Today's Big Picture


September 23, 2011  7:49 AM

The IT Files – Bernice Niel Ruhland – Part 1



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
software development, Software Testers, The IT Files

­Bernice Niel Ruhland lives in Buffalo, New York. Currently, she is a Software Testing Manager leading a testing team for a privately-owned software development company supporting the pharmaceutical industry with a web-based application and custom software development. Her passion is being part of a team where business analysts, testers, and developers work together to deliver quality software.
She has more than 20-years experience in testing strategies and execution, developing testing frameworks, data validation, and programming. She has spent most of her career ensuring the accuracy of data in both software applications and in financial reporting systems. She has experience as a project manager for IT projects while managing project planners and has implemented company-wide solutions for career development. She has been a manager for more than 12-years and has experience in starting new departments (Software Development and Software Testing) and evolving existing departments.
Bernice’s particular interest is learning about testing in a rapidly changing environment where requirements change frequently and testing timelines are short. She devotes many hours on twitter to learn from other testers and reading testing approaches to determine how to bring them to her team. She has her Masters in Strategic Leadership and conducted her research on employee orientation and career development approaches. She enjoys working with her testing team to help them develop their careers and challenge their testing skills.

To know more about her read on.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?

I am a hands-on Software Testing Manager for a privately-owned software development company. We have a web-based business intelligence tool that provides on-demand data management and performance analytics to the pharmaceutical industry. We also provide custom software development services. I manage product and technical software testers and I oversee testing cycles in terms of timelines and risk. I am hands-on in that I perform testing, write testing strategies, and testing outlines. I look for ways to improve testing in a fast-paced environment to identify risks earlier to better target testing based upon our customers’ needs.

 

What is your typical day at work like?

My days are extremely busy and go by quickly. We need to support our client needs in terms of new development for our main product and custom development while meeting their shorter term needs. This can require me to address multiple areas in a given day while working with testers and developers on reproducing problems to understand them better and determine the best testing approach. Throughout the day, I interact with the Product Manager on where we are at with testing, any problems we encountered, and when we may be ready to move to production. I do not make the decision on moving to production; but I do provide testing progress and potential risks.  I start work around 8ish; around noon I take an hour lunch which is usually a working lunch or I am on twitter. I leave around 5 to 6 pm depending upon where we are at with a deliverable.

September 16, 2011  7:54 AM

The IT Files – Alan Page – Part 3



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Software Testers, The IT Files

Who is your hero?

Richard Feynman. If you’re a tester, I can’t recommend his writings enough. Although he was a physicist, I think he embodies the aspects of great testing. He was constantly learning, questioning, and experimenting. The man learned how to crack safes in his spare time. As a tester, how can you not love a person like that?

What do you do when you are not working?

My work live and personal life blur so much sometimes that it’s hard to tell one from the other. Blogging, writing, and social media take up a reasonable chunk of my non-work time, but I do have some favorite non-work activities. I’ve played soccer my entire life (and remarkably, I think my skill level is decreasing). I’ve played on the same team for the last ten years or so, and we play about 40 matches a year (of which I make it to 25 or so). Once upon a time, I was a musician – I still play once in a while, but rarely outside of my house these days. For me, playing music is a good way to disconnect from the real world and relax. I also have a family who I like to hang out with. We took a few camping trips this summer and spent quite a few afternoons swimming at the local pool.

What is a skill or strength that sets you apart from others?

Learning new concepts quickly is my strength. I’ve always been the one to take on projects that didn’t seem solvable, or to agree to deadlines that didn’t seem possible given my experience. I’m either stupid or lucky (or both) to take on projects like these, but somehow I (almost) always manage to figure things out. If I ever figure out how I figure stuff out, I’ll write a book about it.

What (or who) inspires you?

These days, I think as much about leading great teams as I do about testing. Being able to innovate and lead change are big parts of my role (and, IMO, the future of testing), so I’m inspired by people who have great things to say in those areas. People like Gary Hamel, Dan Pink, Chip & Dan Heath, and Steven Denning have a big influence on how I approach testing and test leadership.

How has social media changed your life?

