Software Quality Insights

Mar 16 2011   5:06PM GMT

Michael Bolton at SQuAD: It’s about people who matter

Yvette Francino Yvette Francino Profile: Yvette Francino

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I’ve been writing about my experiences at last week’s SQuAD (Software Quality Association of Denver) Conference, but the presentation I enjoyed the most was not about tools, techniques or the technologies that we work with as QA professionals. It was about the people.

Michael Bolton introduces himself as “not the singer and not the guy from ‘Office Space.'” He’s Michael Bolton, the software tester, and quite the celebrity himself, in SQA circles. Bolton delivered the afternoon keynote at the March 10th SQuAD conference, emphasizing the diversity of backgrounds and unique aspects of personality which will ultimately help each tester grow in his or her career.

The keynote started with a faulty microphone and Bolton demonstrated his point early on by showing us that his background in theater would allow him to project his voice so he could be well-heard in the crowded auditorium.

He quoted Jerry Weinberg as saying, “Quality is not a thing. Quality is ‘value to some person(s)'” and then told us that he and James Bach add the two words: “who matter.” Quality depends on people. It is about adding value to the customer (or people ‘who matter’). You can have the most bug-free piece of code in the world, but it won’t be of any value if no one uses it or cares about it.

Bolton told us that decisions are not based on numbers or data. They are based on the way the decision-makers feel about the numbers. Again, Bolton is reminding us that we don’t operate like a robot, programmed with an algorithm to spit out right answers. We are people with feelings, emotions, backgrounds and experiences and we operate and make decisions using a mixture of data and gut instincts.

“Testing is an investigation of code, systems, people, and the relationships between them,” says Bolton.

Bolton’s message is similar to the message we heard from James Bach at last year’s Star East conference. Recognize your background, your unique experiences and talents. Realize how that uniqueness — that one-of-a-kind person that you are — adds strength and value to your work. A robot or computer can follow repeatable scripts. Demonstrate your skills beyond blindly following a set of steps in a test case. Use your mind, intuition and experience to add value and provide service to people ‘who matter.’

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