Mike Faulise of tap|QA discusses the current trends that are dominating the software industry. He explains which tools most businesses are gravitating toward, how new jobs are being introduced into the industry, how to properly hire people, and why testing and quality are so important.
Jennifer Bonine: All right, welcome back, and we are here. It's hard to believe we're at our last interview of the conference. I have with me Mike Faulise. You're our closer, so high expectations here for the folks out there. Mike, why don't you tell us a little bit about what tap|QA is and how you started that company, and a little bit about your background, for folks that haven't had a chance to meet you.
Mike Faulise: Sure. I have an engineering background by school. About twenty years ago I got into the consulting field in IT, and about 2008, 2009 I decided that I wanted to recreate an organization that we started in load and performance testing, automation, very technical. And about 2008, 2009 time frame I recognized that with the recession that there was an opportunity for us to really start bringing jobs back from India and offshore and really start doing that onshore within the Minneapolis area, and that's really taken off like hotcakes. It's been a great, great solution where we really partnered with organizations. By partnership, it's really been a wonderful opportunity for organizations to not only get onshore talent, only be within a few time zones, understand contextual relevance, and then certainly have that ability to potentially even hire folks long-term.
It's been a great, great, great, different, unique solution than most consulting services organizations offer, and since then we've created over five hundred jobs in the US, and it's been a great success story for the US and for tap|QA.
Jennifer Bonine: Wow. With those five hundred jobs, obviously you guys do a lot of hiring and staffing, and we talked to some folks that are running the leadership summit tomorrow, and one of the things they said is a hot topic year over year is, how do I find the right people? Like, how do I go get the right talent, and then how do I make sure that I'm giving them the right skills and that we've got relevant skills? Maybe talk a little bit about, as someone who's created five hundred jobs, what you look for out there when you're looking for people to join your organization—what skills, the type of evaluation you do.
Mike Faulise: One of the things we, for us, we found that the skills that people have definitely shifted, and I think we look at the quality skills. We look at sort of the triangle of skills. We'll put the triangle over here again. There's QA at the top of it, which we always have to have, and there was really two other skills. There was the business silo, so whether you're finance or any type of business skill, and then technology. We've always really seen traditionally that we want QA and some type of finance, insurance, whatever that might be, media, whatnot.
What we've seen now in the last five years is we've started seeing that pendulum swing where we really want more technology focus, and I think that's what we're starting to see, whether that's continuous integration or DevOps and agile, and a lot of these new fundamental shifts in technology that have been occurring now for the last eight to nine years where the tester and the developer are starting to look more similar. Because of that, that's now why we're seeing much more of a technology shift. That's in someone that maybe has, say, five or ten years of experience certainly looking at some of those more technical skills.
That being said, we hire a lot of entry level, we hire a lot of associate levels, and what we're looking for, people that are outside that natural strike zone in the IT. Things that normally we'd hire for MIS and engineers, we're actually now looking a little outside of that and looking for folks that may have more of a musical background, and those actually, that musical background allows people to be very creative and analytical, and that's a strike zone for a good QA tester. That's allowed us to really be competitive with offshoring but yet also really develop talent within people.
Jennifer Bonine: In terms of the clients you're working with then, have you seen any trends? We've heard a lot at this conference about DevOps and agile and CI and all the things that people are focused on, and you guys obviously are in the vendor area, which you guys can virtually visit, where there's lots of tools and technologies and things like that. What are you seeing as an owner of an organization for services around trends and what companies are buying and wanting and struggling with or needing help with?
Mike Faulise: I think the first trend that I think is interesting to me is just the idea that open source drills are certainly becoming more acceptable. We're seeing companies that are certainly doing more open source and there are certainly places for other tools whether those be automation tools or build management, or whatever they might be. That's certainly a trend that we're seeing more and more of with organizations that are actually adapting and integrating more open source tools.
I think some of the other, the trends that we're seeing is just the idea that we are spending more on quality today than we ever have before. With the advent of development always being ahead of testing, testing mobile, testing the different, whether it's different browsers or different mobile browsers or Internet of Things, there's just a lot more we have to test now. Because of that, organizations are spending more on quality and that's been great. Certainly great for our organization and I think great for anyone in the QA industry, which is a great thing for us long term, but that then means that with that comes challenges. How do you create those centers of excellence and what do you do if you've got extra budget? How can you leverage that the best? Those are some of the trends and things that we're seeing organizationally.