I think changing my life is a bit extreme, but it’s definitely part of my life. I don’t really use facebook or any other personal social media, but I started blogging about six years ago, and joined twitter in 2009. Twitter is great for interacting with testers around the world, and I really enjoy meeting people at conferences who I’ve only “met” on twitter before. I guess you could say that blogging changed my life – or at least had an impact. I began to blog in order to become a better writer. Eventually, I ended up writing a book, so there’s probably some correlation there.

Do you blog? Your blog and twitter link if you would like to share with the readers?

My blog is at http://angryweasel.com/blog, and you can follow me on twitter at @alanpage.


September 16, 2011  7:53 AM

The IT Files – Alan Page – Part 2



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Software Testers, The IT Files

How has writing books, articles, doing presentations and participating in conferences helped you? What motivates you to share your lessons learned with others?

I like talking with testers – there’s something to learn from just about everyone, so the biggest benefit I get from presentations and conferences is the learning experience. When I first began to really study testing (5+ years after I began testing), I realized that testing was one of those fields where the more that you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to know – so discovering new ideas and learning has been hugely important to me ever since. Along the same lines, there are a lot of other testers out there who may not know how much they don’t know – the books I’ve contributed to and the articles I’ve written are driven by an interest in sharing my own experiences in the hope that others can learn from them and be encouraged to expand their testing knowledge.

Personal growth and continuous learning – how important is this in our times?

I think you got a large part of my opinion on the importance of learning to me in my last answer. I’ve had a fairly successful career in testing, and I give 90% of the credit for that success to my ability (or luck) in being able to learn new ideas, tools, concepts, and technologies quickly. I think the ability to learn quickly comes from having an open mind and a (pardon the cliché) a thirst for knowledge. I think it’s critical for any professional tester to have a constant desire to learn.

Quality – what is your definition or understanding?

If you were to ask ten people this question, you’d probably get eleven answers. The Weinberg definition (quality is value to some person) is both accurate and vague – which is maybe what you need in a quality definition. I’m a big fan of Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), and prefer to view quality as something that is undefinable and that quality comes from caring.

Name your favorite work related book?

It’s probably Code Complete by Steve McConnell. I read the first edition at least half a dozen times and the second edition a few more. I learn something new every time I read it, and it consistently reminds me how quality (and care) is necessary at every stage of software development.


September 16, 2011  7:52 AM

The IT Files – Alan Page – Part 1



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Software Testers, The IT Files

Alan Page began his career as a tester in 1993. He joined Microsoft in 1995, and currently works on the Office Lync team. In his career at Microsoft, Alan has worked on various versions of Windows, Internet Explorer, Windows CE, and has functioned as Microsoft’s Director of Test Excellence. Alan is a frequent speaker at industry testing and software engineering conferences, a board member of the Seattle Area Software Quality Assurance Group (SASQAG), and occasionally publishes articles on testing and quality in testing and software engineering web sites and magazines. Alan writes about testing on his blog (http://angryweasel.com/blog), was the lead author on How We Test Software at Microsoft (Microsoft Press, 2008), and contributed a chapter on large-scale test automation to Beautiful Testing (O’Reilly Press, 2009).

To know him more read on.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role at Microsoft? What do you do at MS?

I’m a tester on the Lync team, and spend the bulk of my time working with the testers on the team to improve our testing efforts. This includes coaching and mentoring with team members, developing our testing strategy, and identifying areas for improvement and implementing solutions as appropriate. I also chair a few internal test communities for senior testers – I think there’s value both in showing a strong internal career path for testers, and in finding ways for experienced testers to connect and share their challenges (and solutions) with each other. I think testing at Microsoft can be improved through increased collaboration, so I try to enable collaboration and connections as much as I have time for. I wrote a blog post about what I do a few months ago if you’d like a longer answer.

What is your typical day at work like?

