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Community Spotlight Presents Paul Gerrard

  • 18/04/2013
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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 Paul Gerrard. Paul has been to 17 EuroSTAR Conferences!

1. Name

Paul Gerrard

 

2. Where are you from?

Born in St Helens, Merseyside, but brought up in Blackpool, Lancashire, currently living in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

3. Where do you work?

Have own company, with Susan Windsor. I work mostly from home in Maidenhead.

 

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

In 1991, I was a developer working on a team of about 30 analysts, designers and developers creating a marketing database for a telecoms company. I guess you would call it a data warehouse nowadays. I’d been involved in several of the customer systems that were sources of data for the marketers and when I had finished my part of the development work (I’d done several roles including putting together the data model for the warehouse database), I was asked to write a test strategy for the overall system. I had never written a test strategy or even seen one in my several years’ experience.

All my experience had been as an analyst/programmer on one-man projects and as a lead in small teams of 2-3 developers. I ran a team of 8 before I moved to work directly for the marketers as their analyst/developer. We were Agile to a degree in that we worked closely with the business on their premises: we prototyped, we had code management, automated builds and crudely automated regression tests. In those days, I was working on DEC VAX computers, we wrote business applications in Fortran and used the VAXset suite of software tools. Testing was something we did a lot of but it was mostly manual, exploratory and done in close collaboration with our product owners and users. We released frequently. When I joined in 1984, there were 200 people on the payrol, when I finally left in 1991, there were 12,000. I guess you’d call us Agile – sort of.

Anyway, recognising I didn’t know much about testing, I thought I’d buy a book and dropped into a bookshop near Paddington station. They had one book on testing – Boris Beizer’s red book, Software Testing Techniques. I read the first few chapters, and using the ideas from the book, I drafted a dozen page test strategy for my project. It was well received. The project manager said he’d never seen one so good! Most credit goes to Mr Beizer – all I did was lift his ideas and put them into the context of our project and propose a simple test process on the back of them. The project was somewhat stressful with many late nights towards the end, but we got the system in on time – just.

When I left that project, I was looking for a job, but in 1992, jobs were hard to come by. By chance, I saw a job ad for Systeme Evolutif – a small software testing service company. Given my recent experience, I thought I’d give it a go. Cindy Morelli and Paul Herzlich interviewed me. Paul asked me had I ever read a testing book, and of course I said I had. He was suitably impressed as I was the first person he’d ever met who had actually read a testing book. Reading Boris Beizer’s book got me my first proper testing job. In 2006, having effectively run Evolutif for several years, I bought the company and renamed it Gerrard Consulting. We are still in testing.

 

5. How many times have you been to EuroSTAR?

Since the first Eurostar in 1993, I have missed only two – so I think that means I’ve been to 17. In 1994 and 95, Cindy Morelli and Systeme Evolutif ran the Eurostar conferences on behalf of SQE who owned it at the time.

 

6. What’s your favourite hobby?

I coach rowing at Maidenhead Rowing club. I rowed at university, then took a break for twenty years or so, then got involved again at Maidenhead. I run the Development squad which is for people who learned to row last year, and who want to improve and row competitively.

But I have to say, my other hobby is computing and software. I like tinkering with hardware and programming is very rewarding, whether it’s for fun or commercially.

 

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

I am a developer. So I’m not a tester, although everyone who writes software spends much of their time thinking about and doing testing.

 

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

Do not limit your career to ‘just’ testing. What I mean is that if all you can do is script and execute functional tests or are pretty good at exploratory testing, that’s great but it’s limited. You need to find at least one, perhaps two specialisms that make your resume more attractive to employers. Get into more technical testing, test automation or programming. Explore the non-functional areas such as user experience testing, performance or security. Get closer to business analysts and learn their trade too – it can only add to your experience. If you work for finance or government or retail or telecoms, then learn more about your business domain. Move into test leadership or management and get a wider perspective of testing in your organisation and of course develop your interpersonal, leadership and influencing skills.

It sounds like I’m saying ‘get out of testing’. Certainly not. But I believe that there is increasing pressure in the job market on ‘plain old functional testers’ and you need more than one string to your bow.

 

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

That’s a very tough one, and I couldn’t possible name one person. It depends on the project and what its goals are. It would vary depending on what my role was – would I be the developer or a co-tester or…? There are plenty of people I’d be happy to work with (and many I actually have). Having said that – there’s no guarantee they’d be happy work with me of course.

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

You mean apart from a boat, crew and provisions to get home again?

A rowing lake, a sculling boat and a pair of sculls.

 

11. What is your favourite motivational quote?

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers”
Ralph Nader

 

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

The grandest was my role on a $187m replacement financial accounting system for an oil training business – I had “no responsibility for delivery but was accountable for the quality of all testing”. If the project had failed, “the price of oil would be affected”.

The toughest challenges in software testing have little to do with software (or testing). They are concerned with organisation, culture, politics and commercial interests. That is … people.

 

Paul Gerrard’s blog

Or find him on Twitter @paul_gerrard

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