Jennifer Bonine: How would you say ... There may be folks out there who are saying, "I know I don't have capacity inside my organization. I want to engage a partner to help me in certain areas. I want someone to come in and help my organization." What is a good way for them to know or evaluate, is this going to be a good partner for me? Is this the right thing to not do internally but to have an external person to help me with?
Mike Faulise: Yeah, that's a great question. One of the things that we find with our partners or when you do look to partner with someone that we've partnered with, a lot of organizations, is first and foremost to define what partnership means. I think traditionally what's that meant in the past is I'm a service organization. You pay me money, I give you service. That's great but I think what we really want to do and what we've certainly done at tap|QA is to help organizations define what partnership means and first and foremost, our goal is to help organizations really drive their cost equality below their employee cost. They use us and see value in using us and see that velocity in the value, but yeah, no, it's not as expensive as hiring someone full time. If we can't do that as a partner then we should allow folks to hire our folks.
Those are, to me, two key elements that you want to be able to scale but you also want to know can I rely on this partner to internalize and create FTE positions for my organization as well as can I scale? Those are, to me, two fundamental pieces of a good partnership.
Jennifer Bonine: Yep, absolutely. Interesting because you don't hear a lot of times, I think, in the services industry or people may not be aware of it, that you do allow as an organization, you guys allow them to actually hire those people on, like you said. They can become employees of the organization so while they're doing the training, they don't lose that knowledge.
Mike Faulise: Yeah, that knowledge then becomes part of the organization. We at tap|QA just as a fundamental mission, our goal and our thought has been if you are hiring people, you're going to have more emphasis on quality and there will be more opportunities to continue to partner.
Jennifer Bonine: Right. Also, being that you guys are solely focused on testing and QA, it seems like you're continuing to grow as well. What's your perspective on people may not know there are companies that all they do is testing and quality, and that there's a market for that and there's a place for that and that there's a lot of demand for that, for example. Maybe talk to what it's like to be company that has such a refined focus in one area.
Mike Faulise: Yeah. Having that micro-focus has been incredibly useful because what we can do that not a lot of other consulting services do is to actually create a career path for every one of our staff. Every employee, whether they come in an associate level or a senior level, there's a path and I think that micro-focus that we have has been wonderful and allowed us to grow so that we are not all things to everyone. We are one thing that we do for everyone.
Jennifer Bonine: We focus on this. Yeah. I think that's great as a consumer because myself having been on the consumer side struggled with finding a partner who understood what my challenges were as the buyer and what I needed, so having an organization that focuses, so micro-focus on that area is helpful. For folks out there that may be saying, we talked to someone earlier. She recently made a shift from a full-time employee to a consultant, so going the other way instead of being a consultant and becoming an employee, she had shifted into consulting. Any words of wisdom or advice for folks out there who are sitting out there thinking, gosh, this consulting thing sounds interesting. How do I get involved in that or may shift into that or some things to know when you're going from being an FT to more of a consultant model?
Mike Faulise: Sure. First I'm going to have to just make a small correction. It's not interesting. It is fabulous. Let's use the right adjective to really modify the consulting career. It's fantastic, it's fabulous, it's the best thing since sliced bread, but don't leave your full-time job yet. I think there are some things that you have to be aware of when you are a consultant. I think that the number one thing that I talk to people a lot is if you are going to be a consultant you're going to be go on site somewhere where you're on site and not say working remote or out of another facility is psychologically, the first thing you really have to be prepared for is the idea of visitor parking.
When you go to a doctor you park in visitor parking because you know you're not going to be there forever, you hope, and then you know that you're eventually going to leave. I think there are some things that you do. You're a little more respectful, you make sure you, if you got to take your shoes off, you take your shoes off. You do things that a visitor would do and I think as a consultant that's the mentality to be successful that you have to have. Where it's that the idea that this is not my home so I have to really make sure that I'm treating it with the utmost respect and I think that's ... When people get into consulting I think that sometimes gets overlooked because certainly a lot of people can do the job and do the work, but it is making sure that you do the job and you do the work and people are appreciative of what you do.
