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Community Spotlight Presents Erkki Pöyhönen

  • 10/05/2013
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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.

This Community Spotlight features Erkki Pöyhönen has been to 15 EuroSTAR Conferences and is also one of the 2013 EuroSTAR Community Leaders.

community-spotlight - erkki poyhӧnen_499x234


1. Name:

Erkki Antero Pöyhönen

2. Where are you from?

I’m originally from South-Eastern Finland from a coastal town of Karhula, but has spent most of my life in Vantaa, just North of Helsinki.


3. Where do you work?

I work as a test manager in Tieto, a rather large Nordic IT service provider. My role besides project work includes training & tutoring testers, and problem solving & facilitation wherever needed. I have had a pleasure to participate in projects on quite many domains and currently work in a public utilities project.
The good thing of my current role is that I can work flexibly in many locations. I moved with my family this winter; now I have a peaceful new study where I can well concentrate to work.


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

I had been a developer for 8 years when I was assigned as a tester for next release of our product (maybe because of my nit-picking inclination :-) At start it felt like a punishment but soon I found about the joys of testing: the intellectual challenge, the thrill of hide-and-seek with the ever-changing project material, bringing order into chaos, and satisfaction from having an effect on the organisation culture and the produced quality. Must have enjoyed the ride, as last month I reached my 20 years’ testing anniversary!
During these years I wore several job titles, but on most occasions it involved studying better ways to produce software and coaching others.


5. How many times have you been to EuroSTAR?

Umm, needs counting… that’s 1995 and then 1999 onwards every time, that’s 15 times! My first one on 1995 was a shock of how wide and deep the testing field really is. The 2004 conference was naturally my favourite and also the most stressful one, as I acted as a programme chair for that year and we also had a double conference with development event EuroSP3 with many new conference aspects to cover.


6. What’s your favourite hobby?

I have to name two — I sing like Dot does (well not quite, as she’s an accomplished high soprano and I’m dabbling as the lowest bass of the choir :-). I belong to a large choir performing both smaller songs and major classic pieces (Bach’s St. Matthew Passion as my favourite still after participating in 11 productions). Especially I enjoy singing in small a capella groups with range from very old to rather modern music. I also play piano and have great fun accompanying sing-along events.
The other hobby — as important as music since the 70’s — is photography. I hiked on many places in Finnish nature when younger, and nowadays take periodically time off for landscape and nature photography. Just last week I spent 4 days in Estonian islands photographing the scenery and the waterfowl flocking back North for the Summer. And with digital cameras the photography provides a pleasant blend of “artsy” and “nerdy” interests. A mixed set of my photos are on my online gallery at .


7. What would you have been if you weren’t involved in testing?

By default I could be continuing the programming and architecture roles. Outside the IT scene I had ambitions for history, theoretical physics and music. After few years of studying physics I realised I am not that nerdy as I had assumed and will never have the stamina to study hard enough to end up as particle physicist, so went to computer science and software engineering.
But I have kept up my piano and organ chops by playing gigs every now and then when requested. I’d never be good enough to earn my living from music alone though.


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

It is very wise to acknowledge early on that there is no one ideal kind of testing — not process, not tools nor methods. Learning to learn and analyse the context and your stakeholders every time is a critical skill to being valuable. Learning about domain modelling and ways to manage complexity has been one of my best personal investments ever.
It is wise to form a personal habit of learning — making notes about what you see and learn, taking the effort of taking note of what changes in your projects and your assumptions, networking with your peers, and reading a lot. Do all this, not because someone asked you to do it for a certain project but because you want to and personally need to do it. Projects come and go but what you learn and use is your capital forever.
But even more importantly: remember that work is only work and nobody on their death-bed wishes to have stayed a little longer days at the office! :-)


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

I’d like to hang out with some of the original thinkers of the field, like Cem Kaner or Paul Gerrard. They are not satisfied with other people’s models, but ask the most fundamental questions in testing and come up with fresh answers.
My good friend Maaret Pyhäjärvi (also a member of this year’s programme committee) is a role model for any tester on her insight, work ethics and communication skills. I’ve had a pleasure to work with her on many of our community projects but not in a testing project, that would be fun.


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

A getaway boat or a teleporting device would be handy :-)
OK, being stranded… I could use a laptop with good net connection for most information needs and ordering takeouts when hungry.
I have plenty of still unread books in my bookshelf and in Kindle so that would keep me busy for a while. A kindle app on that previously mentioned laptop might be enough, so this item does not necessarily count…
Being stranded in a company would be way more fun than alone, but I do not know whether my family or friends would like to tag along for an extended period.
Assuming the physical needs would be catered for (like food and shelter) I’d definitely appreciate some form of intellectual challenge and way to develop myself. It could be a musical instrument or some art / crafts material with related guidance. I’m not at all handy in fixing the house but nevertheless enjoy getting pleasing results with my hands.


11. What is your favourite motivational quote?

I don’t believe motivational quotes to be very motivational. I amuse myself reading the cynicist slogans of the, making humour of people who oversimplify hard things and especially assume other people are easily influenced or manipulated.
But I believe in condensed wisdom on timeless sayings. Many of those were mentioned in a very wise book of Stephen R. Covey called “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. One of the best thoughts in the book was formulated by one of my old teachers as “things are as you take them to be”. Meaning that if one wants to be miserable or feeling victimised, there is enough reasons on everybody’s environment to raise negative feelings. Being proactive and responsible on our own lives is a choice and a skill. Naturally we all face sometimes overwhelmingly big and complex things we cannot manage alone. But to some extent we really can learn to put our smaller worries into a larger perspective and provide some of our own sunshine in the lives of people around us. This way I do not necessarily become more successful by any external measure but will lead way more meaningful life.


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

I think my current project has a good chance on being one of the hardest to make reasonable trade-offs between different stakeholder expectations. Or maybe it feels this way every time at some phase ;-)
On my working history there have been both very complex and very large projects, but the context typically had a reasonable support for pulling it through with a good team. Looking back, it seems that hardest challenges do not come in terms of project size or technical complexity, but from the distance between individuals — physical, cultural or organisational. Individuals can overcome great differences and solve complex project dilemmas when there is the understanding and the will to do find solutions. Testing is on most cases at the hearth of facilitating that problem solving and understanding of the system realities.
The hardest and at the same time most satisfying area of personal growth for a nerdy tester like myself has been in understanding human organisations and how to bring people together and arrive at shared view of the reality, like the views to actual system quality and what we should do about it each time. Technology and methods are easy in comparison.

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