Incorporate Test Automation within the Lifecycle: STARWEST 2015 Interview with Mike Sowers


In this interview, TechWell speaks with Michael Sowers, CIO and senior consultant at TechWell. At STARWEST 2015, he gave a presentation titled "Plan, Architect, and Implement Test Automation within the Lifecycle."

Jennifer Bonine: All right, we are back with our second virtual interview of STARWEST with Mike Sowers. Mike, thanks for joining me.

Mike Sowers: Great to be here again, Jennifer.

Jennifer Bonine: I know, always good to get a chance to talk to you. For those of you that watch these virtual conferences, if I'm lucky, Mike and I get a chance to chat and talk about what's going on. You always seem to have the handle on all of the goings-on around all of these conferences, so I like to get your perspective on how things are going. Some of you may have noticed the rebranding. SQE was a part of the websites and things, and now it's TechWell, as we can see from your shirt.

Mike Sowers: Yep.

Jennifer Bonine: Maybe for those that don't know out there, what perpetuated that transition, and how it's going, and what to look for?

Mike Sowers: I mean, we're very excited about it. This year we celebrate over twenty-five years of being in a software engineering and a test business ...

Jennifer Bonine: Amazing.

Mike Sowers: ... so it's exciting. That's why we all have gray hair, that type of thing, but it's wonderful to see new people coming as well. We're not losing the entire Software Quality Engineering brand, because we're sticking with that because we know that's a well-known brand from a training perspective.

Jennifer Bonine: So the training will remain?

Mike Sowers: The training's going to remain, but we decided that we needed something that would keep pace with the 21st century and bring us from a broader software engineering perspective into really what we do, and that's about the knowledge-transfer business, the connecting people with one another, collaborating. So we were thinking that this whole idea of TechWell, meaning a well of technical knowledge ...

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, I like that.

Mike Sowers: ... would be the right thing. That's how we came up with TechWell. We're excited. We had to rebrand, as you said, eleven to thirteen different websites: StickyMinds, and AgileConnection, and CMCrossroads, and so forth, but we got it done, so we're excited about it. We've been using the brand for the last few years, so you've seen both brands.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, you see it out there together.

Mike Sowers: Now we're just making it official.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, the official transition. For those of you that saw it, that's going on with that. Then I know you said you talked about some of the connection and being that well of technical information for people. For those out there that maybe didn't get an opportunity to attend the conference, maybe just talk about some of the things you see as really the value of getting an opportunity to be here and experience the live event and some of the goings-on, and what happens that people don't see. Because obviously you guys will see some of the keynotes, these interviews, but there's a lot that happens outside of that that I think is really valuable, and maybe you could just give them that feel for what else goes on here.

Mike Sowers: You and I've talked before at these interviews. My first STAR was back in '94 or '96. I'd grown up learning testing on the job and pretty much in isolation, perhaps as many of our viewers are doing as well. I came to our first STAR conference—my eyes were wide open. It's like, "Wow." There's a bunch of people here that have the same challenges, the same issues, solving problems that ...

Jennifer Bonine: We're not alone.

Mike Sowers: We're not alone. It's so exciting to see all these people gathered together in one place. I still remember that moment. I think the same thing exists here today. There's a real buzz about the future of testing. This past month in my blog—maybe some of the viewers have read it—I wrote about the social responsibility of testing now, because really, testing has become a critical part of our society. Imagine, we use over 250 devices or interact with 250 different devices a day. If something goes wrong, I mean, that can have a big societal impact.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, huge, yeah.

Mike Sowers: Absolutely impacted. It's exciting to bring together nearly twelve hundred people and technologists ...

Jennifer Bonine: Amazing.

Mike Sowers: ... in one place and talk about, How do we solve the future problems of verifying, validating highly complex ...? Paul Gerrard just talked about the Internet of Things and, essentially, how are we going to test everything, because everything's going to be connected?

Jennifer Bonine: Connected, yeah, absolutely.

Mike Sowers: So lots of buzz. A lot about that. I like the fact that we've got the Test Lab here.

Jennifer Bonine: That's a neat thing.

Mike Sowers: People can actually apply what they learned ...

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, what they're learning.

Mike Sowers: ... and get challenged in new ways of thinking about things. Of course, all the networking events that happen, our virtual interviews, and the fact that we can connect with the virtual audience as well. Then the expo is here. Nearly sixty vendors this year, delivering all kinds of products and services. So lots of buzz. It's really exciting to be here, be connected ...

Jennifer Bonine: And see it all.

Mike Sowers: ... and see it all.

