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It`s all about personal skill development. Interview with Huib Schoots. Part I

Huib Schoots is an expert in the field of context-driven and exploratory testing from Den Bosch in the Netherlands. He works for Improve Quality Services, a provider of consultancy and training in the field of testing, where he shares his passion for testing through consultancy, coaching, training, and giving presentations on a variety of test subjects. With almost twenty years of experience in IT and software testing, he is experienced in different testing roles. He has experience in testing, test management, test improvement, agile implementation, line and project management.

Huib is curious and very passionate and tries to read everything ever published on software testing. His goal is to make testing more fun by combining agile, context-driven testing and human aspects and help people grow. He is a regular speaker at international conferences like EuroStar, Agile Testing Days, Let’s Test, CAST, Belgium Testing Days, Nordic Testing Days, Test Automation Day, TestBash and many more.

huibschootsHuib is a member of TestNet, AST and ISST, a black-belt in the Miagi-Do School of software testing and co-author of a book about the future of software testing. He maintains a blog on magnifiant.com and tweets as @huibschoots. Besides testing he loves to play trombone, read, travel, take photos, brew beer, scuba dive and play golf. He also enjoys puzzles, video games and strategic board games.

a1qa: Huib, you launched the series of articles “Why I am a context-driven”. Can you eхplain why context-driven testing made your testing more personal, as you say?

Huib Schoots: The series of articles was actually launched by DEWT, a group of context-driven testers that I am part of. We wrote them to share personal stories why we think context-driven testing is important to us. In 2010 me and six other Dutch testers founded DEWT (Dutch Exploratory Workshop on Testing) at my kitchen table. A few weeks earlier James Bach challenged German and Dutch testers in a blogpost to become more active in the context-driven community. We accepted his challenge and we founded DEWT to get together with like-minded testers, explore web app testing and our profession in general, get inspired, have geeky conversations about our craft software testing and learn. We started organizing peer conferences and meet-ups to learn more about context-driven testing.

Context-driven testers believe that testing is a challenging intellectual process that needs a lot of practice. There is no standard or recipe for testing since the value of any practice depends on its context. A huge part of the context is me. A lot depends upon what I do and how I do it. I learned that it was perfectly okay to do stuff my way. Context-driven testing in general and Rapid Software Testing specifically made my testing more personal by teaching me loads of new stuff and it encouraged me to develop my own style. I stopped using templates and standards and started to develop my own ways of testing. Heuristics now help me do my testing. My testing is all about personal skill development: learning and practicing!

a1qa: You run skype coaching sessions. Why you decided to join this field and how it works?

Huib Schoots: Skype coaching is a way of coaching testers using the text chat of Skype. If a tester wants to learn specific skills he or she can add me on Skype (my Skype ID: “huibschoots”) stating he or she wants to do coaching sessions. A Skype coaching session is a one-on-one interaction using the text message system of Skype. A coaching session is aimed at improving skills and learning. It is the tester that comes up with the solution. I try to help the “student” with the Socratic method. Often the tester gets a task or exercise during the session. After the exercise there is plenty of time to debrief.

Two years ago I contacted Anne-Marie Charrett on Skype. We talked about coaching and she was very helpful and gave me stuff to think about. Later I started doing Skype coaching with James Bach. He challenged me and we talked about several topics like reporting, test coverage and test automation. These sessions made me realize how powerful Skype coaching really is. I also did some sessions with Ilari Hendrik Aegarter to learn more about Skype coaching before I started doing it myself as a coach.

If you really want to learn, you need to invest a lot of time. I believe in continuous learning by deliberate practice and I put that into practice. We learn by making mistakes, preferably in a safe environment. We learn from feedback and evaluations. Coaching can boost your learning. Not only for newcomers, for anyone who wants to learn, who wants to develop, a coach adds value. Antony Marcano wrote a nice article in which he says: “One thing that I notice is that while the teams are being coached, they do amazing things. They are more happy, more productive, fast to improve as if there are no limits to what they can achieve”.

Skype coaching gives me the chance to practice my coaching and teaching skills. Sometimes I try new exercises with students. And I help a person to become better, which is very rewarding.

a1qa: Huib, you say there is no agile testing, but testing in agile context. Why do you think so?

Huib Schoots: Testing is testing! It doesn’t matter in what context you test. So agile testing really means testing in an agile context. Testing is not different in any other context. This is important because I meet many people who think they have to do completely different testing because it is agile now…

Testers in an agile context have to deal with some differences compared to more traditional (or waterfall) contexts. Work in short sprints with an iterative and incremental way of working. This needs a different test strategy. There is more focus on teamwork and collaboration. Many testers are used to work in TEST teams, in an agile context they often work in DEVELOPMENT teams. They have to deal with less certainty and changes since change is common. They have to practice continuous critical thinking. Testers need to help the team by thinking critical about the impact and risks. Traditional testers were used to do that upfront while writing documents like master test plans. In an agile context testers have to do that continuously throughout the project: in refinement or grooming sessions, daily standups, planning sessions, etc.

Does this change the way we test? I don’t think so! We still do the same, but now we collaborate more, have less time to prepare and there is even more urge to automate our regression checks.

This is the first part of the interview with Huib Schoots, read the second part here on our blog.

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