Testing outside the Vacuum: An Interview with Julie Gardiner


In this interview, Julie Gardiner, the product management director at CA Technologies, explains four major ways teams today can modernize their testing, details her role as a member of the Test Lab at STARWEST, and discusses the purpose behind the Women Who Test event.

Jennifer Bonine: All right, we are back with another interview. I'm so excited. We have Julie here with us. Julie, thanks for being here.

Julie Gardiner: Hi, Jennifer. Well, thank you for having me again. I'm delighted to be here.

Jennifer Bonine: Yay.

Julie Gardiner: Yay.

Jennifer Bonine: The other half, as you can tell, of the Test Lab.

Julie Gardiner: Test Lab.

Jennifer Bonine: I am so really excited. I don't know if everyone knows, but a lot of times our Test Lab has been two gentlemen. I think it's lovely that we have two ladies running our Test Lab.

Julie Gardiner: We certainly do, and it's been really fun. So I hope you've been participating, for those in virtual land. We did have a couple of challenges, one being the ability to watch live bugs online. Somebody very astutely found that when they were online as well, which was great.

Jennifer Bonine: Awesome.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah, we found lots of interesting bugs. We've been testing a number of the black box puzzles by James Lyndsay, so thank you, James, but mainly focusing on usability, as well as the functional side. We've had teams doing some exploratory testing, creating charters, going through session-based stuff. We've actually had people playing games in terms of the dice, but also, most of it doing some usability, so using techniques like heuristic evaluation on the websites. Also, I found a heuristic evaluation for playing games. We have some guys here from Pokémon.

Jennifer Bonine: Yes, yes, I've seen them.

Julie Gardiner: I said, "Why don't you try these heuristics?" They said, "That'd be great."

Jennifer Bonine: That's awesome.

Julie Gardiner: Hopefully we've been able to help them, as well.

Jennifer Bonine: I've seen a lot of movement over there, as always. The Test Lab is such a big component of this event, where you learn a lot of stuff, but a lot of us are visual learners or hands-on learners, so being able to apply it. Then not only apply it, but you're with so many other smart people that you get the feedback and you have the ability to not learn in a vacuum, but learn as a community and as a group.

Julie Gardiner: I have to say, I've learned such a lot over the last couple of days. But we've been really lucky. We've had Rob Sabourin in there, and Griffin Jones, and Ben Simo and Paul Holland sharing some of their experiences, guiding, leading. The wealth of information that's come out has been amazing. We had to almost kick the guys out of the Test Lab last night.

Jennifer Bonine: I bet.

Julie Gardiner: We were going until about quarter to eight in the evening.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow.

Julie Gardiner: It's great that people have really dedicated themselves and also helping the charity if they wanted to. It's been great.

Jennifer Bonine: Which is amazing, so, Humanitarian Toolbox.

Julie Gardiner: That's correct.

Jennifer Bonine: What a cool aspect, and given some of the things we've seen recently in our world with hurricanes, things like that, so applicable to what we need.

Julie Gardiner: Exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: And then having a hand in being able to help and test that. Then you look at the security components, which is very real to people, with Equifax and what's happened with that. Right, disaster?

Julie Gardiner: A blast.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, oh my goodness.

Julie Gardiner: I say blast, but I don't really mean it.

Jennifer Bonine: But it is. It's those things that, unfortunately, those types of things raise new challenges and questions for people in testing, of how do you help and how do you get involved and understand. I think that's great, and seeing the good participation, and lots of people getting to share ideas and being open, too, to learning, just very open-mindedness, I think is important.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah, I think so. We've had such a variety of different things they can do. Usually we haven't found somebody where they've come to the Test Lab and they've said, "None of this is actually going to be relevant for me or helpful to me in some way."

Jennifer Bonine: Good.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah, which has been great.

Jennifer Bonine: That is good.

Julie Gardiner: Thankfully, it's hopefully hit the mark with those guys, but no, I think that most people are really up for just trying something out. It's a way of safety, and I think that that's something that we should learn to do more if people are in organizations where that "fail and learn" isn't really adopted as much. There are opportunities for you to actually do that there.

Jennifer Bonine: Which is nice. Some of you out there who are maybe saying, "Gosh, I feel like it's not safe to say 'I don't know' or to ask questions," I mean ...

Julie Gardiner: Exactly.

Jennifer Bonine: This is a very safe environment to sit down with people. I've seen a lot of it where a lot of the folks that you read about that blog, like Julie and Dawn and others, are accessible. They'll talk to you. They'll give you their thoughts. You can bounce ideas off them. I think that's a great term, a very safe space to ask questions, and not have to be the expert, and get feedback.

Julie Gardiner: Exactly. I always have a phrase about these kind of conferences: "The strength of any conference is what you do afterwards." Having people being able to actually start to apply some of the techniques they learned, either in the tutorials or from their sessions that we have here, I think has been really, really important. Yeah, it's been great fun. You could come along next time.

Jennifer Bonine: I know, next time. One of the ways you can do that is by signing up to be a speaker, submitting a topic. If you haven't done that, that's another way. You are obviously a resident speaker, have been for years.

Julie Gardiner: That's code for "old."

