Aaron Hodder

Organisation – The Meteorological Service of New Zealand

Role/Designation – Software Tester

Location – Wellington, New Zealand

Aaron Hodder is a test analyst for Metra (http://www.metraweather.com/), the international commercial subsidiary of the Meteorological Service of New Zealand (http://www.metservice.com/about/about).

He works on the Weatherscape XT product which is a weather graphics presentation system used by television stations to present the graphics on their weather reports. Clients using Weatherscape XT include the BBC in the UK, channel 9 in Australia, and TVNZ and TV3 in New Zealand.  Before joining Metra, Aaron worked as a test lead at Catalyst IT, New Zealand’s largest open source development company. While at Catalyst, Aaron led the testing efforts on projects for many large clients including Fairfax (Stuff.co.nz), Telecom Mobile, and the Real Estate Agents Authority.

1. How long have you been involved in software testing?

About four and a half years.

2. How did you become a software tester?

I was working at a software company as an application administrator, and wondered if there was a role for people to “test” the software they produce before it gets delivered to clients.  Turns out there was.  I asked if I could join the software test team, and I was lucky they decided to take a chance on me.

3. Why are you passionate about testing and what keeps that passion burning?

I don’t think there is any 8-year-old kid, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, that will respond “Software Tester!”  I, like most people I think, became a tester by accident, and it turns out I’m quite good at it. Since I can’t be a pilot, or professional poker player, or an astronaut, I may as well get paid to be a software tester!  That is, since I can’t get paid to do something I’m passionate about, I may as well get passionate about something I can do.  If I’m going to spend 40 hours a week for the rest of my working life doing this, then I better enjoy it, and experience it to its fullest.  I’m not going to waste my life doing something I don’t value doing, and I’ve learnt that there’s real value in good testing.  What keeps that passion burning is the knowledge that this is going to be the next 35 years of my life, so I have a vested interest in shaping the profession into something that I want it to be, something that I want to be happy working in.  And I will only be happy working in a field if I feel that I am doing it the best way I can, that I’m adding the most value I can.  There are plenty of people out there who have strange ideas about what it means to be a software tester, and what it means to do “good testing”.  If I disagree with their vision, and don’t want to live in a world dominated by their viewpoint, then I will fight passionately for the future of software testing, which is MY future.

4. You are very involved in the context driven community – what is it about this community?

The context-driven community’s values align very much with my own values.  When I started testing, I learnt the ways of the ISTQB and the text books, but  always felt uneasy about it.  I felt that the methods taught put more value on producing documents for their own sake rather than good testing.  Before I knew the name, I was doing exploratory testing.  I was finding bugs, important bugs, and I was finding them quickly.  But what I was doing wasn’t described in anything I read.  So I had a conflict in my mind: I’m not doing testing “correctly” but I’m finding important bugs quickly.  Discovering the context-driven community resolved that conflict.  I could start to label the things I was doing, and study what I was doing.  I could learn when it’s appropriate to use one method over another, and not just be told “this is best practice; you must always do this”.  I found my tribe.

5. What other communities do you belong to?

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the first Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing (KWST).  I met a great bunch of local leaders in the software testing community, and feel honoured to have been invited to be a part of that.  I think we have the beginnings of a local testing community that could really influence the direction of our profession locally.

6. What advice do you have for people who want to be software testers?

It’s too late for me to be able to proudly say “I don’t have ISTQB certification” but it’s not too late for you.  Don’t get certified until you can make an informed decision about whether that’s what you really want.  Get on Twitter and start following people whose ideas resonate with you.  Read what they have to say.  Find out what books these people recommend reading, and read them too.  And get your foot in the door of a software development company.   I became a tester by accident, and a lot of people I talk to have as well.  Put yourself in a position where you too can become a tester by accident.  I started as an application administration, and therefore was in the right position to strike when the opportunity arose to join a test team.  I do think this profession has a problem with getting people into the field.  They end up being taught a mythical form of testing from people who aren’t testers, or they end up indoctrinated by ISTQB.  I’m not sure how to get the fresh blood in by bypassing those entry points.

7. Where do you see software testing in the next five years?

Hard to say.  If I had to predict based on what I want to believe, a lot of software companies will get burned by their focus on automation.  I’m seeing a lot of agile development where testing is being performed as a validation of user stories exercise.  As the context-driven community begins to emerge in the industry’s zeitgeist, I would hope this creates a demand for good context-driven exploratory testers.  I’d like to see a demarcation between different types of software testing, rather than just using one umbrella term to describe all the flavours of testing under the sun.  The idea of Testing Toolsmiths, Automated Validator Developers, and Investigative Systems Testers being used to describe different kinds of testers would be a good step.  But I’m pretty new to the field, so not in the best position to make those kinds of predictions.

8. In the last six months, what one (or two or three..) things have helped you as a software tester?

Starting my own blog really helped me.  It meant I had to confront my feelings and beliefs about testing, and explain and justify them.  Once you’re forced to do that, you become much more confident in your beliefs.  It also gave me confidence when I learnt that people read what I had to say and responded positively.  Huge confidence booster.  The second thing that really helped me was establishing local connections in the testing community who held similar values to myself.

9. What is your favourite quote?

“Why do you want to do things by the book?  The book is wrong.” – James Bach.

A couple of years ago I went to a talk by James Bach.  Afterwards, I approached him and told him that the kinds of things he was talking about is what I’m already doing, but I was worried because it wasn’t “by the book” and I wanted to do things “by the book”.  He responded with that quote above.  It’s beautiful because it reminds me of the “argument from authority” logical fallacy.  The argument from authority fallacy is the claim that something is correct or true because it is made by someone authoritative.  It also was the spark that ignited the realisation that I myself could control and decide what was right, and what was valuable.

10. Please finish the sentence, I use twitter because…

I use Twitter because it is a daily flow of the software testing zeitgeist.  I learn about new thoughts and techniques minutes after their written about, rather than waiting to here them second hand at conferences and the like.  I use Twitter because it allows me to be a part of the international testing community

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