Jennifer Bonine: Well, and I think you bring up a good point, and something else I think we've seen when you shift into that consulting model is you have to be careful about staying out of some of the politics and into the fray of the organization because there's a lot that goes on, but maybe speak a little bit too as a consultant how to manage the messaging of sometimes delivering good news or bad news, if you have any thoughts on that for people that are getting into that consulting world.
Mike Faulise: Yeah. When you're in the consulting world, it's always good news. That's the number one thing, even when it's bad. I think when you're smiling; I think that, to me, it's that upbeat positivity. I think that instead of saying that we have hurdles and obstacles, we have challenges. Words have meaning and are very meaningful to organizations. I think how you portray things and then making sure that you have solutions around those challenge areas. Hey, we've got a challenge here, here's an opportunity and here's some options that we can go down. You won't ever be necessarily the decision maker at organizations, but giving organizations the options and understanding that hey, you're already thought through what the paths that we can take. These are critical things to be successful as a consultant, to continue to see yourself as having that added value. They didn't just do something and then suddenly there's a critical defect but now we know a path to how to solve it. These are critical things.
Sometimes as QA we don't know how to solve those things, but that's when you can spend the extra time to work with the developer to find out what is that time commitment? What is that option? Instead of saying I don't know and throwing your hands up that you can actually throw some options out there. That, I think at tap|QA, one of the things that we've done is making sure that everyone at our organization whether they're an associate or they're a senior knows kind of what our solutions are to help with organizations in that. That's where we have our near shore solution, we have our strategic solution, and then we have our technology solutions. Usually in the world of IT, things are solved with either people, process, or technology.
On the strategic side, that's where we look at resourcing, we look at structure, we look at centralization, decentralization and resources. With technology, we look at the different tools and how to layer them correctly. Then from just a sourcing perspective, that's where we have that scaling solution with near shore and how we do tap|QA. Those are great opportunities for us, for a tap|QA consultant, so that they understand hey, if I do run into a struggle, if I do run into challenges, how do I present some solutions that might be very beneficial for the client.
Jennifer Bonine: One last thought, because time goes so quickly. One last thing that I wanted to ask you about, because we've heard a little bit about it at the conference, and obviously as someone who hires people, you're hiring some of these millennials, as they call them. We'd love your thoughts on how do you help manage these millennials in your work force, because you obviously, I'm sure, have some of them.
Mike Faulise: We do, we do. I think that the answer is they're not a lot of different than other generations. I'm part of Generation X, and I think as generations change, there are similarities and there are differences. I think that every generation says, "When I was your age, we had ..." Right? I guess, my grandparents said they walked up hill both ways, right? Now we say things like we used to bang a TV. I think the one thing that ... To make it work. Sorry. For those of you that don't know, we used to bang a TV to make it work better.
Jennifer Bonine: It would sometimes help.
Mike Faulise: It would sometimes help. Nowadays we don't do that. I think these days one of the things that we do help with when it comes to managing the next generation of our workforce is that they have not had a lot of learning opportunities through failure. With Google being every present in their life and the internet being ever present in their life, learning has been easier for them. Maybe not easier, but certainly they haven't had to learn through failure. We've managed, really, to retain our millennials to challenge them is to give them problems that are not quickly solvable. Something that you can't just Google. I think that has been such a great thing for managers and folks that are managing that talent pool to understand that, give those challenges to people because they thrive on that.
Then I think one other things to add is this is also a very competitive generation. There's lots of visibility as to whether you succeed or fail and I think that allowing people to fail and trying to remove some of that competitiveness, but yet continuing to put the challenges in front of them is what really has created a successful environment for millennials.
Jennifer Bonine: That's great. Thanks for sharing all that. Mike, if people want to know more or get a hold of you, what's the best way to find you?
Mike Faulise: The best way to find me is on the internet, the good place, and that's tapqa.com, and then just go to the leadership page and my information is there. Otherwise, [email protected] and then we'll get it.
Jennifer Bonine: Perfect. Thanks, Mike. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in and watching our interviews, and we hope to see you all back for the keynote coming up next.
Michael 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.