I kind of get confused when it comes to talking about Keith Klain. There isn't just one thing about him one could talk about. I get confused if I should talk about his passion and contribution towards software testing? Or about his great oratory skills? about his great leadership? Or should it be about his actions that inspire many testers world wide?
I got to know about Keith for the first time through his key note at STAREAST 2012 conference. And I became his fan. May be my stars were great those days and I got opportunity work for Keith that year. I consider myself privileged that I got to work closely with him and learn from his every act I could witness. Keith's passion towards development of state of s/w testing is infectious and inspiring. He is one of the rare senior leaders I have seen in some organisation who is ready to take challenges and actively supports the change for better future of testing.
Interviewing Keith for TTwT was great experience too. I was once asked by one curious reader about meaning of the painting I chose to design Keith's interview. And I am glad that I have now got this platform to share such stories :-).
The picture that you see beside Keith's is an artwork by Favianna Rodriguez. The first character in this painting is a 'community leader' who is driving the change and the deep river with big rocks in it represents challenges, obstacles in his way. His hand gesture represents his determination, conviction and confidence. The other character next to him represents his followers who have complete faith in him and in his leadership. I guess, I could not have found any better picture to describe Keith. For sure, a picture is worth a thousand words and with that, my dilemma of describing Keith seems to be solved forever.
I interviewed Keith back in 2012 but I am sure that this interview is going to remain relevant for years to come!
Over a Cup of Tea with Keith Klain
Before we start, we would like to know about your 'testing journey'.
I got my first real introduction to software testing as discipline working as a test analyst for a company based in Chicago called Spherion Technology. They were one of the few companies to have a Software Quality Management practice with a specific methodology and training centred on testing. Although I disagree with most of the methodology now, what it instilled in me was that you could have a career in software testing, and I basically worked my way up from test analyst, to automation engineer, to test manager to eventually running testing practices as a director for them in London and the US.
I’ve pretty much worked in financial services my entire career focused on software testing, so I don’t know a lot about other industries. I do believe that my focus on the people side of technology has allowed me to have success in management and change programmes where other people have failed. And as well, I am a veracious self educator, which I think is essential to continual learning and adapting to change. I’m less interested in accomplishments or the next milestone, and have never really focused on those aspects of my job, but I will say running the Global Test Centre (GTC) has been the greatest and most rewarding role of my career.
If we ask you to answer 'Software Testing for you is?” in one line, what would your answer be?
Software testing is the essence of risk management.
You are proven leader with both strategic and tactical abilities in Test Process Improvement, Quality Assurance and managing remote test teams. Please tell us more about your leadership stories, your success mantra.
My personal belief is that leadership has to be grounded by principals that people can identify with and then mirror in their own behaviour. To me, honesty, integrity and accountability are essential to building a team and as well, they are what I look for in people in leadership positions. You can manage people regardless of your principals, but if they don’t believe what you are saying – that you have honesty and integrity in how you deal with them, you won’t get the kind of performance and willingness to change that we are seeing in the GTC. Also, it’s not very inspiring to work for leaders who
What made you to bring a new model in GTC? It’s quite uncommon, we would rather say, first initiative of its own kind. Could you throw light on key changes that you brought in and how did those changes help?
When I joined Barclays in 2010, the GTC was part of a very structured “factory model” development centre based in Singapore. There were spreadsheets filled with metrics and KPI’s, and the organisation was striving for a manufacturing approach to software development. That model was pursued to such an extent that the business functions were just called “units” with no association to the business they supported!
Clearly we needed to fundamentally change the approach from not only an organisational perspective but operational as well, so the first thing we did was throw out all those useless and distracting metrics scorecards. The immediate effect that had was changing the focus of the test teams away from trying to measure every aspect of their jobs and improve numbers.
The second big change was to fully adopt and start implementing the Context Driven Testing (CDT) approach to testing through training and working with James Bach and his Rapid Software Testing methodology. This change is a bit longer in its implementation as it’s not just about training and implementation , but equally about a paradigm shift for the project teams (as well as the testers) as to the purpose and value of software testing.
Well, when one tries to bring change, a lot of things are required to be changed starting from the processes to be followed till career building roadmap. What is the mantra to do this from a mid-management and lower level?
I would sum up our change mantra as: “Manage Your Own Expectations”. I’m a big believer in personal empowerment for the “Mid-Management and lower level”, and don’t really feel there should be separation of responsibilities for change in any part of an organisation.
My view is that it is your own personal responsibility to realise the changes you want to see happen. Understand the value of the change and take ownership of getting things done and you’ll start to see positive improvements.
How should one manage the changes during transition periods to make sure that he/she doesn't change or remove something which is essential?
