As usual, at the end of the month, I'm talking with one of our Top SmartBear Community contributors. This time, we will be talking with Robert Martin, mostly know as @tristaanogre in the TestComplete Community.
Enjoy this incredible exclusive interview with Robert. He has been working in the Software Testing industry for more than 20 years, and he does love what he is doing. Robert joined the Community many years ago. During that period, he earned the most elite Community statuses - Community Expert, Community Hero 2016 and 2017 - and he keeps proving his knowledge each quarter by earning Leader statuses!
The main message to the SmartBear Community:
"Continue to learn, continue to ask questions, and then, pay it back, pay it forward to be able to help others that are going through the same path that you are."
Leave your comments or questions here if you want to ask Robert about something more specific.
Interview short links:
1:45 22 years in Software Testing
3:30 Why I fell in love with software testing
5:16 The biggest challenge in the professional life
7:22 Where to find the time to participate in the Community
8:26 How I got so involved in the community life
12:33 Testers vs. Developers. Who would win?
14:33 Competing with other Community Leaders
16:40 Advice for new users
22:30 SmartBear Connect 2017
Hello SmartBear Community! I'm welcoming you in our regular interview sessions with our top contributors, and, today, we will talk with a legend. Last year, when I was at SmartBear Connect, a user conference which was set up in Boston, a lot of people came up to me and asked, some even whispered, if I saw him. He left the SmartBear Community for some time and returned several years ago to help a lot of us. So, please welcome Robert Martin. Robert, hello, thanks for joining us today!
Hello, how are you doing? You're welcome, it's my pleasure.
So, please introduce yourself to the community a bit - where are you from? Where did you grow up? And, how did it happen that you became a software specialist.
Okay, obviously, my name is Robert Martin I live in southeastern Pennsylvania, in the United States, with my wife and two children. We have been living in this area for about 26 years now. No, not twenty six. Twenty something other years I've lost count now. But I've been a software tester for 16 years, but I've been in the software industry for a little over you know 20-22 years now.
My undergraduate degree is, actually, in mathematics, so you may wonder why a mathematician is in software testing. Well, my degree is actually as a teacher, but it was not necessarily any positions open for teachers at the time, so I started looking around and found a nice job where I could do software support. Started off in support, ended up with doing end-user training, and then, an opening came around to my company for someone who would do software testing. So, I said let's give it a try, and I've been a software tester ever since.
I started with SmartBear way back when it was actually called Automated QA Corporation, and they had this nifty little tool called AQTest version 1.5, that I was handed by my boss saying: 'Hey, we want to do test automation with our software, use this tool and see what it can do.' So, I started playing around with it, and, at that time, the SmartBear Community as it exists right now did not exist, but there was this thing called Usenet. Now, most of you who are younger are probably like: 'What the heck is Usenet?', but there was this Usenet forum that SmartBear had, yeah, well, Automated QA Corp had. A set of forums set up out there for people to log in and ask for help. And, I was one of those people who had no clue what he
was doing, and I spent a lot of time out there saying: 'I'm trying to do this I have no clue what I'm doing could someone give me a help?' There was a lot of great people, there was a gentleman by the name of Eric Holton that I got to know. He still pops in and out on a couple things SmartBear-related here and there. Alex who you had the interview with already (link). He was one of the original guys, like, he and I had conversations back and forth, as well as a number of other people. So, I started learning how to do test automation early on with the SmartBear tools, and, really, just kind of, just fell in love with it, it's one of the things I really like doing the most when it comes to my job doing the test automation. I am an accomplished manual tester, I've done manual testing and QA testing for a variety of companies in a variety of products web and desktop, e-commerce, pharmaceutical corporations, document management. A number of different application types out there, but, in every position, I found some point where my skills as the test automator came to play.
I wasn't always using a SmartBear tool when I was doing automation, but the skills that I learned I was able to translate to other tools, but came back to my first love in this my position right now. I am spearheading basically the test automation initiatives for a hospital corporation in southeastern Pennsylvania. I've been there for a little over a year now, and it's been going very well, actually, I really enjoy the work and learning a lot. As for what I do on the community, a lot of the community helped me out back when I was first starting out, and I'm just returning the favor. There's a lot of people out there who want to be able to do this kind of work. Want to be able to do test automation, and I feel obligated in some ways to say: 'Hey, you know, go for it, have fun doing it, and here's some ways that you can make it better, and here's some ways that you can actually become good at the job or position.' So, that's who I am that's where I come from.
