People in Testing with Katrina Clokie

Adventures in QA - Katrina ClokieThis time in the “People in Testing” series, I had the chance to interview Katrina Clokie. Katrina is a very passionate software testing expert in various testing fields. She is an active contributor to the software testing community and the editor of the Testing Trapeze magazine. If you have any kind of question to Katrina, you can contact her on twitter.


Daniel: What is currently your biggest challenge at work?
Katrina: Since April I’ve been working in a test coaching role. My biggest challenge has been establishing good individual relationships with all the testers I work with. I spend a lot of time thinking about the number of interactions we have and what they are, as I know their primary responsibility is to their delivery teams and in some ways my work is a distraction from that. I am aiming to be approachable and helpful, without being overbearing and annoying. I hope I’m finding the right balance.

Which test automation tool are you using in your daily work and are you happy with it?
I’m not hands-on in automation daily, but when I am there are a variety of tools.
Our UI automation is largely Java based, driven from a plain English concordion specification, and using Selenium WebDriver to control the browser. Our different products adopt the same tooling with different strategies.
In our public facing website we have some user focused scenarios in high risk areas then a different set of checks that are executed across many pages, which we call a site scanner. In our business banking application all our existing automation is running full stack through to our middleware and mainframe systems. In our personal banking application we have a thin-slice full stack suite, but the majority of our automation there runs against a NodeJS mock service layer.
I’m pretty happy with our tool selection for UI automation. The work we are currently undertaking to improve our solutions is focused on how we determine what to automate, how we can push more of the checking to happen lower in the application stack, and how we can improve the speed at which our front-end automation executes. We’re not looking to swap technology.
We also have some SoapUI suites to specifically target our middleware layer. We’re currently working to improve visibility of checks that exist in this layer as some effort is being repeated by different teams who make use of the same web services.
Finally, there are separate suites for our mobile applications, which I haven’t had much exposure to at all. I can’t tell you much other than we’ve been using Instruments for iOS and Espresso for Android.

What is your recommendation to other software testers on how to improve their testing skills?
Part of me feels that this is a bit of trick question. It’s difficult to imagine someone wanting to improve their testing skills and being unable to find any means of doing so. There is a lot of information available online, and a huge community on Twitter who can answer specific questions.
For of advice about self-study and opportunities to learn, these posts targeted at new testers from Rob Lambert and James Bach are a good start. Huib Schoots’ resources are excellent and the Ministry of Testing have collated a fantastic page of resources too. I’d also recommend using their Testing Feeds and/or the Testing Curator as a way to stay across what’s happening the testing world.
To improve your skills you also need to practice, so trying to apply what you read is important.

What is the idea behind your blog post series X Testing Pathways? Which I really enjoy reading.
The pathways are intended as a tool to help inspire my testers as they set their development goals for the next 12 months. The four topics – mobile, accessibility & usability, API, web services & microservices, and continuous delivery – are the areas that I’d like us to focus on together. By encouraging individuals to pursue learning in these areas, and making it easy for them to do so, I’m hoping that we’ll gradually lift these skills across the entire team.

In addition, every Friday afternoon the testers have a period of time for personal development, innovation and improvement. The pathways are in steps that can, for the most part, be completed within 4 hours so that they fit within this time slot.

The in-house versions of the pathways have exercises tailored to our context. The public facing versions have been altered to be generic, but I hope people who pick them up will tweak the exercises to suit their environment.

What do you think is the most important skill software testers should have?
I can’t pick one. If you only have one skill, then you probably won’t make a good tester. Many things are important: communication, curiousity, critical thinking, etc. If you know your own strengths, work them to your advantage and turn something that you’re good at into the most important thing you offer to your team.

Do you think the role as a software tester will change in the next years? If yes, what do you think will change?
I see the testing role further increasing in scope. I think testers already tend to stretch a lot within the Elastic Role Boundaries model that I wrote about with Chris Priest.

It sometimes feels like there is more external pressure on our role than on other disciplines. I see a lot of the movement in our roles being driven from people outside our profession, particularly those in middle management, who want to see more automation and faster results. I do hope to see more testers influencing the direction of our evolution in the next few years.

About – Katrina Clokie

Katrina Clokie serves a team of more than 20 testers as a Testing Coach in Wellington, New Zealand. She is an active contributor to the international testing community as the editor of Testing Trapeze magazine, a mentor with Speak Easy, a co-founder of her local testing MeetUp WeTest Workshops, an international conference speaker, frequent blogger and tweeter.