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European Testing Excellence Award Winner 2009

  • 02/03/2010
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The following post is from Anne Mette Hass who received the European Testing Excellence award at EuroSTAR 2009.

“The European Testing Excellence award 2009 goes to Anne Mette Hass” Those were the words that I did not hear; said by Dorothy Graham at the EuroSTAR conference, as I lay in my bed after having left EuroSTAR prematurely with a very nasty cold. I would have loved to be on stage and receive the award from Dorothy, but even if I had known, I don’t think I would have been able to. Such is life – but that hiccup does not reduce my joy and gratefulness at having received the award.

Dorothy had to call me on the ‘phone and tell me. As she did, my first feeling was surprise, and then I felt very touched and grateful. And those feelings have not disappeared, but rather grown as I’m trying to get used to the thought, that I (of all people) got the award. I’m touched because the award is an unmistakable sign that what I have tried to do has been recognized. That is a tremendous feeling. And I’m grateful to those who have nominated me and voted for me, and all the others who have brought me here. It has been a long and interesting journey and it has not ended here, far from it!

I suppose you could say that I have been brought up as a tester. As a child my parents took me and my sister all over Europe to see castles, concert halls, churches, and all sorts of other cultural institutions. No matter where we were, the first thing my father would do was to check out all the light bulbs in the room, and if one was not working he would point it out to us. My mother would ask him if it really mattered, and he would say: “Yes it does, I don’t like it when people are not paying attention.” I think he took it a little too far, but still it sits with me: I don’t like it when systems are not made as well as they could have been. This is why I’m a tester.

I started in IT in 1980 shortly after having graduated as a civil engineer with only one short programming course in the baggage. All the rest I learned on the way. I spend 2 years in the IT department of a hospital, where the first attempt for an electronic patient journal failed, because nobody had thought about the fact that the nurses could not type – they had more important things to do. After that 2½ years in an engineering company make software to control if the dimensions of steel constructions were large enough. Following this came 2 years in British Petroleum, first in Norway on a platform construction site (never actually on the platform, unfortunately), and later in London. The next year I worked for a telecommunication company, and this is when I first remember hearing the word “test” – after 7 years in IT. My boss called from a site somewhere asking the team if we had tested the code corrections we had just released on the production system. Tested? Oops, no, we did not think we had. “Never release anything without testing it” she said, quite kindly, and I don’t think I ever have after that.

The next 4½ years I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation in Paris, designing and coding a lot, and testing a little. But that changed when I returned to Denmark to work for a company making software for the European Space Agency, and was immediately put in charge of system testing. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of test cases, not using any technique but my gut feeling. We found a lot of failures in the products, but I think it had more to do with the quality of the products than my test scripts.

In 1992 came my first EuroSTAR – the first EuroSTAR in fact, and that was a revelation. 3 days with people openly discussing testing, not hiding along the skirting; and ¾ of an hour with “Introduction to testing” by Geoff Quintin. There was so much I wished I had known before. There still is.

Since my first EuroSTAR I have only missed 2, and I have learned so much, and still am. I have learned on courses I have taken, ISEB Foundation and ISEB Practitioner, and I have learned on numerous consultancy assignments in testing. The last 5-6 years I have taught ISEB/ISTQB Foundation, ISEB Practitioner, and ISTQB Advance, and I still learn something every time a teach. That is the frustration and the beauty of something you really know and care about, I think, there is always more to know, and the thought, “I wish I had known” still comes back to me from time to time.

This is what drives me: to know more and to share that knowledge with others, so that perhaps they will not say “I wish I had known” as often as I have.

I have met many people over the years, and there is no way I can remember them all and thank them, but there are a few standing out: Geoff Quentin, Dorothy Graham, Paul Gerrard, Mark Fewster, Isabel Evans, Stuart Reid, and Taffline Murnane – Thank You! And thanks to by boss Jørn Johansen for letting me pursue my ideas and supporting me all the way. And my family for letting my work also be my hobby. And all the others testers I met over the years. The award is to all of us – not just me.

I hope I have many years of testing left – and yet: I don’t really want to be a tester any more. As testing matures it becomes more and more evident how dependent testers are of requirements, and it becomes more and more evident that if requirements are not ‘good enough’ to base the testing on, they are not good enough to develop systems from either. So what I would really love to do is work with requirements engineers on expectations, using the test techniques I use for designing tests and the concept of coverage to express expectations that can be used as the basis for development and testing in one go. I would like to contribute to make test-driven development the way to work in the software industry; to have requirements engineers, designers, and testers always work together as expectation engineers. That is my dream.

For the time being, I’ll keep on teaching and practicing testing, contributing to the new ISO standard for a full test process, and hopefully getting more ideas for conveying my ever growing understanding of what testing is.

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