STAREAST 2015 Interview with Richard Hundhausen on Real-World Software Testing


Richard Hundhausen on his STAREAST presentation. Look for more keynotes, sessions, and interviews at this year’s STARWEST conference in Anaheim.


In this interview, Richard Hundhausen talks about real-world software testing, his experience at STAREAST, the benefits of Scrum and agile, and how we can end the developer/tester dichotomy by bringing these two teams together.

Jennifer Bonine: All right, virtual audience. We are back with another couple of interviews here, the first being Richard Hundhausen. Hey, Richard, thanks for joining us.

Richard Hundhausen: Hey, Jennifer, thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.

Jennifer Bonine: Let's start with … Accentient is the company you work for, and I see they do Microsoft, ALM, Scrum. Why don't we give people out there who don't know you as well some background on what you do and who you are?

Richard Hundhausen: Sure. Great. Thanks for listening to me and tuning in. My name is Richard Hundhausen. I'm from Boise, Idaho. The company is Accentient, which is really just an excuse to get together with a bunch of like-minded people and talk about my favorite subjects.

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect.

Richard Hundhausen: Software development and Scrum. I was very happy to come and be part of STAREAST, also STARWEST last fall, and do this great three-day workshop on visual studio and all the testing tools in there. It was really fun.

Jennifer Bonine: For those of you who aren't here, it's this massive conference hotel location. I saw the posters downstairs detailing the three-day workshop on visual studio. For those that didn't get a chance to attend, you obviously have done this three-day workshop before, you'll probably do it in the future. What can they expect to get out of that, or who would you say should go to that type of workshop?

Richard Hundhausen: Just a quick mention of the area. The logistics was great because this resort we're at has this big biodome that you walk through to go from reception to the conference area. There's actual alligators outside my room.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, it's awesome.

Richard Hundhausen: They feed them on Saturday and Tuesday nights at 6:30, if you care. If you ever find yourself near the Gaylord Palms—

Jennifer Bonine: Palms.

Richard Hundhausen: Or whatever this is. That was kind of fun. I was always joking with the students that if you don't get the labs done and you don't ask the right questions, Tuesday at 6:30, you're up for dinner.

Jennifer Bonine: You're up next for dinner.

Richard Hundhausen: Dinner with the crocodiles. Excuse me, alligators. I know there's a difference.

The workshop. It's hands-on. We go through pretty much all of the tools pertaining to testing. I'm a process guy, so I have to back up a couple steps and talk about working as a team, and putting your backlog together with acceptance criteria to make sure that you're developing the right thing, and then having tests to verify that you're done with that. We went through that very slowly and built on top of our project doing exploratory testing, development tests, lots and lots acceptance tests. It was great, lots of hands-on. A good balance, I think. The evals, I think, agreed with me, too.

Jennifer Bonine: Typically, how big is an average class size? Just so people know what to expect. Are they in a big auditorium with two hundred people, or is it more personalized and one-on-one?

Richard Hundhausen: It's more personalized. I think we had two teams of five. When I teach, I like to put the people on equally sized teams, cross-functional. There's some people on there that have a little bit of background around testing, obviously everyone here does, but maybe some agile project management, and software development way back in their resume so that as these questions come up, the teams solve the problems on their own. We had nine people, two equally sized teams. It was the perfect size.

Jennifer Bonine: Given your background, and what you do, and where you've come from, so you obviously didn't grow up in the testing world. Obviously, testing touched your world that you do, but weren't in that profession, so to speak, as your career. What brought you to these? Obviously, STAREAST, STARWEST, very centered around software testing.

Richard Hundhausen: Centered around software testing.

Jennifer Bonine: Why are you here?

Richard Hundhausen: That's a great question. Why am I here? It is a different vibe than the conferences I'm used to going to. It's all software at the end of the day. Testers are on these software development teams, or they should be anyway. I'm trying to help correct that in the industry and get this notion of QA and the QA group, break that apart, bring those people under the software development. You're right, a peer testing conference, I feel like the outsider here, like there's a big scarlet letter on my head. People are looking at me like, "That's an impostor over there."

