How the Software Tester Evolves: An Interview with Dawn Haynes


In this interview, Dawn Haynes, CEO, testing coach, and consultant for PerfTestPlus Inc., details the evolution of a software tester. Haynes shares the biggest moments that forever changed her ideas about software testing and software development.

Jennifer Bonine: All right. We are back with our second virtual interview for the conference. I'm really excited to have Dawn Haynes with me. Dawn, thanks for being here. It's so awesome to have you. Thanks for taking time out of your day to do this. We know you're really busy. Speaking of being busy, for those of you out there that don't come to the conference, it actually starts on Sunday. We're three days in for you already.

Dawn Haynes: Yeah. We're in a long haul already.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Long haul already. For folks that haven't attended before, what happens in those things ... those classes that take place starting on Sunday and Monday? There are things you can do before the main conference sessions start. Maybe give them a little insight into what those are and what goes on.

Dawn Haynes: Right. The preconference opportunities are typically a set of training classes that you could enjoy. Some of these come to your cities. Some of these could be delivered virtually. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with your colleagues in the industry, learn new techniques and ideas from each other, get all that networking juices flowing.

If you're going to dive into the conference in a few days, now you've already hooked up with people. You're starting to make eye contact, say, “Hey, I remember you. Hey, I have a question about how you do that." I'm seeing it happen. It happens every time.

We had a couple of those. Then, we also have tutorials. Tutorials are delivered in either a half day or full day session on a tremendous set of topics. Again, it's the same sort of thing. You cram together. You get some, maybe, new information downloaded. You share in the room. You workshop together.

You're really trying to apply some of these things. Then, you get to go hang out with everyone for a couple more days. You're getting the keynotes. You're getting the inspiration from session talks. You're doing things like sitting together at lunch, having hallway conversations and having tea and coffee. These are the times that we really get our questions answered. That's not something you can do in virtual environment.

Jennifer Bonine: Right.

Dawn Haynes: If you went somewhere to take a class, I'd love to see you there. Please.

Jennifer Bonine: Take the classes.

Dawn Haynes: Come to a public session. Then, your exposure to folks is constrained to ... Well, me, if I'm there, and all the lovely folks who have decided to join us for the class. The world's just a little bit smaller. This is just a great place to blow it out. The world's big.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Lots of people. As we were talking to ... a little bit earlier to Alison, over a thousand folks. You get access to all of those people, right?

Dawn Haynes: All the speakers.

Jennifer Bonine: All the speakers. The people like yourself and others that ...

Dawn Haynes: Like you.

Jennifer Bonine: ... that write books and are thought leaders in the industry, you see their blogs, you see things online about them. You hear they're there. Like I was just saying to Dawn, her and a fellow colleague were out and having dinner with one of the attendees. They get access to you guys at dinner, at the receptions. They can ask you questions. You really get that time to dig in on some of the things that you've been thinking about or that you've been turning around in your head.

Dawn Haynes: And connect.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Dawn Haynes: We're all walking through the hallways together. It's not like, "Oh. There's a special room where all that people hang out and then all of the rest of you are over here." Everybody's together to hang out.

If you look at the chairs over there, if you look at the test lab; who was sitting at the test lab when I walked by? Micheal Bolton and Jon. Totally awesome.

You want to go see those folks, you just sit down. It's not like you have to chase 'em around. Everybody's accessible. That's just beautiful stuff, man.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, it is. It's awesome. I always say you get to see all the mythical creatures of testing. They're all here. You have access to them. Like you said, they're walking around. I saw 'em in Starbucks the other day. Everyone is everywhere. All you simply have to do is be willing to get out of your room, walk around and talk to people, introduce yourself. It's not hard.

Dawn Haynes: Don't be shy. Say hey. For all of you in virtual land out there that feel like you are missing out, you can still say hey. You can still get on and ask your questions during a session like this or during the keynotes. Participate. Join us, even if you're not walking through the hallways. Maybe come next year.

Jennifer Bonine: What I don't know if they're doing it this year. We talked about it last year. Even with the test lab, when the test lab folks were here and I interviewed them; they had allowed participants virtually to get in and do some of the testing in the test labs.

Even though you're not here, you can do that this year too I'm hearing. If you're out there, you can be a part of the test lab.

Dawn Haynes: That is awesome.

