The Power of Collective Experience: An Interview with Dawn Haynes

In this interview, Dawn Haynes, CEO, testing coach, and consultant for PerfTestPlus, describes her STAREAST experience, explains the importance of discussing challenges female testers face, and talks about her sessions, the Workshop on Regulated Software Testing, and the leadership summit.

Jennifer Bonine: All right, as promised, we are back with our last interview for today. Very excited to have Dawn with me. Dawn, it's always awesome to get a chance to talk to you.

Dawn Haynes: Likewise, thanks so much.

Jennifer Bonine: I love having Dawn here. Now, you get very involved in these conferences. For the folks watching out there, you'll see a lot of happenings today and tomorrow, but when you come in person and then attend the events, we start a lot earlier. Right?

Dawn Haynes: We do.

Jennifer Bonine: You're practically ... You've had a whole week already, and it's only Wednesday, right?

Dawn Haynes: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: You have a long week ahead that starts ... What day did you start with the preconference stuff?

Dawn Haynes: Actually, I started on Sunday. We have preconference training. This time, I did a performance load and stress class, which is just great. That's my sweet spot. That's my wheelhouse. When I used to work for Rational, I was the PerfTest goddess, helping people with that. At that time, I was actually a vendor in the expo. I've been coming to these conferences long before I ever thought about being an attendee, working it. Set up for the expo and all of that, and trying to help people who have questions about implementing tools. I've got a long amount of experience with that, but this was refreshing. We had a huge group, over twenty people in the class. For me, because performance testing is my bag and my company is called PerfTest Plus and we mean it, but that doesn't mean we get a lot of business in the performance area. To see this, it's just so exciting ...

Jennifer Bonine: That's so awesome.

Dawn Haynes: ... that there is people focusing on it. There is folks that have never done it before, where their organizations are saying, "We need to care about performance." I'm like, "Yes, we do." Now that you know, I'm really excited about that. They're putting some money behind it. They're sending people to classes. This is fabulous. I was talking to one of the delegates on the course. It's someone who has been to many conferences. He has actually spoken here before on test automation, and we were remarking that the delegates in the class, by and large, were more technically advanced and mature, even if they didn't know something about performance testing than we've previously seen, which says so much about where we're at right now.

There is a trajectory around technologies and tools, and skill level generally. To see that uptake is fabulous. Yet we still have this hole around, "What does it take to do performance testing? How do we do it every day?" There is a reason why I have a watch with the second hand because this was my first performance testing tool. It's not that you need expensive stuff. Just sharing those ideas and trying to give people a way to really bring that into their organization was fab.

Jennifer Bonine: That's awesome.

Dawn Haynes: Then the same thing, we have preconference tutorials. I think there is some full-day and lots and lots of half-day tutorials. I do one called How o Break Software: Robustness Edition, where I just hammer on robustness testing because when software is weak, I get fighting mad about it. I want to show off the bugs and embarrass companies, and I do it. That's a passion of mine right next to performance. I think there were almost sixty people in the room that stayed for the entire thing and asked great questions and shared great examples. I don't know. That's a real exciting opportunity for me.

Jennifer Bonine: That's amazing.

Dawn Haynes: I have to say, I've been waiting a long time for us to get over that curve where we had the technical aptitude in the space where we could start having those tougher conversations about how to dig deeper with software and how to collaborate better with our development colleagues and architects and ask the tough questions early, which set a good trajectory for quality and aspects of quality, like performance and robustness, can't be an afterthought. I was just all excited.

Jennifer Bonine: You're having a good week then so far?

Dawn Haynes: I am. Sometimes it seems like the same old, same old. Not the same old. I'm seeing that even in the expo, with the conversations that people are having with vendors, many of them I know and I'm standing by, listening to those conversations. I'm like, "I remember when I was the booth babe having the conversation with somebody." Going, "You couldn't use this tool if you wanted to." There is something like ... there is the gap here. But it's not like that anymore.

Jennifer Bonine: It's narrowing.

Dawn Haynes: The same thing in the test lab, my other favorite place to hang out.

Jennifer Bonine: I know I'll find her there. I saw her there earlier.

Dawn Haynes: We love the test lab. It's where you can actually whip out your skills and try something and challenge yourself with testing a variety of things. They have robots in there. They have little brain teaser puzzles.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, they are awesome.

Dawn Haynes: They have software to test. I think that's sometimes what you don't get in the classroom when you're just listening to somebody.

Jennifer Bonine: Is the practical.

Dawn Haynes: You want to do it.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. You get hands-on. That's a great point. When people come here, it's not just talking about, but it's the ability to actually hands-on do some of this stuff. You can here.

Dawn Haynes: We did. In my tutorial, we did a little workshop doing exploratory testing charter for robustness. I had them test the STAREAST, the app.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh, wow. How did that go?

