by Philip Lew, XBOSoft CEO

It’s a long plane ride to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That’s where SofTec Asia 2017 was held the first few days of August. SofTec Asia 2017But, with all that I learned — both through formal presentations and informal discussions with fellow presenters — it was well worth the trip.

Conquer Production Problems by Shifting Left

Rex Black ended SofTec Asia 2017 with his talk on the meaning of “Shift Left.” He said it’s a buzzword brought back from the 1990s. Today, however, it means many things including continuous integration, deployment, DevOps, and automation as an enabler — not just test automation, but other types of automation as well.

Rex Black at SofTec Asia 2017, speaking abiut the Shift Left movement in changing production problems in software releases and testing.

Rex Black

Why the Shift Left movement? Problems in production. With problems in production (right), how do we avoid them? Shift Left and do things earlier. But what does that mean for “testing” as we know it?

Software testers have to become much more technical — and that the terms SDET (Software Development in Test) or SET (Software Engineer in Test) will be more commonplace.

The days of the black box tester are over. The future in testing will be in the hands of highly technical people who use, build, and customize tools.

Black went into detail about what an SDET will do and not do, in the Shift Left world. Things such as GUI-focused test automation will be over. Automation will take place at multiple levels and as a tester, that’s how you can add value, because developers have limited knowledge about test design.

In the end, all testers will have to:

  • Know how to write code,
  • Need to coach developers how to write good tests,
  • Change our focus from outside the app to inside the app; OS, memory, CPU, etc using dynamic analysis tools.
  • Prioritize data, as analysis of information collected is becoming more and more important.

Knowing how to work with data directly and manipulate it to create and use full or partial test oracles as well as create automation routines directly with the data or indirectly will be key skills we will need.

Black discussed many other skills, but lastly said that testing is more important than ever and that to thrive, we as testers, need to beef up technical skills in a Shift Left world.

I’m positive that Rex Black is right about testers needing to increase technical skills and be more than just code literate: becoming code proficient. However, I also believe that testers need to increase and deepen their domain knowledge in what they are testing.

Share Failures for Learned Experience

The topic of Makoto Nonaka‘s talk was “How to Make Use of Failure Experience to Share as Organizational Knowledge.”

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Makoto Nonaka

While the subject seemed esoteric from the title, I found it to be one of the most valuable talks of the day.

We often share knowledge on success, but almost never share lessons we learned from failure. What preventions can we take to avoid failure? How do we write down and save failure knowledge?

Nonaka discussed the SECI model for knowledge sharing and creation. Then, he diverted into various related topics in technology and how failures can lead to success. He discussed big data and AI (like many others do), but also had 2 great points:

What I found as the big takeaways were that many learning algorithms are open source and can be “selected” based on what you need, rather than be developed from scratch. And, that when dealing with big data, your data strategy and learning model are the key factors.

Keeping Careers Fun

My friend and colleague Jon Hagar kicked off Day Two of SofTec Asia by telling the audience how to have a fun career as a software tester. Hagar discussed his many roles along the way prior to speaking at SofTec.

One the primary ideas which I’ve also read about relates to copious practice in order to refine your skills as a tester — or anything else you want to be good at. One way Hagar stays fresh and engaged in the learning process is by taking different jobs. He advised us to reach out to friends and colleagues, to engage in challenging discussions as a means to open your mind.

Some of Hagar’s points weren’t knew, such as working on your weaknesses and writing your goals down. But I enjoyed hearing them again because they are certainly truisms for success. He mentioned that, while you are learning, learn something handy and for the future of software testing. That means coding.

Finally, Hagar said, if you are not having fun, get out and do something else!

Actions Key in Gaining Trust

My SofTec keynote was originally titled, “What is the meaning of Good Service.” But I changed it to “How to Provide Excellent Service.” I discussed the four pillars of excellent service: Understanding, Trust, Collaboration, and Value.

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Phil Lew

What I think most people enjoyed — based on the level of engagement — was my model of trust. I call it the Tree of Trust. I walked the audience through the four branches on the Tree of Trust: Prediction, Value Exchange, Reciprocation and Vulnerability, and offered real-life examples, including from our jobs as testers, to show how we communicate and work with those around us.

Many people talk about trust, but never really discuss what it is or how to create it. Many think that it is a fuzzy feeling, but my hope is that after my discussion, people can go about creating trust in their lives through purposeful action.

When Biases Met Metrics

During the concurrent sessions, I attended a talk on “Metrics that Matter” by John Fodeh. John was great in applying cognitive biases in how information is interpreted and presented. I really loved his presentation as I recently read “Thinking Fast and Slow” and also moderated a webinar on biases with Gerie Owen last month.

It was amazing how Fodeh showed that different styles in presenting metrics could take advantage of various cognitive biases and create misunderstandings.

I was immediately able to relate this and wove elements of it into the tutorial I gave the next day on Software Quality Metrics – The Agile Way, where I focus not on velocity, but on all the measurements that can lead to velocity.

Applying the Takeaways

What we’ve found over the years at XBOSoft is that our domain knowledge separates us from all other testing companies. We learn our clients’ software so deeply that many claim we understand it better than themselves. Our view is that if you automate what you don’t fully understand, then your automation has limited value.

I am thankful I was invited to be a keynote speaker at SofTec Asia 2017, and hope that my tutorials on Improving the Mobile User Experience and Software Quality Metrics the Agile Way can create as much excitement and learning in attendees as these talks I attended produced in me today.