What I’ve found effective is to catalogue everything that a project or programme does, then identify what the project or programme “needs”, compare the two and then start asking why. The majority of times, people will have not put much thought into why they do things and as well, “group think” is a very powerful force in projects. From my perspective, if it’s not regulatory required or moving us towards achieving value for our clients, it can probably be chucked out and no one would miss it!
Coming back to software testing, we see that many testers are still confused about their role in software development. How can we make testers understand that, 'Responsibility lies with us'?
That’s partially because the software development industry can’t make up its mind about testing’s role!
It seems like every 5 years, the development or project management community comes up with some buzz word-laden variation of an iterative approach to delivery that diminishes, changes, or supposedly makes obsolete the role of software testing. Whether it be a more technically demanding testing role or a functional subject matter expert in a business process, having a holistic, value based approach to software testing that relies heavily on system thinking will always have a role in a project – and I think be essential to its success.
Most of the times testers are underrated by organisations and thus they lose confidence. How to increase their visibility and make them confident? What steps should leadership take to motivate testers?
There was a recent article in Forbes magazine about why top talent leave organisations, and they boiled it down to one reason: “Top talent leave an organization when they’re badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.” In addition to dealing with those generic problems, software testers typically have double the impact here, because as a community, we are particularly bad at articulating our value. As well, in my view the software testing industry (vendors, tools, associations, etc.) has had a large part in undermining our own credibility with our clients.
To overcome these obstacles, I would offer the following advice:
1) Know who your clients are and what they value
2) Align yourself and your test approach to protecting that value
3) Know your organisation and their strategic objectives
4) Align yourself and your test approach to helping your organisation achieve its objectives.
And lastly, be able to clearly articulate each of those and how to identify them in your work.
It sounds simple, but I am consistently amazed at how few testers can do those basic things and don’t let them permeate their approach to their job.
How do you compare maturity of Software testing compared to the quality processes in other industries in view of exponential growth of software industry?
I’m not a big fan of maturity measurement, and I definitely think you should try as best to compare apples to apples when drawing correlations between things.
What I would note, is that different industries have different risk profiles and therefore require different test approaches and techniques. Even within the financial services industry, we alter our approach by asset class or system as risk profiles are different from risk engines, to order management systems, to high frequency trading applications.
That’s what I like about Context Driven Testing as it allows our testers to use their brains when choosing the test approach instead of mindless going about their jobs.
You have seen software testing since long, its situation in past and its state at present. Do you think that the exponential growth of software industry has lead to compromising on the quality processes?
Good grief, the last thing the software industry is lacking is processes!
I think we’ve seen an explosion in technology application and rates of adoption in the last 10 years and it’s only going to get larger in scale and pace. What I think we’ll see is a more practical application of some of the existing processes and a realisation that software development is NOT analogous to manufacturing.
A recalibration of client expectations and how we as a community relate to and articulate the risks and difficulties of delivering is probably what’s needed more than new or better processes. Jerry Weinberg has written loads of great stuff about this and I would recommend either “Quality Software Management – Volume 2 First Order Measurement” or “The Psychology of Computer Programming”. Jerry will forget more than I’ll ever know about the subject!
AST (Association for Software Testing) is known for its efforts towards improving state of software testing. Being at the Board of Directors of such esteemed association, how do you see the state of software testing in next 5 years?
Well, I am not even seated onto the AST board yet, but was very flattered to be nominated and extremely honored to have been elected. I am looking forward to getting to know the other members of the board, and have already had some great exchanges with them on the working groups and objectives for the AST. I am a big advocate of software testers, and believe a vibrant community like our industry should be supported by networks for collaboration and idea exchanges. I believe the AST is the best positioned in the world to deliver just that, and I am excited to start working with them.
As for the future of testing over the next five years, I believe we’ll continue to see a drive towards more agile process and team structures. The rate and magnitude of technology change will force organisations to adapt quickly whether it is to new regulations, market fluctuations or the ease at which customers can swap providers and services. I also believe there will be a big shake up in the test tool market as the older entrenched tools get replaced by lighter, more adaptable tools sets.
What is your opinion about ‘Rapid Software Testing’? What made you to go for implementing RST across the GTC? Would you recommend it to leaders in other organisations?
I think my continual support and programme of work adopting the core principals are as good an endorsement as I can give of RST.
James Bach and the RST courses are analogous to what I call “an adenine shot to a tester’s heart.” Whether you are an experienced tester or someone new to the field, RST has something in there for you, and I have seen more “aha” moments within the GTC since we started doing the training. I would, and often do recommend RST to leaders in other organisations and have had many discussions with them about how to manage the implementation.