The ideas of software testing, I'm very familiar with them. Although talking to some of the people you have here, oh my gosh, I am just a child compared to where they're at with this. Heaven forbid you use the wrong word, you use the word test when it should be a check, with the wrong person. Then you're going to get schooled for forty-five minutes.

Jennifer Bonine: You know not to step into that.

Richard Hundhausen: I know not to say that. Make sure you know who you're talking to and you have, in your memory, exactly what their opinion is of everything before you bring it up, or else you might look down and you've lost an hour—

Jennifer Bonine: Of your time.

Richard Hundhausen: Of your time. Great time spent though, yes.

Jennifer Bonine: A lot of folks watching out there may not all be in testing or testers. They may be project managers, they may be developers. Would you recommend folks from outside the disciplines coming to see some of this, and what's being talked about, and what's out there?

Richard Hundhausen: Definitely. Just walking down the hall here and looking at some of the different sessions going on. There's automated testing, there's test planning, there's agile software development from a tester's perspective, there's process, there's tools in the workshop, there's a lot of people, cognitive skills, and being able to reason out who you're going to test. There's really a lot of things here for people that maybe aren't formal testers.

Jennifer Bonine: Absolutely.

Richard Hundhausen: I've sat through a couple talks since my day was officially done yesterday. Today, I should just take off the speaker tag on my badge. I'm just an attendee at this point. I was learning something, I had to dash down here. I was learning some great things on one of the sessions there.

Jennifer Bonine: That's awesome. Conferences in general. You obviously have attended this one a couple of times. You mentioned development conferences and the vibe at them. For those that didn't get a chance to attend, or haven't been to one before but really want to, maybe give them a feel for why that's important as they're trying to sell this on to their leadership and management. Why spend the money to send them to these types of things?

Richard Hundhausen: Absolutely. The organizations that tend to balk at training expenditures, and travel, conference fees, and things like that, if you can bring back one nugget and solve one specific problem, it pays for itself, possibly multiple times over. I know each of my students came to my workshop with basically their personal backlog of questions. It's great because after I quickly answered those questions and then hooked them up with somebody at Microsoft that could help them going forward, they're like, "I'm done. I can now leave the conference and go play golf all week if I wanted to because—"

Jennifer Bonine: I've accomplished my goal.

Richard Hundhausen: "I've met my criteria." Of course, I try to load up way more value than that, so bookmarks, and lots and lots of good advice. Every one of the speakers here at the conference, in the workshops and the proper sessions, they're just approachable. I love what you guys are doing with this one-on-one time.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes, speaker one-on-one.

Richard Hundhausen: Speaker one-on-one. If you've got a speaker that's an expert in an area you want some time with, schedule it on the big board over there and sit down with them, fifteen minutes, have lunch with them at their table. Lots of opportunities to network.

Jennifer Bonine: I think networking is a big thing. You get an opportunity to meet a lot of people and different opinions, as you mentioned.

Richard Hundhausen: Different opinions, yes.

Jennifer Bonine: You want to be careful because there are a lot of opinions. Just speaking on opinions and things we're seeing, what are some of the trends you're seeing over the last maybe year or two years that are emerging that people should be aware of?

Richard Hundhausen: Absolutely. Obviously, my world is two parts. It's visual studio and the tools Microsoft has for software development, including testing. Then Scrum. Scrum is a very popular way to become agile. It's a framework within which a team can deliver value in the form of working software over a series of iterations. You know what, testers are part of those teams. I love that I come here and I see more and more talks on agile. In my day-to-day life, it's not new; it's been around for fourteen years since they've had the original manifesto. For some people coming to this conference, it's still new and scary.

Jennifer Bonine: It is.

