Lanette Creamer

Owner, Consulting Software Tester

Spark Quality LLC

Seattle, WA, United States

Lanette Creamer likes testing software even more than Diet Coke and cats. After working for a decade at Adobe, including leading coordinated testing across products on the Creative Suites, Lanette jumped into consulting, working independently as Spark Quality LLC. Throughout her career, Lanette has evangelized advancement of real-time human thought above process solutions in software quality. Testing should be customized, using a context appropriate balance of automation, and tool assisted creative black box techniques to get effective coverage. Deeply passionate about collaboration, she believes it is a powerful solution when facing complex technical challenges. Lanette is an active participant in the testing community and a writer in her well known TestyRedhead blog, on Twitter, and occasionally in industry magazines and technical papers.

1. How long have you been associated with software testing?

I started testing in 1999 when I was hired as a temporary worker to test InDesign version 1.5. To qualify for the job, each person took a technical test. Each person who scored well on the test had a chance to interview for the contract job.

2. Tell us more about it.

When I was interviewed to work a testing contract for Adobe, I was unsure if I would enjoy testing. I’ve always been a “people person” and I thought that I would feel lonely. I had a job that was promised to last longer than 6 months doing technical support for Windows 2000, which was going to be released shortly, and was even in training to learn more about Windows at the time. I decided to take a risk, with the idea that if I hated software testing after six months, I would have finished my contract and could look for other work. The first week of software testing at Adobe was terrible. I worked through scripted test cases in a matrix until I was bored out of my mind. I was very close to wanting to quit before my career ever started. Then that very afternoon, when I had nothing left to loose but that temporary job, I deviated from the script. A few minutes later, I found my first bug. It was literally like a light switched on in my brain, and I’ve enjoyed testing and creatively running tests ever since. I still cover scripted test cases from time to time, but now I am sure to add as much variance as possible while still covering the core objective.

3. You started Spark Quality LLC. How different it is working in a company like Adobe and working independently in own organization?

Owning a business is time consuming. As a software tester, we already wear many hats. We are sometimes the developer of automation, the ambassador between the user and the developer, and at times the quality police. I’m used to switching roles, but never before have I had to negotiate contracts, purchase insurance, be a full accountant, and even a collections agency and marketing firm. There is so much to do that it cuts in to the time I have to test. Those who have never tried to be independent may not understand the costs involved. I am insured, licensed, and I have signed contracts. Still so much has to be negotiated outside of contracts.

There is one single reason that I love working for Spark Quality LLC, and that is that my focus is on doing great testing, and I adore not writing “SMART” goals, or dealing with company initiatives that have little to do with creating great software for end users. As a company of one, I have a single goal. That is to deliver great work that makes my clients happy, and earn enough to stay in business so that I can continue to do so. I would love to one day provide a wonderful place for another tester to work. A place with a learning culture where testing is appreciated, and silly initiatives and painful review processes don’t happen.

Unfortunately, in the current economy, many larger companies have become less humane. I feel extremely blessed to be a small business working with other small businesses to exist outside of the Wall Street world of big finance, big secrets, shareholder meetings, and corporate boards to impress. It is wonderful for this small fish to swim in a small but clean pond. It may seem unimportant to those are used to working with a brand name company. I want to do great testing work on software and see the results of my testing. I get to see the changes as they happen, and hear back from end users. That is the beauty of working for a small company. It is also the risk, because if I mess up, there is a CEO calling me, and there is no one to blame but me.

4. What is suggestion to those who want to go independent like you did by forming own company?

I would suggest that they learn some basics of business, such as contract negotiation, taxes, and make sure that they have enough capital so that they can survive. I’d also recommend not starting work for yourself unless/until you have a client to work for. I worked for a consulting company that I liked very much before I started my own company. I was very happy with Sogeti. The reason that I went independent was that I had an opportunity to work for a client, but only if I signed with them directly. That would have been the wrong thing to do when I was working for someone else, so I decided to become my own company.