As well, “Lessons Learned in Software Testing” is on our mandatory reading list for everyone in the GTC, and in fact we had 200+ copies sent to our team in India so everyone could have a copy on their desk! Ultimately, I believe RST and the CDT school of testing most accurately model how the testing process actually works and embodies the approach and mindset of someone pursuing software testing as a profession.
Treating our industry as a craft is something we take very seriously in the GTC and RST fits into that approach nicely.
What message would you like to give our readers?
Don’t be afraid to try new things as you will learn more from your failures than your successes.
One of my favourite quotes from Herman Melville sums it up pretty good: “Failure is the true test of greatness. And if it be said, that continual success is a proof that a man wisely knows his powers, — it is only to be added, that, in that case, he knows them to be small.”
Do you read ‘Tea-time with Testers’? What is your opinion about us? Would you like to recommend it to your colleagues?
I do read ‘Tea-time with Testers’, albeit I am a recent arrival on the site. I am an avid Jerry Weinberg devotee, so it was fantastic to see him so involved in the content there.
I have already recommended it to my friends and contacts. Keep up the great work!
Note: This interview was first published in October 2012 issue of Tea-time with Testers.
“Your ideal form of influence is first to help people see their world more clearly, and then to let them decide what to do next”, is what I have learned from him and that’s how he has been helping many others like myself.
“I don’t think he really needs to be introduced but just in case you have been living in a cave and have never heard of him, I think that the best way to start his introduction is to say that he is a special kind of person, a “people changing person”. He has the incredible gift of, in his own words, “making you aware of the things you were not aware of” and thus changing the way you look at things and the way you approach tasks”. That’s how Joel Montvelisky describes him.
I firmly believe that books, blogs and articles he has written are invaluable assets for our industry and they are going to guide us for many years to come.
He has been guiding us right from our early days and we feel humbled for having him as part of our family. Interviewing him was my dream and I am glad that it has finally come true.
Yes, you guessed it right. Interviewing Jerry Weinberg has been a great experience and I am sure, you too will enjoy it.
OVER A CUP OF TEA WITH JERRY WEINBERG
Does Jerry Weinberg need any new introduction? We all have known him for years in various roles like a prolific writer, author of over 80 books, consultant, coach, mentor, philosopher, computer scientist, novelist…and the list continues. If we are allowed to ask, how would you like to introduce yourself? We are eager to know about Jerry Weinberg from Jerry Weinberg himself.
I've always been interested in helping smart people be happy and productive. To that end, I've published books on human behavior, on leadership, and stories about smart people—how they produce quality work and learn to be happy. My books may be found linked from my website: geraldmweinberg.com. I’ve won many awards for my writing but the "award" I'm most proud of is the book, The Gift of Time (Fiona Charles, ed.) written by my student and readers for my 75th birthday. Their stories make me feel that I've been at least partially successful at helping smart people be happy.
Are there any special memories from your childhood that you’d like to share especially some moments that made you fall in love with field of computers?
At age 11, in 1944, I read a store in Time magazine about “giant brains,” as computers were sometimes called back then. I fell in love with the idea that these “brains” would help me understand my own brain, which was the source of great happiness for me at the same time it was the source of much mean criticism and punishment. I knew then that I would spend my life with computers. I was right, at least for the next 70 years so far.
And how did Gerald become Jerry?
I always wondered about that, myself. I was never called “Gerald” in my entire life, so at age 50, I gathered enough nerve to ask my parents: “If you were going to call me Jerry, why did you name me Gerald?” Their answer, from each of them independently: “I don’t know.”
You have written hundreds of articles and over 80 books. We are curious to know about your love for writing. What was the start point and what was your inspiration?
I cannot remember any time I didn’t write, or love writing. I used to write little stories for my father before I was old enough for school. This is like asking, “When did you start breathing, and what was your inspiration for wanting air?”
How do you find such ideation, inspiration and energy to bring in more and more for your ever thirsty readers?
As I live in this world and look about me, I see unhappy people everywhere, and I think, “It doesn’t have to be this way.” I perceive that much of this unhappiness arises from ignorance, so when I think I can clear up some of this ignorance, I write.
In one of your earlier interview, you said, “Testing has barely been born yet. As IT matures, so will testing. Without testing, IT will never mature.” According to you, what are the characteristics of mature testing and how do we benchmark it?
When testing is finally mature, many of today’s common questions will disappear. For instance, “When do you start testing?” That will no longer be a question because professional developers will understand that testing does start the instant you first think it might be possible to build something. Testing will not be something stuck on at the end of a development project, and professional testers will be part of the development team the entire way, from that first thought to the ultimate retirement of the product. My book, *Perfect Software and other Illusions about Testing*, details many of these questions that will no longer be asked.
You have been involved with the field of computers for over 50 years. As compared to its state in past, how much do you think has software testing evolved? Do you suppose that we are headed in right direction and have reached any significant point that you thought should have been achieved by now?