Dawn Haynes: We found some bugs.

Jennifer Bonine: Okay, good.

Dawn Haynes: What I need to work out next year is have somebody report all those bugs at the registration desk and get an extra mug or a t-shirt or something like that.

Jennifer Bonine: That's an awesome idea.

Dawn Haynes: Because that's incentive.

Jennifer Bonine: It is. It's great.

Dawn Haynes: We need stuff like that.

Jennifer Bonine: I love it.

Dawn Haynes: Make it fun. Make testing fun again.

Jennifer Bonine: Well, you mentioned the test lab. A lot of that happens here. We'll be talking to Bart and those guys tomorrow. There actually is a way for our virtual conference participants to get involved.

Dawn Haynes: You got to do that.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. If you're out there and you want to know how to get involved with the test lab piece, they're actually going to have a ... I think it's a Chicken Selfie Challenge, the Chicken Selfie Challenge.

Dawn Haynes: Rubber chicken.

Jennifer Bonine: Hopefully, we've intrigued you on the Rubber Chicken Selfie Challenge. Tune in tomorrow for Bart and those guys to hear about that. Now, you get involved again on Sunday. Having over, you said, twenty people, almost thirty people come and take a weekend, a day of their weekend.

Dawn Haynes: Two-day event.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Two days.

Dawn Haynes: A day of the weekend. I try to remind them it's Sunday. It's sunny out. We're in Orlando and there is a beautiful pool. I made them feel bad about it. They felt great about spending their time that way, but what dedication to come in on a weekend to be there.

Jennifer Bonine: That's what I mean, right? It's, people want to learn about this stuff. I see why you get so excited, because people are interested. They want to be there. They're engaged. They want to figure this out. They want to get more knowledge, which is great.

Dawn Haynes: And go to a conference too.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah.

Dawn Haynes: What a nice packaged deal, if you can work it out to take advantage of all of those things, four days, five days, depending on what you do. Then we've got even Friday.

Jennifer Bonine: Friday. You have a really long week because you'll be here all the way with us through Friday to the extra event that TechWell provides as well in Women Who Test. It's another, with your conference pass, you get to attend at no additional cost.

Dawn Haynes: Absolutely. It's really amazing. It really is amazing. I have to say, any kind of segmentation is not my thing. I'm not like, "Let's have a girl thing. Let's have a guy thing." It's not my thing. It's never been my thing. I remember the first time Alison asked me to be involved in this, I was like, "Really? Just a bunch of girls in a room? I don't know if I really want to do that. I don't know if I'm in on that." What has fascinated me about it, and many of the delegates have shared with me the exact same feeling about it: "I don't know what's going to happen in there. It doesn't feel right to me. I'm not sure if that's a thing for me."

I have heard so many people say, "It's not what I thought it was going to be." It's not complaining. It's not whining. It's not, "Woe is me," it's not that. It's just there are some issues that are germane to different segments of our industry.

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Dawn Haynes: Certainly, across gender.

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Dawn Haynes: I've been educated about those things. Some of it makes me a little sad, but also the session that I'm doing, which is The Power of Collective Experience, gives people a way to tackle some of those challenges so that they don't have to feel alone. We do a workshop. You bring your biggest challenges. You share them with your group, you problem-solve and brainstorm and generate ideas. People just get so into it. They come up with so many ideas that they never would have come up with on their own.

Jennifer Bonine: On their own, yeah.

Dawn Haynes: They're just pumped. We go to lunch. The rest of the day, everybody is jazzed about what can I do, what can I try. It's very empowering. I've been very blessed to be a part of that. I actually feel we've had a good time doing that.

Jennifer Bonine: It's amazing. Yeah, it's a great experience.

Dawn Haynes: Now, I feel very dedicated to it. So I wouldn't miss it.

Jennifer Bonine: I know. I love watching that transformation, because I remember the first time you told me, when you said, "I'm not so sure about this." Now, being so excited because you see the impact that it has. Like you said, there still are some challenges that are in certain segments and certain groups that we want to talk about and open up the forum to have those discussions.

Dawn Haynes: It's real.

Jennifer Bonine: And be okay with that, right?

Dawn Haynes: Yes.

Jennifer Bonine: And having those dialogues. What I would say too that I have seen is it's not just about the women who test but it's also about all of the people who support them as well, and how to be a good advocate for women in technology in general.

Dawn Haynes: How to find good mentors, how to align yourself with people that can help you solve problems or people that have your back, that goes for everyone.

Jennifer Bonine: Everyone. Yeah, in general.

Dawn Haynes: Those are important career skills. Some of us just were not taught those skills.

Jennifer Bonine: No,

Dawn Haynes: It's a beautiful opportunity to share that.

