - Just started reading this. This book ties in with what I believe our challenges will be moving forward; scaling a lean development team.

For those that have a keen interest I'm adding a lot of what I'm reading to my Shelfari Bookshelf

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