One thing I love about my job is that there isn’t a typical day – but I’ll see if I can share a reasonably typical day. I usually take a few minutes at the beginning of the day to catch up on email and rss feeds. I like to take a look at those things early just in case I get busy and don’t bother to look at them later. Next, I take a minute or two to figure out what my day looks like and what I’ll be doing. Over the last several years, I’ve developed a sort of personal time management system which is sort of a hybrid of a to-do list and personal kan-ban. For brevity, let’s just say that I have a long list of things I need to do (my personal backlog), and that I take a few minutes every morning to prioritize the list and ensure that I work on the right items in the right order. I attend a few meetings daily, but I try to be efficient on how I spend my time and keep my meeting load to the bare essentials. In the evening, I may do some more work, write blog posts, or share a bit on twitter.


September 8, 2011  9:15 AM

The IT Files – Arunkumar Khannur – Part 3



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Software Testers, The IT Files

Quality – what is your definition or understanding?

There is no standard definition of quality. Quality is always relative, context and situation sensitive. However as days are passing by it is moving from product centric to user centric. So, meaning and requirements of quality shall be defined at the beginning of a specific project. This shall be done by studying requirements and by involving and brainstorming with all relevant stake holders.  However, many times stake holders are having conflicting meaning of quality in a project under consideration. At that time delivering quality becomes more a balancing act rather an act of achieving perfection.

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Name your favorite work related book?

I have not found any complete book on software testing. I liked the book “The Design of Business- Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage” authored by Roger Martin.

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Who is your hero?

I always considered Mahatma Gandhi as my hero because he dedicated his entire life for ‘non-violence and truth’. In fact, he proved to the world that non-violence is the greatest weapon!

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What do you do when you are not working?

I am a habituated reader. I spend my time with family. I deliver talks for students.  I enjoy cooking. Also, I do meditation.

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What is a skill or strength that sets you apart from others?

Thinking big, taking challenges, focus, passion, spirituality, experimentation, and continuous learning are my strengths.

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What (or who) inspires you?

Nature which works with efficiency and effectiveness with zero waste generation always is an inspiration for me.

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How has social media changed your life?

It helped to share what I have; learn from others; reach more number of people; and also, I could connect  back with my friends with whom I almost lost touch. All these have changed me a lot. Thye are helping me to grow in a quickest possible way by bringing required knowledge and connections.

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Do you blog? Your blog and twitter link if you would like to share with the readers?

Yes. I started quire recently.

My Twitter link is http://twitter.com/arun_khannur

My LinkedIn: http://in.linkedin.com/in/khannur

My Blog: http://testexclusive.blogspot.com


September 8, 2011  9:15 AM

The IT Files – Arunkumar Khannur – Part 2



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Software Testers, The IT Files

You have been in this industry for over two decades. What are some major changes in testing that you have noticed.

I can see growing acceptance of software testing as a creative and lucrative career.

Software testing was earlier focusing on functionality and as days are passing by we are seeing increasing focus on non-functional testing. Performance, security, interoperability, internationalisation, localisation, usability, compliance related testing are getting prominence.

Various testing approaches have evolved that include requirement based testing, risk based testing, exploratory testing, agile testing, model based testing, buddy testing etc

From business perspective, independent software testing and third party testing are now quite common which were not in place earlier. Software testing has evolved as a service. These software testing services are carried out in various ways, namely, virtual testing, near shore testing, outcome based testing, third party independent testing and so on.

 Software test automation is quite common. Various tools are available in the market which would help to carry our testing on code, functionality, performance, security , and so on.

Professional certifications for software testers, software test managers, automation and so on are available in the market which was not the case few years back.

However, software testing is yet to receive more attention. Test process improvement (TPI) and test maturity models are yet to catch up. Academia has not yet considered software testing as a subject of value. Software test related standards are still at a very primitive stage. Software test competence is a major area of concern. All these challenges are looking for solutions.

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Personal growth and continuous learning – how important is this in our times?

In knowledge era, knowledge is power. Have and have not is decided by who is having knowledge and who is not having knowledge.  Hence continuous learning and personal growth is essential for our existence and identity.

Personal growth and continuous learning is important to get wisdom in our areas of interest. Reading, sharing, experimentation always make us to learn something new. If we want to move up in career, we have to move from practitioner to professional to domain expert to consultant. All this requires interest and aspiration to learn and grow. We have to choose an area, focus on it, be after it passionately, and grow rich in practice and experience. Authenticity comes with learning and experience.

