In Conversation with Tribal Qonf Speaker – James Bach

James Bach Interview

To connect our Tribal Qonf Speakers and Audience better, we interview our speakers over a few important questions. The result was just amazing. We are sure you will love this.


Trisha: Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to become a tester?

James Bach: I was hired to be a tester. I didn’t seek it. But what inspired me to dedicate my career to testing is that I enjoy doing analysis and critique, I don’t enjoy building things, and I have the sense that the field of testing is a complete shambles. No one I spoke with about testing seemed to understand it, and I felt that I could re-invent testing as a skilled craft.


Trisha: What or who has been the greatest influence in your professional life?

James Bach: Jerry Weinberg. He gave me a role model of what a tough intellectual who cares about people can look like.


Trisha: How are you practicing your skills during COVID-19?

James Bach: My research continues almost unchanged, except that I do even more online meetings than I used to. I do a lot of online coaching and conferring with colleagues.


Trisha: How will your talk motivate the attendees and one lesson they will carry at the TTT conference?

James Bach: I don’t know the answer to that. But I hope the audience will get a taste of what serious testing looks like.


Trisha: Please share with us more about how you test on different software domains For example. ML, IOT?

James Bach: If you specify a domain, then I will tell you how I might approach that differently than other things. For instance, machine learning is data intensive. The major challenge with machine learning is selecting the right training data because there will be built-in biases. We need to detect these biases, which means we must analyze sources of potential bias. We are going to need a high degree of tool support and an active exploration of the product.


Trisha: How would you recommend software testers to organize the work so they can spend most of their time doing actual testing?

James Bach: We need to take control of our work processes. I am amazed at how testers allow their ways of working to be dictated by people who are not testers and know nothing about testing. Electricians, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, chefs, and basically every skilled vocation you can think about has agency. If you hire an electrician and tell him you want him to use wires that have no insulation, he won’t go along with that. The answer will be no. Why is it that only testers are expected to write and follow “test case” documents when literally no one you can think of works by writing “cases” and then following them? Do managers script their management work before they do it? No. So why do they tell us to?

My advice is: assert yourself. Don’t be bullied into doing bad work.


Trisha: Please share with us how testers should identify the most important work?

James Bach: That is called product risk analysis. There are numerous heuristics we might use to get a sense of where the risk is. For instance, complex code or frequently changing code typically leads to trouble, so I want to test that first and most. In general, you need to understand the product quite well to imagine the kinds of problems it might have, and only through that imagination will you choose the right parts of the product to test and how much to test them.


Trisha: Please share with us why you recommend a manager, product owner, developers should not guide how testers should organize their work?

James Bach: Anyone can HELP guide testing. I welcome that. But if you mean CONTROL, then my simple reason why non-testers should not control testing is they are not qualified to do so. If you hire a doctor, a lawyer, a plumber, or a baker– anyone skilled– you will find that they don’t allow you to control how they work.

Why should testers allow non-testers to control testing?


We thank James Bach for his time and energy to do this amazing interview. Stay tuned to hear from more Speakers.  Register to Tribal Qonf happening 27-28 June 2020 here.

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