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Aug 19 2011   12:12PM GMT

The IT Files – Shrini Kulkarni – Part 2

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Tell us about how you got into testing and what is it that keeps you here in this industry?


I started my first job in IT/software roughly about 13-14 years ago. In beginning, it was all new to me – development, programming, project management, testing and so on. At the end of about 4th or 5th year – I was fully into testing and began doing especially good at it. My peers and managers constantly provided me opportunities in testing – testing new features, testing old features and testing simply to improve test suites etc. I started liking that kind of work and my managers and peers encouraged. So, when an opportunity presented itself to be a full time test lead on a new product – I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. From then on – no looking back. This reminds me about what James Bach mentioned about how to think about testers and programmers. James mentioned that (paraphrase) while programmers work focused on creating stuff (namely working software from requirements), testers focused on evaluating stuff that is created. In a sense, testers focused their skill and interest on evaluating stuff, programmers (developers) exiled on creating stuff. Many times, when someone asked me about advice on whether to become a tester or a programmer – my response was to identify the natural ability or instinct in an individual – creation or evaluation? I figured out that I am good at evaluation hence testing profession was a natural choice for me. What keeps me in this industry? Sheer challenges and thrill of finding problems and understanding how things work. Among most IT/Software roles – I think testing role provides maximum exposure and opportunity to exercise your mind and keep brain making new connections every day and every moment. A programmer or a developer can say “done” when she hands over a working software to testing – but a tester can never say “done” as there is always “one more bug”. This – open ended investigative nature and opportunity to pursue “what if” relentlessly – keeps me in testing.


Which conferences have you presented at? Which one was your favorite? What topics do you usually like to talk about?


I attend my first testing conference in 2003/04 – STeP In conference at Bangalore as a delegate. After going through it – I felt, I can speak too and I had some interesting ideas to present. That is how I got to present my first conference speech in 2005 (again in STeP IN conference). At the international level – I presented at STAR EAST (2007) and EURO STAR (2009). I was an invited speaker at QATS conference at Spain (2008).  I presented at several conferences in India (QAI, STeP Auto and others). It is hard to point to any one of these as every conferences comes with its own attractions and limitations. One conferences I would like to attend and possibly speak is CAST (promoted by my community – context driven testing)  – a conference that embodies true essence of “conference” – conferring. Another conference that I hope to present or attend is Google Test automation conference. Most of my topics I talked about were related to automation and how IT abuses the process of automation. I am a big time critique of abuse of metrics – numbers allegedly enable “management by facts”.


Quality – what is your definition or understanding?


With so many definitions around us already – I would not like create yet another definition and add to the chaos. For a change, let me not quote Jerry Weinberg’s definition of quality or those influenced by Japanese Manufacturing world. In my view, we should stop using the word “quality” as it has no one clear meaning or interpretation. Today, the word “quality” is used as a surrogate to many expectations or desires that end user has about any particular product or a service. Here is my proposal – If you want something to be quick and fast – simply say “quick and fast” or if you want something fits your budget (inexpensive) – say that. Stop using the word “quality” as a mask or indirect reference to something very concrete and situational. I, personally hate many definitions that involve jargons like “correctness”, “customer”, “satisfaction”  as each of these are themselves masks for some underlying concrete needs or expectations of a specific individual at a given time. It is important to note that notion of quality changes with time. I also hate many people reifying (confusing ideas/abstractions to concrete things) quality and value. Many big MNC IT and IT services companies abuse the words “quality” (and “value”) by hyper-reifying it. Phrases like “cost of quality” is an excellent example of how people are taken for royal ride. We don’t know for sure what “quality” is and for who? how can we put a cost on that? It is absolutely naive and rubbish to treat quality defined in terms of numbers of bugs logged or fixed etc”. Take it from me – if anyone is selling a testing service on the basis of or using phrases “cost of quality” – it is a fraud and your money is being looted. Please stop abusing the word “quality”.



Name your favorite book on Software Testing?


To me, books that every tester should read and consider reading are in two categories. One – directly about testing (management, techniques, tools etc) and other is about topics that are very closely related to testing “meta testing” – critical thinking, systems thinking, logic, reasoning, science, mathematics, economic, law etc. As far as books that directly deal with subject matter of practice of testing – I use this maxim “read anything by Jerry Weinberg”.  I recognize a sort of hierarchy of authors with Jerry on the top. I see likes of James Bach, Cem Kaner, Michael Bolton, Matt Heusser, Jonathan Kohl, Doug Hoffman, James Lindsey and others in second level and rest all in subsequent levels. In the era of blogging and micro blogging – a tester wanting to read – has many choices and variety. In the recent times, I have shifted my reading to “meta testing” world. I read likes of Fritjof Capra  (Tao of Physics), Malcolm Gladwell(Blink,Tipping point, outliers), Atul Gawande (“The Checklist Manifesto), Paul Davis (“What is time”), Richard Feynman (anything by him), Freakonomics, Aristotle, Plato, Bertend Russell, Carl Popper (“Conjectures and Refutations). The content and subject matter dealt by These authors and books have striking similarity with tester’s pursuit – modeling, understanding, recognizing patterns and investigation. When I am bored of “software testing” books and blogs – I defocus by reading material on “meta testing”.

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