Ideal Qualities to Look for in Modern Testers: An Interview with Mike Faulise

In this interview, Mike Faulise, the founder and managing partner at tap|QA, explains what you should be looking for when you’re hiring new testers. He also tells people looking to be hired in the QA field what to focus on, and how a music background can really help you in the world of software.

Jennifer Bonine: All right, we are back with more interviews, as promised. We have two more coming up, so stay tuned with us. Right now we have Mike Faulise. Mike, nice to have you.

Mike Faulise: Nice to be here.

Jennifer Bonine: Mike, you work for tap|QA?

Mike Faulise: I do.

Jennifer Bonine: Well, work for, I should say you own tap|QA.

Mike Faulise: I do.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes.

Mike Faulise: It's a wonderful thing.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, so maybe tell us the premise of what made you want to do that or how you started that organization.

Mike Faulise: Well, tap|QA is a consulting services organization. We specialize in testing only, 'cause we're here at STAREAST, so why else would we be here at STAREAST? We really decided in about 2008 that there was a great opportunity for us as an organization to start seeing that we could do jobs as good or better here in the States versus doing it offshore. With the ‘90s being a big push to push stuff offshore, we decided we wanted to start bringing stuff back, and especially in the testing industry, and do it not only better, but faster and at a lower cost. So we're at the same cost as they are offshore, and that's how we did it. So since then, in the last probably eight years or so, we have brought almost a thousand jobs back to Minnesota and the States.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow, that's awesome.

Mike Faulise: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: That's a great story. So, I've heard lots of nontraditional folks. So when you look for testers or when you look for people who have potential in that field, I've heard you have some distinct things you look for from a hiring perspective. Can you maybe share some of your tips?

Mike Faulise: Yeah, so I'll say that when you look for the right prospective person, normally we'd love to look for an engineer. We'd like to look for somebody that has IT experience and/or somebody that has an MIT or business IT degree. What we're finding is that those people are really expensive.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Faulise: 'Cause they know that they've got a great degree and a great skill set, so what we had to do is figure out if we're gonna compete with offshore and with a lot of rates that are much lower, how do we find a great skill set that can test as well, be creative, as well as be very, very, very analytical?

Jennifer Bonine: Yes.

Mike Faulise: So, I had to figure out, okay, what skill set can I do, and so that led me down the path of one thing. That is the starving musician.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Mike Faulise: So we used people that have music in their backgrounds, and quite frankly, musicians themselves make phenomenal testers. So for you music players out there, for you managers that are looking to hire somebody, find folks with music in their background and they will make phenomenal testers.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, so kind of that blend of that creative and analytical and, yeah, that's awesome, that's amazing. Now, also in terms of, you obviously work with a lot of companies, place a lot of people, and what are you seeing as the trends in terms of what people are asking for skill sets? Are you seeing a lot of automation, more manual, where is that kind of going in your world?

Mike Faulise: Yeah, I'd say that there are kind of three bubbles, if I could visualize bubbles for the audience. There's the "I gotta have QA skill sets," "I got to have business knowledge," and "I gotta have technical knowledge." If you got all three of those, you're always gonna have a job.

Jennifer Bonine: Yep.

Mike Faulise: Most people have two of the three.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Mike Faulise: So what we found in the previous world is that I always wanted somebody that had QA but knew my industry. What we're finding is that now, knowing my industry may not be that important, and so the trend has been I want somebody that knows QA and technology. So we're seeing more things along that trend and line.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, so for folks out there that are watching that say, "Hey, that's really great advice, now both from the hiring manager side of what to look for as well as skill sets," any recommendations or advice for people that are saying, "I'm not technical, and I want to get more technical," or things that you would suggest they do to kind of brush up those types of skill sets for people?

Mike Faulise: Sure, I talked about this in one of my presentations. I think that if you're a nontechnical person and you're a little afraid of code, one of the things you can do is to actually take a music class and to say, "Let me ..." If you're interested in learning the piano or maybe the guitar or whatever it might be, go see if you can go do that. You don't have to spend thousands of hours on it, but go take a class or two and see if you can start to pick that up. It's amazing the translation between picking up an instrument and then actually starting to learn how to code. They're very similar. So start there, and it's a great place to say, "If I really can't do this, then maybe coding isn't gonna be ... is gonna be much more challenging."

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Mike Faulise: If you can try it and you like it, there is a lot of parallels.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, that's awesome. So another great tip just on what to do if you're trying to get more technical. Also, there may be some leaders or managers out there who are saying, "I'm struggling with this new generation that just Googles everything, right? I just want to Google to get the answer."

Mike Faulise: Sure.

Jennifer Bonine: Obviously you do a lot of hiring and have a lot of new, young, talented folks that come into the organization. Anything in particular that you try and do with those folks to get them out of that box of just, "I can Google everything," and learning how to actually think again?

Mike Faulise: Yeah, it's hard, because you can Google everything.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Mike Faulise: So what we find is we are looking for definitely problem solvers.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes.

Mike Faulise: So what we'll do is, part of what we wanna be able to do is that both creative as well as analytical skills, we love people that can tell a story.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Mike Faulise: So that story-telling has been great and a great asset for folks that really have to understand how to solve a problem. And sometimes in the consulting world, as I'm sure many of you guys know, you have to be able to talk to people. Communication is the key. So, I think what we find is another skill set that we look for is people that have had serving in their background or that they've bartended. These are folks that definitely know how to communicate, and that's really where the problem-solving comes in. The technical stuff, while it's hard, you can get by.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, but being able to relate cross-generational is important, it sounds like.

Mike Faulise: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: And having that capability to do that. So some good tips and advice. If people want more information that you maybe probably intrigued them on things about tap|QA, how do they find you? How do they get more information?

Mike Faulise: is where to go, and we've got [email protected] for an email. Otherwise, you can find us on the STAREAST website as well.

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect. Thanks, Mike, for being here.

Mike Faulise: Yeah, thank you.

Jennifer Bonine: I appreciate it. Stay tuned, another interview coming up next.

Mike FMichael Faulise is the founder and managing partner at tap|QA, LLC, a global company that specializes in quality solutions for businesses. Mike focuses on sales and delivery where he consults with clients in the areas of leading development, quality assurance and testing, technology and process training, and process improvement. He has seen software development evolve along the multiple paths of various methodologies but has found quality has remained essentially constant.

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