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Community Spotlight Presents Dorothy Graham

  • 08/05/2013
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

The Community Spotlight is a brand new feature on the EuroSTAR Blog which brings to focus those who matter in software testing industry in Europe – you, the members of the EuroSTAR Community!

We want to give you the chance to get to know more about your peers throughout Europe and share your own experiences, career highlights and some fun facts with the testing community by taking our Community Spotlight interview.

First up in the Community Spotlight is Dorothy Graham. Dot has been to every single EuroSTAR Conference since 1993 and has chaired the event twice (1993, 2009).


1. Name?

Dorothy Graham (but call me “Dot” in person)

2. Where are you from?

Originally from the US (Michigan) but I now live in Macclesfield, near Manchester in the UK.

3. Where do you work?

In my office upstairs. I have worked for myself from home for over 30 years and now find it hard to comprehend how people get anything done in a typical “office” environment. I have silence if I want, or can play my favourite music, have a tea break whenever I like, take time off whenever I want. On the other hand, I am frequently found in the office well into the evening and at weekends!

4. Can you tell us how you got involved in testing?

My first job was for Bell Laboratories in the US. I was put into the Test Group, consisting of 4 of us, 2 of them experts in reading the lofargrams for signals that the (40-strong) software development team was trying to analyse. I was hired as a programmer and wrote two testing tools: a test execution tool and a comparison tool. This turned out to be shelfware, as I don’t think it was ever used again after I left. But it did get me interested in testing. My next job was at Ferranti in the UK and I liked to think about how to test the software we were writing, devising some test documentation for the team, and thinking about testing first when I became team leader (quite subversive at the time).

5. How many times have you been to EuroSTAR?

I believe I am the only person who has been to every one. Since I was programme chair for the first one, I had a head start, of course!

6. What’s your favourite hobby?

That’s easy – singing! I am currently in two choirs and two small groups. My favourite composer is Bach (I have the B minor mass playing as I write – a recording of a performance I was in), but I like choral music of many genres. I like singing one to a part and doing the occasional solo. And yes, I have sung at testing conferences! (“These are a few of my favourite techniques”)

7. What would you have been if you weren’t a tester?

I had dreams of being a professional singer, but I’m not that good! I started out wanting to be a school teacher, so that’s probably what I would have been.

8. Have you any advice to give to a young tester or someone just starting their testing career?

Be hungry to learn. Follow blogs & tweets but don’t overlook more “established” things like books. Connect with other testers. Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid questions” if something doesn’t make sense to you (after having done your research first). Testing is challenging – in two ways: it is not easy and can be very fulfilling when done well, and testing should challenge everything it sees, not take things for granted. Get qualified but don’t think that this is all you need to do, or that a piece of paper makes you good at your job.

9. If you could do a project with one tester who would it be?

I have enjoyed a great working relationship over many years with Mark Fewster, working on things ranging from early test standards, through 15 years in Grove Consultants, and in producing two books. In a good paired working relationship, it’s as though there is a 3rd person there between you (who comes up with all the best ideas).

10. If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you like to have with you?

How about a choir (and lots of music)? And my kindle with an infinite number of books on it, and my laptop (with wifi). Is this cheating?

11. What is your favourite motivational quote?

I don’t really have one, sorry! I like the saying attributed to Einstein that things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler, but that’s not exactly motivational, is it?

12. What has been your biggest software testing challenge so far?

This is a bit difficult to answer, since I have been around for rather a long time. It’s also been a long time since I did any “real work”, if you mean actually testing software. The biggest challenge I remember from those days is trying to pin down exactly what was happening when I found a bug. I liked to remember “there is always a reason for everything” especially when there didn’t seem to be one for some peculiar behaviour of the software.

More recently, and I think this affects the testing community in general, is the antagonism between the different “camps” or “schools” of testing. Both sides have interesting and useful things to say and points to make, but it has become very polarised. I think it would be better to have discussions and disagreements openly but without rancour. A comment that “certification is evil” prompted me to write about how certifications started in my blog, and there have been some very interesting responses.
Web site:
Twitter: @DorothyGraham

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