Great, so, sounds like you enjoy what you are doing. Oh, yes. What was the biggest challenge for you in your life, in your professional life I mean.
In my professional life, the biggest challenge for me... That's a very good question, I think honestly when it comes down to it... I had to learn the software industry from the ground up, from scratch. As I said, my degree is in mathematics education, so while I had a little bit of computer background, one of my courses I had to take for my degree was in computer programming, but I was not a trained software developer. I was not trained in development methodologies and all that kind of stuff. So, I had to learn it basically from the ground up, from the inside out. So, I think over my career that the learning process has been the biggest challenge to just continue to learn the methodologies and to, you know, basically, self-teach myself a lot of different things, and I'm still learning, there's still a lot of stuff out there. I keep on telling people I'm not a developer I'm a tester. I know what I know, but there's many things out there I still don't know, what I'm still learning, so, I think, it's a challenge I had in the past, and it's a continuing challenge, and, actually, I think, anybody who is honest with themselves in their career would say that the challenge of continually learning, continuing bettering yourself and continuing to be on top of what is current in your industry is always a challenge.
That's great. And, even in the SmartBear Community, as far as I see, you are not actually... So, of course, you help new members a lot by answering technical questions, but, in addition to this activity, you pull some topics where you share your knowledge, some best tips, best tweaks, or some of these articles, so, do you find the time for all of this?
When you start a test run of automation, and you, basically, are waiting for something to complete, you're sitting and kind of waiting. And, so, one of the times that I'm waiting - I'm writing, so, you know, when it comes to software testing that there's a lot of that sometimes. When you need to be able to... even manual testing where you're going to execute a test, but then you need to wait some time for a result. So, in between the test runs and analyzing results while I'm waiting for something to complete, take a couple minutes, write something up real quick, then get back to work. So, it's a matter of just it's in these a little bit of down times where I have just a gap here and there during work.
Great, good advice. Thanks. And, how did you get so involved in the Community life? As you had the background as a support engineer, you're a teacher, as you said, so you like teaching people, you like helping people, or you like getting kudos?
The kudos are always a good thing. No, I mean, one of the reasons why I got into teaching in the first place is because I, you know, just like sharing knowledge. I think it's a responsibility of anybody who has knowledge that could help others to use that knowledge to help others. I think that's it's an important thing in any good society that those who have the capabilities to assist others, have responsibility to assist others, and, so, in our situation, we have a niche community of people who are doing automated testing with a very particular tool. I had a set of knowledge and a set of skills. I can hoard that and keep it to myself and just say: 'Ha-ha! Look at what I can do!' or I can go and help others to better themselves and become better professionals and better testers. Ultimately, the goal is to have better software out there. I wanted...I forget what it was, it was I guess it was during our 12 days of automation or 12 days of testing we head back in Christmas. One of the things that... one of the topics was posted I think it was along the lines of 'Why is software testing important today?', and, yeah, the answer I gave then, it'd still hold to it now is that in our current era computer software is in everything, it's everywhere, it is part of everything you do in your daily life. Your refrigerator talks to you these days. I mean there's software in every little thing that you have out there, and, as our society is becoming more and more run by computers and by software, there's a need to make sure that it all runs well and runs as efficiently and as error-free as possible. The role of a tester is very important because while the developers write the code our job is to make sure that your refrigerator doesn't yell at you in the morning, or that Alexa doesn't laugh weirdly at you, for... I don't know what that one is, but all those little bugs and strange things that make life inconvenient we as testers our job is to make sure that you have as little inconvenience in your life where software is concerned, to make sure that everything works the way it should be right away, and that you can continue living life without the problem.
So, and, actually, we appreciate all the things you're doing in the Community, and as you started talking about the developers and testers, I'm sure you know that there's always a war about who are the most important - testers or developers, so, which side are you on? Testers, right?