Jennifer Bonine: I loved simple things that I think I've seen people walk away from that Friday session with, how to ask for what you want. Don't be afraid to step up and say, "Hey, what? Here is all the great things I've done, I'd like to be recognized for that. Here is how I'd like that to happen. Here is my suggestions on how to do that," and not waiting in the wings or the background just saying, "Hey, you'll figure it out that I'm really good at this. Then you'll reward me later."

Dawn Haynes: "Eventually, they'll appreciate me."

Jennifer Bonine: "Eventually, someone will notice."

Dawn Haynes: You got to figure out what your value and worth is. I think that's something that's very germane to your tester role all by itself.

Jennifer Bonine: In general.

Dawn Haynes: All by itself.

Jennifer Bonine: Testing in general.

Dawn Haynes: It's true, right?

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Dawn Haynes: People are always tasking us with, "Prove your value, prove your worth." And it goes so well together. We have a great time. There's all rest, that's going on on Friday.

Jennifer Bonine: We should talk about what that is. So for people that don't know what WREST is, that's an amazing workshop as well.

Dawn Haynes: The workshop on regulatory and ...

Jennifer Bonine: Regulated software testing.

Dawn Haynes: It's kind of an open forum, but sometimes they have it themed and spend most of the day just talking about the challenges of the regulated space. And that gives people real, tangible experiences. You can validate what you're doing, you can get other ideas from the group, and not a lot of the conference content addresses those things. There might be a talk here or there, but this is a day where you can really just jam on your specific challenges.

Jennifer Bonine: And with other people who have probably those same challenges and issues.

Dawn Haynes: It's brilliant.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Which is amazing. And then besides that, we also have the leadership summit on Friday.

Dawn Haynes: That's wonderful. And I'm so torn, because I've done the leadership summit and it's great, and people really workshop ideas, sometimes we have a panel in that, but it's just an amazing day where if you can cut all the ties to your email and your phone and you just focus on what you can get out of that time. It's tremendous, people walk out of those sessions completely charged, completely focused on solving a problem. There are new, fresh ideas.

Jennifer Bonine: That you didn't have.

Dawn Haynes: And they're all free, no?

Jennifer Bonine: Leadership, I believe, has some cost to it.

Dawn Haynes: There's a fee.

Jennifer Bonine: But the other two are free. You have opportunities all the way through Friday to engage on different topics and I think that's the beautiful thing too, is being with peers and other individuals and taking ideas that you may have, and then refining and honing them as you have those creative discussions with other people. Not everyone agrees on every topic.

Dawn Haynes: We sure don't.

Jennifer Bonine: There's some creative tension out there always on different topics in what people believe in different spectrums, but I think what's fun about being here is you get to explore that and have that creative healthy dialogue about you think this and I think this, what does that mean? And have some conversations around that too.

Dawn Haynes: I think that's really important, sometimes you go to a conference or you go to a training class and you're thinking, "Could you just tell me how to do it?" And if I'm the one that's in the room with you, I will say, categorically I cannot. I cannot make the decision for you. I can tell you what I've done, I can tell you some schemes, methodologies, approaches, but ultimately, it's your role, it's your decision.

The way I look at it is, even the person that I have a polar opposite opinion from, I want to hear what they've got to say. I want to understand how they got to that position and I've never been worse for the wear. There's always a nugget that I take along with me that challenges what I'm thinking, challenges what I'm doing and we're finding it.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Absolutely.

Dawn Haynes: We need that sort of thing. If you're in the middle of some kind of challenge where there's two polar opposite solutions for that, don't feel like you need to have split personality disorder to handle it. Just realize that's real, and there's a spectrum in between. You always look at it through the lens of your contacts, your situation. Take every piece of information from the people that you meet, the sessions that you go to, the blogs that you read, the articles that you read and integrate it.

And you choose, as wisely as you can, but don't freak out about not getting it right the first time, don't. Just treat it like a test.

Jennifer Bonine: That is good advice.

Dawn Haynes: It's an experiment. And you got to debrief it and say, "What do we learn from that?" And then you might make the next best recommendation for that, and that's just an evolutionary process. So, just go with that and don't beat yourself up.

Jennifer Bonine: I think, don't be afraid if, over time, you start to change your view or your opinion, either.

Dawn Haynes: Chances are you will.

Jennifer Bonine: You can evolve too. It's okay to evolve too.

Dawn Haynes: We would hope that that would happen over time.

Jennifer Bonine: Don't feel like you have to stay one way and you can't. I think great advice for the folks out there on lots of different opinions. Take it all in. Formulate it, understand it, make it your own. Great advice, Dawn Our time go so fast.

Dawn Haynes: I know. It always does.

Jennifer Bonine: We have to go in now, so hopefully all of you will stick with us to go back in and close out the day with our last keynote. Dawn, thanks again. Lightning keynote coming up.

Dawn Haynes: Yay. Peace out. Happy testing.

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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