Quardev Monthly, June 2012

In this issue:

Welcome the June 2012 edition of the Quardev Monthly!

We look forward to sharing insights and helpful information in the areas where we know a thing or two: testing, quality assurance, technical writing and documentation, project management, and consulting.

In this edition we have a feature article from Jacob Stevens, Sr. Test Lead with Quardev, on applying testing skills to technical recruiting.

Enjoy the newsletter with our compliments and please contact us with questions, comments, or article ideas.

-The Quardev Crew!!

Testing Testers

Lessons learned from software testing, applied to technical recruiting

Jacob Stevens, Senior Test Lead, Quardev, Inc.

How do you test a tester? At Quardev, we know testing. We also know a good tester when we see one. Service organizations like us ultimately live or die by the quality of our people. We've learned to apply what we know about testing, to recruiting and technical vetting.

Our approach to technical vetting is a little different. We don't merely ask a couple algorithm questions and then ask for a thousand ways to test a stapler. We go deeper. We evaluate candidates based on dozens of facets of their professional fitness. Qualifying both hard and soft skills and evaluating culture and personality fit are challenges we all face. Some orgs put more effort into it than others. We've found our approach to be quite effective, and it's been corroborated by constant feedback from clients and candidates.

Three commonalities between testing software and testing testers

Testers at heart, we love to investigate and explore mysteries. We've come to notice a lot of commonality between testing software and technical vetting. Testing is ultimately an evaluation exercise. Technical vetting is an evaluation exercise. That's the high-level view. Here are some more things we've noticed.

Context-tailoring

As with most endeavors in life, there's more than one way to skin a cat. What the best method may be depends heavily on context and circumstance. In software it may be the technology stack, the product maturity, saturation of the market segment, the scale of complexity of the system, the price point, team size, and so on.

Recruiting follows suit, to a fair extent. The product, organization and market can all factor, in scope, scale, complexity and maturity. And while these factors routinely shape the job description to a moderate extent, the level of a candidate's applicability to the role can be affected even further.

Adding to an established team working on a mature productivity webapp on a LAMP stack in a competitive segment? Aside from the hard skill requirements, your candidate may need to demonstrate the discipline required to re-factor existing code and expand the established regression suite.

High-potential startup with a strong get-to-market need? Self-driven initiative is an obvious necessity, but the tactful combination of assertiveness and deference to bring innovation while accepting necessary tradeoffs and shifts in direction is also a key to candidate success.

Investigation

To evaluate, you need information. In testing, the more time spent on gathering information, and less spent on mitigation, the better. Recruiting is largely focused on information gathering as well. Much of the effort is a screening exercise; when the quality bar is not met, the candidate does not proceed. But nuanced recruiting that targets a high success rate rather than success by volume is predicated on the skill of knowing when further investigation is useful.

This is a skill honed by the testing industry. Further investigation will almost always yield more information; however, it's the value proposition of that additional information that is in question. Good testers know when to dig a little deeper, and when to say enough's enough.

Recruiting can be likened to taking a snapshot of a person's capabilities. On a given day, they could do a better or worse job of demonstrating their true capabilities, and then it's up to us to read that demonstration, "through a glass darkly."

Passing or failing a technical audition can easily be a false dichotomy. At Quardev we've enjoyed the benefits of having a good knack for knowing when further investigation is necessary. It's helped to eliminate both false positives and false negatives.

Triage

We're all called to perform under the constraints of time and budget. In our twin endeavors being compared here, we've got bugs, we've got red flags, we have quality bars and thresholds that we're comfortable living with, when necessary. So after information gathering comes the sorting out of what to do about it.

It is rare for a technology candidate to be a perfect match for every facet of a job description - the goal is to find the best candidate (A Player) who is excited by challenge and has the aptitude and key hard and soft skill-sets needed to be successful.

Likewise, in software, you tailor your definition of "done" to allow some leeway on quality issues you know you'll encounter, but either way, you'll find yourself making the trade-offs needed to get the best release possible within the necessary scope of time and money. And in the process move forward knowing what quality compromises you've accepted.

Team and culture fit is a triaging exercise. Most organizations pride themselves on taking team fit very seriously, and they commit a lot of resources to evaluating it. Lest they mislead themselves into thinking this sets them apart, assessing team fit is not difficult or challenging. It's not the care taken to evaluate team fit, nor evaluating it like a boss, that lends to building better teams. It's that recognition of our view coming through a "glass darkly" as mentioned earlier, and the reticence to put too much confidence in judgments on limited data that lends to the heightened skill of building better teams.

Next up, check out our blog for the upcoming follow up: three key differences between testing software and testing people!

Upcoming Events

July QA SIG Meeting

Date: Weds, July 11, 2012

Time: 7:00-8:30 PM

Place: Quardev, Inc. Office

On Combinatorial Testing

Presented by James Bach

See the QASIG Website to learn more and to register.

Quardev is looking for Great People

We are always looking for great people to join our team.

At Quardev you will work hard, you will enjoy a great working environment and benefits, and you will be building a solid, interesting, and flexible career where you can learn and grow.

If a career with Quardev sounds interesting, or sounds like it may be a fit for someone you know, check out our Careers page or contact us today via Quardev contact page.

We'd love to meet you!