Jennifer Bonine: Right? You can log bugs. There's actually a winner. There are prizes, right? Fabulous prizes. You get to practice your skills. You can interact with all the folks here. For the folks out there though who haven't done it, check that out to be involved with the test lab portion of it.

One of the other neat things I saw, you mentioned about getting connected, for the alums and the people who are here. I was talking to someone last night. They said they met someone last year at the conference. They kept in touch the whole year and meet up this year at the conference again.

Dawn Haynes: It's a reunion. It goes like that.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. It's awesome. There's ... It's not just like a one-time thing even.

Dawn Haynes: It doesn't have to be. You get different things from each time you come, even though there's, I'd say, a glut of maybe introductory topics, that doesn't mean it's all introductory. It's not. There are some very detailed and deep sessions.

Also, a year from now, you're going to be different. I call it a maturity curve. You could even sit in the same session. You could even here the same things. You could even talk to the same people and your takeaways are going to be different. Your challenges are going to be different. It's good times.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Dawn Haynes: We have good times, don't we?

Jennifer Bonine: Yes. We do, absolutely. It's nice to see people again. It's nice to build those networks outside of your own organization. It's nice to ... I hear people talking about challenges. They're all different, yet there's some similarities underlying of the challenges.

I think one of the nice things, too, is ... I don't know about you, but it's a lot of work to be at a conference. You get exhausted by the end of the week. I think people go home with a renewed energy about what they're doing.

Dawn Haynes: Invigorated. Some of the things that I heard after my training session and after my tutorial is, "I feel enabled. I feel energized. I feel like I can go back. I have new ways to tackle this, explain this or share this. I'm ready to go do it, right now." That's hard. When you're in the gerbil wheel day in and day out. It feels like, well, sometimes a death march. Just sometimes, you're just in a state of overwhelm.

You can never poke out to say, "Well, how could we do this better? How could we do this differently?" Well, hopefully, you come here. You collaborate with your network. You get some of those ideas.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. It's great for the idea generation and sharing. One of the things we should talk about—folks out there who are watching should tune in for sure—is the closing keynote. You have the closing keynote this year. Could you maybe talk a little bit about ... a preview for the folks out there of what they'll see and what's coming in that closing keynote for you.

Dawn Haynes: My idea ... This is how I work when I'm collaborating with people, I'm teaching or I'm sharing information, is I speak from my experience. My experience has been my teacher; what I've done, the foibles I've made ... I don't care if we call them mistakes, good, bad or otherwise. It doesn't matter, whatever I decided to do sometimes didn't work out so well. There were kindly people, like many of the people here, that took the time to collaborate with me and educate me one step at a time. That's the way it happens. They changed my thinking about testing forever.

I'm calling it "The Evolution of a Software Tester." It's my evolution. I'm going to share that. I'm going to talk about what were the things, what was the article, what was the book, what was the quote, what was the question that someone asked or that I encountered that really changed the game for me. Those are the exact things that I'm sharing in preconference training, tutorial sessions and keynotes and things like that today.

Jennifer Bonine: That's awesome.

Dawn Haynes: That's a preview.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Preview for all of you out there. Tune in tomorrow for that. It'll be, as we talked about, I think an awesome spot to tune in and watch you wrap it all together and put the bow on the conference and the learnings that hopefully the folks out there watching are getting and the folks that are here in the room that are at the conference ... Dawn, thanks so much for being with us and taking time. As always, it's awesome to talk to you. If people want to get a hold of you, what is the best way to reach you if they have questions or want more information.

Dawn Haynes: On Twitter, you can direct message me or link up. I'm also on LinkedIn. My Twitter ID is @DawnMHaynes. Come find me on LinkedIn. We'd love to have you included as part of my network.

Jennifer Bonine: Awesome. Thanks, everyone.

Dawn Haynes: Thanks.

Dawn HaynesDawn Haynes is CEO, testing coach, and consultant for PerfTestPlus Inc. A highly regarded trainer of software testers, Dawn blends experience with a real-world view to provide testers with tools and techniques to help them generate new approaches to common and complex software testing problems. Passionate about improving the state of testing, Dawn engages with testers through writing, social media, training, meetups, and testing conferences worldwide. Selected in 2010 as one of twelve women of influence in Software Test and Performance magazine, Dawn is a founding member of the International Society for Software Testing, and a lifetime member, former secretary, and director of the Association for Software Testing.

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