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September 8, 2011  9:13 AM

The IT Files – Arunkumar Khannur – Part 1



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Software Testers, The IT Files

Arunkumar Khannur is an Internationally reputed Software Testing Guru, India’s Noted Software Testing Authority, and Author of best-selling book “Software Testing-Techniques and Applications”. He is regarded as one of the industry’s foremost authorities on Software Testing. He contributes as an Advisor, Author, Speaker and Senior Faculty. Mr. Khannur’s IT career spans 23+ years during which he held various IT roles in Wipro, Logica, Planetasia, and QAI. He has M.Sc in Physics & M.Tech in Computer Science to his credit.

To know more about him read on.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?

I am leading ISQT Process and Consulting Services Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, India (www.isqtinternational.com) as Chairman and CEO. As a company, we are focused on Software Testing related Training and Advisory Services. At personal capacity, I enjoy providing advisory services and conducting training. 

I am the founder of STEP-AUTO Software Testing related events (www.stepauto.com).

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How has writing books, articles, doing presentations and participating in conferences helped you? What motivates you to share your lessons learned with others?

Writing books and articles are my sincere effort to put on record all my ideas, experiences, and  learnings in an organized way so that others can  use and build upon. While doing so personally I become more perfect and also, authentic.   

I authored “Software Testing- Techniques and Applications” book to explain testing techniques and their applications in a systematic way with the help of relevant examples and illustrations.

Participating and organizing conferences helps me in sharing knowledge and building networks. It also allows me to understand current trends and possible futuristic evolution of the subject and market.

Sharing lessons I learnt is always an exciting experience since I get contentment of contributing my share in the growth of software testing as a field and also, in the growth of individuals.

 

 


August 26, 2011  9:35 AM

The IT Files – Mark Graban – Part 3



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Continous Improvement, lean, The IT Files

Who is your hero?

I admire, generally, leaders and change agents were able to go against the accepted grain in their industry, leading to dramatic improvements in results. Some of these people would include Dr. Richard Shannon, who is now at the University of Pennsylvania, who was an early innovator in using lean and Toyota methods to dramatically reduce hospital acquired infections. Another hero is somebody who talked Dr. Shannon, Paul O’Neill, the former CEO of the company Alcoa, who applied similar thinking to the dramatic improvement of employee safety. Another hero would be Dr. John to sign the former CEO of the health system ThedaCare. John is one of many healthcare CEOs I admire for their willingness to look in the mirror and change their approach to management and leadership as well as leading their hospitals to providing better patient care.

What do you do when you are not working?

It seems like I’m always working these days, with the multiple projects and things I’m involved in. I’m lucky to say the cliché about it not feeling like work applies to me, as I really enjoy everything that I’m working on. but when not working, I enjoy cooking (and eating!), drinking wine, watching comedies on TV, and traveling.

What is a skill or strength that sets you apart from others?

I’ve been told that one strength I have is the ability to synthesize ideas from different sources, industries, and methodologies and to explain those in a way that is consistent and understandable to others. My own understanding of lean principles has greatly benefited from working in different industries, including different types of manufacturing, healthcare, and at this point to different software companies.

What (or who) inspires you?

Well, again, people who are able to drive change and do great things particularly in healthcare. This includes not just CEOs, but especially front-line staff in hospitals, including nurses, who are so dedicated to their patients in their profession. Even when they work in physical layouts and with processes that do not support fully what they need to provide the best patient care, these everyday heroes go above and beyond to make sure their patients are safe and looked after. So what we need to do is an industry, is to make sure we provide better systems and support structures, so that they don’t have to be constantly going above and beyond and fighting through bad systems.

How has social media changed your life?

In the 3 1/2 years that I’ve been on twitter, I found that it’s actually a great way of networking and meeting new people, which might be surprising to some. I can’t say that it’s changed my life, but it’s generally enhance my life, through new instructions and being exposed to new articles, books and videos that people share via social media.

Do you blog? Your blog and twitter link if you would like to share with the readers?