5. Where do you see Software Testing in next five years?

I see some exciting trends! First, there are a few companies that have clean coding practices, continous integration, and are testing in production and in the cloud. Everyone else, and I mean the vast majority, still need help to get there! I see large companies feeling as if they’ve solved these problems, so they’re done. Not so fast! We’ve got some seriously legacy shops who haven’t upgraded in ages. In my dearest dreams we have no more large computer labs for testing. We have glorious perfect cloud labs that we all can access and I no longer have to manually click through ANY OS installs. For testing, I can get any operating system with my tools, all of the browsers, and I can start that up instantly. I don’t mean the version of instant the cloud means where you take 10 minutes and connect through a remote server. I mean NOW, like 10 seconds or less later. That is the instant I want.Also testing is going to mean security and performance testing too. No more niche specialists who do just this. Tools that work for the majority of web solutions out there, and only the major platforms need specialists. Everyone else will have the platform baselines and validate that we aren’t slowing anything down either over time, with load, or with errors. When the platforms we test on have known performance, what we are really testing for is our variation from it compared to the competition. By that I mean that some large companies have unfortunately gone in a direction that has demotivated and disenfranchised their employees. For many years, companies enjoyed employees who had near religious furvor and loyalty. Those companies who showed their long term employees that the loyalty was one sided have started quite a bidding war for talent. The companies who are going to invest in their employees long term and take care of them are going to be able to out perform those that behave dismissively. The difference between a high performing team and a more moderate team is how much the people LOVE the job. If they really love it, it shows. That love needs trust and loyalty. It is earned with years of good treatment. Bad management for just one year is enough to destroy it. It takes more years of progress to get back to neutral.

6. What qualities will you look for in a candidate when you want to recruit someone for software testing job?

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the joy of recruiting someone to work with me. Instead, I’ll tell you about the folks I’ve given referrals to for testing jobs this year. The number one thing these 6 people have in common despite their different backgrounds, races, genders, age, interests, and experience is that I trust them. If any one of these people were to tell you that they tested something, I’d bet my job that they did. They are serious and professional about testing. The second thing is that they are wonderful to work with. I know that they will be a great team member, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. There are always some tasks that we may rather not do, but part of testing is powering through, asking for help, and finding a way to solve difficult technical issues. It takes someone who has the strength to keep trying when things are difficult because you are counting on them. The other quality they have in common is initiative. I won’t recommend a tester who will sit around and await directions. I like to work with someone who will start testing if the documentation isn’t ready. Ask questions. Make their own meetings. There are so few testers now compared to 5 years ago that no one has time to drag along dead weight. The testers who can make it long term have learned that it is their job to figure out how to test well.

7. Tell us about your association with testing community.

I enjoy staying in touch with other testers. For a community that is so diverse, I always find myself surprised that we are facing many of the same issues. The way testers solve problems in one area can help me when applied to a totally different set of circumstances. I’m also enjoying learning new tools as they come out, and trying to see how I can get more testing done in the time I have.

8. What do you do when you are not working?

I am lucky to live near my Mom and sister, and we are a close family. I also enjoy cooking, reading fantasy books, playing chess and words with friends on my iPhone, blogging, tweeting, movies, karaoke, hanging out with Tizzy and Stardust the cats, and being outside in nature.

9. Complete this sentence – “I use twitter because …

I use twitter because it keeps me connected with what is going on with with people I’d never otherwise have the time to communicate with on a regular basis.

10. Last question – Do you read Testing Circus? If yes, what is your opinion about this magazine?

I usually read Testing Circus the very first day it comes out. If I am not quick to make time that first day, I sometimes wait too long. I like the human touch that it has, and I believe it is more approachable than some other magazines. Because it is inclusive, sometimes the overall voice of the magazine is less polished than other magazines with a large budget and staff. I like hearing from the “doers” at the grass roots, which is why I have tried to provide feedback when I can. It has good potential, and thank you for putting effort into making a useful testing publication. Kumar SinghaInterview with TestersInterview with TestersLanette Creamer Owner, Consulting Software Tester Spark Quality LLC Seattle, WA, United States Lanette Creamer likes testing software even more than Diet Coke and cats. After working for a decade at Adobe, including leading coordinated testing across products on the Creative Suites, Lanette jumped into consulting, working independently as Spark Quality LLC. Throughout...
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Ajoy Kumar Singha

Ajoy is the founder and editor of Testing Circus magazine which is read and subscribed by thousands of professional testers around the world. He is associated with various testing forums such as NCR Testers Monthly Meet as a founding member. Follow Ajoy on Twitter.