On some level, yes, we are that last line of defense, we are that final wall that the software has to go over before it hits the rest of the world, so, to some extent, we are a very important piece of the puzzle that I don't think the development process can go forward without a good tester somewhere in the process that whether that tester is the double role they're both developer and a tester I think it's an important part of the process, but I was talking with an individual at work the other day, and one of the things that he mentioned is a philosophy that I think is important to remember regardless - quality of our software is not owned only by the testers or by your QA department. It is something that should be owned by everybody throughout the process, so. in that vein. I would say that both developers and testers both have a responsibility for making a quality product, so when it comes to getting that software development process running and going the best situation is when testers and developers work together as a team to get that quality done. It's not an adversarial role, so it shouldn't be testers versus developers, it should be testers and developers versus the software to make sure it works properly. I think, if you can get into that kind of relationship with your developer, if you're a tester, and you can get into that kind of relationship with a developer, or vice versa, amazing things will happen. I've worked with some great developers in the past where some of the best moments in testing were where we... I find a bug, and he and I sit down together at a similar computer workstation. and together we combine our skills in with the development code of his knowledge of the code and how the software works in the development environment and me with the user interaction and the different test cases that I come up with. I'm just pounding out the work until we actually get a bug fixed, I mean, those are the times I enjoyed most in my testing when I can get with that partnership relationship with a developer. So, if at all possible get into that relationship, I know, sometimes, it's difficult because developers see testers as adversaries, enemies sometimes. Project managers see testers as the bottleneck that well we can't get the project moving forward until testers sign off on it, so, they're an annoyance, but, really, I think if we have that again the philosophy of the quality is everybody's job, but those partnership relationships that build up in your development organization are gonna make, you know, really make your job much more enjoyable, and, make your product a lot a lot better product.
Sure, sure. And, as we've started talking about the partnership, I've asked the same question Aleksei, and I'd like to ask you the same question: do you compete with other Community Leaders and Heroes, or do you feel like you're the best?
I don't see myself as competing with them. I don't compete with Alex ( @AlexKaras ), or Marsha ( @Marsha_R ), or Shankar ( @shankar_r ) or anybody like that. We each have our own skill sets that come to the table. There are some things that Alex knows about software and such that, yeah, I don't know, I think there's some things that I know that he doesn't, but I don't know, I think he's a lot more experienced than I am. So, I don't see it as a competition. Honestly, I think again it's a partnership that we're in it together to be able to make sure that everything is working smoothly and well. It's more of a team, than a bunch of individuals doing stuff. And, that's the way I like it, that's that's the way I like to view it. It's not only a competition, but a partnership and, hopefully, I conduct myself and such... in that way and that's my intent.
So, yeah, again, I'm glad to hear this. There should not be a war in the SmartBear Community. Especially among the SmartBear Community Heroes. At the moment, in the SmartBear Community, we have a lot of new members, and more and more new members join us each day. So, what advice can you give to new members - how to become experts in the industry? Which resources to learn? What to monitor? What to pay attention to?
One of the things that I would caution people away from is fads. The software industry is not immune to them. You get into these situations where: 'Oh, we're going to do DevOps, oh, we're going to do agile, we're going to do this or that', and everybody wants to jump on board and do these new things and these fancy things because we can say that we're doing this new wonderful idea. Don't necessarily get caught up in fads for one thing, that's my first advice to people who are jumping into the testing industry, jumping into the software development industry. While it's important to know what's going on out there it's important to know what DevOps is, know what agile is, know what scrum is. Don't jump on the bandwagon and try to do it all at once. One of the things that I talked about it at Connect was, you know, every software development company out there now wants to get into test automation, they want to be able to automate testing, and, again, the caution is that can become a fad, too. To jump in and try to do all the automated testing and get it all done at once when you know what your organization may not be ready for it, or what one company does for automated testing may not be what another company needs, to not get caught up in trying to do what everybody else is doing, and to do what's right for your own organization. On a more personal level, for personal skill development, that's, you know, just, talking just only about SmartBear and TestComplete, specifically, which is where my area of expertise is, go seeking out the documentation. You know, the joke in the software industry is 'read the manual', I mean, just, really, one of the things that I really have enjoyed recently, I don't know when you guys started doing it, but having the full help documentation for TestComplete available online for search ability and linking back and forth and everything. Back when I first started using it to help was only in the application there wasn't any online version of the documentation at all, so to be able to access that documentation at your fingertips at any time, be able to do even Google searches against it, and those kind of things, really, read the documentation that's out there, you know, everyone jokes that sometimes the documentation for software is not the best. I see a lot of good stuff in what at least the TestComplete documentation has in referencing and everything. Definitely jump on with whenever there is