A Day in the Life of a Test Architect: An Interview with Lee Hawkins


In this interview, Lee Hawkins, the principal test architect for Dell Software, explains the modern role of a test architect. He details how he works out the ways that Dell should do testing by figuring out new testing techniques and advocating for them across the entire organization.

Jennifer Bonine: All right. This is it, guys, the last interview of STARWEST 2016, and Lee, you're the lucky recipient of the closing spot.

Lee Hawkins: Lucky last.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, lucky closer. Then after this, stay tuned for the keynote with Jared, that you just saw right before Lee. Lee, let's talk about some of what you talked about at this conference. We're already wrapping up. I heard it's your first time here, to this one.

Lee Hawkins: Yes, it is, yep.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes. So why don't you tell us a little bit about what you talked about here, and just a little bit about what you're feeling having been here?

Lee Hawkins: Okay, yeah. This is my first STARWEST conference. I've been to most of the big testing conferences around the world before.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, I heard that.

Lee Hawkins: This is my first time at STARWEST. It's the biggest event I've ever been to.

Jennifer Bonine: Really?

Lee Hawkins: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: What did you think of that, compared to ...

Lee Hawkins: I though the organization was fantastic.

Jennifer Bonine: Isn't it fantastic? Yes.

Lee Hawkins: As a speaker it was all very easy, which is nice. I like that.

Jennifer Bonine: Very. They take care of everything.

Lee Hawkins: Yes. No, it was all very simple.

Jennifer Bonine: Your room's ready, the people show up, you've got microphones, everything's good.

Lee Hawkins: Yep. Easy.

Jennifer Bonine: Easy.

Lee Hawkins: Easy, that's nice. I was talking about a day in the life of a test architect. I'm a test architect for Dell, and I was talking about what that means in terms of the work I actually do. I meet lots of test architects, but none of them seem to do the same work, so I thought I'd talk about the work that I do as a test architect, and contrast that with other people.

Jennifer Bonine: And you work at Dell.

Lee Hawkins: That's correct.

Jennifer Bonine: I am a little bit familiar with Dell, so are you out of Austin, Texas, or a different location?

Lee Hawkins: I am not, I'm in Melbourne, Australia.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, I was going to say, I hear the accent, and I didn't think you were out of Austin.

Lee Hawkins: No, not out of Austin. I'm actually in Dell Software, which is a division of Dell, which is a software business. It's probably the biggest software business you've never heard of.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Lee Hawkins: But yeah, it is part of Dell. Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: Okay, part of Dell, but it's Dell Software.

Lee Hawkins: Dell Software, that's right.

Jennifer Bonine: Which is different, right? Than just Dell the hardware company.

Lee Hawkins: Yeah. That's exactly right. We've got offices all over the place, so I travel a lot, to different offices.

Jennifer Bonine: Right. Yeah.

Lee Hawkins: Lots of different conferences, that's good.

Jennifer Bonine: For those out there that know or label themselves as test architects, and you're talking about a day in the life of an architect, high level, what does that look like, what did you describe?

Lee Hawkins: I described the job that I do, it's not the same as every other test architect that I've met, but that's fine. My role is basically about working out the ways that we should do testing across the Dell organization, at a very high level. I see that as basically helping people test better. That's why I go to conferences, try to meet people across the industry, to work out what good stuff is going on, and then try to bring that back into Dell to help us do better.

Jennifer Bonine: That's awesome. So a lot of what you view your role as, is would it be accurate to say you go out and figure out new methods, new techniques, new things that are going to make you guys more efficient ...

Lee Hawkins: That's right.

Jennifer Bonine: ... better, inject new things into your process, and then you help implement those?

Lee Hawkins: Yep. That's right. I'm more of an advocate than an enforcer, so advocating for new approaches. You go to a conference, you learn some new ideas, talk to people out in the industry, learn some new ideas, take them back, and then try to roll those out across Dell.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. You're going to be able to advocate some of the things that people are learning, some of the things that those of you out there learned, so kind of a fun role.

Lee Hawkins: It is great.

Jennifer Bonine: You get to try new things all the time, and see different things.

Lee Hawkins: Yeah, it's very, very good. Yeah, it's been great. My job ...

Jennifer Bonine: That's a great job.

Lee Hawkins: It is a great job, yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: How do people get that job, if they want that job? They're all going, "I want that job, how do I get your job?"

Lee Hawkins: It wasn't a job either, but it was created because we sort of felt the need for someone to do that outside of a management responsibility. Someone who's just focused on actually improving the way we do stuff.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow.

Lee Hawkins: If there's a chance to manufacture that position in your organization, then ...

Jennifer Bonine: Go do it.

Lee Hawkins: ... maybe have a go at it.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, have a go and get that happening. If people, we didn't get a lot of time to talk to you about that, but if people are out there going, "Wow, that sounds really cool, I want to do that. I want to get more information on your presentation," that they maybe didn't see, what's the best way to contact you, post-conference?

Lee Hawkins: Easiest way is probably through Twitter, I'm @therockertester on Twitter.

Jennifer Bonine: The rocket tester?

Lee Hawkins: The rocker tester.

Jennifer Bonine: Rocker tester.

Lee Hawkins: Rocker tester.

Jennifer Bonine: Rocker tester.

Lee Hawkins: On Twitter. Also, therockertester on WordPress.

Jennifer Bonine: Okay.

Lee Hawkins: I blog on WordPress. That's probably the easiest way to get me.

Jennifer Bonine: To find you.

Lee Hawkins: Yep.

Jennifer Bonine: "Therockertester" on both. That's awesome. Lee, thank you so much for being here. It goes super fast.

Lee Hawkins: It does, no worries. Thanks very much.

Jennifer Bonine: That was it. Thank you.

Lee Hawkins: Thank you very much.

Jennifer Bonine: Hopefully, you'll be back again.

Lee Hawkins: I hope so. They can invite me back.

Jennifer Bonine: Enjoy the keynote.

Lee Hawkins: Thank you.

Lee HawkinsThe principal test architect for Dell Software, based in Melbourne, Australia, Lee Hawkins is responsible for testing direction and strategy across the group. In the IT industry since 1996 in both development and testing roles, Lee’s testing career really started in 2007 after attending Rapid Software Testing with Michael Bolton. Lee is the cofounder of the TEAM meetup group in Melbourne, a co-organizer of the Australian Testing Days conference, and a frequent speaker at international testing conferences. He blogs on testing at Rockin’ And Testing All Over The World. When not testing, Lee is an avid follower of the UK rock band Status Quo; hence his Twitter handle @therockertester.

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