Jennifer Bonine: It's so neat. I think it's fun to see, too, at the event, on the badges where you see the first-time people who've never attended one before and haven't had that experience. Then you'll see the alumni who come back year after year and still say, "Every year I'm coming because there's so much value." I think it's not just, you come once and you're done. It's people get involved in a community of people, and get to see those people year over year, and see how things are changing. I don't know if you've seen this, but it just feels like with the Internet of Things and all the devices and then the connectivity and the mobile, the technology is changing so much faster now.

Mike Sowers: That's correct.

Jennifer Bonine: Whereas years ago you would hear similar topics year to year ... every couple of years new topics would start to come out, but you'd hear just refinement of the same topics for a couple of years. Now it's like every time you come, there's something new that someone's talking about that I even hadn't heard about, and I always think I'm pretty plugged in. I was just talking about MetaAutomation with Matt [Griscom]. I'm like, "Matt, that's new. Your book just came out. What's going on?"

Mike Sowers: Yeah, exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: There's so much to continually learn and pick up, I think, at these things.

Mike Sowers: The underlying Moore's Law still works—technology doubling every eighteen months—but then what that gives us the opportunity to do is to think more and more creatively, to deliver new features and functionality from a software perspective. It's really all about the software, which makes, of course, the hardware and the other pieces work together. It's a software world, for sure.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, it is. It's so interesting to see, and all the ideas you get talking to the folks. Now you're doing a session, or you did a session, a tutorial, earlier this week around test automation. For those that weren't able to see that or attend, maybe just talk a little bit about what you're seeing and what your focus was in that tutorial that you gave this week on the test automation and the lifecycle.

Mike Sowers: That's a great question. It's really not unlike the Internet of Things that we just talked about. And one of the things that near and dear to my heart is the fact that we usually accumulate a lot of tools. Some tools are useful. Other tools are not useful. Some tools are used. Some tools become shelf-ware. What I talk about is the whole idea of creating a test architecture or a test tool taxonomy so that we know how our existing tools, and maybe some future tools that we want to use, connect together, and then provide an overall workflow ...

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, I like that.

Mike Sowers: ... from a software engineering and testing and then, of course, a deployment perspective.

Jennifer Bonine: Right, yeah, all the way through.

Mike Sowers: It's just like building a house. As you know, Jennifer, we don't necessarily go out and build a house without a blueprint or a plan, so that's what I talked a lot about in my tutorial, is how do we create that blueprint? We have a vision for how our tools fit together and work together to deliver software, as I always say, faster, better, cheaper.

Jennifer Bonine: Now if someone couldn't attend that tutorial, is there classes that are offered throughout other times of the year, or your blog or places where they can get information on thinking about ... if they're thinking about automation, how do I do that blueprint and connect everything together? Is there a place you'd recommend they maybe go to?

Mike Sowers: Sure. Our websites—many people know about StickyMinds and AgileConnection—those are the first place that I would recommend to start, because there's a lot of great articles there. Then, of course, as we move to SQE Training or TechWell Training, it redirects now. We've got nearly eighty courses ...

Jennifer Bonine: That people can take advantage of.

Mike Sowers: ... all aspects of testing, and certainly, a lot of rich information there that they can take away, sign up for, both at the web-based seminar level, the virtual level, on-sites or public in the area of test automation. One of the things that's pretty hot is a course that we're teaching now both virtually as well as publicly, which is all about agile test automation.

Jennifer Bonine: Ah, interesting.

Mike Sowers: It's a one-day course, and they'll find that there as well.

Jennifer Bonine: For those of you, again, out there that are looking for resources, there's lot of them available to you. Even if you're not here, obviously, going to the site StickyMinds, looking at the training that's out there, which you can attend virtually, can come to you, or you can do a public class somewhere as well. It's amazing.

We're already out of time again. It always goes so fast when we have a chance to chat. Mike, if there's anything people have or a way that they can connect with you or contact you for more questions that maybe I didn't delve into, where's a good place to get to you?

Mike Sowers: Sure. It's [email protected] now.

Jennifer Bonine: There you go.

Mike Sowers: Of course, still works. Also available on Twitter @michaelsowers4, and then you can look me up on LinkedIn as well at MD Sowers.

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect.

Mike Sowers: Jennifer, it's a delight to talk to you again.

Jennifer Bonine: Pleasure. Thanks for tuning in.

Mike Sowers: All right.

Mike SowersMichael Sowers, CIO and senior consultant at TechWell, has more than twenty-five years of practical experience as a global quality and test leader of internationally distributed test teams across multiple industries. Mike is a senior consultant, skilled in working with both large and small organizations to improve their software development, testing, and delivery approaches. He has worked with companies including Fidelity Investments, PepsiCo, FedEx, Southwest Airlines, Wells Fargo, ADP, and Lockheed to improve software quality, reduce time to market, and decrease costs. With his passion for helping teams deliver software faster, better, and cheaper, Mike has mentored and coached senior software leaders, small teams, and direct contributors worldwide.

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