Yes I have blogged since early 2005 at www.leanblog.org. My twitter handle is @leanblog.


August 26, 2011  9:34 AM

The IT Files – Mark Graban – Part 2



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Continous Improvement, lean, The IT Files

You have written one book and are now working on a second one. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

The first book, “Lean Hospitals” is an overview and introduction to lean concepts and methods for healthcare.It was released in late 2008 and was the recipient of a Shingo award in 2009. A revised 2nd edition will be available later in 2011. The reception for this book has been very gratifying, as it is being translated currently into 7 different languages. My new book is titled “Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements.” It should be available in spring 2012 and provides a deeper dive into specific methods for encouraging and managing small continuous improvement activities. The word kaizen, of course, it is a Japanese word that can be translated to mean “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.”

Personal growth and continuous learning – how important is this in our times?

This is incredibly important, especially in times where the pace of change is increasingly fast and there is an ever-increasing amount of ambiguity and uncertainty in our careers, our workplaces, and the world around us. Having a degree or certification or in “black belt” is no more than the ticket to entry to any sort of improvement activity. It should be a starting point for a lifelong of continuous learning through formal education and practical practice. For example, I’ve been practicing lean professionally for 16 years and I continuously read both new books that are published in this field, as well as going back to read some of the original books from 20 or 25 years ago.

 

Quality – what is your definition or understanding?

I think there are multiple definitions of the word quality. We can define quality is doing the right thing for the customer (meaning the patient and healthcare) and we can also define quality as doing those things correctly. In healthcare, we cannot gauge quality merely by doing things in an error-free way. The healthcare profession and industry needs to challenge itself.  An example will be to keep people healthy as opposed to just providing error-free sickness care. So from a personal example, the physician needs to determine what surgical procedure, if any, is appropriate for my condition. And when they perform that surgery, they need to do so in a way that does not create any harm to the patient.

Name your favorite work related book?

I think I have to favorite books. One is the classic “Out of the Crisis” by the late Dr. W Edwards Deming. This book should be required reading for anybody who is doing work with lean methodologies, as the managerial teachings of Dr. Deming are so deeply embedded in the Toyota Production System. Another book I really recommend is called “Understanding Variation” by Dr. Donald Wheeler. This is a short little book that gives such insights on using statistics to manage in an effective, fact-based way. Incredibly influential in my work.


August 26, 2011  9:31 AM

The IT Files – Mark Graban – Part 1



Posted by: Shilpa Venkateshwaran
Continous Improvement, lean, The IT Files

Mark Graban is a consultant, author, keynote speaker, and blogger in the world of “Lean Healthcare.” In June 2011, Mark joined the software company KaiNexus as their “Chief Improvement Officer,” to help further their mission of “making improvement easier” in healthcare organizations, while continuing his other consulting and speaking activities.

He is the author of the book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Satisfaction (Productivity Press), which was selected for a 2009 Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award and is being translated into seven languages. A 2nd revised edition will be available in October, 2011. Mark is also currently co-authoring a new book, titled “Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements,” due out in early 2012. He is the founder and lead blogger and podcaster at LeanBlog.org, started in January 2005.

To learn more about him read on.

You recently joined a software company – KaiNexus. Is it harder to apply lean six sigma methodology to Software Company compared to manufacturing?

You certainly can’t apply all of the classic lean tools in a software setting, but the mindsets are very much the same. Focus on the customer obsessively. Practice “respect for people,” meaning your employees, partners, and customers. When problems arise, look for the root cause in a non-blaming way and put in place process changes that help prevent future errors. The iterative nature of “lean startup” style software development is very similar to the iterative design processes of lean that might be used to design a new factory or a new hospital.

What are some challenges you have faced when implementing lean projects in any organization?

A major challenge is getting people to understand that lean is not just about tools and projects. To be fully successful with lean, it requires a willingness to change the culture and the management system of an organization. If senior leaders think lean is something to be delegated to others, without also looking in the mirror to decide how they are going to change, lean efforts are likely doomed in the long-term. Lean is a mindset that must be embraced by people at all levels, changing the way we behave, manage, and improve each and every day.


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