Richard Hundhausen: I like that there's a lot of agile on your session boards over there. That's the trend. The trend is more and more agility and the need for more and more of those tester skill sets on those teams. Because honestly, if you can't have testers involved with getting your work done, you can't get your work, and then you've got no sense of agility at that team level. That's what it's all about. That's what it's all about.

Jennifer Bonine: Yep. Working together in that collaboration. What are you seeing in terms of skill sets? When you're working with organizations, and what's helpful, what are some of the skill sets that you either see lacking or that you would like to see more of in terms of people being open to grow those skills?

Richard Hundhausen: Absolutely. I always say that if you think the job of a tester is to follow a script that someone else wrote, you're not the testers we need in software development. The trends I'm seeing are testers who are, at very minimum, creating those scripts. They're the ones creating the test cases, as well as executing them, whether they're formal or informal, but hopefully also not allergic to sit down with the developers earlier in the cycle and help them design the solutions.

There's always this developer/tester dichotomy, almost like two different rival teams at a sporting event. That should not be the case. Whatever we can do to get that chasm connected, get the teams working together, and I'd say even start with what the testers can bring to the team first. I'm a big fan of some of the things Dan North talks about. Behavior drive, acceptance test driven. A lot of that is helping refine those business requirements into the form of failing tests early on. Guess who we need to do those? The testers. It's great. That's the trend that I see emerging, but it needs to emerge a lot more, in my opinion.

Jennifer Bonine: More of that.

Richard Hundhausen: More of that.

Jennifer Bonine: Seeing more of that emerging and breaking down of the silos and the walls, and really understanding each other, and how to work together.

Richard Hundhausen: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bonine: One of the things we're hearing, too, besides that trend of that collaboration, breaking down the walls, working together better, is around continuous integration, continuous delivery deployment, it's everywhere. Talking about how to get results faster, shift left, whatever you want to call it. It's been around for a while, but everyone's now saying, "How do I do that? How do I get information faster?" What's the take for someone in development about getting that feedback faster? Because one comment I've heard from developers was, "When we develop for months and months and months, and then all of a sudden you come along and say, 'Here's what's all broken,' I didn't work on that for six months. I don't remember."

Richard Hundhausen: Contact switch.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah. Feedback, more instant feedback. Not saying, "This is my dev cycle, this is my test cycle, but truly overlapping and integrating those things."

Richard Hundhausen: Yes, exactly. What I would say is to stop doing that and there is no test cycle, there is just a dev cycle, which includes testing. We need those people's feedback and what they can do earlier in those cycles. What you mentioned too is something, you hear a lot of the term DevOps. DevOps has been described as the second decade of agile. There's a great book, it's called The Phoenix Project that reads like a novel.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes, it's awesome. It's an awesome book.

Richard Hundhausen: I think they might have it at the bookstore. It reads like a Tom Clancy book and it will scare you towards needing those things which DevOps talks about. It's great.

Jennifer Bonine: The Phoenix Project .

Richard Hundhausen: The Phoenix Project .

Jennifer Bonine: We're out of time. Thanks, Richard, for your time. If people want to get a hold of you, if I didn't ask the question they wanted to hear from you, best way to contact you?

Richard Hundhausen: Best way to contact me ... I'll give you Twitter, it's @rhundhausen, or just [email protected].

Jennifer Bonine: Perfect. Thanks for your time.

Richard Hundhausen: Thanks very much.

Jennifer Bonine: I appreciate it.

Richard Hundhausen: Thank you.

Richard HundhausenRichard is the president of Accentient, a company that helps software teams develop better products by leveraging Microsoft's ALM tools and Scrum. He is a Microsoft Regional Director, a Visual Studio ALM MVP, a Professional Scrum Trainer, and author of Professional Scrum Development with Microsoft Visual Studio by Microsoft Press. As a software developer and consultant with over 30 years of experience, he understands that software is built by people and not by processes or tools.

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