As a prequel to Agile Testing Days where I will do my presentation, I am trying to interview the other speakers. Today we have Zuzana Sochova from Czech republic. She is one of the founders of the Agile Association Czech Republic, an association creating sharing platform for individuals, teams and companies interested in agile. She works as Agile trainer and coach offering consultancy of agile services and management, and among many other things she is a speaker at Agile conferences and a contributor to the Czech Technical University Agile project management programs.
Eusebiu Blindu: How would Zuzana Sochova describe herself in the context of the testing community and as a person?
Zuzana Sochova: My way to the testing world was not any short. I started as SW tester in one small innovative company, operating on telecommunication. This was still during my hi-school. I like the creative exploratory testing role, and as we haven't been any bureaucracy corporate, it was fun. But as the time went, I started studied Computer Science with and after some time, I had decided to become a great developer instead of SW tester. Part of the decision was indeed based on the state of the SW testing industry here, in the Czech Republic, part of the decision was the realization I’m not so conscientious, as the tester should be. On my first full time job, I finally got an option to choose whether I prefer to be a developer and work under enthusiastic and innovative manager, or rather a tester and work under the “real boss” guy. So you can imagine who I chose. I never regret that decision in future.
Later on, I find out I value talking to people over, coding and become a teamlead and project manager. Finally, when we moved to Scrum, I started to realize how poor the testing was driven in our company and when finally in a few years I got an opportunity to lead the whole engineering department, I spent about a year improving the testing in our organization, implementing agile principles and learning, trying to improve their skills and abilities as testers in an agile organization.
Finally, in my startup now, I’m the only one who is able to do any exploratory testing, so surprisingly I’m testing most of our products, and trying to incorporate good testing culture and strategy to the people’s minds. The same with all my clients I’m coaching on agile or scrum adoption. It’s not always so easy as I spent most of my working time on mission and life-critical application, where even single mistake could possibly kill an individual or harm many people. Therefore, I expect from my teams zero errors product, and trying to learn the practices leading to very high quality both developers and testers.
Eusebiu Blindu: How would you shortly define "Agile Testing"?
Zuzana Sochova: Collaborative, improving, iterative.
The biggest difference is in people’s heads, they are used to the old-world roles, having developer who did any code, hope it work and send it to the tester, wait and then fix bugs. I believe in the team work, intensive collaboration and pair work on the functionality from both testing and development perspective. If you communicate and share well during the sprint, the number of bugs dramatically decreases.
Eusebiu Blindu: Do you apply "Agile Testing" currently and if so, how exactly?
Zuzana Sochova: Several teams I’m coaching on agile methods are real Scrum teams where they abandoned the formal roles and give preference to the shared commitment driven by business value. They cooperate on the functionality, taking responsibility for the quality, help each other.
Eusebiu Blindu: By starting working in hi-school do you think you got an upper hand in evolving professionally compared with the people who started later?
Zuzana Sochova: Well, a little bit I guess. The biggest competitive advantage I got was in realizing how the working in a company can differ from school laboratory environment and team to team as well. So I would say the part tile jobs during my studies both on hi-school and university helped me later in selection of my first full time job.
Eusebiu Blindu: You mentioned that the tester position was under the "real-boss" guy while development looked more loosen-up. Do you think organizations don't let the same creativity develop in the testing team as in the development team?
Zuzana Sochova: This is quite usual pattern (unfortunately) seen in the Czech companies. I didn’t observe it so much in our international customers’ environment (USA, Germany, and Great Britain). But I would say as the automation is getting used more and more often, testing is slowly gaining the importance and the teams are improving, especially in the agile teams. There are indeed some good testing teams in the Czech companies, but still my feeling is there is bigger number of the ‘old-fashioned’ organizations which either treat tester as “poor developer” or don’t test at all. But it’s improving as the times goes, and we try to promote the importance of the tester role and good testing practices at Agile Prague Conference (agileprague.com) I’m co-organizing in September.
Eusebiu Blindu: Do you think in Czech Republic the balance between testers and developers is worst than in US/UK for example?
Zuzana Sochova: Yes, to my opinion it is. The similar situation I had observed in Latvia for example. But It’s improving fast. Part of the problem is the testing was never really taught at universities. The Software Engineering was all about development. Now it’s slowly changing, but it needs time.
Eusebiu Blindu: What is the biggest advantage of the "pair work" that you mentioned?
Zuzana Sochova: In traditional organized teams where the original roles preserves, the developer makes a code, then send it to tester. When we have waterfall process, they in most cases don’t even know each other and the information from the tester has often just limited value saying “it’s broken”. In agile teams, it often ends up as the tester has “no work” at the beginning of sprint and is overwhelmed by testing in the end. For the team then it is hard to get team commitment and often trying to present untested stories, or keep the testing for next sprints. The solution we take in such teams lets the tester cooperate on the solution directly, testing the functionality already on the fly and discussing with the developer the behavior and scenarios. In other words, there is no sequence development and testing work, it’s all in parallel. They must cooperate, and discuss the functionality together.
You have like a trademark that attracts curiosity your hair, which is very colorful
Do you think that helps (to have a personal trademark), especially when we need to build a reputation to get clients?
First, I believe it helps to have a personal trademark. There are plenty of same and ‘gray’ people. I know many well-dressed managers in dark suits and costumes, which would tell you it not acceptable to look different. But it’s up to you. It’s always your decision. However, it must fit your business I would say. I’m changing people and companies, I’m learning them to take courage and be different, be Agile. So should I look as traditional old-fashioned manager? I’m looking for client who really need change, and need help. And those people don’t care so much about your hair color. They are more interested if you are good enough and can help them. And it helps the other way around as well, I don’t need to reject clients who just want to pretend some agile activity, they most likely not even contact me
Brno or Prague?
Zuzana Sochova: Well, Prague is nice city, quite small I would say, but I really like it. However I could imagine living in any other bigger city, for example Singapore, New York, Bangkok, Hong Kong, London… But can’t really imagine living in any small town or village.
Eusebiu Blindu: If you have to build and deliver a Rubik's Cube to a client what Agile approach would you apply?
Zuzana Sochova: Hard to say, I guess, I would still use Scrum to get fast feedback, and make sure, the customer likes the material and colors and get instead of normal Rubik’s Cube the personalized one which would be awesome and very special to him.