Jennifer Bonine: No, resident speaker! But you have been doing this a long time. What were the topics, kind of, that you were focused on this time?

Julie Gardiner: I've really spent most of my time dedicated to the Test Lab and learning from those guys.

Jennifer Bonine: I know. I've seen you over there.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah, and it's good, because the people have been keeping me busy. I also did a breakfast session at quarter after seven.

Jennifer Bonine: Oh my.

Julie Gardiner: That's how you say it over here. In the morning yesterday. Dawn was teasing me, because she said, "If you get more than four people, I will be amazed." She said, "Not even if Thor himself was presenting," who she kind of likes, would she be there for quarter past seven. We had over 130 people attend that session. It shows true dedication to people's specialties.

Jennifer Bonine: That is amazing.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah, and I'd love to say it was me, but no, they were coming for the topic.

Jennifer Bonine: I was going to say, they heard it was you.

Julie Gardiner: No, it wasn't me.

Jennifer Bonine: Wow.

Julie Gardiner: But my session was really all about just four ways you can start to modernize your testing practices. Try and make people aware that we're not all in the same place in terms of evolution on, you know, get involved earlier, doing a shift left, your automation, continuous testing, continuous delivery. That's okay. Understand where you are and where you may want to go, and then take those initial baby steps to get to move forward.

Then I liked it, doing that session, because I was hoping that it would actually influence the sessions that people would go to, as well to make sure that they're spending their time in the most applicable areas.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, absolutely.

Julie Gardiner: It was good. A bit early start, but definitely worth it.

Jennifer Bonine: 130 people.

Julie Gardiner: Yeah.

Jennifer Bonine: That's amazing.

Julie Gardiner: I think it's a testament.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, that people come that early. Like you said, they're very dedicated. They're in the Test Lab late. They're up at sessions early. That is one really interesting thing, I think, is sometimes you see people sign up for conferences, it's more, "Yeah, I'm going to go. I'll see a couple things, but I really just need a break," or whatever. But here, you honestly see people at the event, day in, day out. They're here, even though we're at Disneyland, which we all know Mickey is an incredible draw, and it's so close.

Julie Gardiner: It is.

Jennifer Bonine: We can walk there from here. But people really are here to learn.

Julie Gardiner: Completely.

Jennifer Bonine: They're here to engage. They're here to collaborate and connect with others. It's not they're here and you never see them again, and they showed up for like five minutes.

Julie Gardiner: Exactly. So I would say to any managers out there, obviously, find out the value of people attending the sessions, but I think you'll be absolutely delighted with the results. Don't think that some conferences are jollies, because this one certainly isn't.

Jennifer Bonine: No.

Julie Gardiner: Because the people who come are actually dedicated to doing things better and helping when they go back.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and they're here to attend, and show up, and they show up all week.

Julie Gardiner: They do.

Jennifer Bonine: A lot of people ... we start over the weekend ...

Julie Gardiner: We have Women Who Test, as well.

Jennifer Bonine: On Friday, which we haven't even had yet, Friday this week will be Women Who Test, which you'll be at. Maybe share a little bit about ... Because I think some people are hesitant about what is this all about, and does it make sense to segregate out a group of people because they're women. But maybe talk a bit about your experience with it and how that really is not at all how it is.

Julie Gardiner: It's not. No. I mainly go as a participant. I help out on the panel thing to share my experiences wherever possible, but they're incredibly powerful sessions. I have to say I love Women Who Test. Men come to Women Who Test. A gentleman by the name of Brandon said one of the great things about it is that it's just an opportunity for women to speak out and be a bit more freer, but it's nothing exclusive to women. Men, if you want to come along to it as well, please do. Some amazing topics, absolutely always adore your session on branding and knowing yourself. I've actually got mine on my wall at home—

Jennifer Bonine: Yay.

Julie Gardiner: —so thank you very much for that. It's going to be a great session. It's going to be very thought-provoking, and you'll definitely get a lot out of it tomorrow.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, and I would say even for folks that maybe came a year ago or two years ago, you have different people, which, any time you put different groups of people in a room together, it's a different feel. It's a different experience.

Julie Gardiner: It is.

Jennifer Bonine: Having gone, like you, for the last couple of years, you always get something different, which I think is fun.

Julie Gardiner: I go to the STAREAST ones, the STARWEST, and STARCANADA.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, amazing.

Julie Gardiner: Every time, it's always incredible. I always get something out of it, which is such a pleasure. I really appreciate STAR putting it on, as well.

Jennifer Bonine: Yeah, I do, too. Thanks, Julie, for being with us.

Julie Gardiner: Thank you.

Jennifer Bonine: That was all so fast. Enjoy your next session up next. Then we'll come back with more interviews after this session.

Julie GJulie Gardiner is a pragmatic, practical, and people-driven leader, specializing in testing, agile, and quality. An enthusiastic and passionate speaker, her presentations worldwide come from real-world experiences in her more than twenty-five years in the industry. As product management director at CA Technologies, Julie is able to influence software quality in tools and products that are meaningful to the testing domain. Previously Julie was head of testing and implementation for a well-known UK bank, and director of digital engineering and TQA for a consulting company.


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