a free webinar that provides training or resource or anything for how to use the tool, again, whether it's SoapUI or LoadComplete or TestComplete, jump on and get yourself into that webinar, it may sometimes be over your head, you may not be to that point yet, but, at least, you're hearing some of the things that mean that will click as you get to that point within your application. Definitely the one-on-one sessions to give it that brief introduction to the tool to be able to understand what actually it is capable of doing. The other advice I will give to many new users that are coming in out there is that each tool that you use for your testing is different. SmartBear's tools are different than Selenium, then Selenium is different than UFT, and UFT is different than Ranorex, and each tool is different, if you were tasked to use a particular tool to be able to perform a particular function, don't try to make that tool act like some other tool. Learn the tool itself. Learn what's unique about it, what makes it work, what makes it run so that you can be able to actually make it do better what you want to do. If you try to make TestComplete do the same stuff that Selenium does while it will work, it's not going to work the best. And, vice versa, trying to make Selenium do what TestComplete does while it may work, it's not gonna work the best. Make the tool do what the tool will do, and, finally, take some coding courses, even though you may not be a developer, it's important to know how software is written for two reasons: first of all, a good tester knows how software is written so that you know what kinds of tests to run. You know, well, there's if-then logic, well, that means I need to go two different paths with the code. Or, there are objects that are instantiated, and you need to make sure they're properly instantiated in the node. All those kinds of things. So, learn the development side for that perspective, but, also, if you know how to write code, you can write good automated tests because it is code. Whether it's a keyword test to be using with the visual interface or in you are writing script code of some sort. To know some good coding practices will help you get very far in your test automation, you'll be able to do a lot more with it if you know how to write some code. I mean, that's one of the things that was my constant learning process. I spent some time last year learning Java development stuff. Something I had never done before, but I wanted to learn how to write Java code, and, so, you know, I'm not a Java developer, I would not interview as a Java developer anywhere, but I know more now than I did before which means I can write better automation code, as well as understand how the software is developed more to be able to make myself a better tester in the long run. Great advice! thanks a lot!
So, you've already mentioned that you were a speaker at SmartBear Connect last year so that was your first public speech. How was the audience? How was the conference?
Well, the conference overall was great. It was a good time with networking with different people out there. I honestly, yeah, it was kind of intimidating to be kind of a celebrity on site. I didn't go there looking to be a celebrity. I wanted to network and connect and learn from others, but, then to show up there, and everyone's like: 'Oh, look, it's him!' You know. 'That's just...I'm just me.'
That was great. It wasn't necessarily my first time public speaking, kind of an odd thing, I actually have a theology degree, I'm a trained preacher, so I've done public speaking before, but completely different environment, so it was a very good experience. I enjoyed doing that. The audience was responsive, and I think they appreciated what I had to say. I enjoyed some of the feedback that I got afterward, people were coming up to me and letting me know that it was a... it was a helpful speech that I gave. Helpful presentation that I gave. And then, it continues to come back. People are saying: 'Okay, well, you said that you recommend doing a framework', or 'What framework would you recommend doing?' So, it spawns lots of different conversations for people to improve their processes and to improve how they're doing their testing. I think that's important that it's not just a speech that you go to and say: 'Oh, that was a nice speech!' and move on, but, actually, if the presentation is of quality enough, and you're receptive enough to what was presented, it can continue to be, it can be a continued process, and I think that that's happening. It's not just me. When Carson gave his speech, and the various presentations I sat in on, there's been a lot of continuous feedback that comes back from that. It's not just a once and done thing, but a lot of good feedback and continued conversations that come out of that.
Okay, thanks a lot, thanks a lot for the interview. That was so great to talk with you. Thank you. If you want to add anything to the Community members.
I don't have anything specifically prepared, but keep on working at it. Keep on trying, keep on learning, again, that is, I think the key. One of the great resources of the Community we have out there is that it is a resource that while there's people like myself and Alex, and Marsha who answer your questions, the idea is that you will continue to learn, you continue to be better. One of the things, again, it's interesting, Shankar ( @shankar_r ), who's one of our Heroes from this past year, he was one of those new guys was constantly asking questions like here's a question, this is a question, how do I do this, how do I do that, and, now, he's out there giving answers. And, so, keep on asking the questions, keep on learning keep on figuring out new and better ways of doing things so that you yourself, will at some point in time be able to answer the questions and again continue that process of sharing knowledge and taking what you know and using that to help others. That's my biggest advice to you - continue to learn, continue to ask questions, and then, pay it back, pay it forward to be able to help others that are going through the same path that you are.
Thanks a lot for being with the SmartBear Community, we really appreciate all your activities that you do in the SmartBear Community. Thank you. Thank you.
And, thank you for having such a wonderful Community. It's good to actually have something like that for any software company to be able to share knowledge it's a good thing.
Okay, thanks a lot. We will keep working, as well 🙂
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