In many ways, testing has moved backwards in 50+ years. We have better tools now, but they are not used by the majority of projects, so what good are better tools? In general, the standards for quality have deteriorated. For instance, in the past year, I have tried perhaps 50 different apps, and every single one of them has displayed serious and obvious bugs that would never have survived even minimal testing. That said, there are some exemplary testing organizations, but they form a small percentage of all the people who claim to be software builders.
What do you think and believe is still left to discover / unearth in field of testing?
Discovering new things about testing is the wrong goal. Right now, we know enough things, but we don’t use them widely enough. If we want to improve, we should be concentrating on actually doing those things we know are good testing practices. I believe Tea-time with Testers is one organization that’s trying to encourage this.
You have co-founded and hosted AYE (Amplify Your Effectiveness) conference. What differentiates AYE from other conferences?
All our conferences and workshops are based on experiential learning rather than lecturing. To understand this approach, I recommend my *Experiential Learning* sequence of three books.
Would you like to share some memories from past AYE conferences?
No, that would be lecturing/listening rather than experiencing. You’ll have to experience one of our offerings to understand the difference, and the experience is different for each participant. Perhaps you would get some understanding by asking your readers what memories they have from AYE or Problem Solving Leadership (PSL) or some other experience with us.
What is your opinion about standardization of processes and practices, considering it for software testing field in particular?
My greatest problem with standardization in general is that those who set standards do not start and end with the question, “What will this standard do for us?” Without answering that question, we wind up with standards that are not tested–and even worse, are not testable. That’s hardly what we want in our testing standards. Fortunately, most “standards” for software processes are not followed, so they don’t do as much harm as they could. Perhaps we should be working on guidelines, rather than standards that someone hopes will enable us to test without using our brains.
According to you, how important is domain knowledge for a tester to become an expert tester?
What a tester needs is not domain knowledge, but the ability to pick up meaningful domain knowledge quickly and correctly.
You have also been a consultant in your career, what according to you is the top secret of consulting?
That there is no such thing as a “top” secret in consulting. Good consulting is so complex, so nuanced, that there is no one “top” secret that applies everywhere. (I guess this is a meta-secret–a secret about secrets–but I don’t think there’s a “top” meta-secret, either. Perhaps that’s the top meta-meta-secret, or else it’s meta-secrets all the way down.)
What are those non-computer related skills that helped you become a successful consultant?
It wasn’t so much skills, but my intense drive to learn anything that might help me become better at helping others. I’m not an especially skilled learner, but that has helped me because I tend to understand why people have trouble learning something. I can then use that understanding to help them learn. Some consultants are just too smart to be good at helping others, because they, themselves, never had difficulty learning something, so they are impatient with slow learners. Being a slow learner myself, I don’t have that problem. Perhaps one of my best skills is knowing how to be patient–something I was slow to learn.
Humans created computers and programmed them. Is there anything that human should learn from computers? (or something that you learned?)
Just to pick one thing, I’d say that the most important thing I learned from computers was that I wasn’t nearly as smart or perfect as I used to think. When I program a computer, it does exactly what I said to do—and that shows me how dumb and imperfect I am.
What are the key ingredients to make one a successful test manager?
Oh, my, that’s a whole book. Or two. I’m working on that now, but I have no idea when I’ll be ready to publish. For the moment, the first thing that comes to mind is “humility.” After that, I guess the manager must take on the role for the right reasons—or at least not for the wrong reasons such as money, power, or status.
According to you, how important are test metrics in project release management?
In actual practice, not every important. But if you wish to do release management well, the right test metrics are supremely important. What else should be more important for deciding when and how to release a product? Schedule? Promotion for the test manager? I don’t think so.
Do you think testing can be measured in meaningful way with standard metrics that are being followed in industry today?
NO. First of all, there are no “standard metrics” in the industry today, though there are lots of metrics that their vendors would like you to believe are meaningful and should be standard.
When not reading and writing, what can Jerry Weinberg be found doing?
Sleeping. Spending quality time with my wife and my children and my grandchildren and my dogs. Hiking. Helping smart people be happy and productive.
Your message to the testing community would be…
When you’re finished learning, you’re finished as a tester.
Last question, you have given invaluable contribution to development of Tea-time with Testers magazine and have been deeply involved in its content. Team TTwT is ever grateful to you for that. What made you join this family and how do you feel being part of it?
I feel proud to have some small part in what you’re attempting to do. I joined the family because I thought you were doing the right things, which is a very rare but essential part of building the testing profession.
Note: This interview was first published in February 2014 issue of Tea-time with Testers
Some articles published in Tea-time with Testers, all interviews and stories, some thoughts behind them. These are not often talked about in the editorials otherwise.